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Monday, May 24, 2010

Economically Speaking

Thomas Friedman really is a contemptible son of bitch, isn't he? Just a little closet fascist, right on schedule, searching for his Mussolini or Mao:
MR. FRIEDMAN: Well, David, it's been decimated. It's been decimated by everything from the gerrymandering of political districts to cable television to an Internet where I can create a digital lynch mob against you from the left or right if I don't like where you're going, to the fact that money and politics is so out of control--really our Congress is a forum for legalized bribery. You know, that's really what, what it's come down to. So I don't--I, I--I'm worried about this, it's why I have fantasized--don't get me wrong--but that what if we could just be China for a day? I mean, just, just, just one day. You know, I mean, where we could actually, you know, authorize the right solutions, and I do think there is a sense of that, on, on everything from the economy to environment. I don't want to be China for a second, OK, I want my democracy to work with the same authority, focus and stick-to-itiveness. But right now we have a system that can only produce suboptimal solutions.
China for a day is his fantasy?

Believe me, being China for a day merely gets you mass murder, because that's the only way to escape our "suboptimal solutions" - i.e. Thomas Friedman paying a lot more in taxes to support people that he doesn't like.

Good God Almighty, the day I start fantasizing about "China for a day" I'll report to the SuperDoc for institutionalization on the grounds that I am criminally insane and likely to do damage. I think I'd also yank my own voting privileges.

Authority, focus and stick-to-itiveness:
Yeah, China's running a surplus. But how are they doing it? They still have tens of thousands of people in labor brigades out in Mongolia. Over ten percent of their own citizens are essentially illegals in their own land. They don't have residence permits to be in the districts and cities where the jobs are, so they basically have no legal rights. They get no unemployment. Their kids aren't allowed to enroll in the local school systems. It is way, way better to be an illegal immigrant in the US than to be most citizens in China.

They have massive pollution, and the problem keeps getting worse. Most of their citizens don't have health insurance or jobless benefits, the party officials (and often their families) form a separate favored class that often behaves as if it is above the law, and bribery and corruption are rampant. Reforms to impose a minimum wage and the requirement to actually pay the workers were initiated and then shelved as a result of the 2008 crash.

China is a combination of hyper-capitalism and feudalism; the robber barons abound. This is the path the west rejected. As far as I can tell, many of its local governments are about broke. Efforts to get the truly rich or well-off to pay more (such as a property tax) aren't succeeding.

As for civil rights, China is a country so afraid of its own citizens that it controls the internet and has blocked texting services on mobile phones. The papers are rigidly controlled. Basically all forms of mass communication are controlled. All forms of religion are controlled by the state. Discussion (not dissent) is tolerated only at the higher government levels.

When you live in a free society with open access to information, you have a moral responsibility to use it before you fantasize about such things. And if you don't use that access, you are a contemptible son of a bitch. Further, China's current growth is really shaky, because it's based on a bubble and huge government spending. It's the last gasp of its current system.

The problem for China is that it could sustain very high growth only for the period in which industrialization was moving from other countries to China. Once that growth reached a natural decline, its growth naturally declined. Because China is such a totalitarian state and its real religion is only success (as measured in money) China will have to resort to internal liberalization to create further growth at rates which will continue to improve the lot of its citizens, who have come to expect that life will improve for them. And China hasn't managed to pull that off yet.

As the Shrink writes, reality is breaking out all over. One of the ugliest realities we have to confront is that many in our own country who think they believe in the common good only believe in their own good, and are pretty much prepared to throw anyone to the wolves to maintain their own positions.

The absolutely worst thing about Friedman's fantasy (which is real - this is right in line with his general tack) is that the only way you can improve things by being China for a day is to kill the old people. And that's really what Friedman's recommending - he just wants someone else to take responsibility for it. Then he'll be all horrified and pontificate about it.

Update: I am admonished in comments that Friedman's name (PBUH) may not be posted without a picture of his house so that we can understand why the peasants so disgust him - and of course, there is only one place to go for such useful resources:

But at least he is a uniter and not a divider - the left and right think he's a jerk. But who can blame the man for wanting this to be China - he wouldn't have to pay the property taxes on that place!!

Addendum: It turns out that Ann Althouse watched the show, and she had some comments:
A love of autocracy often lurks beneath the liberal veneer. There's this idea that the right answers are known and the people are just too deluded and distorted to see what they are and to vote for them. And Friedman openly deplores the internet, which decimates moderation because there are people like me who who persecute elite truthbearers like him.
And The Anchoress has a few pithy comments as well. Also very funny videos:
Every murderous totalitarian government of the 20th century began with some insulated group of faux-intellectuals congratulating each other on how smart they are, and fantasizing about how, if they could just install a dictatorship-for-a-day, they could right all the wrongs in the world.

It is the ultimate fantasy of the narcissist. And we’ve got whole generations of them, in control of our media and our government, all intent on “remaking America.”


Comments:
MoM,

Thanks for speaking the truth about China; apologists for the CCP are reminicent of those who raved about the glories of the USSR.

