Man of the Year

by wjw on January 20, 2009

Can I just pause for a moment and express my relief that we now have a president who speaks my language?
By which I mean English.
I was not an early Obama supporter (in my hopeless, quixotic way, I liked Bill Richardson, whose campaign has now ended in a grand jury investigation), but my modest late conversion to the Obama cause may give me certain advantages. I don’t think the man walks on water, I don’t think he can wave a magic wand and make the badness go away, and I think he will make a lot of mistakes before he finds his feet.
But when I consider that I was born in an era when Jim Crow ruled vast areas of the country, and when the 82nd Airborne had to be sent into American cities to secure children of color the right to attend high school, I have to freakin’ marvel at the path this nation has taken.
I mean, our president is a self-identifying black man who’s named Barack Hussein Obama! How cool is that?
So, for the moment, I am happy to bask in my nation’s glory.
And meanwhile, I would like to offer a prayer to our new president.
Please, Mr. Obama, please sir, please please please pleeeeeeeaase . . . Don’t Fuck Up.
Lance Larka January 20, 2009 at 11:05 pm

A fine prayer Walter. 🙂

I prefer this one:
Please all give up the idiotic politics and economics of the past 30 odd years and learn to discuss the issues and be willing to alter your opinion to fit the facts as presented by the most qualified and accepted experts. Please Mr. President have the constitution to weather the storm you are about to endure. Please all three branches of government, State's governments, & local governments…don't fuck it up. We might have to come replace you.

Ian McDowell January 20, 2009 at 11:57 pm

A Republican friend of mine, who owns the bar where a bunch of my co-workers used to gather (and still do, when Cavin and Sunshine are in town from Vietnam), put it this way when explaining why he voted for Obama. “He ran the best organized and smartest campaign. Running a campaign is easier than running the country, but since none of the people I agreed with politically could manage to competently do the former, how the Hell could I trust them to do the latter?”

And yes, he agreed that Obama’s ability to speak in complex sentences was also a plus. “I’m tired of my fellow Republicans pretending to be dumbasses — or worse, electing genuine dumbasses — because they think ‘elitist’ is a dirty word. I don’t want my goddam president to be Joe fucking Average. I don’t think Obama will be a genuinely great president; we’ve not had one of those since Truman. But at least with Obama we’ll probably get a pretty good one, and that’s a welcome change.”

halojones-fan January 21, 2009 at 4:14 am

Yes massa, dat chile done got dat book-lannin, he jus’ speak lakka ayn-jul, law declare!

Oh, that’s insultingly racist? So is shitting on Southern dialects.

Also, remember when it was tremendously amazing that a Catholic got elected President? You’re right, neither do I. Twelve years from now, that’s how this will seem. And indeed, that’s more significant than anything else. A black man was elected President, and it really wasn’t all that big of a deal.

It’s funny to see all these new-struck Obamapologists trying to get out in front of the backlash. You dickheads have spent the last eight months telling us how Obama was the Second Coming of Christ. Now you want to temper enthusiasm with wisdom? Eat me.

That said, I think it’s a good thing that Obama was elected. Much of the anti-Bush sentiment was sheer, bloody-minded elitism; it was the self-appointed Better People, the urban intellectualists and white-guilt apologists, who just couldn’t get past the notion that some drawling Texan got to be President. Why, only the Right Sort Of People should be running this country, all those fucking morons–excuse me, uneducated rural people–should just do what they’re told. After all, they’re literally too dumb to know what they’re missing, right?

So now we’ve got two lawyers from Chicago running the nation; and, finally, these people can admit that you don’t get to be President unless you’re at least competent. Indeed, it took Obama less than two weeks to go back on virtually everything he’d ever said during the campaign. No closing Gitmo, no Iraq pullout, no punitive carbon tax. No rolling back the tax cuts. He read the NIE and got the initial briefings and said “shit, turns out that Bush had a good reason for everything he did”. He saw the satellite imagery of Iraqi convoys going hell-bent-for-leather towards Syria in 2002, and his question was not “why did Bush invade” but rather “why did he wait so long?” He learned about Iranian C4 being used in 90% of Iraqi IED.

