Saturday, June 14, 2008

Mixed Signals

Yes - United manage- ment IS asleep as usual. They think they can over- come "peak oil" and their own ineptitude by charging $15 for checked baggage.

Leaders don't generally pay their way. In fact they cost a lot more than they're worth - generally about 3,400,000 more, by my scientific estimate. People kind of know this, and don't expect much, and try not to think about politics most of the time. Folks I know like Obama because he will bring people together, Whitman style - "and what I assume you shall assume." They don't like him because he will lead them solo out of the wilderness.

The good news this week was a massive reigning-in of leaders - the Guantanamo decision, in which the Supreme Court said in essence that executives can't do whatever they want to prisoners by putting them in off-world limbos like Guantanamo. It was a nice victory for habeas corpus, even if it never should have been necessary. It was also a win for the regular folks - the mass middle class - who either win with law or lose with force.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Road Warrior Cometh

The premise of the Mad Max series is a comb- ination of "peak oil" - the radical decline of this resource coupled with strong-man anarchy. May ended with emerging signs of the coming dog-eat-dog.

There are various signs here and there, and I won't even mention the increase in deadly tornadoes.

  • Baraka Obama's new economic policy director is Jason Furman, who has been close to Robert Rubin and other architects of Clintonomics. Clinton, Rubin, Larry Summers, et al presided over many a Road Warrior scenario around the world, Argentina and Russia being classic examples. Naomi Klein links the "shock doctrine" to right-wing warriors like Milton Friedman, but concentrated finance capital has the same effect, holding policymakers hostage and undercutting whole industrial sectors as money whips in and out of nations to arbitrage small price spreads. With the 1990s Washington Consensus embodied by Furman, Obama won't be able to resist the darkness.
  • the hidden laws of finance. Here's a short overview of the quasi-private way that a small group of unknown authorities set the LIBOR bank rate - a key international index.
  • ye olde middle-class high-tech foundations continue to erode. The Semiconductor Industry Association reported that revenue from memory chips "declined by 34 percent even as unit shipments increaesd by more than 30 percent in the first four months of 2008 compared to the same period last year." We can barely make money on more or less our best industry. Strap on those rooftop fuel tanks.
  • L.A. area hospitals were dumping poor, sometimes helpless patients on Skid Row, usually in hospital gowns . Hollywood Presbyterian got fined $1 million and will need to appease a federal monitor. Maybe patient dumping will stop. But given the state of LA County healthcare, it probably won't.
  • The NYT's front page for May 30 juxtaposed two stories: "For the Military, Ultimate Fighting, but with a Cheering Section," about how the military is using the human equivalent of dogfights to recruit poor kids into the military. Next to this: "As Oil Prices Soar, Restaurants Learn to Lock Up Old Grease": "The bandit pulled his truck to the back of a Burger King in Northern California one afternoon last month armed with a hose and a tank. After rummaging around assorted restaurant rubbish, he dunked a tube into a smelly storage bin and, the police said, vacuumed out about 300 gallons of grease."
Now you'll have something to put in your rooftop tanks.