Dec 30 2009
Nov 09 2009
The ideology and ideological reality that exists in today’s society should be called Mainstream Corporate. It is mainstream and it is corporate. Tying these 2 constructs together allows us to reframe the idea of the dominant ideological structure within our political and social understanding from Left vs Right to Property vs People.
Right now, many Americans are suffering from ideological propaganda, left, right and center. That ideological propaganda is Mainstream Corporate.
The Left, present company excluded, I’m sure, is told that the Right Wing Fascists want to take away your freedom. The Right is told that the “Left Wing Socialists want to take away your freedom”.
Aug 04 2009
Satire (or truth?) of an Alan Greenspan speech on ‘Economic flexibility’
To the National Association for Business Economics Annual Meeting, Chicago, Illinois – 2005
Today I will blow smoke up your ass and tell you why feeding Americans to the Economy and doing away with our social safety net is good for the Masters of the Universe.
Back when word traveled by cargo ship and carrier pigeon, there was no need for Government to protect people from economic fraud. Then the Industrial Revolution started to happen and Adam Smith was channeled to protect the profits of Robber Barons.
With absolutely no concept of multinational corporations and instantaneous communication, Adam Smith had no idea that the Hidden Hand would not function as he postulated it would. Robber Barons captured and bribed elected officials and convinced them that Adam Smith’s Hidden Hand was a good idea despite the fact that the size, scale and speed of an Industrial economy was totally unimaginable to a colonial economist in 1776.
After a few years of irrational exuberance, the Hidden Hand led us into a Great Depression.
Despite the Great Depression, and subsequent dismissal of the Hidden Hand as a viable economic model, the Titans of Industry were able to spend hundreds of millions on propaganda and bribes for elected officials in order to get people to stop protecting themselves with the institution of government.
The measured, Visible Hand of Government of, by and for the People that got us out of the depression, protected the people from exploitation by their bosses, bank and market fraud, famine, and a host of other potential pitfalls of modern day society.
This social safety net was chipped away at by the persecuted Titans of Industry for the next 3 decades.
When the economy started to struggle as US Oil production topped off and we were forced to rely on other countries for oil, that’s when we struck. Starting in the 70s, congress bowed to the pressure of business interests and began ‘deregulating’ everything – transportation, communications, energy and financial services industries. The goal of this scheme was to promote competition, which was supposed to raise our standard of living. De-regulation was coupled with a reduction in trade Bailiffs and Terriers.
As a consequence, the United States, then widely seen as a shining city on a hill, became the land of the paper towel and fast food. Joseph Schumpter of Harvard gave us the term ‘creative destruction’ – the continual scrapping of old technologies to make way for the innovative. In that paradigm, standards of living never really rose despite the fact that new metrics and technologies told us they did. We had a firesale to do away the stuff that made us great at what we do and laid off a ton of people who unable or unwilling to relocate to the third world to work for peanuts.
Through this process, wealth is created, incremental step by incremental step, as high levels of productivity associated with innovative technologies displace less-efficient productive capacity and these spoils were given to the rich. This model presupposes the continuous churning of a exploitative economy in which the new displaces the old and the rich are all that matter.
As the 80s progressed, the success of the scam of transferring money upward was apparent – turning citizen into consumer by removing government protection made it easier to rob and exploit them as they were forced to work harder for less.
Beyond deregulation, innovative technologies, especially information technologies have contributed mightily to enhanced exploitability. A quarter of a century ago, companies often required 10 men to do the job of one guy at a computer terminal, robots work longer, faster and harder than men and we don’t have to pay them at all!
Deregulation and information technologies have joined, in the US and elsewhere to advance the exploitative abilities of the financial sector, but creative accounting may turn out to have been the most important contributor to our current Bubble Economy.
Historically, banks have had to bail themselves out of trouble, as they were responsible for their losses. When they could not do so, the government stepped in. But given recent de-regulation and subsequent hidden leveraging through asset-backed securities, collateral loan obligations and credit default swaps, the banks can hide their risk until the bubble explodes and forces a government bailout. Or they can just threaten to blow themselves up and take government money.
