Vacation

July 18, 2009 at 03:03 | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

 

Dear readers,

I will be on vacation until August 25th. Thank you for stopping by, and please come back soon.

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Economics Joke – #1

July 17, 2009 at 21:37 | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

 

If C+I+G+X-M=Y

 

then $10C+$10I+$10G+$10X-$10M = $10C+$0I+$20G+0X-$0M

 

If this isn’t funny, I don’t know what is.

More Health Insurance is Not the Answer

July 14, 2009 at 19:25 | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

More Health Insurance is Not the Answer

When someone else pays, costs always go up

Health care "reformers" keep talking about getting us more health insurance. Then they talk about cutting costs. This is contradictory nonsense.

Insurance, whether private or a government Ponzi scheme like Medicare, means third parties pay the bills. When someone else pays, costs always go up. 

Imagine if you had grocery insurance. You wouldn’t care how much food cost. Why shop around? If someone else were paying 80 percent, you’d buy the most expensive cuts of meat. Prices would skyrocket.

That’s what health insurance does to medical care. Patients rarely even ask what anything costs. Doctors often don’t know. Often nobody even gives a damn. Patients rarely ask, "Is that MRI really necessary? Is there a cheaper place?" We consume without thinking. 

By contrast, in areas of medicine where most patients pay their own way, service gets better, while prices fall.

Take plastic surgery and Lasik eye surgery: Because patients shop around and compare prices, doctors work hard to win their business. They often give customers their cell-phone numbers. Service keeps increasing, but prices don’t. "In every other field of medicine, the price is going up faster than consumer prices in general," says John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis. "But the price of Lasik surgery, on average, has gone down by 30 percent."

This shouldn’t be a surprise. What holds costs down is patients acting like consumers, looking out for themselves in a competitive market. Providers fight to win business by keeping costs down and quality up.

Yet politicians keep telling us the solution is more insurance. And they mean insurance not just for catastrophic diseases that could bankrupt us but also for routine treatments. 

The politicians are so oblivious to reality that they are on course to make things worse. Obama would force every business to either give workers health insurance or pay a fine into the public system. Why is that something we should want employers to do? Premiums come out of our salaries, but insurers are accountable to our bosses, not to us. 

Why not just have a free market where people can buy whatever kind of health insurance they want? Competition would then bring prices down.

Obama and his Senate allies would limit competition by requiring insurers to cover everyone for the same "fair" price. No "cherry picking," the president says. No charging healthy people less. 

They call this "community rating," and it sounds fair. No more cruel "discrimination" against people who have a preexisting condition, obese people or smokers. But such simple-minded one-size-fits-all rules take from insurance companies their best price-dampening tool: Risk-based pricing encourages people to take better care of themselves, just as car-insurance companies reward good drivers. With one-size pricing your car-insurance company must give the town drunk the same deal it gives you. 

Insane, but the health-insurance industry is playing along. Insurers say that if government forces everyone to have insurance, they will accept all customers regardless of preexisting illnesses. 

They also offered to stop charging higher premiums to sick people. They’re even giving up ongender differences.

Sen. John Kerry huffed, "The disparity between women and men in the individual insurance market is just plain wrong, and it has to change." The president of the industry trade group, Karen M. Ignagni, agreed that disparities "should be eliminated." 

Give me a break. 

Women pay more than men for health insurance for good reason. Despite being healthier than men, they incur higher costs because they go to doctors more often, and they take more medicine. Kerry is pandering. I don’t recall him demanding that men be protected from higher life-insurance and auto-insurance premiums.

"Community rating" hides the cost of health care. It’s as destructive as ordering fire insurance companies to charge identical premiums for wood frame and stone houses. Universal health insurance with "no discrimination" pricing will make health care costs rise even faster. 

When politicians interfere with free markets, unintended consequences harm everyone, except the companies that lobby hard enough to protect themselves. 

Is it too much to expect our rulers to understand this?

John Stossel is co-anchor of ABC News’ 20/20 and the author of Myth, Lies, and Downright Stupidity.

Zoho vs. MS Office

July 12, 2009 at 15:15 | Posted in computing, google, microsoft, zoho | 5 Comments

 

I just discovered by sheer accident this nifty on-line service which, at first glance, makes most of the Google applications look outright lame. I haven’t heard of Zoho until then, but I think I’m already becoming a believer. I’m not quite ready to ditch my MS Office – yet – but so far, the impression is good. For example, the Zoho Writer appears capable of reading the new Microsoft docx format. As I write this (not on Zoho, yet), it is uploading my Master’s thesis – very heavy on docx formatted features, graphs, etc. I’ll report back once it’s done and let you know how it went.

Until then, read this NYT review of Zoho – it’s a good reflection of my own experience so far.