All that said: At least Obama has America’s best interests in mind, and is willing to understand that he was given the Presidency, that it did not come to him by right as a natural stage in his development. I think he’s the first candidate since 1992 to feel that way. I disagree with his previously-stated positions, and that’s why I voted for McCain; but I’m not expecting to see a weaker America in 2012 as a result of President Obama’s term in office.

halojones-fan January 21, 2009 at 4:15 am

Oh, PS; Ian, ask your Republican friend how much he’s read about Eisenhower. If nothing else, Ike is the reason the Space Program exists.

dubjay January 21, 2009 at 4:37 am

I was not shitting on our ex-president’s dialect, I was shitting on his inability to speak coherently in =any= dialect. Unless you maintain that =no= southerners can speak coherently.

“You know, I’m the President during this period of time, but I think when the history of this period is written, people will realize a lot of the decisions that were made on Wall Street took place over a decade or so, before I arrived in President, during I arrived in President.”

I mean, what am I to take away from that?

But since you insist you’re offended by my alleged discrimination, by all means make your point, if you can.

Let me point out, however, that calling over half the voters in this country “dickheads” is not the your best advertisement for yourself.

Lance Larka January 21, 2009 at 4:42 am

All, a note I penned tonight.

Father, Mother, and others.

Today was moving. For the world. For our nation. For me.
Mom, Dad today I learned what you meant when you told me growing up
that you will always remember where you were when you heard that John
F. Kennedy had been assassinated. I thought I understood, but truly I
never did until today.

This morning I watched and listened as our country transitioned from
one executive to another. In peace and with civility. President Obama
told us and the world that there are hard times, yet we have been in
harder times before. I was in tears listening while he described the
conditions our first President and his troops endured during our
revolutionary war at Valley Forge.

Today I heard the highest elected official of our land telling us that
we need to come together as a people…not just citizens of the USA
but people of all nationalities and societies to confront the
challenges we all face as a race. A race of Humans.

I have high hopes. I have high hopes for President Obama. I
acknowledge that his administration will make mistakes. I have high
hopes that he will learn from them become better for the experience.

I saw through my tears this morning and was filled with hope and with
a sense of history.

For my whole life I have heard and seen the clips of President John
Kennedy including his assassination. For years I was trying to
understand the visceral reaction by people who were there at the time.
I could not. He was just a man after all. A veteran for sure. But just
a man. Not anymore. I didn’t have the the perspective to understand.

Today I witnessed a United States Citizen confirm the oath of office
and become the 44th President of the United States of America.

President Obama did so in such a fashion with such a clear message of
where we are and where we need to go that I can now clearly understand
how people in 1961 heard and become devotees of JFK during his
inaugural address. How they incorporated his message of hope into
their own lives. How after he died his Vice President championed acts
that allowed non-whites to vote and be full citizens in this great
society we all live in.

Today I am ready to pray (as an agnostic) that my generation never has
to say to it’s children that they remember when President Obama was
killed before his term ends and he hands his executive power to his
elected successor.

For those that are close, you can appreciate what that says about my
feelings today.

My prayers go out to President Obama. Thank you sir for your sacrifice.

Lance Amate` Larka

Steve Stirling January 21, 2009 at 6:42 am

I supported Hillary in the primaries and then voted for McCain.

So far, which isn’t very far, I rather like Obama; certainly more than I expected to. Time will tell, but he’s off to a fairly good start.

This isn’t because I think he’s “good”.

Rather the opposite, if anything. I think he’s cunning, ruthless, Machiavellian, a nationalist, and will do and say anything to win, which is about what I want in a President. We don’t elect a national Daddy.

Mostly I’m starting to think that he lied about the things I thought he was telling the truth about during the campaign, and told the truth where I thought he was lying.

In other words, it’s starting to look a lot like he’s actually a centrist and pragmatist who wants to move beyond partisan divisions and has few strong ideological beliefs beyond the usual American consensus.

Who’d a thunk it?

His national security appointments are deeply reassuring — as is everything he’s said on those issues since the election.

And foreign and military policy are what I primarily care about in a President; it’s where he has the most influence, anyway.

