Tag: society

Furrsonae Non Gratae

Midwest FurFest has refused to allow Milo Yiannopoulos to attend the convention:

Right-wing persona non grata Milo Yiannopoulos announced that he has adopted a “fursona” as a snow leopard and that he purchased tickets to a furry convention; in response, organizers rescinded his event registration.

Yiannopoulos posted an email screenshot to one of the few platforms he has left—his Telegram messaging channel—on Saturday and claimed he registered for Midwest FurFest, a convention “to celebrate the furry fandom” hosted in the suburbs on Chicago this December. “Furries,” as they’re often called, are groups of people who have interest in animal personas with human characteristics; people who participate in the subculture often present themselves as non-human characters via art and costumes.

Needless to say, members of the Furred Reich are feeling a lot of butt-hurt about this.

This is Literally the Least We Can Do as a Society

You know, when people make their fortunes off the misery of the rest of society, we should be able to do more than just make it difficult for these malefactors to green-wash their names.

The fact that the Louvre has removed the Sackler family name from its Oriental Antiquities wing, and artists are withdrawing from the Whitney Art Museum’s biennial art show over a board member’s business supplying tear gas used on asylum seekers.

I am not enough of an optimist to think that this is the start of something.

Instead, I see this as a marker of our impotence as a society to deal with the immorality and misdeeds of our billionaire class. 

It’s their world, and we just live in in at their sufferance.

Why Ordinary People Don’t Believe Scientists

Because they correctly observe that our whole society is profoundly corrupt, and this includes the most prestigious scientific and research institutions.

Seriously, it does not get any more “White Shoe” than Sloan Kettering:

Top officials at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center repeatedly violated policies on financial conflicts of interest, fostering a culture in which profits appeared to take precedence over research and patient care, according to details released on Thursday from an outside review.

The findings followed months of turmoil over executives’ ties to drug and health care companies at one of the nation’s leading cancer centers. The review, conducted by the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton, was outlined at a staff meeting on Thursday morning. It concluded that officials frequently violated or skirted their own policies; that hospital leaders’ ties to companies were likely considered on an ad hoc basis rather than through rigorous vetting; and that researchers were often unaware that some senior executives had financial stakes in the outcomes of their studies.

In acknowledging flaws in its oversight of conflicts of interest, the cancer center announced on Thursday an extensive overhaul of policies governing employees’ relationships with outside companies and financial arrangements — including public disclosure of doctors’ ties to corporations and limits on outside work.

Welcome to the wages of the neo-liberal society, where everything, including scientific integrity, is for sale, or at least for rent.

As a result, on issues where we are dependent upon expertise, we live in George Akerlof’s Market for Lemons, where the level of fraud results in the degradation of the “market” for scientific research.

Mixed Emotions

Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Renault and former  Chairman at Nissan, has been released from jail after 108 days.

He has been charged with tax evasion and embezzlement.

I like the idea that a rich executive is being like the rest of us (good), but I have not doubt that if Ghosn were Japanese, he would have been released on bail about 107 days sooner: (bad)

The former motoring titan Carlos Ghosn extricated himself from custody Wednesday after 108 days in jail.

The Brazil-born former CEO of Renault and chairman of Nissan Motors paid one of the largest bail fees in the history of Japan — 1 billion yen, or $8.9 million — to leave jail in Tokyo.

Flanked by security figures, Ghosn emerged from the jail wearing blue workman’s clothes, a baseball cap, and a face mask as he headed to his new home, a court-approved house in Tokyo.


Ghosn’s experience has been a humiliating one for a former CEO who commanded immense respect in the auto world. Ghosn in November was accused of misreporting his salary and compensation having previously held top positions at the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi Motors automotive alliance.


Prosecutors in Japan have alleged that the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance chairman and CEO earned a salary of about 10 billion yen, or $88.7 million, from 2011 to 2015 but reported only half of that. Ghosn could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to 10 million yen if found to have committed any wrongdoing.

