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July 2, 2010

lindsey graham

OK, if I start to talk about how I'm growing fond of Sen. Lindsey Graham (D-SC), does this mean that I'm just another predictably fickle liberal who only respects politicians when politicians say things I agree with?

I'd say I like him because, based on the Kagan confirmation hearings, he seemed legitimately intelligent and eschewed grandstanding.  And I like his thoughts on the Tea Party, because they are sensible and prescient.

But does sensible only mean that I agree with it?  Am I one of those whose definition of reasonable and smart is, "I agree with that?"

I don't know.  I'm just asking.

But for the record, I feel the same way about Justice Scalia, who I most often violenty disagree with.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:02 AM

can we bridge the dumbness gap?

Story in the NYT today about how, even in light of static unemployment, US employers are having a dickens of a time finding qualified workers.  We're talking about the manufacturing sector here, where once you only had to be able to put a glove on a beer bottle like Laverne and Shirley.  But now what manufacturing is left is robots run by computers, so now to be gainfully employed at a factory you have to be able to run both a computer and a robot.

But this is the most telling portion of the story:

Employers say they are looking for aptitude as much as specific skills. “We are trying to find people with the right mindset and intelligence,” said [Thomas J. Murphy, chief executive of Ben Venue Laboratories].

Basically: Americans are too dumb to get hired.

I make all kinds of noise about how the engines that used to drive the economy were manufacturing, which was good: people got paid, and actually objects got made and then bought by the people who got paid.  And since the manufacturing sector became a stockyard for financial services concerns to feed on, we have no engine.  ("Feed on": Manufacturer X is acquired by LBO, payrolls slashed and assets sold to increase stock value, Manufacturer X then sold off to the next buyer, wild profit made by banks, Manufacturer X basically no longer a manufacturer.)  This is my limited understanding, but I see little evidence to the contrary.

And now we can add into the mix that the few manufacturers still manufacturing need workers with a post 9th grade education, and not so much technical training as much as intellectual adroitness.  Which adroitness our schools are certainly not providing, considering the moderate/conservative general distrust of smart people.  And in light of the great budget squeeze on the local level we're staring down the barrel of, nobody gonna be getting smarter anytime soon.

For excellent conversation on this topic, check this Awl post, and the comments thread thereof.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:39 AM

July 1, 2010

hamsterdancing

Say Hi to Gawker, one of whose reporters (reporters? writers? bloggers? statistics?) has finally discovered that there is a bee problem.  And not just that, but also that one of the causes of the exodus of the bees might be cell phones.

Here's three words that don't appear in the post: colony, collapse and disorder.

Someone was tweeting about a neologism for this.  Wait!  I remember — Lindsayism:

Hamsterdancing: Posting a classic internet thing as a new discovery on a slow day without bothering to research it.

Happy Canada Day!

Posted by mrbrent at 11:19 AM

June 30, 2010

clown spy ring

Charles Stross makes the point that I'd been wondering concerning the not-as-interesting-as-it-should-be story about the network of Russian spies nested here in our American states:
The real question we should be asking is, why did the FBI decide to arrest them, rather than continuing to monitor the (now compromised) spy ring, and possibly use it to feed disinformation back to its controllers?

Yeah, why?  And an even better question — why break this wide open like Lady Gaga flipping a baseball team the bird?  It is not necessary to splash such an operation across the headlines, and it's not like Americans are having trouble falling asleep at night because they're worried about Russian spies destroying the fabric of our nation.  (Except for this American, of course.)

The timing seems suspect.  It was a clowny operation that's not making law enforcement look invincible, and there was no real need to rub this in the faces of the Russians while we are in the middle of the "reset".

They're spies, God dammit, even if they're shitty spies.  We have back-channels for these types of things.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:13 PM

ha ha i typed chillax

Nothing worth linking to, but today has brought a weird confluence of political writers referencing/admonishing "liberals", who need to tone down their rhetoric or stop painting with so wide a brush or just chillax.

Well I personally am absolutely willing to chillax — once I have exploited the weaknesses intentionally perpetrated by the Obama Administration to open the door for global socialism and eventually the very destruction of liberty itself.

Now excuse me, I must go childishly mock Glenn Beck in hopes that my lack of seriousness will distract him from his efforts and will throw him off our trail.  He's almost got us, that Glenn Beck.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:51 PM

global currency

So there's this round-up/commentary on the global economic scene by David Leonhardt that I read on the train and I can't stop thinking about it even though it's over my head and outside my wheelhouse.

Basically, the nations of the globe are determined to repeat the mistakes of the Great Depression, because the opponents of Keynsian economics yell louder even though they keep being wrong.  So instead of attacking unemployment and general worker-level unhappiness, governments are tightening the belts and raising taxes and assuming that the private sector will dash in to the rescue, because the loud yelly people who caused the recent recession say so.

I'm skeptical, but also stupid, in the sense that I'm not an economist.

But the scarier thing to me is that the great sword looming over state economies, the master who must be assuaged, is the financial services industry:

Given this history, why would policy makers want to put on another fiscal hair shirt today?

The reasons vary by country.  Greece has no choice.  It is out of money, and the markets will not lend to it at a reasonable rate.  Several other countries are worried — not ludicrously — that financial markets may turn on them, too, if they delay deficit reduction.  Spain falls into this category, and even Britain may.