He certainly gives a much better speech than Bush. Bush was by no means stupid — he got about the same marks as Kerry and has around the same IQ — but he’s not an intellectual and has no gift for public speaking.

That’s a genuine handicap in a politician, who must use rhetorical skills as a weapon.

Steve Stirling January 21, 2009 at 7:01 am

The broader significance of our current economic problems is that they have no broader significance.

We are not being punished for our sins. Boom times do not reward us for our virtues.

We have a capitalist economy. Capitalist economies are inherently cyclical.

Boom and bust is built into the market pricing mechanism for allocating the factors of production.

Government action can trigger recessions but cannot indefinitely delay them. And since government operates in the same memetic environment that business does, it usually makes the same mistakes at the same time.

The longer the boom — and the 25 years up to 2007 were the longest period of high growth in American history, interrupted only by two very mild quasi-recessions — the harder the crash.

That’s because people start to convince themselves that THIS TIME it’ll be different. But of course it never is.

As Kipling put it, “And the Fool’s bandaged finger/Goes wobbling back to the fire.” We’ve seen this ever since the Tulip Mania, if not before.

So this is a Perfectly Normal Cyclical Downturn, albeit an emphatic one. There have been scores like this before; there will be scores like this to come.

That’s why I’ve just put a lot of money into stocks. When everyone else is depressed and convinced the sky is falling… buy.

Dave Bishop January 21, 2009 at 11:24 am

In his book ‘The War of the World’ the historian, Neil Ferguson lists three pre-conditions for the global conflict(s) that dominated much of the 20th century and may be continuing on into this one:

– The collapse of Empires

– Economic instability

– Institutionalised racism

(Note that I was criticised for not spelling these out in a previous post – an omission which I acknowledged).

Well, we’re certainly experiencing the second pre-condition for global conflict right now and certainly massive power shifts have occurred over the last couple of decades and are still in motion. But yesterday I witnessed an African American become the 44th President of the United States and I witnessed brave people who had fought for Civil Rights in America, in the 1960s, borne up on tides of joy. Surely, that has to make us all a bit safer and the world a better place?

Ian McDowell January 21, 2009 at 2:52 pm

Nobody’s shitting on Southern dialects. I have a Southern dialect and I think Bush speaks like a fucking idiot. What’s weird is that he didn’t always speak that way. News clips from his Texas days and even a documentary about the 2000 campaign show a man who seems far more articulate and aware than the one whose spent the last eight years in office. He doesn’t have the same poleaxed look, either, but like he actually has something going on behind his eyes.

And my Republican friend (who is also from North Carolina and speaks Tarheel, and thinks Bush not only speaks like an idiot but is one) actually cited Eisenhower as the last great president; I misquoted him when I said Truman.

And nobody here has called Obama the second coming of Christ (for the record, I considered voting for McCain until he chose Palin). Not liking the taste of douchebag, I wouldn’t dream of eating you, but you call me a dickhead to my face and I’ll do my best to beat you.

Foxessa January 21, 2009 at 6:41 pm

How in hell is bush a southerner? He went to private schools and Yale, vacationed in Kennebunkport. He spent time in the Texas oil patch sewer that is Middletown, but that didn’t make him a Texan either.

He’s a crook. That’s a global population. And ignorant as hell — didn’t say stupid and dumb unless foxes are stupid and dumb — but ignorant and glories in his ignorance. His corrupt, criminal ignorance has destroyed uncountable numbers of people and their lives, and this nation and the global economy.

That’s not making fun of Southern dialects, that’s talking historical fact.

Foxessa January 21, 2009 at 6:44 pm

And yeah, I’m someone who loathes bush and his crime gang family far more than I’m an Obama maniac. I’m not good at maniac. For anyone. Dead or alive. I know too much history.

I’m not either but I’m married to someone who is both a Southerner (Louisiana) and a Texan (Lubbock) and New Mexican (Portales) too. We both despise and loathe this ideological ignorant destructive gang and their nominal leader beyond anything we’ve come to hate in our lifetimes, except, maybe, racism and bigoted fundie xtians.

Love, c.