The whole story is like watching your mother-in-law drive off a cliff in your brand new car.

Can Any Francophiles Comment on This Analysis?

I do not that massive and disruptive protests are very much a part of French political culture.

I do think that part of this comes from centuries old cultural traditions, but André Sapir makes a cogent argument that this is an artifact of France’s highly centralized government presided over by its imperial Presidency:

Outside France, many economists tend to ascribe the yellow vest movement to the fact that the French are rebellious and that France is politically unmanageable. But what is special about France is not its people but its institutional system, which differs vastly from those of other European countries. Three dimensions seem to me particularly relevant in the current context.

The first concerns the political system. Under the current constitution, power is far more personalised than elsewhere. France is not a parliamentary democracy like Britain or Germany. Sure, all three have a lower and an upper chamber, but political parties play a fundamentally different role in France.

There, the dominant party is a creation of the president – like the RPR was a creation of Jacques Chirac, the Socialist party was created by François Mitterrand, and La République en Marche is the creation of Emmanuel Macron, around whom the party entirely revolves.

Elsewhere, the history of the major political parties is clearly distinct from the persona of their current leader. The CDU in Germany or the Conservative party in Britain are not the creation of Angela Merkel or Theresa May.

The second French peculiarity concerns the role of intermediate institutions, and in particular labour unions. Among the large European countries, France is where the rate of union membership is the lowest. In 2015, it was 36% in Italy, 25% in Britain, 18% in Germany, 14% in Spain, 12% in Poland and barely 8% in France. And the current practice further weakens the role of labour unions in the management of social conflicts.


Despite this situation, France is the most centralised of the six biggest EU countries. According to the OECD, the share of sub-national entities in total public expenditure is only 20% in France against 50% in Spain, 47% in Germany, 32% in Poland, 30% in Italy and 26% in Britain.

The conclusion is incontestable. France is the European country where there is the most rebellion against its leader, because his power is the most personalised and the most centralised among the six big EU countries.

The personalisation of power, the weakness of Parliament – with a dominant party dominated by a single person – and the weak role of intermediate bodies like labour unions all combine to create a situation where citizens have no recourse to make their voice heard other than taking to the streets and demanding the resignation of the president.


Many French economists rightly favour reforming France’s social model towards greater flexibility and greater security, like in Scandinavian countries. But they should remember that these countries have very high unionisation rates (67% in Denmark and Sweden) and extensive territorial decentralisation of public expenditures (with sub-national entities accounting for 65% of such expenditures in Denmark and 50% in Sweden). Attempting to copy the Scandinavian social system without changing the French institutional system would not be very productive.

France is not unmanageable. It simply needs a better governance. Why not start with a greater decentralisation of public expenditures? A reasonable objective could be to increase the share of sub-national entities in public expenditures from 20% to 30% by 2025, and further to 40% by 2030. But this cannot be done without a substantial institutional reform to ensure that decentralised public expenditures are both efficient and of good quality.

I think that a lot of this is history, mass protests in France have been a feature of their political economy since (at least) the French Revolution, but I do think that the weakness of political parties and the centralization of the government have exacerbated this phenomenon.

H/t naked capitalism.

Not Enought Bullets

One of the most annoying facets of the New York Times is its predilection for publishing stories that sound like a telethon for the overpriviliged .

Seriously. This guy goes to a class reunion of Harvard Business School, and the whining of overpaid parasites is deafening:

My first, charmed week as a student at Harvard Business School, late in the summer of 2001, felt like a halcyon time for capitalism. AOL Time Warner, Yahoo and Napster were benevolently connecting the world. Enron and WorldCom were bringing innovation to hidebound industries. President George W. Bush — an H.B.S. graduate himself — had promised to deliver progress and prosperity with businesslike efficiency.

The next few years would prove how little we (and Washington and much of corporate America) really understood about the economy and the world. But at the time, for the 895 first-years preparing ourselves for business moguldom, what really excited us was our good luck. A Harvard M.B.A. seemed like a winning lottery ticket, a gilded highway to world-changing influence, fantastic wealth and — if those self-satisfied portraits that lined the hallways were any indication — a lifetime of deeply meaningful work.

