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Photos and text, unless otherwise noted, Copyright 2003,2004,2005,2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Sunday, 11 January 2004

Topic: The Economy

War With Canada: We Cannot Let Them Get Away With This!

See Canada's job growth soars past U.S.
Numbers raise doubts over strength of economic recovery south of the border
Bruce Little, Economics Reporter, The Globe and Mail, Saturday, January 10, 2004 - Page B1
The red-hot Canadian employment market churned out an eye-popping 53,000 new jobs in December, in stark contrast to the United States, which added an anemic 1,000 bodies to the payrolls, raising doubts about the staying power of the economic recovery there.

The jump in December employment in Canada capped a frenzy of job creation through the latter part of 2003 that outpaced anything seen in more than two decades.

The Statistics Canada report yesterday -- which blew away economists' forecasts -- spurred the dollar to new heights, driving it ever closer to the 80 cent (U.S.) mark, a level last seen in March, 1993. The dollar rocketed up 0.58 cents (U.S.) to 78.67 cents yesterday.
What are we going to DO with these people? It's not nice to get George angry. He doesn't like being shown up.

And what's this about Canada running a surplus, not a massive deficit? These people do NOT know how to treat their wealthy.

They're downright un-American!

Posted by Alan at 20:32 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, 11 January 2004 20:34 PST home

New Issue of Just Above Sunset now online!
Not much blogging today. Sunday is the day I do final assembly and post the week's new issue of this: Just Above Sunset Magazine.

Check it out.

Volume 2, Number 2 - new issue this date...

Posted by Alan at 19:37 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: The Culture

A Theological Note from the UK
FLASH: Pope Gregory the Great was WRONG!

I think I agree with Simon Blackburn over there at Cambridge University.

See Lust declared virtue, not vice
Lust has been wrongly branded a vice and should be "reclaimed for humanity" as a life-affirming virtue, according to a top philsopher.
BBC News, Sunday, January 11, 2004
Professor Simon Blackburn of Cambridge University is trying to "rescue" lust, arguing it has been wrongly condemned for centuries, the Sunday Times says.

His campaign is part of an Oxford University Press project on the modern relevance of the seven deadly sins.

The list of sins was drawn up by Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th Century.

OUP has commissioned books on each of the sins - lust, anger, envy, gluttony, sloth, pride and greed.

Controlling lust

It says Prof Blackburn is aiming to save lust "from the denunciations of old men of the deserts, to deliver it from the pallid and envious confessor and the stocks and pillories of the Puritans, to drag it from the category of sin to that of virtue".

According to the Sunday Times, Prof Blackburn has defined lust as "the enthusiastic desire for sexual activity and its pleasures for its own sake".

The philosopher says that if reciprocated, lust leads to pleasure and "best flourishes when unencumbered by bad philosophy and ideology... which prevent its freedom of flow".

He points out that thirst is not criticised although it can lead to drunkenness and in the same way lust should not be condemned just because it can get out of hand, the paper says.

Professor Blackburn is quoted as saying: "The important thing is that generally anything that gives pleasure has a presumption in its favour.

"The question is how we control it."
Control it? I knew there was a catch!

Posted by Alan at 09:27 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Saturday, 10 January 2004

Topic: Bush

Is America safer now that we have a color-coded alert system, and now that we're fingerprinting folks who fly in from places that are suspicious, and now that we have captured Saddam Hussein? Is our government doing its job well - the job of making us all safe and secure?

Well, maybe so.

At least two of my regular readers have degrees in philosophy. But we all should consider this exchange from the ever-popular Simpsons television show.

Homer: Not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol must be working like a charm.
Lisa: That's specious reasoning, Dad.
Homer: Thank you, dear.
Lisa: By your logic I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.
Homer: Oh, how does it work?
Lisa: It doesn't work.
Homer: Uh-huh.
Lisa: It's just a stupid rock.
Homer: Uh-huh.
Lisa: But I don't see any tigers around, do you?
[Homer thinks of this, then pulls out some money...]
Homer: Lisa, I want to buy your rock.

Just something I found at Oliver Willis today....

We have not been attacked again since September 11, 2001 of course. Thus George Bush is doing a fine job and should be reelected, or actually elected. Or whatever.

I opt for "whatever."

Posted by Alan at 21:19 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Friday, 9 January 2004

Topic: The Economy

The Brave New World: "While workers are necessary, and so have to be kept alive, they have no hope of any better treatment since they are infinitely available, replaceable, and generally interchangeable."
Really. That's a fact, Jack!

Job growth pretty much came halt in December, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today, as thousands of people disappeared from the officially recorded labor force rather than keep looking for work. They gave up. Most forecasters thought that December would be a breakthrough month for job creation, given the strengthening economy. But instead of the 150,000 new jobs they had on average expected, there were only 1,000. Not good.

The unemployment rate dropped to 5.7 percent from 5.9 percent in November, but that was mainly because so many people chose not to look for work, a requirement to be counted as unemployed. It seems that in December, 309,000 working-age men and women who would normally be job-hunting either left the labor force or did not bother to enter it in search of work, according to the labor bureau.

