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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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Tuesday, 2 March 2004

Topic: The Culture

Who to trust on the question of whether Lars and Spanky should have the right to be legally married?
On one side you have Bush and the Evangelical Christian Right, and then on the other side....

Okay, get your press releases here!

First up? The good folks over at the American Anthropological Association.

See Statement on Marriage and the Family from the American Anthropological Association

Here's what these subversives and perverts say:
American Anthropological Association
2200 Wilson Blvd, Suite 600, Arlington, VA 22201
February 25, 2004

Arlington, Virginia; The Executive Board of the American Anthropological Association, the world's largest organization of anthropologists, the people who study culture, releases the following statement in response to President Bush's call for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage as a threat to civilization.

"The results of more than a century of anthropological research on households, kinship relationships, and families, across cultures and through time, provide no support whatsoever for the view that either civilization or viable social orders depend upon marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution. Rather, anthropological research supports the conclusion that a vast array of family types, including families built upon same-sex partnerships, can contribute to stable and humane societies.

The Executive Board of the American Anthropological Association strongly opposes a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to heterosexual couples

Media may contact either of the names below:
To discuss the AAA Statement please contact: Elizabeth M. Brumfiel, AAA President (847) 491-4564, office.
To discuss anthropological research on marriage and family please contact: Roger Lancaster, Anthropologist, author, The Trouble with Nature: Sex in Science and Popular Culture, - (202) 285-4241 cellular
Well, these folks are not moralists, or theocrats. Make of it what you will.

What do doctors say? Well, there is The American Academy of Pediatrics.


These guys seem to think gay folks with children might be better parents of they were legally married. Huh?

Below is a news release on a policy statement published in the February issue of Pediatrics, the peer-reviewed, scientific journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

For Release: February 4, 2002, 12:01 am (ET) (Headline updated February 7, 2002)

CHICAGO - The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says children who are born to, or adopted by, one member of a gay or lesbian couple deserve the security of two legally recognized parents. Therefore, a new AAP policy statement, "Coparent or Second-Parent Adoption by Same-Sex Parents" supports legal and legislative efforts that provide for the possibility of adoption of those children by the second parent or coparent in same-sex relationships.

The statement says there is a considerable body of professional literature that suggests children with parents who are homosexual have the same advantages and the same expectations for health, adjustment and development as children whose parents are heterosexual.

Coparent or second-parent adoption protects a child's right to maintain continuing relationships with both parents in a same-sex relationship. Several states have considered or enacted legislation sanctioning coparent or second parent adoption by partners of the same sex. But other states have not yet considered legislative action, while at least one state bans adoptions altogether by the second parent or coparent in a same sex relationship.

According to the policy statement, coparent or second-parent adoption in a same-sex relationship provides for the following:

Guarantees that the second parent's custody rights will be protected if the first parent falls ill or dies.

Protects the second parent's rights to custody and visitation if the couple separates.

Establishes the requirement for child support from both parents in the event of the parents' separation.

Ensures the child's eligibility for health benefits from both parents.

Provides legal grounds for either parent to provide consent for medical care and other important decisions.

Creates the basis for financial security for children by ensuring eligibility to all appropriate entitlements, such as Social Security survivors benefits.

The AAP recommends that pediatricians become familiar with professional literature regarding gay and lesbian parents and their children; support the right of every child and family to the financial, psychological and legal security that results from having both parents legally recognized; and advocate for initiatives that establish permanency through coparent or second-parent adoption for children of same-sex partners.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The February issue of Pediatrics also contains "Technical Report: Coparent or Second-Parent Adoption by Same-Sex Parents." The technical report provides details on the growing body of scientific literature that suggests children who grow up with gay or lesbian parents fare as well in emotional, cognitive, social and sexual functioning as children whose parents are heterosexual.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 55,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults.
Well, they're only doctors. They could be wrong. Bush could be right.

One never knows.

These sites courtesy of pointers from Helena Montana (pseudonym?) writing in Demagogue.

Posted by Alan at 21:44 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 2 March 2004 21:46 PST home

Topic: The Economy

The Sky is Falling! The Sky is Falling!

Yep, this seems bad news for anyone who thinks we can do something about the outsourcing of American jobs to other parts of the world. They will lose their jobs too.

See Return of a conundrum: As technology devours jobs at an increasing rate, the conflict at the heart of the market economy is becoming irreconcilable
Jeremy Rifkin, The Guardian UK, Tuesday March 2, 2004

And who is this fellow? Jeremy Rifkin is the author of The End of Work: The Decline of the Global Labor Force and the Dawn of the Post-Market Era. Geez! And he is president of the Foundation on Economic Trends in Washington.

What's his point?
We are losing jobs all over the world. It has reached crisis proportions. In 1995, 800 million people were unemployed or underemployed. Today, more than a billion fall into one of these categories.

