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Links 2/19/10

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PleaseRobMe.com posts when you’re not at home SFGate (hat tip reader John D). I am clearly an old fart. Why would anything think that having left home or arrived at the airport is an event of such significance that it needs to be mentioned in a public place? This is narcissism writ large.

World’s top firms cause $2.2tn of environmental damage, report estimates Guardian (hat tip reader John D)

New meaning to the hazards of air travel LA Times (hat tip DoctoRx). Dunno that I buy this as a solution, particularly since some of my clothes have so much pet hair on them as provoke an allergic reaction in the highly senstive (ie my coats probably pose as much risk as wee beasts). And I would think animal dander is reduced by washing/grooming a pet thoughly before travel (plus some pets, like the hairless Rex, do not trigger allergic reactions). Since most airlines only permit a maximum of two pets per cabin, it seems simpler to relegate those who book with pets to the back rows of the cabin, and hold some bulkhead or second row seats open till fairly late in the game for the allergic.

Dubai wants head of Mossad arrested over Hamas assassination TimesOnline

The Joe Stack Suicide Note – What is he talking about? Noslaves. Boy, am I an idiot. I know a lot of people in IT, and it was a mystery to me why they had to go through those obviously no value added IT contracting shops. Now that I know the reason. I am appalled.

Equality at Issue for MBIA Floyd Norris, New York Times

Inside the crisis at AIG Fortune (hat tip reader John L). Wow, there is one very sus factoid in here. Wilmustad brings in Kelly as general counsel, then routinely bypasses her to use outside counsel, to the point where she says outside counsel was better informed than she was. She brushes it off as Wilmustad’s management style, but that simply does not ring true. I’d enjoy hearing other theories. but I wonder if the real issue is attorney-client privilege, that any conversations with outside counsel would be treated as confidential, but internal ones would be only to the extent that AIG could argue in litigation that they needed to be kept confidential.

After the Bubble, Beauty Is But Fleeting for Greenspan Portraits Wall Street Journal

Fears of mass UK banking exodus prove unfounded Guardian

Jobless claims report points to long-term unemployment problem Ed Harrison

LEGO Robot Solves Any Rubik’s Cube In Less Than 12 Seconds (Video) Singularity Hub

Shock as British deficit equals that of Greece Independent

Explaining The Wild Things Index Universe. An interview of Benoit Mandelbrot.

Look further than the fads and fashions of geopolitics Philip Stevens, Financial Times

Wall Street’s Bailout Hustle Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone. I’m a huge Taibbi fan, but frankly, this isn’t up to his usual standard. But I’d be remiss in not linking to this piece. It’s a clever high concept, but the connection between his device and the underlying facts is often a bit too loose for my comfort.

Antidote du jour:

_MG_1600

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47 comments

  1. attempter

    “Lego Robot Solves Rubik’s Cube” – and here I thought the vaunted “innovation” of IT was mostly hype, and that at any rate the sector was mature by now. Now I stand corrected…

    Re the Mossad, I don’t know alot about the ins and outs of the espionage game, but I would’ve thought they could just forge identities rather than steal those of real people, like two-bit con men fraudulently taking out a credit card.

    And their own citizens, too. Well, I’ll certainly hold my breath waiting to see if Israel’s the kind of place where something is done about this kind of felony.

    Speaking of grifters, while I agree that the Taibbi piece doesn’t tell us anything new, I think the categorization of the crimes, even if a little tendentious in some places, is still well done.

    As is all too clear from America’s slumber so far, we still need to find the right narratives. Taibbi’s piece is a contribution to that effort.

    Here’s my own blog post discussing the Taibbi piece:

    http://attempter.wordpress.com/2010/02/19/the-grifters-taibbis-remake/

    1. john

      You’d think they could forge identities. Except they’ve apologized to Canada and Britain earlier (80s?) for doing the same thing.

  2. Richard Kline

    Five minutes reading that chat by Benoir Mandelbrot and I feel like the oxygen content in the room where I am went up by 10%. Really, really brilliant minds in my experience have the clarity of simplicity achieved by an extreme scope of perspective . . . . It’s the same when watching a really outstanding athlete playing at the top of their game, and one thinks, ‘How the hell did they make that shot/clear that time/cut that turn?’ Because the problems just don’t _look_ the same at their velocity and altitude, that’s how. And so here.