So it came as a bit of a shock, when I attended my 15th reunion last summer, to learn how many of my former classmates weren’t overjoyed by their professional lives — in fact, they were miserable. I heard about one fellow alum who had run a large hedge fund until being sued by investors (who also happened to be the fund manager’s relatives). Another person had risen to a senior role inside one of the nation’s most prestigious companies before being savagely pushed out by corporate politics. Another had learned in the maternity ward that her firm was being stolen by a conniving partner.

So, we have a guy who made his fortune by relying on relatives, another one who was paid obscene amounts as senior management, and someone who partnered with someone who sounds like a Harvard Business School graduate.

One quote, “It was insanely stressful work, done among people he didn’t particularly like. He earned about $1.2 million a year and hated going to the office,” sticks in my head.

This guy is 15 years into a career, and assuming that his $1.2 million a year is the product of 10% raises, he’s earned $10 million over the past 15 years.

Seriously, if Aliens had abducted all of them from their reunion, and transported them to be galley slaves on the planet Koozebane, the world would be a better place.

Note to self:  Start a GoFundMe for an alien beacon at the next class reunion.

About F%$#ing Time

For many years, potential Democratic candidates for President have made pilgrimages to Wall Street, and the Hamptons, to beg for money in exchange for letting the big casino to continue to parisitize the real economy.

In years past, no one noticed.

Not any more:

Ties to Wall Street and corporate interests are raising concerns about a number of high-profile Democratic candidates considering White House bids as the party moves to reduce the influence of big money in campaigns.

Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) are likely to face questions about money they’ve received from financial institutions in Wall Street, according to strategists.

Meanwhile, former Vice President Joe Biden has his own ties to banks and credit card companies, dating back to his years in the Senate, while Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) could face scrutiny over her reluctance in 2013 to prosecute Steven Mnuchin’s OneWest Bank when she was attorney general of California.

The pushback could come as progressives such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) turn to small donations to fuel campaigns, avoiding corporate donations that they, and many in the Democratic base, believe taint the electoral process.

“Here would be my warning to any candidate who’s thinking about running in this environment today: This is not 2008. This is not 2012,” said Chris Kofinis, a Democratic strategist.

Sherrod Brown should be mentioned along with Sanders and Warren, but the big point is that even 2 years ago, kowtowing to the finance industry was considered ordinary, and questioning that behavior was considered unseemly.

I’m pretty sure what the response will be from corporate Democrats, they will accuse the real Dems of being Russian stooges.

A Deal Inked in LA Teachers’ Strike

And true to their word, the contract is primarily about protecting the public school system from the predations of the hedge fund crowd:

What was going to be a fierce morning march on school district headquarters became a celebration instead Tuesday as thousands of striking teachers learned of a tentative agreement to end a six-day strike.

“You just taught the best lesson of your life,” union President Alex Caputo-Pearl told a sea of supporters in union-red T-shirts gathered in Grand Park.………

“Public education is now the topic in every household in our community,” he said. “Let’s capitalize on that. Let’s fix it.”

“We can’t solve 40 years of underinvestment in public education in just one week or just one contract,” he said.

The Board of Education is expected to move quickly to ratify the deal. Board members convened a morning closed session to review and discuss it. The deal also must be approved by United Teachers Los Angeles through a vote of its members.


The tentative deal includes what amounts to a 6% raise for teachers — with a 3% raise for the last school year and a 3% raise for this school year. (Teachers also lost about 3% of their salary by being on strike for six days, according to the school district.)

This 6% offer had been on the table before teachers went on strike, but the walkout was always about more than salary.

The agreement, which runs through June 2022, also includes a reduction of class sizes over four years to levels in the previous contract, but removes a contract provision that has allowed the school district to increase class sizes in times of economic hardship, Caputo-Pearl said in an interview. It was not immediately clear how that issue would be dealt with going forward.