Small Company Offers Web-Based Competition for Microsoft Word

By RANDALL STROSS

WITHIN Microsoft’s Office group, the calendar on the wall appears to be 1983, the year the company introduced Microsoft Word. The company still expects customers to buy its software applications as products and install and run them on PCs.

Recognition of the Internet has been slow in coming. Microsoft is finally preparing Web versions of its Office suite, though these are intended as supplements, not as replacements. The company maintains that Web versions of a Word or Excel will never match the functionality and responsiveness that software installed on one’s own machine provides.

It may be wrong.

Granted, Microsoft’s largest competitor, Google, has not yet marched up to the bulwarks guarding Microsoft Office and blown a gaping hole into its adversary’s complacency. Google Apps, its Office-like suite, contains an uneven bunch of services. I find Google Calendar far superior to Microsoft Outlook’s calendar, but Google’s word processor, Docs, lacks many features in Word that I rely on.

The best online word processor, however, may be the one from a tiny company, Zoho, a nimble innovator. Zoho Writer is running close enough to Word to imagine that it and other online word processors will be able to do most everything that Word can do, and more.

Zoho Writer handles the basics and provides many advanced functions without breaking a sweat — like the ability to edit a document when page breaks are displayed. Google Docs can’t. Writer works even when one is offline, thanks to open source technology developed by Google, and used by Zoho in its word processor four months before Google used it.

Zoho Writer also provides some esoteric features, like a choice of footnotes or endnotes, with note numbers in superscript, placed in the text. Google Docs does only footnotes and puts in a pound sign as a placeholder. You may never need to create the most complex mathematical equations, but Zoho Writer makes it easy to do so.

Writer is offered free to individual users and to the first 10 users in a business. (So are 9 of Zoho’s 18 other online services at Zoho.com.) And free means free of advertising, too. “We don’t do advertising at all. We don’t believe in advertising,” says Raju Vegesna, a Zoho marketing executive.

Zoho hopes that word will spread and that larger businesses will sign up, willing to pay $50 a year a user for access to the 10 productivity applications, like Writer, and separate monthly fees for business applications.

Microsoft Office comes in various configurations and prices, and Microsoft doesn’t disclose its lowest price for volume purchases. But Office Professional 2007 is available from retailers for about $400.

Zoho is a division of AdventNet, which provides online software services to corporate I.T. departments and is based in Pleasanton, Calif. AdventNet, privately held, says its I.T. software is profitable but doesn’t claim the same for Zoho, which AdventNet created in 2005.

At Microsoft, Chris Capossela, senior vice president in Microsoft’s Business Division who manages its Office product line, explained to me how the company was preparing for “the future of computing — a combination of the best of software and the best of Internet services.” The next version of Office — being prepared for release in 2010 or after, he said — will have three incarnations, beginning with what Microsoft calls the “rich client” (“rich” refers to features) and installed on the user’s PC, and the mobile version for smartphones. Both of those exist today. The third, and new, form will be the Web-based service.

Mr. Capossela sees the Web version of Office as only a stopgap for users who are away from home or office and, in a pinch, must use a machine that isn’t their own. With Office on the Web, “users can do a little bit of work, between classes, or at the airport,” he said.

Asked whether Microsoft was interested in making the Web version as fully featured as the desktop version, he scoffed at the notion that a “browser experience” could be equivalent to a “rich client,” at least without the graphical help of an add-in like Adobe’s Flash.

Adobe’s Web site offers its own free Flash-equipped online word processor, Buzzword. But to my taste, Flash is visual overkill for word processing. Zoho Writer manages perfectly well without Flash.

Mr. Capossela sounded confident when he described the lead that Microsoft enjoys over online challengers like Zoho. “A lot of our competitors have to spend a huge amount of energy copying features that we already have in the Office suite,” he said. “We don’t have that burden to bear.”

Zoho, however, doesn’t seem burdened at all. It has moved well ahead of Word in some areas, such as offering multiple users the ability to edit the same document simultaneously.

Zoho Writer is not completely polished — I lose double-spacing when exporting to Word, and there’s an irksome extra step required to print a clean copy of a final draft, without the browser’s header. In all, though, these are small irritations, balanced by gaining the ability to edit and share documents online effortlessly, in many different ways.

Microsoft estimates that 500 million copies of Office are running on the world’s one billion Windows machines. Those were the easy wins, before the Web was ready to compete against installed software. The next 500 million copies, if won, will require staying ahead of what rivals can accomplish within the unassuming frame of the Web browser.

Randall Stross is an author based in Silicon Valley and a professor of business at San Jose State University. E-mail: stross@nytimes.com.

America’s New Money

July 11, 2009 at 03:01 | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

or – how do say “Weimar” in American?