    1. Captain Teeb

      Yes, one is drinking from the spring (‘source’ in French means both spring and source), hearing the ideas from their source. It’s a credit to Nassim Taleb that he sought him out and befriended him.

      Mandelbrot embodies vast insight and self-effacing humility (one is reminded of Einstein), the scientific equivalent of a prophet. He’s the photo-negative of the self-assured humbugs filling the op-ed columns.

    2. Anonymous Jones

      Richard — I am a huge fan of both you and Mandelbrot, but your “clarity of simplicity” phrase somewhat disturbs me. Anyone who reads my comments knows that my pet peeve is that “almost everyone knows less than they think they know” and in fact, that is probably the main reason I am drawn to people like Taleb and Mandelbrot.

      Although I know you are not saying that the world is simple, and I appreciate your point on perspective, I just want to point out the following quotes from Mandelbrot from the interview:

      “This is a very complicated story.”
      “What I introduced was more complicated…”
      “But it certainly requires more preparation and the mathematics is less easy than that which underlies Bachelier’s theory.”
      “And the followers of the 1900 Bachelier theory have a lot of explaining to do when they claim that the world is as simple as the random walk principle suggests.”
      “Even when Bachelier’s model was widely accepted, many brokers and non-academic students of the market were making fun of it, saying that the world is not that simple.”
      “Science is more complicated than that.”

      I think “clarity of simplicity” is the actually the perspective that the world is beyond our comprehension and that we should restrict our sphere of confidence to a very small space indeed.

      Michael Jordan only entered the “zone” because of his specialization.

      [Of course, this is not to say you don't know more than everyone else here. From all available evidence, it would be quite rational to assume you do.]

      1. Richard Kline

        The term ‘clarity of simplicity’ I use is, of course a sweeping generalization, AnonJones. But that said, I think we are applying it to different aspects even so.

        To begin with, even extremely brilliant folks with deep insight on one, or on many, issues, aren’t always easy to understand; their remarks may not be at all ‘clear.’ Ortega y Gasset comes to mind, who I just happen to be reading again. No one has ever had a more penetrating understanding of historical processes in my view, but that said I can scarcely think of anyone whose written style was more opaque, nor did O. y. G. ever put together a comprehensizble theoretical review one could understand without practically line by line familiarity with his work. Similar examples are in the dozens.

        Then there is the contraxt between remarks on complex issues and on complicated issues. With the latter, there are a jumble of influences, with near chaotic result. There is little centrality to them, and hence it is hard to be ‘clear’ about them _as a whole_ as opposed to being informed about a fragment of them specifically. This is part of your point as I take it. Some issues simply can’t be summarized, or analyzed, ‘simply,’ and so purported interpretations are unlikely to be _good_ interpretations, and all the more so as those purported interpretations are ‘simplistic.’

        On the other hand, complex issues can at times have fundamental organizational coherence withitn their bustle, fuzz, and velocity. One aspect of quite brilliant people engaged with complex issues with which they are familiar is that it is part of their capactity to draw out the order in them succinctly and accurately where many wouldn’t perceive such order at all. A key fact; a telling parameter value; a summary of research on the issue which marks a new claim as exceedingly improbable; etc. This is the clarity to which I’m referring, my friend. It’s a function of context-specific insight and the erudition of closely engaged experience, not a prophetic capacity, or a mystical grasp of the unknown. Something a bit different than what I think you raise as a concern.

        And regarding Michael Jordan, he would have been an outstanding athlete in many disciplines; his body control, speed, leaping ability, hand eye coordination. But not all of these transfer _immediately_ when they transfer at all. he tried professional baseball, for example, but wasn’t much of a hitter. But he shouldn’t have been expected to be, it takes years to acquire that skill. Just as he shouldn’t expect to play like Tiger Woods weeks after picking up a club. But his basic capacity as an athlete was there, it’s a question of context-specific training to see what he can achieve. Einstein might never have been a brilliant chemist, is what I’m saying, but that doesn’t undermine the scope of his command of an area to which his skillset was applicable.