Under the agreement, the district agreed to create 30 community schools — a model that has been tried in Cincinnati and Austin, Texas. These schools are supposed to provide social services to students and family, rich academic programs that include the arts and leadership roles for parents and teachers.

The district also agreed to expand to 28 the number of schools that will no longer conduct random searches of middle and high school students. That provision was especially important to students who marched in support of their teachers.

What is remarkable is just how much support that the UTLA has received throughout the entire strike was amazing.

I hope that this is an indicator of some sort of sea change in society, but I fear that it is not.

This is F%$#ed Up and Sh%$

One day, they are there, and the next, they aren’t, and they refuse all forms of contact:

Economists report that workers are starting to act like millennials on Tinder: They’re ditching jobs with nary a text.

“A number of contacts said that they had been ‘ghosted,’ a situation in which a worker stops coming to work without notice and then is impossible to contact,” the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago noted in December’s Beige Book, which tracks employment trends.

National data on economic “ghosting” is lacking. The term, which usually applies to dating, first surfaced in 2016 on Dictionary.com. But companies across the country say silent exits are on the rise.

Analysts blame America’s increasingly tight labor market. Job openings have surpassed the number of seekers for eight straight months, and the unemployment rate has clung to a 49-year low of 3.7 percent since September.

Janitors, baristas, welders, accountants, engineers — they’re all in demand, said Michael Hicks, a labor economist at Ball State University in Indiana. More people may opt to skip tough conversations and slide right into the next thing.

“Why hassle with a boss and a bunch of out-processing,” he said, “when literally everyone has been hiring?”

The academics above don’t get it, but this guy does:

Someone who feels invested in an enterprise is less likely to bounce, write Melissa and Johnathan Nightingale, co-authors of “How F*cked Up Is Your Management?: An uncomfortable conversation about modern leadership.”

“Employees leave jobs that suck,” they said in an email. “Jobs where they’re abused. Jobs where they don’t care about the work. And the less engaged they are, the less need they feel to give their bosses any warning.”

Modern management has been eating its metaphorical seed corn for decades, and now they are reaping the consequences of the complete absence of goodwill from their employees.

This Will Never be Adopted

Researchers have made some remarkable progress on artificial “noses” that could replace the use of dogs.

I do not believe that any element of the state security apparatus in the United States, because this is the last thing that they want.

Instead, they want Clever Hans,* which is to say an animal that they can cue in a subtle manner in order to confirm their own biases.

When a cop pulls over someone for driving while black, the last thing that he wants is a device which will provide a fair and unbiased review of the evidence, said peace officer just wants to bust an, “uppity n****r.”

*Wikipedia has the skinny on the horse, “Clever Hans (in German: der Kluge Hans) was an Orlov Trotter horse that was claimed to have performed arithmetic and other intellectual tasks.” The horse was actually reading the body language of his trainer without his knowledge.

Headline of the Day

Of Course Ted Cruz Should Be Publicly Ostracized

Ian Welsh

This is in response to the hand wringing by Washington’s “Very Serious People” over protesters confronting Cruz in a restaurant.

Mr. Welsh has a very good rejoinder:

If you could have only one rule for creating a good society it would be the following:

Elites must experience the consequences of their behavior.

Making Ted Cruz’s dining experiences uncomfortable is clearly an inadequate response.

When there is no accountability by the decisions made by the elites, their decisions are self interested and destructive.

Quote of the Day

It is hard to overstate how deeply these Americans despise the Obama response to the 2008 financial crisis. Many saw the values of their homes, the largest investments they will ever make, dramatically decrease. They don’t own much stock outside of flaccid IRAs, and so they benefited little from a recovery that first bailed out Wall Street. Obama’s decisions still aren’t done with them 10 years later, because their retirements are dependent on home prices rising enough so downsizing sales can cover them late in life.

Peter Van Buren

It is an interesting take on why the so called, “Deplorables,” support for Trump is so resilient.