Lance Larka January 21, 2009 at 11:26 pm

Walter, your response to that totally over the top posting by halojones-fan is certainly more polite and restrained than something I would have written. 🙂

Steve Stirling January 22, 2009 at 4:42 am

“Surely, that has to make us all a bit safer and the world a better place?”

— nope, nothing will do that… 8-).

Seriously, we got what looks to be a fairly good President in quite bad times.

Eg., this is the first time the Chinese have experienced a cyclical downturn since they junked their Communist hermit economy; factories closing, millions out of work, and so forth.

They’re not used to it. The consequences will be dire.

And Iran’s petro-economy is going south with the fall of oil prices. Hence their government has to cut subsidies… in a country with 50% unemployment already.

Also likely to produce dire results.

Ralf the Dog January 22, 2009 at 5:07 pm

I have one problem with the President’s judgment, he picket the dumbest time in history to take the job!

The reason for the size and scope of the economic downturn is eight years of high spending low taxes and very little regulation. For quite a few years the United States has existed under an extremely destructive myth, “If you cut taxes, government revenue will go up.”

Tax cuts do cause a short term spike in government earnings. Heroin makes people feel good for a short time as well. What we need as a country is to start making more quality things to sell, and to stop buying useless junk on credit cards.

Lance Larka January 22, 2009 at 10:45 pm

Ralf: You must have missed the headline “Black Man Given Nation’s Worst Job” 🙂

Steve: Agreed. Social unrest in China is a leading concern of their government and it should be ours as well. It’s going to be hard enough to feed their growing population let alone feed the people’s desire for material goods. I’m not saying they expect luxury cars. I’m saying their desire for such wonderful things as heaters for their homes that don’t burn coal.

The President isn’t magical and can’t just fix things with a smile and proper speaking skills. Although that will certainly help. But so far he’s done one perfectly magical thing when it comes to Presidents. He’s keeping his promises made during the campaign. Yesterday removing the veil of secrecy over the White house and restricting lobbyists activities in his administration. Today closing Gitmo and ending CIA detentions overseas.

Anyone who says this President made false promises is going to be grasping for straws for a while.

Ralf the Dog January 22, 2009 at 11:08 pm

“Anyone who says this President made false promises is going to be grasping for straws for a while.”

Do his kids have a new dog yet?


Lance Larka January 22, 2009 at 11:19 pm

DOH! You got me there!! Hey even Ahmadinejad hammered Obama on this one. A talking point for Clinton when Iran’s fist opens 🙂

I’m still hoping for a mutt from the pound. A mutt that needs to be house trained. News flash: Puppy pees on President’s shoes. LOL!!

Daniel Abraham January 22, 2009 at 11:23 pm

Steve says:

In other words, it’s starting to look a lot like he’s actually a centrist and pragmatist who wants to move beyond partisan divisions and has few strong ideological beliefs beyond the usual American consensus.

Um, yeah. That’s the change I could believe in. It’s why I voted for him. That and a visceral certainty that Palin would have had McCain assassinated within the first week.

Daniel Abraham January 22, 2009 at 11:37 pm

halojonesfan spat and foamed:

Oh, that’s insultingly racist? So is shitting on Southern dialects.

ex-pres gwb said:

I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family.

Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB-GYNs aren’t able to practice their love with women all across this country.

Rarely is the questioned asked: Is our children learning?

Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.

There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.

You know, I’m the President during this period of time, but I think when the history of this period is written, people will realize a lot of the decisions that were made on Wall Street took place over a decade or so, before I arrived in President, during I arrived in President.

Quite the thick southern dialect he’s got there.

And I didn’t know “southern” had become its own race. Genetically speaking, it probably doesn’t mean much more than any other racial classification, but still, congratulations on that.

Poor bunny. You had a really bad week, didn’t you?

Lance Larka January 22, 2009 at 11:41 pm

“And I didn’t know “southern” had become its own race. Genetically speaking, it probably doesn’t mean much more than any other racial classification, but still, congratulations on that.”

Daniel: If you haven’t already done so go read “13” by Richard Morgan (Titled “Black Man” in the original UK release). Basically the Southern Red states (with some dramatic license) become a separate country known as Jesusland. Quite an interesting social commentary.