Even in America and Europe, millions of workers find themselves under- employed or without jobs and with little hope of obtaining full-time employment.

... Where have all the factory jobs gone? It has become fashionable, of late, to blame the high unemployment on companies relocating their production facilities to China. It is true that China is producing and exporting a far greater percentage of manufacturing goods, but a new study by Alliance Capital Management has found that manufacturing jobs are being eliminated even faster in China than in any other country. Between 1995 and 2002, China lost more than 15m factory jobs, 15% of its total manufacturing workforce.

There's more bad news. According to Alliance Capital, 31m manufacturing jobs were eliminated between 1995 and 2002 in the world's 20 largest economies. Manufacturing employment has declined every year in the past seven years and in every region of the world. The employment decline occurred during a period when global industrial production rose by more than 30%.

If the current rate of decline continues - and it is more than likely to accelerate - manufacturing employment will dwindle from the current 164m jobs to just a few million by 2040, virtually ending the era of mass factory labour.
Oh. That!

Well that's technology for you. Making things in factories with people, not computer driven machines, is so, so retro. It had to happen.

But then Rifkin says that everyone else's job will eventually disappear too, as the white-collar and services industries are experiencing similar job losses - because, after all, intelligent technologies will replace more and more workers. Indeed he is right - banking, insurance, and the wholesale and retail sectors are all introducing "smart technologies" into every aspect of their business operations, and this is, indeed, quickly eliminating support personnel in the process. Rifkin points out that the US internet banking company Netbank has $2.4 billion in deposits and, while a typical bank that size employs 2,000 people, Netbank runs its entire operation with just 180 employees. And I guess they work hard. Or their systems do.

And all those call centers that have moved offshore? All those American jobs gone? This "pales in significance compared with jobs lost every day to voice recognition technology. Consider the US phone company Sprint, which has been steadily replacing human operators with this technology. In the year 2002, Sprint's productivity jumped 15% and revenue increased by 4.3%, while the company reduced its payroll by 11,500."

Well, this increases productivity, and profits, and reliability for the consumer - and makes shareholder value jump. Isn't that of more importance than the 11,500 losers in the transformation?

You see, here's the point:
Economists have long argued that productivity allows firms to produce more goods and services at cheaper costs. Cheaper goods and services, in turn, stimulate demand. The increase in demand leads to more production and services and greater productivity, which, in turn, increases demand even more, in a never-ending cycle. So even if technological innovations throw some people out of work in the short term, the spike in demand for the cheaper products and services will assure additional hiring down the line to meet expanded production runs.
Cool. It all works out.

The problem, Rifkin is claiming, is that this theory appears to be no longer applicable.

Why? He cites the US steel industry as typical of the transition taking place.
In the past 20 years, steel production rose from 75m tonnes to 102m tonnes. In the same period, from 1982 to 2002, the number of steelworkers in the US declined from 289,000 to 74,000. "Even if manufacturing holds on to its share of GDP," says University of Michigan economist Donald Grimes, "we are likely to continue to lose jobs because of productivity growth." He laments that there is little we can do about it. "It's like fighting a huge headwind."
Well, the problem is pretty obvious.

If giant and widespread advances in productivity can replace more and more human labor, resulting in more workers being let go from the workforce, where will the consumer demand come from to buy all the potential new products and services? Well, yes. Rifkin says we are being forced to face up to "an inherent contradiction at the heart of our market economy" that has been present since the very beginning, but is only now becoming irreconcilable.

Yep, you get your greatly increased productivity... and more workers are marginalized into part-time employment or just fired. And those who remain get paid less, because the flooded labor market makes each of them quite replaceable by someone less greedy for salary and benefits - someone out of work and desperate. So what do you get? You get a shrinking workforce - and those with jobs with less income - and thus reduced consumer demand - and then...? You get economy unable to grow. QED.

Rifkin claims that this is the "new structural reality that government and business leaders and so many economists are reluctant to acknowledge."

And he offers no solutions. A problem without a solution? Perhaps so.

It seems to me this puts unions, or even individual workers, in an awkward position. What can they demand these days? A raise? That's a joke with ten unemployed Americans with their noses pressed to the window willing to work for a lot less - and a thousand good workers are available for even less in the Far East. Get real! And who can demand healthcare coverage or any other benefits? What would be the point is even asking?

And as for the Christian conservative Republican view that those out of work are out of work because God does not favor them or their values or their attitude... well, that may be so, but it would be nice if these losers who God has abandoned had at least a little cash to buy goods and services to create some demand for goods and services. Oh well.

We face, perhaps, a zero sum game here. The number jobs of any sort is becoming more and more limited, worldwide, and thus the number of people with money to buy anything much will similarly shrink. Will we each fight tooth and claw in some sort of worldwide game - musical chairs? - king of the mountain? - to be one of the few left with a real job and enough money for food and shelter, accepting what we must?