The conventional wisdom does not serve them, so they want to burn it all down.

This is the Definitive Take on L’Affaire Huckabee-Sanders

Amid all the conservative butt-hurt over Sarah Huckabee-Sanders being denied service at a restaurant, this is to my mind a proper take:

Do you think that being asked to leave a restaurant, or having your meal interrupted, or being called by the public is bad? My fascism-enabling friends, this is only the beginning.

One thing that people who wield great power often fail to viscerally understand is what it feels like to have power wielded against you. This imbalance is the source of many of the most monstrous decisions that get made by powerful people and institutions. The people who start the wars do not have bombs dropped on their houses. The people who pass the laws that incarcerate others never have to face the full force of the prison system themselves. The people who design the economic system that inflicts poverty on millions are themselves rich. This sort of insulation from the real world consequences of political and economic decisions makes it very easy for powerful people to approve of things happening to the rest of us that they would never, ever tolerate themselves. No health insurance CEO would watch his child die due to their inability to afford quality health care. No chickenhawk Congressman will be commanding a tank battle in Iran. No opportunistic race-baiting politician will be shunned because of their skin color. Zealots condemn gay people—except for their own gay children. The weed-smoking of young immigrants should get them deported—but our own weed-smoking was a youthful indiscretion. Environmentalist celebrities fly on carbon-spouting private jets. Banks make ostentatious charity donations while raking in billions from investments in defense contractors and gun manufacturers and oil companies. This is human nature. It is very, very easy to do things that hurt others as long as those same things benefit, rather than hurt, you. Self-justification is a specialty of mankind.

I agree.  More of this.

The calls for civility are being made by people who want to share a cocktail with the movers and shakers in politics at one of Sally Quinn’s parties.

Quote of the Day

Saying that Russia has undermined American democracy is like me – middle-aged, five foot nine, and unblessed with jumping ability – saying that the Brooklyn Nets Russian-born center Timofy Mozgov undermined my potential career in the National Basketball Association.

Paul Street on Counterpunch.

If we are really worried about our democratic process being compromised, we need to look at the corporate media, the entrenched elites, the feckless punditry, and the political consultant class first.

They’ve done a way better job at compromising democracy than Vladimir Putin.

Hell, they may very well have done a better job at compromising democracy than Benito Mussolini.

Today, I Wrote the Quote of the Day

At the Stellar Parthenon BBS, we are having a discussion about 2020, and there was a difference of opinion.

Basically, it came down to a bunch of us saying that the Democratic Party is f%$#ed up, and before the Presidential campaign begins in earnest, we need to correct the fundamentally dysfunctional structure and culture of the party before going there.

On the other side was one guy, who was shouting for all the “Bernie Bros” to shut up.

It went around and around, and finally said that his position was about:

Who would be the best general for the Polish cavalry, when they are still charging Panzers on horse back, is like the bite of a dog into a stone; it is a stupidity.

That whole dog/bone thing was actually from Friedrich Nietzsche, but the analogy was mine.

I know, it ain’t deathless prose, but it’s as close as I’ll ever get.

On the Crapification of American Life

The author, who shuttles between Europe and the US, notes that the quality of everything here sucks:

Everything I consume in the States is of a vastly, abysmally lower quality. Every single thing. The food, the media, little things like fashion, art, public spaces, the emotional context, the work environment, and life in general make me less sane, happy, alive. I feel a little depressed, insecure, precarious, anxious, worried, angry — just like most Americans do these day. So my quality of life — despite all my privileges — is much worse in America than it is anywhere else in the rich world. Do you feel that I exaggerate unfairly?

I am not sure why, though I think that the myth of American exceptionalism has something to do with it, but the model for American businesses is doing your job as poorly as is humanly possible.

Look at the airlines, or the cable companies, or the insurance companies, or finance, or healthcare, or pharma.

They all suck like 1000 Hoovers all going at once, and every one depends on some sort of information asymmetry, deception, or public subsidy for viability.