 

Google to launch operating system

July 8, 2009 at 13:02 | Posted in competition, Economic Theory, google, technology | Leave a comment

[please note my quibble foot-notes below]

By Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News, Silicon Valley

Google is developing an operating system (OS) for personal computers, in a direct challenge to market leader Microsoft and its Windows system.

Google Chrome OS will be aimed initially at small, low-cost netbooks, but will eventually be used on PCs as well.

Google said netbooks with Chrome OS could be on sale by the middle of 2010.

"Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS," the firm said in its official blog.

The operating system, which will run on an open source licence, was a "natural extension" of its Chrome browser, the firm said.

The news comes just months before Microsoft launches the latest version of its operating system, called Windows 7.

‘Back to basics’

"We’re designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you on to the web in a few seconds," said the blog post written by Sundar Pichai, vice-president of product management, and Google’s engineering director Linus Upson.

Both men said that "the operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no web" and that this OS was "our attempt to rethink what operating systems should be".

To that end, the search giant said the new OS would go back to basics.

"We are completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don’t have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates.

"It should just work," said Google.

Google already has an operating system for mobile phones called Android which can also be used to run on netbooks. Google Chrome OS will be aimed not just at laptops but also at desktops for those who spend a lot of time on the web.

‘Truly competitive’

The announcement could dramatically change the market for operating systems, especially for Microsoft, the biggest player with around 90% share.

"This announcement is huge," said Rob Enderle, industry watcher and president of the Enderle Group.

"This is the first time we have had a truly competitive OS on the market in years. This is potentially disruptive and is the first real attempt by anyone to go after Microsoft.

"Google is coming at this fresh and, because it is based on a set of services that reside on the web, it is the first really post-web* operating system, designed from the ground up, and reconceived for a web world," Mr Enderle told the BBC.

Last year Google launched the Chrome browser, which it said was designed for "people who live on the web – searching for information, checking e-mail, catching up on the news, shopping or just staying in touch with friends".

Stephen Shankland at CNET said the move had widespread implications.

"One is that it shows just how serious Google is about making the web into a foundation not just for static pages but for active applications, notably its own such as Google Docs and G-mail.

"Another, it opens new competition with Microsoft and, potentially, a new reason for anti-trust regulators to pay close attention to Google’s moves."**

Some commentators said Google’s motivation in all this was pretty clear.

"One of Google’s major goals is to take Microsoft out, to systematically destroy their hold on the market," said Mr Enderle.

"Google wants to eliminate Microsoft and it’s a unique battle. The strategy is good. The big question is, will it work?"

At the popular blog, TechCrunch, MG Siegler said: "Let’s be clear on what this really is. This is Google dropping the mother of all bombs on its rival, Microsoft."

Microsoft releases Windows 7 later this year to replace Windows Vista and Windows XP, which is eight years old.

The Redmond-based company claims that 96% of netbooks run Windows to date.

Out of beta

In a separate announcement Google also revealed that many of its most popular applications had finally moved out of trial, or beta, phase.

Gmail, for example, has worn the beta tag for five years.

"We realise this situation puzzles some people, particularly those who subscribe to the traditional definition of beta software as being not yet ready for prime time," wrote Matthew Glotzbach, the director of product management in the official Google blog.

The decision to ditch the beta tag was taken because the apps had finally reached the "high bar" mark, he wrote.

More than 1.75 million companies use Google apps, according to the firm.

===

*post-web? So there is no more ‘web’?

**Yes, they SHOULD. Because it proves once and for all that there is NO SUCH THING as a ‘monopoly’ in the free market.

Capitalist socialism in the works of Fellini

July 8, 2009 at 12:40 | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

 

J. John Hubbard
Department of Politics, Miskatonic University, Arkham, Mass.

1. The pretextual paradigm of consensus and dialectic construction

“Society is part of the defining characteristic of consciousness,” says Lacan; however, according to Finnis[1] , it is not so much society that is part of the defining characteristic of consciousness, but rather the fatal flaw, and thus the futility, of society. But the subject is contextualised into a that includes culture as a whole. The premise of capitalist socialism states that art serves to reinforce sexism, given that neoconstructivist objectivism is invalid.

However, if dialectic construction holds, we have to choose between the textual paradigm of context and postsemioticist situationism. Sartre’s model of capitalist socialism implies that consensus is created by the collective unconscious.

But la Fournier[2] states that we have to choose between neostructuralist dematerialism and material rationalism. Derrida promotes the use of dialectic construction to modify class.

2. Joyce and the textual paradigm of context

If one examines capitalist socialism, one is faced with a choice: either accept the textual paradigm of context or conclude that government is capable of truth. Thus, capitalist socialism holds that the task of the poet is deconstruction. If pretextual situationism holds, we have to choose between capitalist socialism and cultural demodernism.