Well, perhaps that's the way it has always been, really.

But this is what Rifkin is explaining. The problem was always implicit in the market system. We should have seen it coming.

There will be no job growth much from here on out, in North America, or anywhere else. Such is the situation.

Thomas Hobbes meets Karl Marx, I guess.

Posted by Alan at 18:33 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 2 March 2004 18:48 PST home

Monday, 1 March 2004

Topic: World View

Just in from the UK - an item indicating Bush is lucky folks here are not really that angry with him...

Bush has had a rocky few weeks, but poor Tony Blair.

Bush may have told us we were all going to die unless we took out Saddam Hussein and eliminated those weapons of mass destruction - and they weren't there, and never were. And we were going to be welcomed in Iraq as liberators, and loved and admired - and it didn't exactly work out that way. Yep, the mission wasn't exactly accomplished. Heck, we keep getting new after-the-fact explanations of what the mission REALLY was every few weeks. So maybe the mission really was accomplished. One never knows.

But Saddam Hussein gone from power would mean things would be better - opposition to our occupation would dissolve? Well, that depends on what the word "better" means. And "dissolve" is a verb, a process, right? It could happen, I guess. Oh, so many other things.... We were going to actually fund AIDS programs in Africa, and check out which of our schools here were not performing well and make them better by funding improvements. And there was making sure everyone who earned over three hundred thousand a year got, at the very least, a sixty-two grand tax break - and that would obviously create millions of new jobs. Oh well. The ideas were fine. They just didn't work out.

I suspect the persistent harping on Bush's somewhat casual service in the Texas Air National Guard in the early seventies is motivated by a nagging sense that Bush tends to live in a world he wants to be one way, and the rest of us know isn't quite the way as he sees it. Folks want to pin down what makes them uncomfortable with seeing him on the deck of an aircraft carrier in a combat flight suit crowing about the war we just sort of won, maybe. So we're always doing these reality checks - "He said what?"

But we love him anyway. He's amusing, like the goofy kid in the back of the classroom who, when forced, innocently gives some really wild dumb-ass answer to the teacher's question, one he really thinks, or hopes, might be the right answer - and it's so off the wall teacher rolls her eyes while all the other students snigger. Then everyone starts laughing. And he says, "What'd I say? What'd I say?" And then he gets angry and stamps his feet and stammers that he knows he's right and everyone else should just shut up and not make fun of him. Then everyone smiles and the class moves on with the business at hand. It's like that.

He's kind of our national joke. We move on.

But over in the UK it seems no one wants to treat Tony Blair so graciously.

See Extreme measures: The only way to bring down Blair and change the political context is to take direct action
George Monbiot, The Guardian (UK), Tuesday March 2, 2004

Here's George's take on Tony:
So now what happens? Our prime minister is up to his neck in it. His attorney general appears to have changed his advice about the legality of the war a few days before it began. Blair refuses to release either version, apparently for fear that he will be exposed as a liar and a war criminal. His government seems to have been complicit in the illegal bugging of friendly foreign powers and the United Nations. It went to war on the grounds of a threat which was both imaginary and known to be imaginary. Now the opposition has withdrawn from his fake inquiry. Seldom has a prime minister been so exposed and remained in office. Surely Blair will fall?

Not by himself, he won't. If we have learned anything about him over the past few months, it's that he would rather stroll naked round Parliament Square than resign before he has to. The press has a short attention span, Iraq is a long way away and the opposition is listless and unpopular. He has everything to gain by sweating it out.
Yep, reminds me of the hypothetical goofy student in the back of the classroom mentioned above.

But this guy doesn't want to let Tony off the hook.

Of course, he thinks getting anything done may be difficult:
British people know that our legal system stinks. Over the past week, the attorney general's conflicts of interest have been exposed three times. First we discover he instructed that a prosecution be dropped when the case threatened to reveal his own advice to the prime minister. Then we discover that he took his decision in consultation with the government. The "Shawcross principle" he invoked in the House of Lords (ministers shall be consulted over a decision to prosecute) sounds very grand. What it means, of course, is that the law is applied only when it is politically convenient. Thirdly we find that he changed his professional opinion about the legality of the war to suit Blair's political needs.

We also know that our MPs are weak and frightened, that the civil service remains in the grip of the upper middle classes and that the press is run by multimillionaires, whose single purpose is to make this a better world for multimillionaires. Yet somehow we continue to trust that all these twisted instruments will deliver us from evil, that the sound chaps in the system will ultimately do the decent thing. How we reconcile our understanding with our belief is a mystery, but this mystery is a perennial feature of British political life. As a result, we now wait for the establishment to bring Blair down. We could be waiting forever.
Well, Monbiot, welcome to the club. It's not that much different on this side of the pond.