Daniel Abraham January 22, 2009 at 11:52 pm


I’ll trade you. I’ll read Th1rte3n if you watch this.

It's only 15-20 minutes, and it's my favorite compare & contrast of liberal and conservative value systems.

(This is sort of cheating since I have Th1rte3n by my bed already and I'm gonna read it regardless . . . )

Lance Larka January 22, 2009 at 11:56 pm

I never realized that the US title was:

until I saw your post. I always order RM’s books through Amazon UK.

But I’ll watch your link as soon as NPR ends for the night. Should I have a stiff drink ready?

Daniel Abraham January 23, 2009 at 12:21 am

Nah. It’s actually deeply non-judgmental and aimed at liberals who actually want to grok the fullness more than an exercise in choir-preaching.

dubjay January 23, 2009 at 12:34 am

I think Ralf is just trolling for a new owner. ;-[)>

(That's an emoticon with a beard, by the way.)

Walter, your response to that totally over the top posting by halojones-fan is certainly more polite and restrained than something I would have written.

When someone is determined to make a complete raving loon of himself in public, who am I to interfere?

I mean, here’s someone who takes his clothes off, stands on a table, and says, “I’m going to pour a steaming-hot bucket of shit on myself, as an advertisement for the correctness of my views.”

My first response is not to suggest it’s not a good idea, but to reach for a camera.

But all fun aside, I’m afraid I’m going to have to establish some standards of behavior for this place.

So, nobody gets to call anyone here a “dickhead” ever again. Or for that matter use comic darkie dialect to make a point.

Or I’ll ban your ass.

Daniel Abraham January 23, 2009 at 12:41 am

But all fun aside, I’m afraid I’m going to have to establish some standards of behavior for this place.

Oh yeah, that’s just like you liberals. You’re all like “freedom of speech freedom of speech” until someone comes into your living room and starts smearing shit on the walls. Then just like that you get all “Please stop doing that.”

All joking aside, I’m afraid this is your forum and it is your responsibility to keep the kids playing nice. And that does involve giving the bad kids timeouts.

Ian McDowell January 23, 2009 at 2:22 am

And I should probably never call anyone a douchebag again, or threaten to give anyone a trashing. Especially when I don’t know if the person is bigger and younger than me.

Ralf the Dog January 23, 2009 at 6:36 am

Can I please call someone a cat sniffer from time to time?

I am not trolling for the job of First Dog. I have a good gig as it is. I thought about running for Top Dog at one point. I assume the voting public would find out I think I am a talking dog. That would probably kill any chance at the presidency.

dubjay January 23, 2009 at 10:59 pm

Ralph>> maybe not president, but there's nothing wrong with a warm, cuddly VP.

Ian>> Yeah. Only I am allowed to insult and threaten on this blog.

Steve Stirling January 25, 2009 at 4:40 am

>Tax cuts do cause a short term spike in government earnings.

— Up to a certain point, increasing taxes will increase revenues.

After that point, increasing them will decrease revenues; and cutting them, if they're above that point, will also increase revenues.

"That point" differs from place to place and time to time, but it's usually between about 15% and 25% of GDP.

In absolute terms, revenues are a function of economic growth.

Steve Stirling January 25, 2009 at 4:41 am

“The reason for the size and scope of the economic downturn is eight years of high spending low taxes and very little regulation.”

— nope, the reason for the downturn is that it’s time for a downturn.

It’s like the weather.

Steve Stirling January 25, 2009 at 4:44 am

“It’s going to be hard enough to feed their growing population”

— China has sub-replacement fertility levels, and has had since the 1980’s. 2.1 is replacement level.

We have 2.1. They have somewhere between 1.2 (offical level) and 1.7 (CIA estimate).

The problem they face is not a growing population, the problem is the -aging- population. Their median age is now about the same as ours, but rising much, much faster.

“Let alone feed the people’s desire for material goods.”

— Chinese car purchases have been increasing by 25% a year. They want to live the way we do. Tens of millions already do and the rest want it very, very badly.

Steve Stirling January 25, 2009 at 4:50 am

“He’s keeping his promises made during the campaign.”