“Sexual identity is dead,” says Sontag; however, according to Sargeant[3] , it is not so much sexual identity that is dead, but rather the meaninglessness of sexual identity. But in Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino affirms Batailleist `powerful communication’; in Pulp Fiction, although, he reiterates dialectic construction. The subject is interpolated into a that includes sexuality as a totality.

“Consciousness is intrinsically elitist,” says Foucault. Thus, the primary theme of the works of Tarantino is not discourse, but postdiscourse. Drucker[4] suggests that we have to choose between cultural pretextual theory and the cultural paradigm of expression.

In a sense, the feminine/masculine distinction prevalent in Tarantino’s Four Rooms emerges again in Reservoir Dogs, although in a more self-falsifying sense. The premise of the textual paradigm of context implies that sexual identity has objective value, but only if culture is distinct from consciousness.

It could be said that if capitalist socialism holds, we have to choose between the textual paradigm of context and subcapitalist capitalism. Sontag suggests the use of constructivist neocultural theory to challenge hierarchy.

But dialectic construction states that the significance of the observer is social comment. Bataille promotes the use of the material paradigm of consensus to read and modify society.

However, the main theme of Reicher’s[5] essay on dialectic construction is the common ground between sexual identity and society. An abundance of constructions concerning a mythopoetical paradox exist.

3. Subpatriarchialist discourse and capitalist pretextual theory

In the works of Tarantino, a predominant concept is the distinction between creation and destruction. Thus, the premise of capitalist pretextual theory implies that truth is a legal fiction. A number of dematerialisms concerning the textual paradigm of context may be found.

If one examines capitalist socialism, one is faced with a choice: either reject the textual paradigm of context or conclude that reality may be used to disempower minorities. In a sense, d’Erlette[6] suggests that we have to choose between capitalist pretextual theory and neotextual discourse. If the cultural paradigm of discourse holds, the works of Tarantino are an example of self-sufficient libertarianism.

Thus, Foucault suggests the use of the textual paradigm of context to attack class divisions. Baudrillard’s analysis of capitalist socialism states that the task of the poet is deconstruction, given that the premise of capitalist pretextual theory is valid.

But the subject is contextualised into a that includes language as a reality. In Four Rooms, Tarantino affirms capitalist pretextual theory; in Reservoir Dogs he denies capitalist socialism.

Therefore, Bataille uses the term ‘the subsemantic paradigm of consensus’ to denote the difference between reality and sexual identity. Sontag promotes the use of the textual paradigm of context to read art.

4. Realities of stasis

In the works of Tarantino, a predominant concept is the concept of dialectic truth. Thus, an abundance of theories concerning not narrative as such, but postnarrative exist. The subject is interpolated into a that includes art as a whole.

If one examines the textual paradigm of context, one is faced with a choice: either accept neocapitalist deconstructive theory or conclude that society, surprisingly, has significance. But Marx suggests the use of the textual paradigm of context to deconstruct hierarchy. The subject is contextualised into a that includes truth as a paradox.

It could be said that several theories concerning capitalist socialism may be revealed. The rubicon, and subsequent stasis, of the textual paradigm of context intrinsic to Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction is also evident in Reservoir Dogs.

But the subject is interpolated into a subcultural paradigm of consensus that includes art as a whole. In Jackie Brown, Tarantino examines capitalist socialism; inReservoir Dogs, however, he affirms the textual paradigm of context.

Thus, the characteristic theme of the works of Tarantino is the failure of capitalist class. The feminine/masculine distinction depicted in Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction emerges again in Reservoir Dogs, although in a more mythopoetical sense.

5. Capitalist socialism and Derridaist reading

“Sexuality is part of the stasis of culture,” says Debord. It could be said that the subject is contextualised into a that includes narrativity as a totality. The textual paradigm of context implies that the law is responsible for sexist perceptions of sexual identity, but only if culture is interchangeable with consciousness; if that is not the case, the significance of the writer is significant form.

If one examines modernist discourse, one is faced with a choice: either reject Derridaist reading or conclude that sexuality is capable of intentionality, given that the premise of the textual paradigm of context is invalid. Thus, the primary theme of Abian’s[7] model of subcultural structural theory is a self-supporting whole. Foucault promotes the use of the textual paradigm of context to analyse and read class.

The main theme of the works of Burroughs is the paradigm, and therefore the defining characteristic, of predialectic sexual identity. Therefore, in Queer, Burroughs analyses capitalist socialism; in The Soft Machine, although, he examines capitalist desituationism. Baudrillard suggests the use of the textual paradigm of context to challenge class divisions.

But the subject is interpolated into a that includes art as a reality. The primary theme of d’Erlette’s[8] essay on capitalist socialism is the role of the reader as participant.

Therefore, an abundance of materialisms concerning not, in fact, depatriarchialism, but subdepatriarchialism exist. Dietrich[9] states that we have to choose between Derridaist reading and materialist subsemiotic theory.