Of course this Monbiot fellow suggest for the Brits something we never do, or haven't done much since the sixties:
... nothing happens now unless we get off our butts and make it happen. This means abandoning that very British habit of expecting someone else to act on our behalf. Worse still, it means recognising that, for all the complexities and evasions of a modern political system, the motive force of politics is still the people, and the people remain responsible for what is done in their name.

The formula for making things happen is simple and has never changed. If you wish to alter a policy or depose a prime minister between elections, you must take to the streets. Without the poll tax riots, Mrs Thatcher might have contested the 1992 election. If GM crops hadn't been ripped up, they would be in commercial cultivation in Britain today. In the 1990s, protesters forced the government to cut its road-building budget by 80%. Most of the cities where roads were occupied by Reclaim the Streets have introduced major traffic-calming or traffic-reduction schemes. Gordon Brown stopped increasing fuel tax in response to the truckers' blockades.

Direct action, in other words, works.
It does? Perhaps we should try it.

This fellow claims it works because it "ensures that the issue stays in the public eye, and therefore exposes the government to continued questioning." I guess. The idea is that if the campaign is well organized and popular, the issue becomes a liability, and politicians seek to protect themselves by dumping either the policy, or the author of the policy. Monbiot says in this case it's too late to dump the policy. The idea is to dump Blair.

And he adds this:
If we depose the prime minister through direct action, he will doubtless be succeeded by someone almost as bad, but the political context in which that someone operates will have changed. He will be forced to govern with one eye on the people, and to demonstrate that his policies differ from those of his predecessor.

... To become a civilised, moderate, responsible nation, in other words, we must first become a nation of extremists.
Oh my. Didn't I just hear the ghost of Barry Goldwater say something about extremism?

In any event, over here, one doesn't "take to the streets." That's so sixties. And anyway out here the streets are clogged with Hummers and Excursions and Escalades - so it's too dangerous. Thus Bush gets a pass. But poor Tony....

Posted by Alan at 20:45 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: Election Notes

Thanks, but no thanks.

Over at Time Magazine Andrew Sullivan has an essay that will appear in the March 8th edition. In it he articulates what has always seemed to me to be a winning strategy for whomever it is the Democrats run against Bush in the fall. Many of us have been suggesting this since last summer. I've floated it to my email discussion group - my salon - and might have mentioned in it my magazine, Just Above Sunset. It's a way to cut Bush's feet out from under him while appearing magnanimous and gracious, and only just a bit condescending.

See If It Could Happen to Churchill...
Could it befall Bush? Why a wartime leader's success can be his downfall...
Time Magazine, Monday, March 08, 2004

Here's the core:
Here's what a really smart Democratic contender could say to the President this fall: "Thank you, Mr. President, for your leadership in difficult times. You made some tough decisions, and we are safer as a result. But the very qualities that made you a perfect pick for the war so far are the very ones that make you less effective from now on. You are too polarizing a figure to bring real peace to Iraq. You are too unpopular overseas to allow European governments to cooperate fully in the attempt to hunt down terrorists. And your deep unpopularity in half the country makes it impossible for you to make the necessary compromises that the country needs domestically. Thanks for all you've done, but bye-bye."
What's he going to do? Cry?

Pat him on the head and send him on his way. Heck, give him a shiny medal. He'll like that.

Posted by Alan at 19:34 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: Election Notes

Fringe Candidates, an update....

Lyndon Larouche bought some airtime out here over the weekend and made his pitch that he - not Edwards or Kerry or anyone else - should be the Democratic nominee this fall. I missed the broadcast. I was busy trying to fix matters with my ISP hosting service.

Matthew Yglesias, however, did listen and provide this commentary.
So Lyndon Larouche went and bought a lot of airtime on the local ABC affiliate to broadcast a speech of his. I'd always known he was crazy, but he's way crazier than I thought. He's going on and on about the French Revolution. Danton and Marat were British agents? The evidence for this is that they were influenced by the ideas of Jeremy Bentham who, apparently, was in cahoots with British intelligence. Bentham's successor, Lord Palmerston, was "running" Giuseppe Mazzini who, we're told, was in league with Karl Marx.

Other British agents include presidents Jackson, Van Buren, Polk, and Buchanan.

The Marquis de Lafayette, John Quincy Adams, and Abraham Lincoln, on the other hand, were all opponents of the vast Anglo/Masonic conspiracy to control the 19th century. But Andrew Johnson "who was a disaster" allowed the "Anglo-Dutch liberals" to come back to power. Edward VII "created the federal reserve system in the United States" through his "agents" Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson before causing world war one. It goes on and on.
I'm sorry I missed this. It would have cheered me up.

Posted by Alan at 08:00 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

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