And in re: Thomas Friedman -- he, of course, would be one of the mandarins if the US adopted a "China for a day" mentality. Not only does he have his exceptionally high profile post at the NYT, he's also (by marriage) a billionaire (wife is heir to GGP, a shopping mall owner/developer). Sadly, just another shill posing as a champion of the average Joe, Jose, and Wen.

And utterly off topic, I'm amused that Friedman's wife's maiden name (what a quaint phrase) could be interepreted as "money tree" (Bucksbaum). But I have an odd sense of humor..............

Ed S.
 
M_O_M, bang-on about Friedman. You too, Ed.

Are you still looking at a U.S. recovery that straggles along this year? I'm hearing talk that the small-business hiring numbers are incorrect, too high, as a result of fudged birth-death estimates. I'm also concerned about the effects of another financial panic via either EU or China.
 
Friedman is a NYT columnist. So, if we said he was criminally insane, we would be repeating ourselves. Just look at the lineup: Dowd, Friedman, Krugman, Hrebert, and the lovely and talented drama critic, Frank Rich. There is not a one I would voluntarily read.

I would expect all this controversy would not only take Freidman by surprise, he would then attribute it internet piling on. On a serious note, print journalists like Friedman are really ill prepared for an out pouring of disagreement. The prefer one way conversations. They write, you read.
 
Very good points, but every post about Friedman should contain a picture of his house. Seriously. It really should be mandatory.
 
Neil - yes, I still think we will power through. I know the recent commentary in the press has shifted more to the negative, but that was baked in months ago - they are just catching up.

The reason for the shift (and it is still only a high 70%/low 80% range) is the change in oil prices.

Earlier this year we had reached the point at which crude prices were so far out of line with what the products could be sold for that margins were basically eroded, instead of the higher costs being shifted down the line, and that couldn't continue for very long. If pricing eventually moved up to follow crude pricing, then the economy's underlying weakness was going to prevail.

However the one thing about the abrupt collision with Euro-reality is that it has knocked out a whole level of speculation in pricing. There will not be a huge give-back on product pricing, but there will enough to reach a better balance between the end-market and the processors.

As for the rest, the state and local government problem is not getting any better, but I had that in the forecast already. What has improved is marginal economic activity; people are beginning to get out there and scratch for a living, and that is going to slowly take effect.

I don't have good growth - but I do now have the probability of growth. If DC comes to its senses, it could continue for a while. If DC doubles down, we'll collapse again next year.
 
Ed - uh-huh. The belief of the political class that it can somehow escape the common fate is producing some interesting and unlovely political quirks.

But then, for anyone who knows American history, American history is just repeating itself.
 
M_O_M, I hope you're right. No collapse this year is all I'm really asking for. Next year will have to take care of itself.
 
Good God Almighty, the day I start fantasizing about "China for a day" I'll report to the SuperDoc for institutionalization on the grounds that I am criminally insane and likely to do damage. I think I'd also yank my own voting privileges. - MaxedOutMama

China's Foul Assets

Please just shoot me if I ever think of moving to China. I have absolutely nothing against the Chinese people but I would not want to be a citizen. What if the government discovered my blog? - Stagflationary Mark

Once again I find myself on the same page as you. It's uncanny! ;)
 
Mark, that's because you and MOM have uncommon good sense.
 
I put Friedman right up there with Woody Allen and Sean Penn...

"It would be good...if (Obama) could be dictator for a few years because he could do a lot of good things quickly," (Woody) Allen is quoted as saying.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2010/05/woody-allen-obama.html

During his appearance on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher" on Friday, Penn defended Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, stating that anyone who calls Chavez a dictator should end up behind bars.

"Every day, this elected leader is called a dictator here, and we just accept it, and accept it," said Penn. "And this is mainstream media. There should be a bar by which one goes to prison for these kinds of lies."

Read more: http://www.worstpreviews.com/headline.php?id=16997#ixzz0otLgoXvj
Report TOU Violation
 
Who Struck John,

January 3, 2010
MaxedOutMama: 2010 - The Year Of Reckoning

China is in a frank bubble. It's really bad - I don't even know if the government is able to check it without producing a disaster.

It seems we now have a bull market in reckoning. If the recent stock market activity and problems in Europe are any indicator, we're being reckoned right off a cliff.

January 25, 2010
Illusion of Prosperity: The China Story Has Major Plot Holes

If true, savvy Chinese investors and/or global commodity investors better get a clue. This sounds a lot like Professor Plum in the Conservatory with a Lead Pipe.

Uncanny!! The conspiracy theorists must be having a field day. I assure you that we are not the same person though and I've never even been to Area 51.

Don't let it concern you that she reads crop reports and I grew up in a small farming community. That's just what THEY would want you to believe. It's just a coincidence that it is true, lol. ;)
 
Let's for a moment assume Thomas Friedman was Chinese and made similar comments idolizing, say, America.

Where would he be?

In a lovely gulag specially designed for the "intelligentsia".

Extraordinary how one can take great freedoms for granted and yearn for systems that deny precisely that.
 