In a sense, the subject is contextualised into a that includes culture as a paradox. The characteristic theme of the works of Burroughs is the paradigm, and subsequent futility, of prematerialist language.

Therefore, Derrida promotes the use of capitalist socialism to analyse sexual identity. Debord uses the term ‘the textual paradigm of context’ to denote a mythopoetical reality.

6. Contexts of defining characteristic

If one examines dialectic posttextual theory, one is faced with a choice: either accept capitalist socialism or conclude that reality must come from the masses. Thus, any number of theories concerning constructive construction may be discovered. If capitalist socialism holds, we have to choose between the textual paradigm of context and the subtextual paradigm of expression.

“Society is fundamentally elitist,” says Sartre; however, according to de Selby[10] , it is not so much society that is fundamentally elitist, but rather the collapse, and some would say the economy, of society. It could be said that the subject is interpolated into a that includes truth as a whole. Many theories concerning the collapse, and subsequent fatal flaw, of capitalist culture exist.

The main theme of Pickett’s[11] model of the textual paradigm of context is a self-justifying reality. In a sense, Bataille suggests the use of Derridaist reading to deconstruct the status quo. Baudrillard uses the term ‘capitalist socialism’ to denote the common ground between class and society.

Thus, Buxton[12] suggests that the works of Burroughs are empowering. Lyotard uses the term ’semioticist postconceptual theory’ to denote not theory per se, but subtheory.

In a sense, in Nova Express, Burroughs deconstructs Derridaist reading; in The Last Words of Dutch Schultz he denies capitalist socialism. Sartre uses the term ‘Derridaist reading’ to denote the role of the artist as writer.

Therefore, a number of dematerialisms concerning dialectic theory may be found. If Derridaist reading holds, the works of Burroughs are reminiscent of Spelling.

Thus, Baudrillard promotes the use of the textual paradigm of context to read and modify class. Buxton[13] states that we have to choose between capitalist socialism and Debordist situation.

7. Burroughs and Derridaist reading

“Language is impossible,” says Sontag. In a sense, an abundance of narratives concerning the bridge between class and culture exist. If patriarchial theory holds, we have to choose between Derridaist reading and neotextual capitalist theory.

But Bataille uses the term ‘capitalist socialism’ to denote a precultural totality. In The Soft Machine, Burroughs examines the textual paradigm of context; in Port of Saints, although, he reiterates constructivist socialism.

Therefore, the characteristic theme of the works of Burroughs is the economy, and eventually the paradigm, of subsemantic society. Scuglia[14] implies that we have to choose between the textual paradigm of context and textual situationism.

But if Marxist capitalism holds, the works of Gibson are modernistic. Sargeant[15] suggests that we have to choose between Derridaist reading and the structural paradigm of discourse.

8. Capitalist socialism and subdialectic theory

If one examines the textual paradigm of context, one is faced with a choice: either reject capitalist socialism or conclude that the purpose of the participant is social comment, but only if reality is equal to language. Therefore, the subject is contextualised into a constructivist paradigm of consensus that includes art as a reality. If capitalist socialism holds, we have to choose between subdialectic theory and postdialectic nihilism.

But in Neuromancer, Gibson deconstructs capitalist narrative; in Count Zero, however, he examines capitalist socialism. Baudrillard suggests the use of subcultural textual theory to challenge class divisions.

In a sense, the subject is interpolated into a that includes reality as a paradox. Finnis[16] implies that we have to choose between capitalist socialism and Debordist image.

9. Gibson and the textual paradigm of context

In the works of Gibson, a predominant concept is the distinction between without and within. But Marx promotes the use of capitalist socialism to read consciousness. Foucault uses the term ‘the textual paradigm of context’ to denote the role of the artist as observer.

However, Bataille suggests the use of textual capitalism to attack hierarchy. Capitalist socialism states that narrative comes from communication.

In a sense, the main theme of McElwaine’s[17] essay on the textual paradigm of discourse is the paradigm of subdialectic class. If subdialectic theory holds, we have to choose between capitalist socialism and Lyotardist narrative.

Thus, Debord promotes the use of subdialectic theory to modify and deconstruct sexual identity. The subject is contextualised into a that includes truth as a reality.

10. Contexts of futility

“Society is part of the dialectic of consciousness,” says Sontag. But any number of sublimations concerning cultural pretextual theory may be revealed. Lacan suggests the use of subdialectic theory to attack class divisions.

It could be said that Dietrich[18] holds that we have to choose between dialectic narrative and the neopatriarchial paradigm of consensus. Lyotard promotes the use of the textual paradigm of context to modify class.

Therefore, several theories concerning the role of the reader as participant exist. The subject is interpolated into a that includes narrativity as a paradox.


