Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Stupid is as

I tried to watch Mad Men. I am always interested in trends but as with most things in popular culture it left me cold. For the most part it is just a commercial for cigarettes. Look smoking is cool, remember when all the cool cats smoked and wouldn’t it be nifty if they did again? In the end it is just a mediocre soap and that is a thing just not my thing. Would like to find out if the tobacco companies financed the show from jump but the show does lead into my larger point.
American’s do not like facts but instead they like a story that fits what they already believe. I am not immune to this most American of delusions so my take should be examined in this light as well. The Ad agency guys in the show spend their time looking down their noses at the little guy while they try to fool him into buying whatever widget this weeks account is for while they do the typical soap opera plot over and over. The one thing it does get is the contempt that marketers have for the target of their propaganda. The point in time that marketing became more important than the product was the end of the advance of the middle class. I will include those pesky numbers and facts at the end but for now I am telling a storey and do not wish to break my rhythm. It is my point that you do not actually give a crap about the facts anyway and if the storey is not conforming to your preconceived ideas you will have already tuned it out.
With the end of the 2nd world war there existed large industrial capacity to match pent up demand and the modern middle class exploded in the U.S. The G.I. bill fueled education and government investment in infrastructure made the perception of unlimited potential for growth reality for an instant. That bubble burst in the late fifties and we have been on a bubble to bubble ride ever since but something happened in the seventies that altered the equation and we have never owned up to it. We reached the point that there was not enough cheap energy to go around.
The timing of the first oil shock is etched in my mind as I was a California boy about to get the key to life my first drivers license. Freedom, riches and above all sex all flowed from this magical achievement and as the price of gas went overnight from 29 and 9/10s to 59 and 9/10s all that evaporated in an instant. My father was in the Gas selling business at the time so for us it was sort of a total collapse of the world but it didn’t last. The resultant recession ruined demand oil prices once again crashed and we went back to the same old waste it ways with one exception. The marketers had sold us the idea that conservation was evil. Ronny Raygun and his morning in America bunch had tapped into the idea that we like to be told that we are better than everyone else. We are really into the manifest destiny American exceptionalism nonsense and we would rather live like shit and believe things are great than fix things. Yes we could out compete anyone that had been destroyed in a war of unprecedented scale. The being born on third base and believing you have hit a triple mentality permeates our experience. The latest example was John Sydney McCain 4th generation privileged son of admirals trying to claim his man of the people mantle when running against the elitist son of a divorced mother. 57 million idiots bought that lie but the fact that the marketers sold us that idea is the problem. We want to believe the smart guy is an elitist. For some reason we do not like people that are smarter than us running things. Is it that we are afraid that the smart guys will screw us over? The dumb ones fronting for the republicans have screwed us repeatedly and for some reason we don’t seem to care but let a smart guy want to run things and we freak out instantly. I think the marketing folk figured this out quite a while ago, that is why all smart people in popular culture are portrayed as idiots or social misfits. Television needs to sell us that reason and education won’t make you happy other wise the old nonsense of religion and nationalism will fail to satisfy and the rabble will demand competence and facts as opposed to faith and dreams.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Car wreck economy

I am watching the markets fall again today and the news is reporting another round of government plans for bailouts. There is talk of another stimulus package and a bailout of the big three auto makers. The liberal bloggosphere is now debating how to make the car makers eco-friendly in exchange for the money. More of the too big to fail mentality that is doomed to failure. This will be a horrible boondoggle just as the financial sector bailout is turning into.
The auto industry is not truly in trouble just the American auto industry. Yes all sales are down but in this recession but the big three were tanking long before the downturn. This is a symptom of a larger American attitude that is the root of the problem but first let us look at industry as a whole. Companies like Volkswagen and Toyota are profitable and have been while GM looses billions. If we are going to bail out bad decisions and bad business practices we must abandon the idea that we are a market economy. Rather than pour money down the rat hole let these companies go into bankruptcy and have the government backstop the people at the bottom that will lose out. Don’t hand the idiots running these companies billions to waste instead let them fail and take over the pension and medical insurance payments for the retirees. This should be done as part of a national single payer health care reform that will help to make all American industry more viable and competitive.
The big three have been losing market share due to bad products and poor workmanship. The market does in fact work in cars, make a product people want and it sells. Once you have a reputation for making bad poor quality products it is tough to come back. This brings me back to the larger American attitude that is failing. Marketing will make up for bad product. The big three think polishing a turd is the solution rather than flushing the toilet.
The idea that we are going to bail out these companies seems to no longer be the argument but how the government should determine what they make is the position of the left. The right and let them fail is actually correct but their reasoning as usual is faulty and they do not want to deal with the fallout. Planned economies fail. I have accepted that fact even though I tend toward socialist solutions. The market is pretty good at deciding which types of goods consumers will buy. Badly made poor quality ugly looking boxy hybrids will tank and that is the kind of crap Detroit’s designers will spew forth if the government steps in with mandates in exchange for loan guarantees. The management of the big three are of the same mentality as the American way of life is nonnegotiable wing of the anti environmental party. The automobile is not conducive to a sustainable lifestyle for 6 billion plus people and the sooner we warm up to that concept the sooner we can keep the world from getting too hot.
Let them fail. Force the unions to work out a new deal and let the taxpayers bail out the retirees not the investors. Take the money and spend it on public transportation. There simply are not enough resources in the world for everyone to drive around in their own car. This is the fundamental change that we need to deal with. If we start now we can save lots of pain in the long run.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election wrap