Embarrassingly deficient pricing options and financial mumbo jumbo developed by mathematicians along with fast computers and telecom have significantly increased risk and reward for behavior that, before regulation, was entirely illegal. The new instruments of risk dispersal have enabled the largest and most sophisticated banks, in their credit-granting role, to divest themselves of that credit risk and responsiblity by passing it on to institutions with far less leverage, like the American Citizen and their insurance companies and retirement funds.
These increasingly complex financial instruments have contributed to the development of a far more exploitative, wasteful and hence plutocratic financial system than the one that was dismantled 25 years ago. After the bursting of the stock market bubble in 2000, unlike previous periods following large financial shocks, nobody stepped in to stop the irrational exuberance and protect the people from waste, fraud and abuse.
If we have attained a degree of exploitability that can keep the money flowing to the rich despite the most significant shocks – a proposition that was just fully proven in the Winter of ’09. The ability of the economy to make money for the rich has been enhanced and rich people will be happier.
Governments today, although still more concerned with the General Welfare of their people during the age of Slavery and the Gilded Age are rediscovering the trappings of feeding the economy the lives and livelihoods of their people. We are also beginning to recognize that Global Exploitation is easier with the help of the Hidden Hand.
Through the careful use of political bribes and corporate propaganda, governments in recent decades have stopped protecting their people from exploitation by the marketplace. We appear to be perverting Adam Smith’s notion that exploitation and domination of people by the market and market titans is somehow capitalism. This greater tendency towards exploitation, hiding the truth and self regulation has made the stability of the economy impossible to gauge, even by experts.
It is important to remember that the nature of the market is complex, nobody understands it and things move too fast for governments to act appropriately.
Being able to outsource government functions to private industry is a valuable policy asset. Turning over vital government functions and paying more from them has helped our economy grow. This is a clear demonstration of the benefits of an increasingly exploitative economy.
We weathered a decline on October 19, 1987, of a fifth of the market value of US equities with little evidence of subsequent macro-economic stress because we had regulations on the books to ensure proper oversight and management of the economy. Contrast this with the Stock Market Bubble’s bursting in 2000 – despite the massive waste, fraud, abuse and public outrage, nothing was done to keep it from happening again.
In perhaps what must be the greatest irony of economy policymaking, success at exploiting entire populations of people carries it’s own risks. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and people know that. The good times can’t go on forever and the people are apt to lose their stomachs for risk or to get frightened by gloomy predictions which could lead to widespread exposure of toxic assets. Such developments apparently reflect not only market dynamics but also the all-too-evident alternating and infectious bouts of human euphoria and distress and the instability they engender.
Therefore, because it is difficult to suppress growing market exuberance with a seemingly stable economy, a highly exploitative system needs to be in place to manipulate the markets and to tilt the table back towards the wealthy when the shit hits the fan.
Relying on policymakers to pop speculative bubbles and to stop them from happening again is not an option. As the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) transcripts of the mid-1990s duly note, we at the Fed were uncomfortable with a stock market that appeared as early as 1996 to disconnect from its moorings.
Yet the significant monetary tightening of 1994 could not stop us from inflating the bubble. And after the repeal of Glass Steagall equity prices really shot up. The FOMC had the ability to stop this bubble, but it would have been bad for business and for stockholder and consumer confidence, so the band played on, for morale’s sake.
6 years after we saw the problem it appeared that we would have to do something drastic to counteract the euphoria that we allowed to spread because of our actions that were heretofore illegal. In short we would have to pop the bubble ourselves precipitating a recession and shining a bright light on formerly illegal and fraudulent activities. We decided to let the bubble grow and pop all on it’s own. We figured this would be better for rich people, given their superior knowledge, information and connections to markets, they’d be alright.
Exploitability is most readily achieved by fostering an environment of few rules and domination by the most powerful entities. A key element in creating this environment is exploitative labor markets. Many working people equate labor market flexibility with job insecurity.
Despite that perception, exploitative labor markets appear to promote job creation. An increased capacity of management to fire workers without excessive cost, for example, apparently increases companies’ willingness to hire without fear of unremediable mistakes. The net effect has been what appears to be a decline in the structural unemployment rate in the united states, and definitely cheaper labor.