Oh yeah, then the government lowered by more than a third its estimate of the number of jobs created in November and October. Instead of an increase of 143,000 jobs in those months, the revised figure was 94,000. Oops.

But the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew an unusual 8.2 percent in the third quarter and is expected to have closed out the year with another three months of solid expansion. Corporate profits are soaring, up twenty-two percent or so. Productivity - the dollar output per unit of work - is growing by leaps and bounds. Business is doing just fine. This is a recovery.

And the lay-off announcements keep coming, and the announcements of large bocks of jobs being eliminated by having the work done in India or the Philippines or wherever.

More here is being done with less, or with labor from distant places at one tenth the cost.

The recovery is being accomplished by stretching the labor force as thin as possible, by depressing wages (easy to do when there are ten people who want your job if you bitch too much), and by having the work done offshore when at all possible.

This is quite understandable. If I have a business making widgets I want to make them at the lowest possible cost and sell them at the highest possible price. That's where my profit lies. If I can stretch what expensive domestic labor I simply must use as far as possible at the lowest possible cost, and then offload big blocks of labor costs to foreign workers at one tenth the cost, then I can offer a fine product at a wonderfully low price. And fine products at low prices help everyone.

Actually, I have no problem with that. It makes good business sense.

The problem is all these folks with no jobs who cannot buy my products. Damn.

And the jobs are never coming back. How did this come to be?

I found an interesting discussion of the problem here:
The Price Of Globalization
William Pfaff, The International Herald Tribune, Saturday, January 10, 2004

Pfaff sets up the conflict this way:
The jobless recovery in the American economy, weakly echoed in Europe, reinforces complaints in all the Western industrial countries that employers and stockholders enrich themselves while workers' wages fall or remain static. Defenders of free trade irritably reply that outsourced jobs will be replaced by those demanding higher skills, and that workers should go out and retrain themselves.
Yep, a knee-jerk reaction each way. The rich capitalist owners are unfairly exploiting the workers? Well, the workers should make themselves useful and relevant again. Retrain. Yeah, yeah.

Pfaff points out that one could argue that capital, technology, ideas and jobs now "all enjoy unprecedented mobility." It's workers that lack mobility. Nearly all the work performed in modern industry can be outsourced globally.

It's a matter of freed trade.

But is exporting jobs free trade?
Actually, this is free trade. It is free trade as theoretically envisaged by the 18th century economist David Ricardo, stripped of the economic, social and political constraints that for two centuries kept trade from functioning the way Ricardo expected.

He said that states should exploit their comparative advantages in resources or manufacturing. Trading in those complementary advantages would produce reciprocal gain. It's win-win - as Ricardo would not have said.

This is a relatively simple-minded theory, but in practice it has generally worked out, if not to the advantage of all concerned.
Okay, fine. Then how come so many of us are getting screwed over and unable to find work?

Here's the deal:
... Ricardo had a second theory, which he called the "iron law of wages." You do not hear much about the iron law, in part because you wouldn't want to hear about it, and also because experience has seemed to prove it untrue. But times are changing.

The iron law of wages is also simple and logical. It says that wages will tend to stabilize at or about subsistence level. That seemed inevitable to Ricardo, since while workers are necessary, and so have to be kept alive, they have no hope of any better treatment since they are infinitely available, replaceable, and generally interchangeable.
Ah, that's the problem. Previously the pool of available labor was limited - a matter of geography. Now, for the first time in history, thanks to modern computer networking and telephony, we really do have "infinitely available" labor, world-wide, twenty-four hours a day. This IS new.

Yes, Ricardo's wage theory had seemed untrue. The supply of competent workers in a given place was not unlimited; neither workers nor industry were perfectly mobile, and labor demonstrated in the last two centuries that it could mobilize and defend itself. This "iron law of wages" would function only if the supply of labor is infinite and totally mobile.

And now we pretty much have that. Globalizaton.

Pfaff argues that globalization is "removing the constraints imposed in the past by societies possessing institutions, legislation, and the political will to protect workers."

Yep, any labor movement is screwed:
Labor today has almost entirely lost power in the places where it once possessed it. Western Europe provides limited and unrepresentative exceptions: Germany with its national unions, and the civil service unions in France. In both countries unions survive because of political rather than economic factors.

Until recently, the complaint that industry benefited from free trade but workers did not was conventionally treated as special pleading by unions and the left. At best, this was said to be a problem of lagging interaction between the unmistakably positive results of trade for business and industry, and the advantages for workers that - according to the abstract model - must ineluctably follow.
Hey! Wake up! Business is great, and getting better. We do have "unmistakably positive results" - look at the profits piling up.

But nothing is going to "ineluctably follow" for workers.

Technology has made the labor pool nearly infinite. Ricardo's law of wages, his "wage theory," finally comes into play. And it isn't pretty.

So what to do?

Best to own a business - be a capitalist - and not to work for one.

Posted by Alan at 20:39 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 9 January 2004 22:30 PST home

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