— depends whether you parsed his speeches really, really carefully. The man is very good at rhetoric. And he’s already frankly admitted that much of what he said on the campaign was, and I quote him, “campaign rhetoric”.

Eg., he pledged to “end torture”. That meant applying the US Army interrogation rules to all agencies — and those rules are actually stricter than those used by police here at home.

And he’s done that… except, if you read the speech announcing the new policy carefully, a (secret) committee has been set up to allow the CIA to use ‘enhanced interrogation’ when they say it’s really, really necessary.

Likewise, the “combat troops out of Iraq in 16 months” turns out to not mean what most people thought it meant… but the definitions were very carefully phrased to begin with.

(Eg., what constitutes “combat” troops.)

End result; there will still be thousands of US troops in Iraq in 2012. They just won’t be “combat” troops, if you know what “is” is.

I don’t expect politicians to be honest, so I’m not in the least shocked.

dubjay January 25, 2009 at 4:53 am

A downturn may have happened because it was downturn time.

A full-blown economic crisis with banks crashing left and right and $1.7 trillion in losses happened because people in the securities industry engaged in massive fraud.

This includes both those who created insanely complex derivatives that were, basically, unhedged gambles on the market; those who underwrote the fraudulently packaged mortgage backed securities; =and= the wretches at places like Moody’s and Standard and Poors, who took bonds rated BBB and magically changed the rating to AAA so that they could be sold to widows, orphans, and pension funds as solid investments.

That was fraud, undertaken deliberately and with malice aforethought, and I hope everyone involved spends the rest of their life in prison being cornholed by Hell’s Angels.

Laurie Mann January 25, 2009 at 9:56 pm

I cried a little election night because I didn’t expect Obama to win quite the way he did.

When I was in DC for the Inauguration, all I could do was smile.

Ralf the Dog January 25, 2009 at 10:44 pm

“- Up to a certain point, increasing taxes will increase revenues.

After that point, increasing them will decrease revenues; and cutting them, if they’re above that point, will also increase revenues.

‘That point’ differs from place to place and time to time, but it’s usually between about 15% and 25% of GDP.”

The problem with the Laffer Curve is that it assumes people will spend money in a constructive way. When you cut taxes in the United States most people spend their money purchasing cheep junk manufactured in third world countries. This just pushes the trade deficit to higher levels (or they do what I do and invest most of it in the stock market. That is almost as destructive however, it does pay you back quite a bit over time [note: I did see this coming and move most of my cash to CDs before this crash]).

Please forgive me if I did not do a good job presenting my argument. I have a bad case of the flue and my head is spinning at the moment.

halojones-fan January 26, 2009 at 7:04 pm

I love how Stirling and I are saying much the same things, only he’s a Big Famous Author and so he doesn’t get yelled at.

Oh, wait, I said a Bad Word. I guess that makes me an incoherent, mindless reactionary jerk. Well whip me, spank me, ’cause I’m coarse.

And hey, I guess you’re right–nobody ever said anything bad about Bush’s Texan accent, right? I mean, nobody would ever do that. And there aren’t ANY comics who’ve made a career out of redneck the way people made a career out of blackface. What a fool am I for thinking this way!

Ralf the Dog January 27, 2009 at 2:26 am

halojones-fan, It is not that Sterling is “a Big Famous Author”. It is that he can express his opinion without use of personal attacks or insults.

If you can express your opinions in a logical way without emotion, the people of this board will respect your opinion. We probably will not agree with them, but we will respect your right to express them.

If I or Mr. Sterling were to call you a rabid cat sniffer, we would lose respect from the board. I don’t think anyone on this board would disagree with your right to state and defend your opinions. Most if not all of us appreciate an occasional bit if descent.

If you don’t have the skill to state your opinions in a civil manner, This might not be the place for you (I think that you can). It is up to you and Mr. Williams to decide whether or not you have this skill.

Daniel Abraham January 28, 2009 at 12:55 am

What a fool am I for thinking this way!

Well. Yes, actually.

Look, friend. Clearly you’ve got some problems and you’re acting out. I think you should seek professional help, because there’s really nothing that any of us here can do for you.

Daniel Abraham January 28, 2009 at 1:02 am

Steve sez:

— nope, the reason for the downturn is that it’s time for a downturn.