Is it wrong that I find the fact that the credit markets are giving Caesarian thumbs-up/thumbs-down to entire countries ghastly?  Am I just unschooled, or naive?  It seems that currency speculators wield more power than the combined elected leaderships of Europe?

Too many questions, no answers.  But at least it is not so humid today.  I'll take it.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:43 AM

June 29, 2010

boehner: say you want a revolution

An excerpt from an interview with GOP House Minority Leader John Boehner by national news leader the Pittsburgh Tribune Review:
"They’re snuffing out the America that I grew up in," Boehner said. "Right now, we’ve got more Americans engaged in their government than at any time in our history.  There’s a political rebellion brewing, and I don’t think we’ve seen anything like it since 1776."

I assume the "they" Rep. Boehner refers to is the Democrats, while the "anything" that we have seen like it since 1776 was the Civil War, which was a big no-fun for everyone involved.

The truly ridiculous aspect of this is the idea that Rep. John Boehner is the kind of plugged-in sage that would have even a passing knowledge of a popular movement.  This holds for anyone in Congress, but Boehner is specifically illustrative — the idea that the House Minority Leader has his ear to the ground, surreptitiously ditching endless fundraisers so that he can get to the bottom of this, that he can go find these revolutionaries and rap with them just like Nixon going to China, is untenable and offensive even to stupid people.

Of course, the more ridiculous yet frightening aspect of this is that Rep. Boehner figures that there is some political gain to be had by such vague air-kissing, that those revolutionaries out there will somehow be convinced that Boehner is an all-right-guy and not to pitchfork/torch his house, should that time come to pass.

Plenty of ridiculous to go around, and the Pittsburgh Tribune Review gets to seize the day.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:52 PM

morning commute

The mind-numbing array of difficulties and annoyances which has prevented me from getting any serious work done culminated this morning in a total systemic breakdown of the NYC subway system.  Not actually that long as delays go (45 minutes? an hour?), but being trapped in tin cans with seriously aggrieved and whining people was battering my good mood, to the point that "let them off the train, people" got reinforced with a little linebacker action at the point of my destination.  (Which felt pretty good.)

I'm a big big fan of public transportation, and if you're lucky enough to live in a place that you can access public transportation, you are lucky indeed.  However, here in NYC, today is the day following what was called Doomsday, when MTA budget cuts were enacted, slashing routes and service.  So it is hard, as a NYer, to believe that a city-wide subway snafu during the morning commute is anything but a sign of things to come.

So this is me writing about it instead of getting anything done, which is what the future holds for all of us, when the second dip of the recession breaks on our heads like a wave.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:28 AM

June 28, 2010

robert byrd

The saddest thing about the passing of Robert Byrd?  Clearly it is the day of jokes about West Virginia that we will have to endure, none of which are novel and none of which have anything to do with Robert Byrd.  Byrd's character flaws (notably his opposition to the Civil Rights Act) were his own, and were not particular to the State of West Virginia.  No moonshine runnin', no L'il Abner hijinx, no oxycontin.  And also his strengths, his peculiar eloquence, his parliamentary expertise, really had nothing to do with West Virginia (except for the fact that they were qualities of Senator Byrd, so closely tied to his home state).

The second saddest thing about the passing of the senator is that, if recent events are any indication, he will be replaced by a male model who gives really excellent hair and has all the charisma of a piece of string.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:17 PM

June 27, 2010

maybe about wal-mart? maybe about other things?

From a story on how Wal-Mart has finally wooed an urban market to grant it zoning:
“There are major corporations willing to invest significant money within our communities, which has not been done, really, since the ’60s, when a lot of the corporations left the communities after the riots,” said Howard B. Brookins Jr., a member of the council.  “This is huge for us.”

The council spoken of is Chicago, so, on one hand, I don't want to interfere in the affairs of cities that are not mine.

On the other hand, I hope that Mr. Brookins Jr. might someday travel to every other place in America in which there is a Wal-Mart, where the population is more than happy for the subsistence-level jobs offered, and yet the lifeblood is sucked out of the community like it was a teen-age-novel vampire-victim and not a place people actually live.

I only say this because my own circumstance takes me out of my (very) urban Brooklyn neighborhood into places up and down the Eastern Seaboard, sometimes miles and miles away from anything anyone would call a city. : And those places that are land-locked, city-wise, with a Wal-Mart?  Fucking dead zones, with dead fucking Main Streets, like no life other than Wal-Mart life can live there.  Like your career prospects are very linear and very depressing.  At least the coal mines of some of the places that I'm thinking of (other than Massey Energy, of course) are unionized, so the workers have some spare cash to spend on, um, I guess only one thing, and that's the Wal-Mart.

The areas of Chicago that Wal-Mart's targeting do not have a lot, for sure.  But the people cheer-leading Wal-Mart at City Council meetings have got to realize that the alternative, a Wal-Mart hegemony, will be exponentially worse, with local family-owned businesses disappeared and nothing resembling a neighborhood left in its wake other than working poverty.

In fact, and yeah let's be strident, I wonder if Wal-Mart has yet registered the trademark: "Helping families, with working poverty."  Because it's worked so well all over America.

Posted by mrbrent at 7:33 PM