Thursday, February 16, 2006

More Odds and Ends, Links and Dinks...

I forgot to post a link to the weekend New Hampshire Valley News article featuring quotes from James Sturm, a number of CCS students, and yours truly; consider it a companion to the NHPR program "The Exchange" I posted earlier this week. "Protests Underscore the Power of Cartoons" by Valley News Staff Writer Alex Hanson is waiting for you
  • here.

  • ___

    As a fan of Werner Herzog, his films, and all things Herzog, I must thank Brad Verter at Bennington College for the following link, which is heartily recommended reading:
  • "Be Not Afraid" - Herzog's Secret Diaries (A Satire)

  • ______

    With Rob Zombie top-contender in the shock-rock-horror-star-as-filmmaker sweepstakes (clearly eclipsing the previous model, which was Dee Snider's 1998 Strangeland), we now have Marilyn Manson stepping up to the plate, ballyhooing his upcoming Phantasmagoria. Dan Barlow sent me the following link, which is an older interview with Manson about the nerves he hopes to pluck (and pockets he still needs to pick to bankroll his opus). Manson's revisionist Alice in Wonderland is his bid to "redefine the horror genre and put it back to where it once began with people like Roman Polanski," which is admirable enough -- but he'll have a hard time topping Jan Svankmajer's Alice in my book. Still, interest is piqued, and what Manson is talking about sounds like it could become a genre companion piece to gems like Dreamchild, Finding Neverland, and Alan Moore & Melinda Gebbie's Lost Girls -- check out Manson's blather in
  • Down the Rabbit Hole with MM.

  • ____

    Meth is beginning to pop up in New England at last, with major busts and labs uncovered in nearby Manchester, NH.

    This nasty shit is cutting quite a swathe across the country -- but the current Federal budget cuts funding for investigation or regulation of this highly-addictive tooth-pulping toxic high. This is statistically targetting women more than men (perhaps because of the immediate weight-loss effects, playing into all manner of female self-image loathings and quick-result desires), and has really hammered backwoods and low-income communities from California through the Midwest. Its arrival here was inevitable, but little has been done on a Federal level to curb the spread of this multi-level devastation (from the personal damage to the environmental destruction the labs wreak to community real estate: ex-meth labs are poison palaces, either unsellable or, if sold, instantly poisoning new home buyers who are then stuck with contaminated dwellings) -- another burden for already burdened state budgets and regional police.

    Steer clear of this shit. I've seen plenty of friends and folks struggle with various addictions to this and that over my half-century, but few substances are as instantly addictive as this chemical concoction is -- and few addictive substances can so quickly deep-six one's life. 'Meth Mouth' alone is nightmare material, and that's just the beginning. I'm sad to see meth enter the area; given the broad reach of heroin addiction already widespread in Vermont and New England (initially tempting as a cheaper painkiller than the prescription drugs folks can't afford), and the clumsy manner in which that epidemic has been handled in most communities, I fear the worst as meth seeps into the impoverished homes and lives of my home state. Given the reported methods of initial distribution (including 'freebies' handed out to employees to prolong waking working hours) and the rapidity with which one can become addicted, this will really hit vulnerable communities hard -- and at all age levels.

    Another health-care crisis in the making, if nothing else. While Bush and gullible Americans fret over avian flu, consider this a more pressing 'here and now' pandemic.

    The Federal government's ongoing ignoring of the creeping catastrophic sweep of Meth should be no surprise given their lack of coherent response to the in-your-face catastrophic devastation of Hurricane Katrina. As the true scope of the Federal government's inadequate and grossly mismanaged response to that storm's swathe of destruction and toll in human misery and lives continues to emerge, it's hard to believe anyone can continue to believe Bush and his merry band of sociopaths are capable of responding to any emergency with anything but indifference and ineptitude.

    The ongoing investigations (with the bipartisan House investigation report the most damning to date) on how completely botched the response to Hurricane Katrina was puts into clear, sharp perspective how completely incompetent and incapable the current Administration is on the very front they campaigned so aggressively upon: our collective safety and security.

    If anything, Bush and his cronies (and I do mean cronies, as nepotism and cronyism is clearly central to the ongoing incompetence of the sitting Administration and its underlings) have only further crippled the ability of the US to respond to anything, foreseen (as Katrina was) or unforeseen.

    As the ongoing revelations of incompetence, corruption and simply criminal behavior continue, it's also increasingly clear that no amount of 'truth' will peel the blinders off much of the voting US population. How can anyone -- anyone -- continue to tolerate, much less defend, those currently in power?

    Given the complete inability of Bush and his own to even cope with their own increasingly pathetic, destructive incompetency, it's no surprise they can't even begin to address what's really going on with our spiralling economy. They're so busy inflating false fears while pretending everything's just fine on the fronts we should be paying attention to that they simply haven't time to see to anything but protecting their own economic well-being (which they're succeeding at admirably) -- by persistently misrepresenting the realities and actively lying to the American public.

    Among the most sobering of the many economic extrapolations out there is this one from Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for the Reagan administration, associate editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and contributing editor of National Review. Roberts also recently co-authored The Tyranny of Good Intentions, and he posted this analysis online on February 11th. Compare Roberts's statements to those President Bush continues to spread in chosen venues (where no one might question anything he says).