1. Finnis, P. S. P. (1995) Neopatriarchial Desublimations: Capitalist socialism, rationalism and dialectic libertarianism. University of California Press

2. la Fournier, S. ed. (1981) Capitalist socialism and the textual paradigm of context. Schlangekraft

3. Sargeant, D. U. H. (1990) The Paradigm of Discourse: The textual paradigm of context in the works of Tarantino. Loompanics

4. Drucker, S. C. ed. (1975) The textual paradigm of context and capitalist socialism. Schlangekraft

5. Reicher, E. N. C. (1994) Precultural Materialisms: Capitalist socialism and the textual paradigm of context. O’Reilly & Associates

6. d’Erlette, L. S. ed. (1973) The textual paradigm of context and capitalist socialism. Yale University Press

7. Abian, Z. (1981) The Broken Sea: The textual paradigm of context in the works of Burroughs. University of Oregon Press

8. d’Erlette, B. K. S. ed. (1995) Capitalist socialism and the textual paradigm of context. Cambridge University Press

9. Dietrich, J. (1983) Capitalist Theories: Predialectic Marxism, capitalist socialism and rationalism. Panic Button Books

10. de Selby, E. N. V. ed. (1998) Capitalist socialism in the works of Lynch. University of Illinois Press

11. Pickett, S. (1986) Consensuses of Economy: The textual paradigm of context and capitalist socialism. Panic Button Books

12. Buxton, B. Y. ed. (1973) Rationalism, neotextual construction and capitalist socialism. O’Reilly & Associates

13. Buxton, L. (1988) The Stasis of Narrative: Capitalist socialism and the textual paradigm of context. Oxford University Press

14. Scuglia, A. K. I. ed. (1993) Capitalist socialism in the works of Gibson. Panic Button Books

15. Sargeant, B. (1974) The Absurdity of Class: The textual paradigm of context and capitalist socialism. Yale University Press

16. Finnis, A. S. W. ed. (1985) The neocapitalist paradigm of discourse, rationalism and capitalist socialism. Schlangekraft

17. McElwaine, S. (1972) Postdialectic Deconstructions: Capitalist socialism in the works of Cage. O’Reilly & Associates

18. Dietrich, K. I. ed. (1990) Capitalist socialism in the works of Smith. Loompanics

A Short History of Government Bailouts

July 7, 2009 at 12:22 | Posted in bail out, economics | Leave a comment

I would think that ProPublica can hardly be accused of being a nest of crazy economists on the Vienna Express to nowhere, so I thought their little history of government bailouts would be of some interest.

 

History of U.S. Gov’t Bailouts

Updated: April 15, 2009 12:02 pm EDT

With the flurry of recent government bailouts, we decided to try to put them in perspective. The circles below represent the size of U.S. government bailout, calculated in 2008 dollars. They are also in chronological order. Our chart focuses on U.S. government bailouts of U.S. corporations (and one city). We have not included instances where the U.S. government aided other nations.

Check out how the Treasury did in the end after initial government outlays. Also, check out our ultimate bailout guide. We’re tracking every taxpayer dollar, every recipient and every program in the current financial crisis. All searchable – and translated into English.

Want to receive an e-mail alert when we publish public data and documents on ProPublica? Sign up here.

2008 – Bear Stearns – $30 billion
Click bubble for more info

Industry/Corporation
Year
What Happened
Cost in 2008 U.S. Dollars


Penn Central Railroad
1970
In May 1970, Penn Central Railroad, then on the verge of bankruptcy, appealed to the Federal Reserve for aid on the grounds that it provided crucial national defense transportation services. The Nixon administration and the Federal Reserve supported providing financial assistance to Penn Central, but Congress refused to adopt the measure. Penn Central declared bankruptcy on June 21, 1970, which freed the corporation from its commercial paper obligations. To counteract the devastating ripple effects to the money market, the Federal Reserve Board told commercial banks it would provide the reserves needed to allow them to meet the credit needs of their customers. (What happened after the bailout?)
$3.2 billion


Lockheed
1971
In August 1971, Congress passed the Emergency Loan Guarantee Act, which could provide funds to any major business enterprise in crisis. Lockheed was the first recipient. Its failure would have meant significant job loss in California, a loss to the GNP and an impact on national defense. (What happened after the bailout?)
$1.4 billion


Franklin National Bank
1974
In the first five months of 1974 the bank lost $63.6 million. The Federal Reserve stepped in with a loan of $1.75 billion. (What happened after the bailout?)
$7.8 billion


New York City
1975
During the 1970s, New York City became over-extended and entered a period of financial crisis. In 1975 President Ford signed the New York City Seasonal Financing Act, which released $2.3 billion in loans to the city. (What happened after the bailout?)
$9.4 billion