        1. Anonymous Jones

          I know that I’m not as eloquent as you are, but I did at least *try* to indicate that I did *know* that (1) we were speaking about different things and (2) relative talent and relative knowledge are real things. I of course know Jordan had immense talents, but it was a combination of talent and *the hard work that went into specialization* that allowed him to reach the point at which his game transcended all in the world, the point at which he was in the “zone” of “instinct.”

          I didn’t ever mean to say that Einstein, Mandelbrot, or even you do not have immensely more talent in seeing things for what they are than most other humans. That seems incontestable.

          “It’s a function of context-specific insight and the erudition of closely engaged experience.” I couldn’t agree more with this statement, and I can only attribute your idea that I might have disagreed to my own inability to express my thoughts clearly. I have witnessed this phenomenon myself many times, and as you indicated in your original comment, it is an invigorating experience.

          Of course, I caution about spewing a slew of words and “knowledge” on the page and convincing oneself that more is known than is actually known. I have spent my life around very smart people, and if there is one consistent tragic flaw that has eventually haunted them all, it is overconfidence (not necessarily in their own area of specialization but somewhere). It makes fools of even the most talented.

          And I stand by my theory that certain things are beyond our comprehension, basic fundamental things about the how the universe works and what existed before the universe existed. And I also think our knowledge is further limited by our language, not just in communicating to others but in communicating with ourselves in the process of developing our ideas of the world.

          “What can be said at all can be said clearly, and what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence.”

          I could be wrong, but these are the things I live by.

  3. owning_is_british

    Just a quick factual summary from the British deficit article -
    ‘Britain’s public finances are in a worse position than those of Greece, according to the latest figures on government borrowing. The Office for National Statistics said yesterday that January alone saw a net shortfall of £4.3bn, far worse than City forecasts and in a month which has always previously shown a healthy surplus. It puts the UK on track for a deficit of £180bn this year, or 12.8 per cent of GDP, economists said, shading the Greek figure, hitherto the worst in the European Union, of 12.7 per cent.’

    And yet, where is the reaction? Obviously, Britain is able to enjoy all the advantages of not being in the eurozone, right? No ECB demands or conditions for support, no need to be constrained by mismatched economic conditions in other eurozone nations, full freedom to devalue, or even default, and so on.

    But don’t worry, everything is worse somewhere else. Really – just look at the screaming British press headlines about Greece. Well, maybe if you ignore the headlines and just look at the facts as presented above, maybe the Greece headlines were not really about Greece at all.

  4. dlr

    “Dubai wants head of Mossad arrested over Hamas assassination”

    Am I missing something here? How is what Mossad allegedly did any worse than what Bush did, and Obama is doing? Why the uproar over this, and no criticism of the US?

    “We have long forgotten that Mossad is supposed to be an intelligence-gathering organisation, not one that sows death, and that a lawful state does not operate hit squads. “

  5. carol

    The inside AIG interview contained some other nice insights, aside from the spotted client-privilege outside counsel more in the know (as an aside: the CEO’s name at that time is Willumstad, and not Wilmustad).

    “I called the insurance superintendent of New York State, Eric Dinallo, that Friday night, and by Saturday morning he was there with his team. I spent a lot of my time trying to figure out how we could WALL OFF the rest of the company from FP.”

    Didn’t the insurance business of AIG already have to be walled off from the hedge fund business of AIGFP? If not, how could New York State have regulated the insurance business of AIG without having intimate knowledge of the hedgy stuff??

    +
    “..and then decided I wanted to leave, I would not be able to collect severance.”

    Why is it that those ‘top’ people insist on ‘their right’ to collect severance, even if they themselves decide to quit?
    She now gets $3.8 million severance (talk about a misnomer) just for quitting after only 3 years at AIG. She just more than doubled her salary.

  6. oldtimer

    I am clearly an old fart. Why would anything think that having left home or arrived at the airport is an event of such significance that it needs to mentioned in a public place?

    There are many for whom travel is “special” and worth bragging about. If your background is management consulting, then you might have forgotten this feeling.