    Here's some highlights, which certainly jive more with the reality visible in this part of the country than do Bush's ongoing rosy claims:

    "Last week the Bureau of Labor Statistics re-benchmarked the payroll jobs data back to 2000. Thanks to Charles McMillion of MBG Information Services, I have the adjusted data from January 2001 through January 2006. If you are worried about terrorists, you don’t know what worry is.

    Job growth over the last five years is the weakest on record. The US economy came up more than 7 million jobs short of keeping up with population growth. That’s one good reason for controlling immigration. An economy that cannot keep up with population growth should not be boosting population with heavy rates of legal and illegal immigration.

    Over the past five years the US economy experienced a net job loss in goods producing activities. The entire job growth was in service-providing activities--primarily credit intermediation, health
    care and social assistance, waiters, waitresses and bartenders, and state and local government.

    US manufacturing lost 2.9 million jobs, almost 17% of the manufacturing work force. The wipeout is across the board. Not a single manufacturing payroll classification created a single new job.
    [emphasis added]

    The declines in some manufacturing sectors have more in common with a country undergoing saturation bombing during war than with a super-economy that is “the envy of the world.”... The knowledge jobs that were supposed to take the place of lost manufacturing jobs in the globalized “new economy” never appeared. ...Even wholesale and retail trade lost jobs. ...Today there are 209,000 fewer managerial and supervisory jobs than 5 years ago.

    In five years the US economy only created 70,000 jobs in architecture and engineering, many of which are clerical. Little wonder engineering enrollments are shrinking. There are no jobs for graduates. The talk about engineering shortages is absolute ignorance. There are several hundred thousand American engineers who are unemployed and have been for years. No student wants a degree that is nothing but a ticket to a soup line. Many engineers have written to me that they cannot even get Wal-Mart jobs because their education makes them over-qualified.

    Offshore outsourcing and offshore production have left the US awash with unemployment among the highly educated. The low measured rate of unemployment does not include discouraged workers. Labor arbitrage has made the unemployment rate less and less a meaningful indicator. In the past unemployment resulted mainly from turnover in the labor force and recession. Recoveries pulled people back into jobs.

    Unemployment benefits were intended to help people over the down time in the cycle when workers were laid off. Today the unemployment is permanent as entire occupations and industries are wiped out by labor arbitrage as corporations replace their American employees with foreign ones.

    Economists who look beyond political press releases estimate the US unemployment rate to be between 7% and 8.5%. There are now hundreds of thousands of Americans who will never recover their investment in their university education.

    Unless the BLS is falsifying the data or businesses are reporting the opposite of the facts, the US is experiencing a job depression. Most economists refuse to acknowledge the facts, because they endorsed globalization. It was a win-win situation, they said.

    They were wrong.

    At a time when America desperately needs the voices of educated people as a counterweight to the disinformation that emanates from the Bush administration and its supporters, economists have discredited themselves. This is especially true for “free market economists” who foolishly assumed that international labor arbitrage was an example of free trade that was benefitting Americans. Where is the benefit when employment in US export industries and import-competitive industries is shrinking? After decades of struggle to regain credibility, free market economics is on the verge of another wipeout.

    ...On February 10 the Commerce Department released a record US trade deficit in goods and services for 2005--$726 billion. The US deficit in Advanced Technology Products reached a new high. Offshore production for home markets and jobs outsourcing has made the US highly dependent on foreign provided goods and services, while simultaneously reducing the export capability of the US economy. It is possible that there might be no exchange rate at which the US can balance its trade.

    Polls indicate that the Bush administration is succeeding in whipping up fear and hysteria about Iran. The secretary of defense is promising Americans decades-long war. Is death in battle Bush’s solution to the job depression? Will Asians finance a decades-long war for a bankrupt country?"

    Roberts finds plenty of blame to go around. He in fact lays part of this situation at the feet of failed economists and journalism: "No sane economist can possibly maintain that a deplorable record of merely 1,054,000 net new private sector jobs over five years is an indication of a healthy economy. The total number of private sector jobs created over the five year period is 500,000 jobs less than one year’s legal and illegal immigration! ...The economics profession has failed America. It touts a meaningless number while joblessness soars. Lazy journalists at The New York Times simply rewrite the Bush administration’s press releases." Again, so much for the ongoing neocon myth (accepted by most of the US population) about "the liberal media."

    The complete analysis can be found here:
  • Nuking the Economy.
  • It's well worth reading -- essential reading, in fact. (Special thanks to Jean-Marc Lofficier for bringing Roberts's essay to my attention.)


    Blogger Mike Dobbs said...

    Here's how the economy works for most people. If you have a job and can pay your bills then every thing is just dandy. Especially if you can save. And oh yes, if you have healthcare . And if you have a clear career path so you know there is the possibility for advancement.

    The trouble is that definition no longer fits for millions of folks. Most people are a couple of paychecks away from losing their home. Millions don't have healthcare. Manufacturing jobs which help establih a middle class in this country are going fast.

    Do you think any of those tens of thousands of Ford or GM employees whose jobs evaporated ever thought they would be in this position?

    The corporate media doesn't want people to truly understand this. Yeah, Big Dick Cheney leveling his birding rifle at his buddy is news, but it pales next to the economic news . Unless his victim croaks THERE IS NO REAL STORY HERE. The Bush Administration has cleverly used it as four or five diversion from the war, the economy, etc.

    I wish people would wake up. We are so totally screwed unless there is a MAJOR change in direction in this country.


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