Slept late today and now over coffee I thought I would take a few minutes to analyze the 08 vote. I am glad Obama beat McCain 4 more years of the same old republican nonsense would have been a disaster but I do not see the huge transformation that the jabbering heads are on about. Yes a black man won and that is historic but the world of the redneck is still full of rednecks. In an election that had the worst economy in my lifetime and two failed wars almost all of fly over country still voted as it always does. If the market collapse had been stalled a few more months who knows? If McCain picks a remotely qualified running mate again we will never know.
I think that because I am of the opinion that people are of a single species and that the variation within the group has been shown to be greater than variations by skin color I just don’t find race very interesting. The invective that I saw in the campaign showed me that racism is still prevalent and that we have a huge number of bigots wandering among us. The failure of all of the progressive ballot initiatives tends to prove my point. Equal rights for gays lost even in California. That should not be that big a surprise as once you get 50 miles inland California has become Alabama in some respects. Even when same sex marriage was legal the folks in Bakersfield tried to prevent couples from getting licenses, just one example.
I am a cynic and do not trust anyone that spews the level of religiosity that Obama professes but he has a mandate. It remains to be seen what he does with it. In the meantime the court battles over rights will begin in California and the corporate scum will begin to delegitamize the left with claims of, “America is center right” while the left pushes back. In the end I will not be surprised when a year from now nothing has changed much. We are still a population that cares more about the caged chicken we are going to slaughter than our neighbors.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Shakey ideas

The other day or should I say night I was woken up twice by the shaking of earthquakes. They were small and did no damage but still it was a bit disconcerting. It got me thinking about the vagaries of life and perception. I have friends around the country that ask how I can handle the earthquake thing and they live places that have tornadoes and hurricanes almost every year. The sounds are so odd, the humming of the world on a grand scale. The rocks screaming in a low whine as opposed to the howl of the wind. The difference in energy from one to the other, quick burst or sustained violence are both emasculating in their own way. I think the shaking ground for me is less of a problem because I am good at reacting to things. The other forms of disaster come with warnings and anticipation and the buildup while earthquakes just happen and then they are done. With warning I spend too much time worrying about things and that is wasted energy.
I have been somewhat lucky from the standpoint that the big ones have happened shortly after I departed. The 89 quake that hit the bay area was about a year after I moved away north and there was another big quake in the Seattle Tacoma area about a year after I left for the south. I do not see this as having any greater meaning in the larger scope of things, just random occurrences. Or should I say they seem random. The one truly random event in the universe was the bubbling up of the big bang.
The idea that the Obama campaign is somehow transformational will lead the democrats to the same disaster that the turning of the Reagan win into a religion has done to the republican party. Look at the historic parallels. Bush has been horrible just as carter was perceived as horrible. The price of gas was through the roof we were being humiliated overseas by a bunch of religious fundies and housing prices and mutual funds were in the toilet. The country is rejecting the status quo not embracing some new idealism. The idea that we are fundamentally different is a fantasy of the left. The bigots are still defeating equal rights for gays. The idea that drilling and despoiling our natural environment is a good thing is wildly popular. We are still fighting about god and imaginary friends like they actually exist. The idea that a woman is entitled to determine her own health care is still anathema to huge segments of the population. McCain was actually winning this race until the market collapsed in spite of the fact that the incumbents had destroyed the nation.
The belief that Reaganism was changing America was the trap for the right, the result is now that their philosophy is crumbling as the dogma is disproved. Back when this cycle began the idea that a democrat could lose this election was ridiculous just as the idea that the disgraced Carter had any chance was idiotic. Stop spouting nonsense about transformation and actually govern well. Competence is the only transformation that the electorate is seeking. In closing I will remind the left that even after the humiliation of impeachment Al Gore still won the election before it was stolen
Hope everyone enjoyed All Hallow's Eve.