Age, guile, and a bad economy

Michael Kindt gets the quote of the day:

Cagle PostI can’t drink like I used to. I actually NEED to sleep. When I was in my 20s, I’d get three hours and be good to go. Sure, I’d be grouchy, but I wouldn’t be physically compromised like now. I have gray in my beard. My manhood still functions, but sticking it everywhere now strikes me as a bad idea. And I have passed the point where bad movies aren’t amusing. They’re just bad movies and my time is more precious than irony.

I hate to admit it, but that really is a good summary of aging. And I’ve yet to achieve forty. But that is beside the point. Believe it or not, his larger point is about the economy. Continue reading

The Secretary of Labor sez … well, okay, a former Secretary of Labor. But, yeah. A really smart guy, you know. Econ professor. That sort of thing.

Robert Reich explains the truth about the economy, or something like that. I mean, you know, whatever. But, still, you have seen it, right?

Friedman Redux

Twice in a week? Well, maybe I’ll just have to get over Friedman’s whole “suck on this” big-stick attitude.

Apparently, Maureen Dowd has the day off, so Friedman fills in today with more reflections on the economic crisis:

Yet I read that we’re actually holding up dozens of key appointments at the Treasury Department because we are worried whether someone paid Social Security taxes on a nanny hired 20 years ago at $5 an hour. That’s insane. It’s as if our financial house is burning down but we won’t let the Fire Department open the hydrant until it assures us that there isn’t too much chlorine in the water. Hello?

Meanwhile, the Republican Party behaves as if it would rather see the country fail than Barack Obama succeed. Rush Limbaugh, the de facto G.O.P. boss, said so explicitly, prompting John McCain to declare about President Obama to Politico: “I don’t want him to fail in his mission of restoring our economy.” The G.O.P. is actually debating whether it wants our president to fail. Rather than help the president make the hard calls, the G.O.P. has opted for cat calls. It would be as if on the morning after 9/11, Democrats said they wanted no part of any war against Al Qaeda — “George Bush, you’re on your own.”

As for President Obama, I like his coolness under fire, yet sometimes it feels as if he is deliberately keeping his distance from the banking crisis, while pressing ahead on other popular initiatives. I understand that he doesn’t want his presidency to be held hostage to the ups and downs of bank stocks, but a hostage he is. We all are.

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Capitalism and the moron

Over at Planet Money, an NPR listener from Massachusetts explains why it took his boss twelve years to finally give over and buy a microwave oven for the office:

He’s always resisted because he doesn’t like the smell of warmed food in the office. [O]thers who’ve been at this architecture firm six years and longer have been eating cold soup and leftovers or eating out more than they’d care to for some time now. He’s laid off 40% of the office in the last year (5 people), finally resorted to bringing his own lunch, and realized it would be nice to be able to heat it up.

Something about supply, demand, and capitalism goes here, but you know … that’s such pathetic story I don’t even want to bother writing a joke about it. So just think of it this way: Everything you need to know about what’s wrong with capitalism in America is contained in that paragraph.

The Friedman Factor

I don’t keep a hit list. Well, not an official one. And it’s probably a good thing I don’t. With so many negative cultural associations regarding Nixon, the last thing I need is to start imitating his paranoia.

But it’s true, and nobody’s really surprised: There are journalists whose work I just don’t like. Over at the New York Times, for instance. Sure, Frank Rich can be charming from time to time. And I can appreciate the fact that he doesn’t always piss me off, but he generally offers little more than schmoozing, mainline, “establishment” journalism. Or, as some might say, professional empowerment.

Rich is just an example. While he drifts safely about the main stream, he’s hardly a scourge.

Unlike Thomas L. Friedman. Something about Friedman reminds me of Dr. Phil. And something about him reminds me of Dr. Dobson, as well. Either way, or even added together, what you end up with is a shrill, annoying intellectual bully pushing the sort of crap that you might find funny except that it’s not offered up as a joke. Yet, despite looking for someone to suck on his big stick, Friedman has managed to catch me off-guard. Luckily, he wasn’t swinging his two-by-four at my head.