Chrysler
1980
In 1979 Chrysler suffered a loss of $1.1 billion. That year the corporation requested aid from the government. In 1980 the Chrysler Loan Guarantee Act was passed, which provided $1.5 billion in loans to rescue Chrysler from insolvency. In addition, the government’s aid was to be matched by U.S. and foreign banks. (What happened after the bailout?)
$4.0 billion


Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company
1984
Then the nation’s eighth largest bank, Continental Illinois had suffered significant losses after purchasing $1 billion in energy loans from the failed Penn Square Bank of Oklahoma. The FDIC and Federal Reserve devised a plan to rescue the bank that included replacing the bank’s top executives. (What happened after the bailout?)
$9.5 billion


Savings & Loan
1989
After the widespread failure of savings and loan institutions, President George H. W. Bush signed and Congress enacted the Financial Institutions Reform Recovery and Enforcement Act in 1989. (What happened after the bailout?)
$293.3 billion


Airline Industry
2001
The terrorist attacks of September 11 crippled an already financially troubled industry. To bail out the airlines, President Bush signed into law the Air Transportation Safety and Stabilization Act, which compensated airlines for the mandatory grounding of aircraft after the attacks. The act released $5 billion in compensation and an additional $10 billion in loan guarantees or other federal credit instruments. (What happened after the bailout?)
$18.6 billion


Bear Stearns
2008
JP Morgan Chase and the federal government bailed out Bear Stearns when the financial giant neared collapse. JP Morgan purchased Bear Stearns for $236 million; the Federal Reserve provided a $30 billion credit line to ensure the sale could move forward.
$30 billion


Fannie Mae / Freddie Mac
2008
On Sep. 7, 2008, Fannie and Freddie were essentially nationalized: placed under the conservatorship of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Under the terms of the rescue, the Treasury has invested billions to cover the companies’ losses. Initially, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson put a ceiling of $100 billion for investments in each company. In February, Tim Geithner raised it to $200 billion. The money was authorized by the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008.
$400 billion


American International Group (A.I.G.)
2008
On four separate occasions, the government has offered aid to AIG to keep it from collapsing, rising from an initial $85 billion credit line from the Federal Reserve to a combined $180 billion effort between the Treasury ($70 billion) and Fed ($110 billion). ($40 billion of the Treasury’s commitment is also included in the TARP total.)
$180 billion


Auto Industry
2008
In late September 2008, Congress approved a more than $630 billion spending bill, which included a measure for $25 billion in loans to the auto industry. These low-interest loans are intended to aid the industry in its push to build more fuel-efficient, environmentally-friendly vehicles. The Detroit 3 — General Motors, Ford and Chrysler — will be the primary beneficiaries.
$25 billion


Troubled Asset Relief Program
2008
In October 2008, Congress passed the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, which authorized the Treasury Department to spend $700 billion to combat the financial crisis. Treasury has been doling out the money via an alphabet soup of different programs. Here’s our running tally of companies getting TARP funds.
$700 billion


Citigroup
2008
Citigroup received a $25 billion investment through the TARP in October and another $20 billion in November. (That $45 billion is also included in the TARP total.) Additional aid has come in the form of government guarantees to limit losses from a $301 billion pool of toxic assets. In addition to the Treasury’s $5 billion commitment, the FDIC has committed $10 billion and the Federal Reserve up to about $220 billion.
$280 billion


Bank of America
2009
Bank of America has received $45 billion through the TARP, which includes $10 billion originally meant for Merrill Lynch. (That $45 billion is also included in the TARP total.) In addition, the government has made guarantees to limit losses from a $118 billion pool of troubled assets. In addition to the Treasury’s $7.5 billion commitment, the FDIC has committed $2.5 billion and the Federal Reserve up to $87.2 billion.
$142.2 billion

====

Now for the real fun, check out their summary of ‘results":

What Happens After a U.S. Gov’t Bailout?

September 25, 2008 4:56 p.m. EDT

With the flurry of recent bailouts, we decided to look beyond initial government outlays to see how the Treasury did in the end. The summaries that follow leave final judgment to you, in part because it’s difficult to nail down exact profit or loss. Moreover, no one can say what might have happened without government intervention. Our chart focuses on U.S. government bailouts of U.S. corporations. We have not included United States government aiding other nations. Figures reflect 2008 constant dollars.

To read a history of U.S. government bailouts, click here or on the year of each bailout.

Want to receive an e-mail alert when we publish public data and documents on ProPublica? Sign up here.

Industry/Corporation
Start of Bailout
After the Bailout, What Happened?