    1. Michael

      Although that may be true … I don’t think visiting a friend, eating last night’s pizza, or going to the shops would rate as special enough to let the world know. So I suspect most of the twats are from those for whom aeroplane travel isn’t particularly novel.

      I think it’s just a sad indictment on our societies that people think they need to broadcast their every move and action in an attempt to gain some empty celebrity. The end goal being merely to validate ones own existence and provide self worth.

      `I twat, therefore I am’.

      Then again, I guess it’s not that much different from commenting on random blogs either …

  7. tyaresun

    Regarding the Joe Stack suicide note; yes I completely believe that the IRS Sec. 1706 helped a number of temp agencies. In my wife’s case, they were taking the exact same amount as she was getting for doing the actual work. Furthermore, if she applied for a job to the the same place the potential employer would not even acknowledge receiving the resume.

    Even after giving away 50% to the temp agency, she was making more money than me. These days, she make only 75% of what she was making then but still that is quite good and would not explain what Joe Stack did. Also, these days, the employer does not let you work as a temp for more than 6 months so the temp agency can live off you for six months max.

  8. jib

    I am clearly an old fart…..

    There is one bit of utility with these kind of apps. When you hit the bar after work, knowing who is where can help you pick the bars to go to and the ones to avoid.

    The young use it to hook up and even though I am an old fart, I feel this is an excellent use of the technology.

  9. colinc

    I can easily relate to the Joe Stack article on noslaves.com as well as the comment by tyaresun(12:16pm), above. I spent a few years in the mid-90′s as an IT “temp” deployed through a couple of large staffing firms. From that experience I learned 2 important things.

    First, these temp, or temp-to-hire, firms don’t give a rat’s ass about the people they “represent” or the clients to whom they sell the services of others. These firms are nothing but parasites collecting rents they most certainly do not “deserve.” Much like Cargill steals money from the farmers who actually do the work and produce the goods, not to mention the rest of us who buy that produce at inflated prices just to make those cretinous middlemen wealthy.

    Second, the clients “employing” those temp workers care even less about those people or their abilities than the agency that supplied them. The temp is treated as an indentured slave to a greater extent than the “permanent” employees. Moreover, it is often the task of a temp to resolve problems created by the ignorance and incompetence of the client’s management and staff… for greatly reduced compensation.

    Lastly, the article on noslaves clearly indicates that our elected “representatives” in Congress have, for decades, NOT represented “we the people” but only the interests of the arrogantly ignorant jackasses who “control” the corporations and their potential “benefits” to the lawmakers. Anyone working through a temp-agency is, in fact, working against their own interests.

    1. anon

      @colinc,

      Re: the Joe Stack article

      I’m not sure how this is the IRS’s or Congress’s fault. It seems to me that the IT employers were trying to claim that people who were actually employees were independent contractors. So the IRS tried to close that loophole for IT workers, probably because of what the IRS perceived to be widespread tax fraud (or abuse of loopholes) in the IT industry.

      Anyone who works almost exclusively for one employer for over a year (and especially up to six years, as stated by Stack) is essentially an employee. To claim otherwise fails the smell test. But apparently, the IT industry was extremely aggressive in trying to evade the tax rules designed to protect employees by characterizing these people as independent contractors. So Congress/the IRS tried to end that practice and push the IT employers to treat these workers as employees for tax purposes.

      Section 1706 seems to have backfired. Having worked with the IRS for many years, I’m fairly confident that the predicted response would have been for the IT employers to hire the IT workers as employees and then to essentially split the fee that the employers would have paid to the temp agencies. I’m not sure why that didn’t occur.

      I understand the anger but it seems to me that it should be directed at the IT employers and perhaps at the organizations representing the IT workers. (Why didn’t they work to essentially cut out the temp agencies and split their fees between the workers and IT companies? That is what people who design tax law would call the rational and predicted response.)

      1. Michael

        “I’m fairly confident that the predicted response would have been for the IT employers to hire the IT workers as employees and then to essentially split the fee that the employers would have paid to the temp agencies. I’m not sure why that didn’t occur.”