Protection of People and trade, both domestic and international, from waste fraud and abuse does not contribute to the welfare of American workers. At best it is a short term fix at a cost of reduced wealth capturing by the economic elite. We need to make train and educate the recently fired, not protect them and their family from exploitative work practices.
Moving forward, I trust that we have learned durable lessons abotu the benefits of fostering and preserving an exploitative economy. That exploitation has been the product of the economic dynamism of our CEOs and firms that was unleashed, in part, by the efforts of corporate propagandists and their bought and paid for policymakers to remove public protections and promote plutocracy.
Although the business cycle has not disappeared, exploitation has made the economy less transparent and more efficient at transferring money to those that matter. To be sure this has created some new challenges for policymakers. But more fundamentally, a more exploitative economy has been key to the impressive growth in the standards of living and economic welfare of the wealthy elite so evident in the United States.
Feb 11 2009
The world is full of people paying for the economic fraud of unelected, rapacious and sociopathic dictators.
Latin America and Africa tend to be the hardest hit by this phenomena.
This is what happens:
Mr. Tin Pot Dictator runs up an incredible debt buying gold cadillacs and weapons with which to dominate and exploit the people of his country. The people suffer miserably, the Dictator lives a lavish lifestyle above the law until he is deposed in some manner, then the banks move in and enslave the people and control the sociopolitical landscape by leveraging that illegitimate debt against the progress of the population, innocent victims of authoritarian rule.
It seems to me that there’s been a quickening of this trend, and it’s taken place right here in America – naked right in the open. Bankers have muscled out the middle man, the Tin Pot Dictator, and have become the Dictators themselves.
Feb 11 2009
Humans are hardwired to punish, and punishment is very effective at stopping undesired behavior. Many people believe that you have to put punishment on dogs using coercion, fear or intimidation to train them. This is called Positive Punishment.
The only problem with positive punishment is that there are often unintended consequences that arise the the use of it, sometimes these unintended consequences create more problems than they solve.
Positive trainers believe that reward and repetition and removal of good things (negative punishment) is better at creating, modifying and maintaining behavior than fear and intimidation.
This is sometimes a hard sell to clients. Some people will simply never be able to process and internalize the concepts of positive training, and that’s OK. We just send them to someone who employs fear and intimidation to train dogs. No big deal.
Ironically, the people most likely to be unable to accept positive training are the very people who are likely to believe that positive reinforcement and voluntary regulation will work for controlling institutional, human behavior, and that punishing them for bad behavior is wrong.
I have no idea why this is the case, but my experience tells me it is.
Oct 01 2008
I train dogs for a living and am a positive trainer.
We rely on reward and repetition and allow the dogs to make the decision.
Most people don't believe me when I tell them that leaving the decision up to the dog works better than making it for them. It just doesn't make any sense that we leave decisions up to the dogs – it goes against everything they know about training dogs.”How can they do something if I don't tell them what to do?”
Learning is a Journey
Telling a dog what to do too early short circuits the learning process.
Giving the answer to the test:
“The answer is 'C'… shut up kid, I said the answer is 'C'!”
might help the kid pass this test, but it's not learning. Change the test and failure is all but guaranteed.
Learning is a journey, it's not a destination. It happens in the preperation for the test, it's not just getting the right answer.
The reading, the research, the mistakes made in homework – that's where learning takes place. If a student makes that journey, they can pass any test.
Our clients often try to direct their dogs to do things that short circuit the learning process. They try to take short cuts to pass the 'test' (get the behavior).
This is a problem because we, as teachers, don't really care as much about this particular behavior at this particular time. We are more concerned with the learning process.
We want to give the dogs the opportunity to learn the underlying concepts so they can perform this behavior any time any where and be wildly successful, at which point we drop the cue on it. (grossly simplified, but you get the idea…) This also allows the dog to learn variations of this behavior and other similar behaviors very quickly.
If we drop the cue on it, or even worse, give a command (do this or else) too early, we get limited understanding, confusion and a high percentage of failure. Sure we might get to the answer faster, but what if the test changes? The learning hasn't happened. If the learning hasn't happened the dog has a very limited understanding of that behavior.