Walter sez:

A full-blown economic crisis with banks crashing left and right and $1.7 trillion in losses happened because people in the securities industry engaged in massive fraud.

Well, actually, I disagree with you both.

Yes, boom and bust is normal, but stratospheric growth followed by total collapse isn’t. And the problem wasn’t fraud, it was a combination of deregularion (under Clinton, btw, in case someone thinks I’m bein’ partisan here) and Greenspan setting the return on t-bills at 1% for freaking ever to drive capital into the market.

There’s a great radio documentary about it at:

Ralf the Dog January 29, 2009 at 2:54 am

I think that it would be wrong to say it was the fault of any five or ten things. Many factors caused the downturn. Many factors will effect the recovery.

halojones-fan January 29, 2009 at 8:04 am

“Can I just pause for a moment and express my relief that we now have a president who speaks my language? By which I mean English.”

But that’s not a personal attack, huh?

Also, God forbid any of you lot ever watch a George Carlin routine. That would blow your mind. And it rather surprises me to see a writer complain about profanity when he wrote a lesbian sex scene that’s interrupted by a robot tentacle ripping a woman’s heart out. I’m reminded of a comic-book letters column; “You guys expect us to take you seriously when you have Edward Hyde use his penis to split The Invisible Man in half and then fuzz out the ‘f-word’?”

Lance Larka January 29, 2009 at 7:03 pm

“Also, God forbid any of you lot ever watch a George Carlin routine. That would blow your mind.”

Yes, actually it did. In a very positive manner. GC was a master of language and its use to evoke thought and emotion. Especially humor. His insight into the contradictions of our society should blow your mind.

I would very much like to hear what GC would think of the speaking style of our President and I’m sure I would be laughing the whole time.

On the other hand a GC routine about #43 would be like Picasso delving into a foray of finger painting with a bunch of 3 year old kids. Fun to be sure, but not a stretch of talent at all..


Ralf the Dog January 29, 2009 at 7:55 pm

Jumping back to a more constructive subject, some people on this board want to see stimulus in the form of tax cuts. Others on this board don’t think Americans spending more money on third world junk would be constructive.

My question is, how could tax cuts be constructed to encourage American spending be in a positive direction, not disposable electronics from China or strip bars (Sending money to south American drug lords)?

Lance Larka January 29, 2009 at 8:13 pm

Right now I don't think any american family earning less than 200K a year would use tax cuts to buy things. I think they would pay down their debt or put it in savings.

Either way I think that is a valid use.

Our economy is not going to recover until we as a society get our personal debt and spending under control.
We can either do that by increasing wages (not going to happen any time soon) or by decreasing spending and putting the difference towards our credit card balances and home equity lines.

When our debt to income ratio becomes sustainable people will start to spend again.

So having a tax cut now that helps do that will shorten the time until the american consumer gets their confidence back.

If they put it in savings that just helps the banks reduce their leveraging ratios.

So either way I see a positive to tax cuts for individuals.

On the other side, I've never seen the point of tax breaks for businesses. If you can't run a business profitably without them your business model is flawed and you probably shouldn't be in business. Now if it is a temporary subsidy to allow for R&D or to get over the hump (nice technical term that) of acceptability then I might consider it. For example deferring taxes on a start up that is developing technology to turn garbage into natural gas for example would be a reasonable tax break. Once (if) the company turns a profit and has sustainable revenue then the tax would have to be paid. So maybe calling it a government investment instead would make sense.

Ralf the Dog January 31, 2009 at 7:27 am

Lance, I agree with your points, however if we have a place for government spending where $1 spent will produce more than $1 in savings I say go for it.

Cars do very little damage to the interstate highway system. Most of it is done by big rig trucks. If we spend a very small amount of money upgrading the rail system and we encourage shippers to send cargo over long distances by rail, we will spend far less money fixing roads, and we will make a few blue collar jobs doing the upgrades.

The United States has a very hard time competing with third world countries in cost of manufacturing. We have an unfortunate expectation that our workers have a reasonable quality of life. Japan seems to be quite skilled at automation and robotics. If the United States and Japan were to partner in a project the scale of World War II, our cost of labor could approach zero.