        Because it actually costs the employer more to do it that way, and they’re the one with all the power to make the decision? Seriously, if they were to hire full-time them why would they split the difference?

        As a `contractor’ there’s no mutual obligation apart from hours worked.

        As an `employee’ there’s annual + sick leave, overtime or TOIL management, long service leave (in Australia at least), superannuation (401k), training and career development, and so on.

        Even the basic hiring and firing decisions are effectively taken for the employer – which is why they often wont even deal with individual contractors unless is some prior relationship (assuming they don’t have some ‘preferred supplier’ list which locks them out anyway).

        Not to mention that contractors appear on the books differently to employees and affect the tax paid by businesses – a great way of ‘cutting costs’ (whilst usually spending more), particularly for government departments who forever seem to be cost cutting yet expanding services.

        Contracting meat-shops provide a useful service for employers … just not so much for their contractees.

        1. Michael

          wow i really should have proof-read that, or shouldn’t be commenting on blogs with a huge hangover.

        2. anon

          Michael, I didn’t really understand your comment. However, employment seems to work differently in the USA and Australia. There is generally no requirement for any benefits in the USA. The employer doesn’t have to provide any vacation, health benefits, sick leave, retirement benefits, etc. to its employees. Those are all voluntary. The employer would have to pay the minimum wage but that is much lower than most of the workers (who would have been independent contractors) earn in any event ($7.25 an hour for hourly employees or under $500 a week for salaried employees).

      2. colinc

        Thanks for the note, anon. I’ve always thought that it was Congress that wrote and enacted “tax law.” However, given your admitted prior affiliation with the IRS it appears you are saying my impression of that process is incorrect. If that is so, I sincerely appreciate the clarification as I am by no means a “tax expert.” However, given what has been happening on Capitol Hill over the last several decades, I think my representation statement still stands.

        I am not at all clear on what you mean by “IT employers.” If, in fact, you are referring to the agencies who supply temporary IT personnel to corporate clients and other companies, then I have to strongly disagree with your perspective. The people those agencies provide to other companies most certainly are not “employees” of those agencies. That is, the temp IT staffer receives zero compensation unless s/he is actually doing something for one of the client companies. Moreover, even in that circumstance, the temp IT staffer receives zero “benefits” beyond the paycheck.

        I also think there are more than a few problems with the concept of determining “employee status” based primarily, if not solely, on the duration of the relationship between a “contractor” and the company utilizing the contractor’s services. More importantly, even with other deterministic factors, the situation still does not benefit the contractor in any way other than providing a diminished paycheck. I am a firm believer in the concept of a “fair exchange of value.” Alas, it has become quite clear over many years that our form of government and employment is a far cry from a meritocracy. Alas, I guess it seems that will always and only be idealistic and will never be realized, much to the detriment of many individuals and society in general.

        Lastly, I meant to say in my earlier post that I do not condone or advocate, in any way, the type of action taken by Mr. Stack. At the very least, his actions were ignorant, irresponsible and self-centered and should not be replicated by anyone. I don’t have any qualms about his suicide but one should not be endangering or killing anyone else in that process… for any reason.

        1. anon

          colinc: “Thanks for the note, anon. I’ve always thought that it was Congress that wrote and enacted “tax law.” ”

          Obviously, they do but there is input from Treasury and the IRS. If the IRS is concerned about something, that generally gets communicated to Congress. Congress doesn’t always act but it often does (eventually) if there is perceived widespread fraud and abuse. Also, regs can significantly change how a given law is implemented.

          colinc: “I am not at all clear on what you mean by “IT employers.” ”

          I meant the tech employers. If I used it incorrectly, I apologize. I thought that’s how mayday on noslaves used it. (“Boy, am I an idiot. I know a lot of people in IT, and it was a mystery to me why they had to go through those obviously no value added IT contracting shops. Now that I know the reason. I am appalled.”)

          colinc: “I also think there are more than a few problems with the concept of determining “employee status” based primarily, if not solely, on the duration of the relationship between a “contractor” and the company utilizing the contractor’s services.”