Haven't read Friedman for years but seems to be popular with the every expanding middle..don't understand what the size of his house has to do with anything other then I hope he is current on his mortgage it looks a bit big to qualify for a mortgage Mod but maybe that's why his in such a bad mood.
 
Mark - I think it's a physics connection. Not even tinfoil hats protect against the awesome mental tyranny of the laws of thermodynamics. They and the periodic table just completely corrupt young and innocent minds (according to some people).

I saw the FUNNIEST thread ever on DU. It was about a press release on an early cancer trial using reovirus and radiation that showed great promise. However the thread degenerated quickly into a conspiracy theory thread (the connection being that all these wonderful cures for csncer were being suppressed by "Big Pharma").

Did you know that just eating certain foods is an infallible cure for cancer? Why, neither did I! What would I do without DU? And to think my health-food eating uncle died at 61 from cancer - so close!

Anyway, in the middle of this a poster commented on the fact that the Japanese had cars that ran just on water alone (nothing else). Big Oil is preventing us from getting that car. How DASTARDLY CAN YOU GET?

An innocent, apparently believing he was in the stronghold of the reality-based party, posted some helpful info about the aforesaid laws to explain why the Japanese did not have a car that ran purely on water as a fuel, and was firmly rebuffed. Some stuff about advanced beings, mushrooms, and spiritual molecules was advanced to explain why.
 
So he doesn't like "suboptimal" solutions....

Anyone who thinks that *optimal* solutions are actually possible in complex human affairs has never done much of anything, and, especially, never *run* much of anything.
 
Saloner - at the link one can also watch the video - the differing reactions are priceless. One of them did point that out.

Sonoma - the size of his house has nothing to do with anything but that his recommendations pretty much add up to "the peasants are getting too damned expensive". Take his support for a gas tax of a buck a gallon (federal). He has been very vocal about it.

I am having trouble telling the left from the right these days; I don't think those categories explain our politics at all any more.

The libertarians mostly live in a fantasy. It's a politics like the clothes shown by fashion designers at the big shows - no real human ever wears them.

Both the DC Democrats and the DC Republicans have worked out time-honored rhetorical escapes from reality.

Anyway, when the population, which is getting very worried, attempts to exit this political Fantasy Island, they keep getting called names by All Those Who Count.
 
David - yes, I did not miss the "suboptimal". Hey, the great thing about unearned wealth is that you never, never have to deal with reality. I have never in my life done anything optimally, and I don't expect to ever do anything optimally. A solution which works, yes, I have come up with some of those. On a low budget, within the time frame.

We have a lot of agitation about wealth, but I don't think that's a problem. Idiots are generally good at losing it one way or another.

I think our problem is plain old-fashioned envy, combined with a relatively justified worry that idiots who should be losing their wealth aren't being allowed to do so through political manipulation. A society that allows no idiot tax is going to become a poor and broken society.
 
...the Japanese had cars that ran just on water alone...

...but you can only drive them downhill. ;D
 
MoM, I wish I could share your hope for growth this year.
Yes, oil is down due to a stronger dollar. That also makes
exports more expensive. I see more wage deflation for
the US worker which will more than offset the benefit
of lower oil prices.

Sporkfed
 
One of the ugliest realities we have to confront is that many in our own country who think they believe in the common good only believe in their own good, and are pretty much prepared to throw anyone to the wolves to maintain their own positions.

What's good for the coastal elite is good for America.
 
MOM,

Anyway, in the middle of this a poster commented on the fact that the Japanese had cars that ran just on water alone (nothing else). Big Oil is preventing us from getting that car. How DASTARDLY CAN YOU GET?

You just did it again.

I was posting an update to an article I posted in 2007 today.

Historical Dow Revisited

I refer you to the link to my original article within that post.

Maybe a butterfly flaps its wings on some ethanol corn field as a hydrogen powered saltwater car drives by. Yeah, that's it. Saltwater is going to solve ALL our problems. It is the best invention since the ash powered train. Never heard of it? You put pre-burned wood (otherwise known as ash) in it and it generates electricity to power the. . . . Oh, wait! Black helicopters are circling my house again. I wasn't supposed to tell you that. Sorry. The oil companies and the government paid me off so that I wouldn't share my invention. I probably wasn't supposed to share that either come to think of it.

No joke! I wrote that in 2007 and I was just thinking about it today. Here you are thinking about it too, lol.

STOP THINKING LIKE ME! Hahaha! :)
 
A four bagger MOM! Found myself reading along, nodding my head in the affirmative and chuckling. Just wunnafull, wunnafull!!

I made a recent discovery in Bonaire (Netherlands Antilles). They have a huge oil storage area there. Who stores oil there? Those who bought it at a good price and are holding it off the market waiting for higher prices. (Speculators??) May be one reason (That and ICE) for oil prices being out of touch with supply and demand for so long. Just a thought.
 
Of course, there were many in 1930s America who believed that "the wave of the future" was totalitarianism, and that our only choice was to pick the Communist or Fascist variety.
 
There's nothing wrong with America that bureaucracy can not prolong.
 
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