Thursday, February 7, 2013

Asstro --NSFW

Chilean indie electro-pop group Astro released this video recently. Gizmodo had it as their "Weirdest Thing on the Internet Tonight." NSFW in most places. Goofy as hell.


Yup, an aristocracy of parasites. George Monbiot points out the latest in the painful saga of the economically insane: notably CEO's of major financial institutions. Mr. Monbiot:
Matt Ridley used to make his living partly by writing state-bashing columns in the Daily Telegraph. The government, he complained, is “a self-seeking flea on the backs of the more productive people of this world … governments do not run countries, they parasitise them.”(1) Taxes, bail-outs, regulations, subsidies, intervention of any kind, he argued, are an unwarranted restraint on market freedom.
Then he became chairman of Northern Rock, where he was able to put his free market principles into practice. Under his chairmanship, the bank pursued what the Treasury select committee later described as a “high-risk, reckless business strategy”(2). It was able to do so because the government agency which oversees the banks “systematically failed in its regulatory duty”(3).
On 16th August 2007, Dr Ridley rang an agent of the detested state to explore the possibility of a bail-out. The self-seeking fleas agreed to his request, and in September the government opened a support facility for the floundering bank. The taxpayer eventually bailed out Northern Rock to the tune of £27bn.
When news of the crisis leaked, it caused the first run on a bank in this country since 1878. The parasitic state had to intervene a second time: the run was halted only when the government guaranteed the depositors’ money.

And now Matt Ridley has written a book. As expected, it indulges in the same magical thinking that got Northern Rock into trouble in the first place. Evil governments, terrible parasitic bureaucrats, crippling regualtion all come in for the usual bollocking.  As usual, the remedy is more of what failed the last time. Not only should these idiots not be allowed near levers of economic power, clearly they shouldn't be allowed near a cup of coffee. this belief that their ideology must be correct, must actually justify what they do and who they are, that they cannot give it up without a complete mental breakdown. Like cultists at the end of the world; when it doesn't arrive, you double down.
To let Mr. Monbiot finish up:
It is only from the safety of the regulated economy, in which governments pick up the pieces when business screws up, that people like Dr Ridley can pursue their magical thinking. Had the state he despises not bailed out his bank and rescued its depositors’ money, his head would probably be on a pike by now. Instead we see it on our television screens, instructing us to apply his irrational optimism more widely. And no one has yet been rude enough to use the word discredited.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Screwing Up And Never Paying The Price

From The Washington Post:
Consider it a mea culpa submerged in a deep pool of calculus and regression analysis: The International Monetary Fund’s top economist today acknowledged that the fund blew its forecasts for Greece and other European economies because it did not fully understand how government austerity efforts would undermine economic growth.
Yeah, the top economist for the IMF got it wrong. Of course, he still gets to keep his job, his house, his benefits package and the respect of his peers.Unlike, say, the Greeks, the Spanish, and the other members of the 99% that got done over by his policy demands.
These are the people who really are the Masters of the Universe--at least of the economic universe. And their decisions have real-world consequences--consequences they never have to face. So it becomes very easy for them to do incredibly stupid stuff and not think twice about it. Like Edward Greenspan, acknowledging that he was utterly wrong on so many things before the 2008 smash. These are generally people who come from privilege and will be certain to pass that privilege on to their kids, and its no damn wonder they keep getting it wrong--they don't live in the same world as the rest of us poor buggers. They are just as prone to mistakes and misjudgements as the rest of us, but, as a rule, they don't have to pay any price for being wrong--as long as the  wrong only affects us.
It won't do us any good to keep this system in place; it is chockablock with perverse incentives and the rich protecting the wealthy. All that's happened since 2008 is to re-establish a system that will crack up even bigger next time, until it either fails completely or is brought under significant regulation.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Three Stories

From Aljazeera

Earthrise, Al Jazeera's environmental program, ran a show back in July 2012 which I missed. But I've caught it up now, and I'm a bit excited. It covers three stories: wind generators in Kenya, end-of-life plastic reuse in Ireland, and land reclamation in Indonesia.

If you haven't read Kurt Vonnegut's Player Piano,

 or Cory Doctorow's Makers,
from the website
you really should. They are both about humans and their relationship with their monkey-brains, about our inveterate need to fiddle with stuff. And they're both really good reads.
In Kenya, approximately 82% of the population is off-grid--entirely. They rely on batteries and hydrocarbon fuels for power. Access Energy, a local company, uses re-purposed parts and re-used automobile alternators to build not brilliant, perfect wind generators, but appropriate-tech wind generators that can re-charge cell phones and power a light. Which takes care of a large number of the power requirements the off-grid Kenyan's have.
In Ireland, the urge is the same; to take waste and re-purpose it into something useful. Only this is re-using end-of-life plastic to create synthetic diesel. Endlessly more complex than the wind generators, but born of the same need.
And in Indonesia, a born-again tin miner works to repair the damage done by himself and those like him. Here, desolate cratered land is transformed by energy and cows into something beautiful and livable. A model project for restoring lands we'd prefer didn't get destroyed in the first place.