          That was not the only factor I used. I said that if the person worked almost exclusively for one company for over a year, they are essentially an employee. Obviously, many people who are not employees often work for decades for the same companies or individuals. However, they also work for many other companies or individuals at the same time. E.g., a doctor might see the same family for decades. That doesn’t make her/him the family’s employee. But the doctor doesn’t derive the bulk of her/his income or spend the bulk of her/his working time with that family in any of those years. Same for lawyers, architects, gardeners (who work on each client’s lawn a couple of hours each week), etc.

          “More importantly, even with other deterministic factors, the situation still does not benefit the contractor in any way other than providing a diminished paycheck.”

          I’m not sure what you mean by “the situation”. And I’m not sure what “benefiting the contractor” has to do with whether something is tax fraud or not. (Or were you talking about something else?)

          Michael, I’m sorry but I didn’t understand your concerns. (I have also commented when I’m very foggy and later wonder why. I blame it on my fog at the time ;)

          BTW, I don’t assume that the employer would split the savings 50-50 with the employee; it is more likely to be closer to 90-10 or 80-20. But one of the main underlying assumptions of tax lawyers is that the parties will tend to bargain toward Pareto optimality and that gains will tend to be split between the parties (or else the second party would have no incentive to make the change). That may not be an accurate assumption but it is almost universally used by tax lawyers. I hope that clarifies my comment for you.

      3. bob

        I worked in a few civil engineering shops like this. I makes sense to have contract employees. We would work for municipalities who had a long construction project. After the project is completed(6 months to 5 years), the employees move their experience onto the next job, at another municipality. There are some pretty specialized things involved, and lots of money on the part of the muni, it should be done by people who have seen it done before.

        I saw these contracting shops, and always wondered why and how they did it. Now I know.

        Engineering firms are usually able to bill 2-3 times what they are paying their contractors.

  10. Anonymous Jones

    A little note re: the Joe Stack article on noslaves.com.

    I don’t want to be too much of a stickler, but “the IRS” most certainly does not enact sections of the tax code. The Treasury does promulgate regulations, but it is the Congress that is enacting the Code.

    So, seriously, it’s OK to be mad, but at least try to direct the anger in the right direction. It’s the Congress that enacted Section 1706.

    The IRC is the Internal Revenue *Code*, not be confused with the IRS, the Internal Revenue Service, which is an administrative arm of the Treasury Department, which is part of the Executive Branch, not the Legislative Branch.

    OK, sorry for using actual facts in this comment. I will go back to one-note, unsubstantiated normative judgments right away.

    1. bob

      Another way to look at the 30 year bond-

      The bankers who stole all of the money over the last few years now need someplace to put it. You can’t put 50 million in a bank account.

      They, and you, are now upset that they can’t lend it back to us at a steep enough interest rate.

      The bond vigilantes are alive and well.

  11. rjs

    Head Of Greek Debt Office Replaced By Former Goldman Investment Banker | zero hedge
    And so the tragicomic becomes surreal. Yesterday’s news about the departure of the head of the debt management agency, Spyros Papanicolaou, was somewhat of a yawner, until we realized that his replacement would be none other than Petros Christodoulou, who until today was head of Private Banking and Group Treasury at the National Bank of Greece (reporting directly to the CEO of the NBG Tamvakakis), as can be seen on the org chart below. Yet was is oddest, is that Mr. Christodoulou worked not only as head of derivatives at JP Morgan but also held comparable posts at Credit Suisse, and… wait for it, Goldman Sachs… Uh, say what?

    http://www.zerohedge.com/article/head-greek-debt-office-replaced-former-goldman-investment-banker

  12. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Today’s antidote du jour is called ‘Zen And The Cat’ with an accompanying koan “Nansen cuts the cat in two” from case 14 of Mumonkan.

    Kitty will live when you take off your sandals and put them on your head.

    1. StevieLee

      Actually, the antidote du jour is called: ‘Buddha and the Cowboy’ – Cowboy being the fur ball feline rubbing against Buddha for a little good luck and maybe some slower footed rodents.
      The shot is courtesy of Cevans magic garden and its amazing menagerie of animals, plants & spirits – all as one.

