Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays...

Off to travel and visit family for a week.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Americans are Lazy Meme

It's really not true. It's been well documented that Americans log more hours each year compared to workers in other industrialized countries. For instance, we average around two weeks vacation a year, while most of Western Europe takes a month, at least.

Our problems with weight, as a nation, are a reflection of that addiction to work. Most jobs involve sitting in an office, which is sedentary. And fatty fast-foods are used in lieu of home cooking, because people don't feel like they have the time to cook. Americans work about 200 more hours each year, compared to what they did in the 1973. (So says the Economic Policy Institute and wikipedia)

The 'Americans are Lazy' meme is quite useful for politicians, and their masters, when telling people to tighten their belts and work harder - to "make sacrifices". It's also useful for foreign governments who want to trash the American population. And since our entertainment industry creates an image of America as good-times rolling, this is what much of the world thinks of us. But was 'Friends' a really accurate representation of American life ? Or an illusion to create a few good laughs?

Far from being lazy, Americans work too much, and have their labor directed in the wrong way. And have, over the last generation, had their standard of living systematically eroded so that a narrow section of the oligarchy could expand their wealth to obscene levels.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


To mar : 'to detract from the perfection or wholeness of ' ; the synonym of 'to spoil'. (from Merriam-Webster)

So from whose perspective was the AP writing, when they headlined "
Bush's Iraq-Afghan farewell tour marred by dissent" ?

A good portion of the world seemed delighted by the shoe throwing incident, and would probably have considered a different wording to the headline. And more than that, the headline equated the word dissent with something negative.

Don't question your benevolent leaders.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Apollo Programs

With the talk of an Apollo-like green energy program during the next administration, I'm reminded of a TV series I saw about the original Apollo program. In watching the series, it was hard to recognize the America of the original Apollo program as the same one that exists today. The self-confidence, pride in scientific achievement, and general technological superiority over the rest of the world is largely gone. I wonder if that's the root of the persistent fake-moon-landing conspiracy theories. The country has deteriorated so much over a generation, many people don't remember an America that was confident and proficient.

Similar parallels exist in calls for Obama to enact a New New Deal. I'm not sure the America that existed in the 30's is around anymore. You can hear it in the speeches of the Presidents over time...it's a steep decline from the 'nothing to fear, but fear itself' of Roosevelt's inaugural to the 'this sucker's going down' of Bush II. More fundamentally, the U.S. has gone from the being the world's largest creditor nation, pre-Great Depression, to the world's largest debtor nation. The former titan of American industry, General Motors, lingers on the edge of bankruptcy. And the former center of world industrial manufacturing, Detroit, has houses that sell for $1.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


My Home Basic Vista, which came with a recent desktop purchase, is not fully compatible with the music recording or editing software I use. Bugs galore. These companies do not offer support for Vista Home Basic, either. In short, it's complete disaster, and I will have to reinstall XP. It seems Microsoft is plowing ahead with Windows 7/Vienna, though there really is no reason the world needs a new operating system every year. I'm looking seriously at Macs for the first time, despite their huge price markups.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Madoff affair...

...illustrates how greedy and ignorant the U.S. ruling class has become. Despite all of their dogma-laden Ivy League educations, their best skills lie in stomping down other people, not in producing a better world or a productive economy that makes lives better.

Here's a list of some of the best and brightest who were duped.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Regionalism, Sectarianism, Nationalism, etc. ...

We should expect to see more of it.

Two examples :

Festering animosity between the United Auto Workers and Southern senators who torpedoed the auto industry bailout bill erupted into full-fledged name calling Friday as union officials accused the lawmakers of trying to break the union on behalf of foreign automakers.

It's Blue against Gray all over again.


Since markets took a turn for the worse in September, there has been a chorus of calls for a Pan-European response. Most of those proposals have been vetoed by a group of countries led by Germany, the European Union's biggest economy and leading paymaster, on whose back many of these costs would fall.

the Euro's are at, again.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Things People Research

University of California, Berkeley, researchers have shown for the first time that the brains of low-income children function differently from the brains of high-income kids. In a study recently accepted for publication by the Journal of Cognitive Euroscience, scientists at UC Berkeley's Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute and the School of Public Health report that normal 9- and 10-year-olds differing only in socioeconomic status have detectable differences in the response of their prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that is critical for problem solving and creativity.

OK. And the conclusion ?

"This is a wake-up call," Knight said. "It's not just that these kids are poor and more likely to have health problems, but
they might actually not be getting full brain development from the stressful and relatively impoverished environment
associated with low socioeconomic status: fewer books, less reading, fewer games, fewer visits to museums."