How would we transfer wealth from the big corporations making all our stuff? What services could the average person provide those corporations? I don’t like the idea of robots having all the jobs while 99% of the population is on welfare. I am also not thrilled with a Japanese sexbot turning into Skynet.

Lance Larka February 1, 2009 at 12:14 am

I love rail service. If we could get decent rail service that crosses the country (let alone high speed rail) out of the stimulus package I’d be happy.
It is a national tragedy that we dismantled the excellent system that we had up to the 1950’s.

It’s funny you mention automation. That’s my career. Only doing automation for laboratories. But I don’t do projects where the goal is to automate a process in order to downsize the workforce. I prefer to work for groups that want to increase their throughput without incurring extra headcount.
Just a general point I want to make about robotics. There is still a place for people in the robotic production line. Robots are great at doing repetitive tasks. They aren’t good at fuzzy things…such as unloading a crate of parts onto a production line for example. Certainly in the labs I work in humans have a prominent role. I just get the instruments to do the bone-heading boring bits that people really hate and quite frankly aren’t very good at.

Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer to your question. I keep coming back to a wealth tax even though everyone seems to start collecting the rotten produce to throw at me whenever I mention it. Or a VAT tax like in Germany. Ideas?

Ralf the Dog February 1, 2009 at 1:57 am

1. If robots could do everything people could, there would be no need for research.

2. Any job that can be done by a robot (even a fuzzy thinking robot) should be done by a robot. As you know Lance, erase one job with new technology, create two. I do wonder if we will write the bottom half of the job market out of existence (Assuming fuzzy bots).

3. If you want to change peoples minds about taxes, you need to convene them that they get good value for their money. The first step is to make sure they ARE getting good value for their money. Corruption should not be tolerated.

Next, you need to show them what tax dollars have purchased. Think PSA’s that show the Apollo Program. Then Hoover Dam. Show a picture of a driveway in Los Angeles. Point out that if you were to go out and touch it, you would be touching an unbroken chain of roads that connect to New York or almost anywhere else in the United states (other than Hawaii).

I can also picture a PSA where a bunch of guys are pushing a car up a hill while a couple of guys are sitting in lawn chairs drinking beer complaining about the hard work (Cheating on taxes is cheating everyone).

I pay lots of taxes. I am not thrilled about it but I won’t miss any meals or lose my home because of it. I see paying big taxes as a badge of honor. More people need to feel the same way.

Lance Larka February 1, 2009 at 6:09 pm

Ralf, I used to bench research. The boring repetative nature of basic research is what led me to get into automation. I used to be able to do about 100 samples a day. After doing some basic automation I got that up to 1200.

Unfortunately research requires a lot of grunt work and just a little bit of real cognitive activity. (Grad students are abused during this process)

I try to help researched change that ratio and maybe make the lives of grad students a little more bearable 🙂

dubjay February 6, 2009 at 11:31 pm

What a lot to return to.

Firstly, the housekeeping issue:

Yes, I insulted George Bush. I insult George Bush every single day, when I can remember to do it.

What I didn’t do was insult his =accent.= I don’t have to insult a man’s accent when there are so many other things to insult.

He was a charming lightweight chosen by Republican Wise Heads in order to avoid the repetition of what was perceived a fratricidal 1996 primary season that guaranteed victory for the Democrat.

He was elected to preside over a rising economy and a post-cold war world. Instead he got a recession, Osama, and Putin. Out of his depth practically from Day One.

HJF, if you want to talk about the man’s brilliance, fine. But your whole history on this blog is a series of angry, intemperate posts insulting me and everyone else.

Frankly, I assumed you were drunk. Sober people don’t rant that way.

Me, I can take it. But on one memorably surreal occasion, you called my lovely wife a fag! Now what the hell did =that= mean?

And it’s clear that you’ve become a bother to other people here, sort of like the drunken uncle who shows up at the family reunion, sits in the corner mumbling to himself, and occasionally roars out something incoherent to the dismay of everyone present.

So: you’re welcome to be here, you’re welcome to express your views, but if you can’t keep a civil tongue in your head, you will be disciplined.

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