  13. StevieLee

    No mistake at all. What seems to be one thing can most easily be perceived as another. Though mine is actual (I am the photographer) – the perceptual is just as important and relevant as anything else. Keep on meditating.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      It’s a nice picture, StevieLee, with a mixture of animated and inanimated objects.

      Frankly, we had too many animal-centric antidotes here.

      Got any pictures of the Quebracho tree?

  14. sam hampster

    I think that they should piece Joe Stack’s body back together and waterboard it. You would never see a house painter or carpenter pull a stunk like that, despite the devastation that has occurred in their respective industries over the last two decades.

    Ron Cato was a painter that I met in the mid 80′s. He was real short, small and nervous and said that he was a tunnel rat in Vietnam. He was working as my foreman only because the IRS had also paid him a visit, shut his business down, and buried him under a mountain of fines and penalties.

    He always twitched around while driving the van. His hemorrhoids gave him hell.

    Now, did Ron go off and kill somebody at the IRS? No, Joe Stack, he did not!

    “Are you square?” is what Ron always said before he took you off a task, or called quitting time. Often, I was deep in the shit when he would poke his head around the corner.

    I’m personally proud to be a product of the trades in America. It teaches you that when you find yourself in the shit, you find a way out, period. You work and you fight and you make everything square until, suddenly, you look around and you are the master on top of a completed work site and the world is perfect.

    You may not make a fortune, but you can make a life. In time, when you step onto any new work site, you already know that there is nothing there that is going to knock you down. You can afford to take your shirt off and play loud music, because you rock.

    That’s a great feeling. A much better feeling than anything Joe Stack will ever inspire and a feeling inside of me, partly, thanks to Ron.

    RIP

  15. kevinearick

    Last one for m9,

    In a boom, capital pays all kinds of average talent more than economics merit, and in return they buy capital goods at much higher prices than economics merit, being “rewarded” with higher credit scores. This merry-go-round continues so long as the fed expands money and lowers interest rates, breeding in economic losses, as the population keeps borrowing more and more money, until they are borrowing money in their grandchildren’s name.

    In the mean time, talent is systematically marginalized, overall wages remain neutral, and the pricing mechanism of capitalism is completely destroyed. This goes on until the thing blows up, asset prices deflate, assets are returned to capital at zero real cost, and the process starts over again, normally.

    This time around, however, demographic acceleration, after a few thousand years, has inverted into demographic deceleration. Capital ran big deficits in the boom times, has no surplus in the lean times, and can no longer borrow from the future, and it is just beginning to wake up to the ramifications.

    The price of all kinds of talent, relative to asset prices, is going to go up. The problem is not lack of demand. Capital is becoming quite motivated. The problem is that everyone and everything is in the wrong place, because the market pricing mechanism was jumped out for so long.

    So, there I was, checking grade on an invert, maybe 450 ft by a little better than a mile, working for a major player, all kinds of masons in management. We pulled out most of the bulk, and one of the mason kids comes down to shoot in final grade, doing it exactly backwards, using one of the old style rods. He’s a brat; I say nothing.

    For about a week, I shoot it in with my peep sight, not that it was necessary, because both the excavator and swampcat were real operators. Anyway, so I’m laying out all kinds of geometric shapes in the flat, with stakes and colored ribbons, the works, all week, making the bosses $4,000 a day, clear profit, on a change order.

    Naturally, the big boss gets up a head of steam, puffed out, red as a tomato, hell-bent on chewing me out in front of everyone, dust flying behind his truck as he came down, you know the scene.

    So, he gets out, stomps over, and calls the crew together for a meeting. Everyone gathers, he gets on his toes, and … before he can say a word, I tell him that his boy shot the invert in upside-down.

    I could have corrected that kid, but why should I? We could fix the technology system, but why should we, so people can sell themselves and their children into slavery faster? First the new motor, then a tie-in to the old motor, if people get sensible.

    Do I expect Paul Volcker to do the right thing? No. I expect him to be vetoed, and the rug to be pulled out at the last minute as always. Am I willing to give him the benefit of the doubt? Yes. The outcome doesn’t change for small labor either way.

    1. bob

      When people look at things in dollars and sense terms they can be misleading, especially during an inflation. What they know and who they trust are all rising on the tide.