Really ? I thought this was obvious to anyone who has been in teaching for even one school year. Please give me research money.

Also, there are a lot of smart kids , of all incomes, who don't do well in school simply because they don't get pushed to do well. Their parents don't think school is that important, don't want to pressure them or, in general, a lot of teachers and parents are intimidated by strong - willed kids and won't get in their face. And by 'smart', I mean kids that pick things up quickly.

More conclusions:

"The study is suggestive and a little bit frightening that environmental conditions have such a strong impact on brain
development," said Silvia Bunge, UC Berkeley assistant professor of psychology who is leading the intervention studies
on prefrontal cortex development in teenagers by using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)

Yes, the environment matters. Conditioning matters. But politically, that is not 'in style' now. At some point in the mythical future, I suspect we will find out how much more conditioning, environment, and imitation matters than genetics. The small number of studies of identical twins, separated at birth by adoption, have been shocking in how much their paths deviated.

Maybe they should do a study of rich and poor adults. They might find that rich adults are greedier than poor adults. No one ever seems to suggest a study like that. It's always: "What is wrong with poor people and why can't they be like rich people ?"

And, they don't mention that there are a lot of poor kids who are smarter than rich kids.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Is the End - Stage of Capitalism, when...

the general population becomes so self-centered, they can't see 5 feet in front of them ? (Even while walking towards a metaphorical cliff )

If one subscribes to the theory that the general philosophy of a society inevitably corresponds with the economic system , and dominant class, in that society - then the answer is probably 'yes'.

If different classes, and groups, can live in the same overall social system while having radically different philosophical outlooks - then the answer is probably 'no'.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


The riots in Greece show what happens when a country has a lot of unemployed young men. I think this fact partly explains the focus on traditionally male, blue collar jobs in Obama's infrastructure proposal. Male labor force participation is low right now, and it's not good for government stability to have them just sitting around.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Workers Occupy Factory

It's been decades since this happened in the U.S.A. Something to notice to see a), if it works and b), if others are inspired by it.

Angry laid-off workers occupy factory in Chicago

CHICAGO (AP) — Workers who got three days' notice their factory was shutting its doors have occupied the building and say they won't go home without assurances they'll get severance and vacation pay they say they are owed.

About 200 union workers occupied the Republic Windows and Doors plant in shifts Saturday while union leaders outside criticized a Wall Street bailout they say is leaving laborers behind.

Republic said it was closing its doors as a result of Bank of America cutting its credit line.

Bank of America and their billions from Washington.

And speaking of solidarity :

After spending much of Friday chatting over pizza and coffee, the plant's 250 union members organized themselves into three shifts to keep the building occupied until a settlement is reached.

"We're doing this for the other working people in the country," said machine operator Ron Bender, who had worked for the company for 14 years.

"What's happened to us can happen to anyone - they could just close up and put you out and give you no severance pay."

The sit-in is a excellent idea, because it will prevent the assets of the factory from being moved in the middle of the night.


Without sounding moralizing, it's important that people stick together and have some solidarity for each other during this economic meltdown. The lack of support for the UAW workers is one sign that too many are not looking more than 5 feet in front of them. Things could get ugly if we tolerate other workers getting kneecapped.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Breaking the Speed of Sound

This is what it looks like. According to wiki: "The white halo is formed by condensed water droplets which are thought to result from a drop in air pressure around the aircraft".

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Driving Down the Freeway ...

in Silicon Valley, Highway 101 South, I saw a billboard ad saying :

"Come Join Us !" Wuxi Hi-Tech Park in China

So I guess it's time for unemployed Silicon Valley workers to be recruited to China ?

I've actually looked at moving to the Asia, but the wages are pretty low for the average worker. The U.S. is still the place to be, for now.

But it is interesting they're advertising:

Wuxi Hi-Tech Center.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Who Will Buy ?

By 2005, it was obvious that housing was too expensive, and too many people were speculating on the hopes that real estate would go up 10% a year, forever.

It's seems obvious now that the U.S. consumer, and the U.S. in general, is deep in debt, and that this deficit spending has been the primary driver of world economic growth over the last two decades. Our ability to borrow comes from our status as a reserve currency.

A few other countries have boosted domestic spending during this time, trying to be less reliant on the U.S. consumer. But nation states competing against each other for capital and industry , are loath to take measures to raise wages. This is particularly true for emerging economies, whose primary advantage is an army of low wage workers.