Sep 26 2008
Well, I’m a little late to the party, but that should be OK.
It seems as if Wall Street is going to get much of what they want in this upcoming bailout bill, but they’re not going to get all of it.
From Handout to Bailout
It looks like our elected officials showed a bit of spine and common sense in taking this from ‘handout’ to bailout and have placed some checks and balances on the handing over of $700 large to the extortionists on Wall Street.
But the key aspect of this situation is that it was still extortion.
Aug 15 2008
Failed Conservative Policies.
There should not be one interview on national TV that does not include these words, and they are almost never spoken.
We need to imprint this fact into the very fabric of America so that we can put an end to this slide to fuedalism that our country finds itself in.
America is not a ‘Conservative’ country.
- Universal Health Care.
- quality Public Education
- consumer protections
- a viable livelyhood
- good roads
- peace and prosperity
- their privacy
- personal freedoms
- reliable electricity
- clean energy
- reliable information
All of these things that Americans want, and none of them can be called Conservative.
Aug 05 2008
Barack Obama said something today that I think is beautiful from a framing perspective:
I mean it’s like these guys take pride in ignorance! It’s like they like being ignorant.
(hat tip to ruff4life at the Great Orange Satan)
I believe this is the counter frame to the Elitist Democrat.
Nobody wants to be ignorant, and depending on leaders who are proud of their ignorance and demand ignorance from their followers cannot be good for the running of a country.
Ignorance is simply not good public policy.
Aug 05 2008
As Oil Peaks, supply chains stretch and the New Economy fails, there are going to be some major changes in the life of Average Americans.
The future is wide open as far as ‘how bad’ it’s going to get. There are many possible dystopic futures: Mad Max, 1984, A Brave New World, Harrison Bergeron, to name a few, but let’s not focus on the doom and gloom, let’s take a look at the opportunity for community, friendship and cooperation – there is no law that says the bad guys are going to win.
Let’s take a look at a possible future that I don’t think is on many people’s radar.
Jul 26 2008
There was this great essay the other day by Diane W: Code Talking White Trash & Exploitation Capitalism that is a must read for some uplifting real life political action.
Her framing used in the discussion was extremely interesting to me, as Diane NAILED it. Here's some analysis of her framing from a comment I posted on her essay:
There is NOT economic parity nor economic equal chance in this country. I have studied the actual demographics. The middle class is gone, honey, and 90% of the wealth in this country is now in 1% of the hands. There are no jobs. All these divisionary tactics keep us blaming eachother instead of the real problem. Greed. The haves and the have-nots.
I'll give you American Axle as an example. Those hard-working factory people, men and women who may have given as much as 30 years of their lives working their butts off, just took a 50% pay cut. Now the houses and student loans and their lifestyles had reflected a certain base pay, a pay no longer available to them. What happens to the broader market when all those people are foreclosed upon, because the money is no longer there? Are you going to yell “bootstraps” at all these workers?
When there are no jobs, neighborhoods die, stores close, people move away, schools have no tax-base. In the meantime GM exec's make 100 times what the factory workers who actually do the work make, and they send those jobs to goddamned Vietnam. Opportunity Empathy This is a class war. Husbands can't support their families, women have to work, kids have to become latch-key kids… Thats whats wrong with America!
A solution: No darling, at one time Lee Iaccoca took NO salary for a few years, probably cashed in one of his Lears to survive it, to keep his company up and running, to make sure workers could afford the cars they made.
The PROBLEM isn't those people, the problem is the greed of the rich.
This conversation is OVER.
I love the conclusion. It's a done deal.
This is also interesting because it flies in the face of Lakoffian (is that a word?) frame construction… Values first, then metaphor…It pulls the metaphor first, the illustration of the values.
I think this is the way that frames should be built. Once you have the illustrations, you deconstruct them pull out the values and improve and expand upon the illustrations that are similarly well understood and emotive.
I really love this, Diane. It has taught me a lot. I usually demonize Iococca because of the Pinto and accountability and responsibility, but you've tapped into the nostalgia and base assumptions that were in play during his success.