Okay, okay. It’s the goddamn mustache that reminds me of Dr. Phil. And the penchant for physical violence reminds me of Dr. Dobson. And the dishonesty? Well, Phil, Dobson, Friedman … why do I want to make a lipstick joke here?

Oh, right.

So here’s the deal (not that you care): One of my minor projects is a blog I call “Better Reading“, which is pretty much what it sounds like. That is, it’s something akin to what you get when you cross an news clipper and a coupon clipper. A name, a title, a couple of teaser paragraphs, and maybe someone else will read an article they wouldn’t otherwise. And, you know, it’s a roster of usual suspects from my sections of the philosophical and political spectra: Mark Steel, Glenn Greenwald, Paul Krugman, the editors of The Economist (?!) ….

Point being, you wouldn’t expect to see Friedman. I know a lot of people really like him, and feel reassured by his even voice and calm visage on their television screens, but something about the guy just makes my skin crawl.

Still, though, that I don’t like him isn’t a full-blown condemnation. In fact, it’s just an opinion. And ignoring him entirely on the basis of that opinion wouldn’t be fair. Nor would it be helpful. For instance, I would have missed this gem:

Let’s today step out of the normal boundaries of analysis of our economic crisis and ask a radical question: What if the crisis of 2008 represents something much more fundamental than a deep recession? What if it’s telling us that the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall — when Mother Nature and the market both said: “No more.”

We have created a system for growth that depended on our building more and more stores to sell more and more stuff made in more and more factories in China, powered by more and more coal that would cause more and more climate change but earn China more and more dollars to buy more and more U.S. T-bills so America would have more and more money to build more and more stores and sell more and more stuff that would employ more and more Chinese …

We can’t do this anymore.

And then I wouldn’t have had that moment of thinking, “Whoa, I’m really posting Friedman?” I found it so amusing that I decided I needed to do it again. (And here you are.)

Anyway, do we really need a moral to the story?

Fine, fine. But I think it’s obvious. Let me know if you need a hint.

Quote of the Week — Obama on the economy

Barack Obama on remarks by former Texas Senator Phil Gramm that the nation’s economic woes are a “mental recession” and that Americans are “a nation of whiners”:

“This comes after Senator McCain recently admitted his energy proposal for the gas-tax holiday will have mainly ‘psychological benefits’ …. Now I want all of you to know that America already has one Dr. Phil, we don’t need another. When it comes to the economy, we need somebody who can actually solve the economy.”

Via Michael D. Shear and Jonathan Weisman at the Washington Post.

The Bush success

There is something to be said for the obvious, although we can be sure there is somewhere an economist, politician, or pundit willing to explain why the prescription suggested by Michael T. Klare, writing for the Toronto Star would not be a particularly effective palliative for the spiraling costs of oil:

… the Bush administration’s greatest contribution to rising oil prices is its steady stream of threats to attack Iran, if it does not back down on the nuclear issue. The Iranians have made it plain that they would retaliate by attempting to block the flow of Gulf oil and otherwise cause turmoil in the energy market. Most analysts assume, therefore, that an encounter will produce a global oil shortage and prices well over $200 per barrel. It is not surprising, then, that every threat by Bush/Cheney (or their counterparts in Israel) has triggered a sharp rise in prices. This is where speculators enter the picture. Believing that a U.S.-Iranian clash is at least 50 per cent likely, some investors are buying futures in oil at $140, $150 or more per barrel, thinking they’ll make a killing if there’s an attack and prices zoom past $200.

It follows, then, that while the hike in prices is due largely to ever-increasing demand chasing insufficiently expanding supply, the Bush administration’s energy policies have greatly intensified the problem. By seeking to preserve an oil-based energy system at any cost, and by adding to the “fear factor” in international speculation through its bungled invasion of Iraq and bellicose statements on Iran, it has made a bad problem much worse ….

…. And if this administration truly wanted to spare Americans further pain at the pump, there is one thing it could do that would have an immediate effect: declare that military force is not an acceptable option in the struggle with Iran. Such a declaration would take the wind out of the sails of speculators and set the course for a drop in prices.

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