      Then, when the tide begins to go out, the only way they recognise how wrong they were is when they lose money, doing the same thing they were doing before.

      Any bosses who make that scene are doomed to failure. They only way they will ever realize the error of their way, or their people, is to have it demonstrated.

    2. kevinearick

      A lot of people are about to lose their livelihoods, because they protected the rigged system, in exchange for promises of lifetime employment and benefits.

      Helping them is a better policy than telling them “I told you so”. The latter is likely to spark armegeddon, and there are already plenty of people psychologically committed to that outcome.

      1. bob

        Not trying to say I told you so, I don’ think.

        More interested in trying to get through to a group of people who have had their bad logic and ideology reinforced by the inflation. How much did they leave on the table over the past couple of years, in quality of work and quantity of capital. This will spur rage, I try not to bring that one up.

        Helping would have been to tell the mason he was wrong, and then demonstrating this. Would he have believed you? In the case of checking work its easier to let him make a mistake, and hope he checks his work, or asks for help next time.

        When people are so wedded to a flawed ideology, they sometimes need a good hard reality check to see it. I never like to be the person who provides it, I don’t have the stomach. Yelling louder only increases the noise level and takes attention away from other matters.

        Safety first/ Wathching a guy down in a hole he should not have been in. The foreman comes over and starts screaming his head off. The guy in the hole is just about to finish what he was there for. His attention is immediately given to the foreman, leaving little for his very dangerous surroundings.

        Both were wrong. And I don’t think either learned anything, other than reinforcing their past behavior, the foreman just has to yell louder, and the guy in the hole just has to be quicker.

        1. kevinearick

          That last comment wasn’t addressed to you Bob. The elegant one was. Sorry for the confusion.

          I’ll start a thread, then get on to a million other things, and come back to finish. Individuals ask me questions with all kinds of implications and my subconcious works like a rubics cube, with intermediary steps.

          1. kevinearick

            here’s one of those steps:

            small labor wires gate switches in parallel, expecting capital to commandeer them. once the capital load reaches the threshold, the switch shorts itself out. small labor doesn’t have to do anything, and, by then, it has already installed the next two switches.

            gotta give greenspan credit, although, I think, his effort was misguided.

          2. bob

            I figured as much afterward. The time delay of putting thoughts to keys always screws with me too. Can’t type fast enough.

          3. kevinearick

            Human behavior, being what it is, does not allow us to stop people from going to war over the replication and collection of non-performing assets. it’s the nature of evolution to encourage self-destruction of maladaptive behavior, through the viral growth model.

            Individuals on Wall Street seek viral growth, which is not a problem when their actions filter each other out in transparent markets, funding growth from truly unique development, creating economic profit. Whether it’s a constitution, Glass-Steagal, or any other regulation, however, they are all training wheels, and evolution favors self-regulation, elimination of the training wheels over time.

            That part Greenspan got right, but he eliminated regulation of Wall Street, while regulating all other parts of the system out, with the “black box”. The proprietary model, in and of itself, is self-destructive, as Toyota is now learning.

            The middle class cannot break orbit, and enter capital, without creating a financial black hole, and it’s in capital’s nature to encourage it to do so. something for nothing always becomes nothing for something.

            Capital can have its black boxes, commandeered from small labor, and altered, so long as the generics are not regulated out of the market. In order to regulate out alternatives, capital requires big government, to misdirect energy to the brake on to the accelerator, and to lock out the steering wheel of net individual liberty.

            The Internet is being capitalized to re-enforce global cartels, which have positioned themselves between geographic constructs, artificially drawn to deny the latter self-sufficiency; An alternative is required, and evolution will supply it, one way or the other.

          4. kevinearick

            the sun is moving relative to space.

            it feeds, and is being fed.

            there is much more to the solar system than just the sun and the planets, but you do not want to find the electron, because when you do, the voltage drops to 0.

          5. kevinearick

            many in the middle class aided and abetted capital in its effort to hunt down small labor, toward the end of their own destruction, in return for an iou. the kernel is always built by small labor, which can always build another, better one.

            you’ll have that.

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