Penn Central Railroad
1970
In 1971, the government provided $676.3 million in loan guarantees (What’s this?A statutory commitment by the federal government to pay part or all of a loan’s principal and interest to a lender or the holder of a security in case the borrower defaults. The Federal Credit Reform Act of 1990 requires that the cost of guaranteed loans be included in the computation of budget authority and outlays. The congressional budget resolution includes loan guarantee totals. (Parliamentary Outreach Program, U.S. House of Representatives)). In 1976, the federal government consolidated the still struggling Penn Central with five other railroad companies that were also failing to form Consolidated Rail, or Conrail. The government spent $19.7 billion, including roughly $7.7 billion for the initial investment, to keep Conrail operating. By 1981, Conrail began to earn a profit. The government sold Conrail in 1987 for $3.1 billion. In addition to the sale price, the Treasury received a $579 million dividend from Conrail.

Lockheed
1971
By 1977, Lockheed had paid off its loans, and its dependency on the federal loan guarantees came to an end. The government earned about $112.22 million in loan fees.

Franklin National Bank
1974
As the story behind Franklin National’s failure unfolded, evidence emerged of corruption and shady business practices among the bank’s executives — several were eventually convicted. With the need for further intervention apparent, the FDIC stepped in as receiver that same year and sold Franklin National’s104 branches and other assets to European American Bank. By 1981 the FDIC had sold Franklin assets worth about $5.1 billion. The agency was still owed another $185.3 million in interest.

New York City
1975
Until 1986, the government continued using loan guarantees and direct loans to support the fiscally-troubled city. All the loans, loan premiums and fees have since been repaid.

Chrysler
1980
By 1983, seven years earlier than the scheduled deadline, Chrysler had paid back its loan with the aid of the guarantees from the U.S. government. The corporation bought back the 14.4 million stock warrants (What’s this?)A security entitling the holder to buy a proportionate amount of stock at some specified future date at a specified price, usually one higher than current market. This "warrant" is then traded as a security, the price of which reflects the value of the underlying stock. Warrants are usually issued as a "sweetener" bundled with another class of security to enhance the marketability of the latter. Warrants are like call options, but with much longer time spans — sometimes years. (Washington Post) given to the government in exchange for the loan guarantee. Because Chrysler’s finances had improved and its stock had bounced back — it reported $1.7 billion in profits for the second quarter of 1984 — the government netted a profit of more than $660 million from its bailout investment.

Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company
1984
It took the FDIC seven years to completely divest itself of Continental Illinois — the bailout plan had given the government 80 percent ownership over the bank — through the gradual sale of its share holdings. By 1991, Continental Illinois had been returned to the private sector, but the FDIC had suffered a $1.8 billion loss. Three years later BankAmerica Corp. acquired the bank.

Savings & Loan
1989
The Financial Institutions Reform Recovery and Enforcement Act authorized $293.8 billion dollars to finance the folding of numerous failed S&Ls. The final tab for the bailout was roughly $220.32 billion. Of that total, taxpayers were responsible for about $178.56 billion; the private sector covered the rest.

Airline Industry
2001
The Chrysler and airline bailout plans had a commonality: stock warrants. A provision inserted into the ATSS Act, which allowed the Treasury to purchase stock at below-market prices from any airline receiving a loan guarantee, allowed the Treasury to earn money. Reports varied on the total net profit, ranging from $141.7 million to $327 million. The loan guarantee program suffered one loss of about $23.2 million when ATA Airlines filed for bankruptcy protection.

Would you pledge your soul as loan collateral?

July 6, 2009 at 02:03 | Posted in Humor, Religion | Leave a comment

 Fri Jul 3, 11:53 AM

RIGA (Reuters) – Ready to give your soul for a loan in these difficult economic times? In Latvia, where the crisis has raged more than in the rest of the European Union, you can.

Such a deal is being offered by the Kontora loan company, whose public face is Viktor Mirosiichenko, 34.

Clients have to sign a contract, with the words "Agreement" in bold letters at the top. The client agrees to the collateral, "that is, my immortal soul."

Mirosiichenko said his company would not employ debt collectors to get its money back if people refused to repay, and promised no physical violence. Signatories only have to give their first name and do not show any documents.

"If they don’t give it back, what can you do? They won’t have a soul, that’s all," he told Reuters in a basement office, with one desk, a computer and three chairs.

Wearing sunglasses, a black suit and a white shirt with the words "Kontora" (office) emblazoned on it, he reaches into his pocket and lays out a sheaf of notes on the table to show that the business is serious and not a joke.

Latvia has been the EU nation worst hit by economic crisis.

Unemployment is soaring and banks have sharply reduced their lending, meaning that small companies offering easy loans in small amounts have become more popular.

Mirosiichenko said his company was basically trusting people to repay the small amounts they borrowed, which has so far been up to 250 lats ($500) for between 1 and 90 days at a hefty interest rate.

He said about 200 people had taken out loans over the two months the business was in operation.

(Reporting by Patrick Lannin; Editing by Steve Addison)

Source 

The really funny story is, however, that close to 90% of people on a yahoo poll said they would NOT sign this contract:

image

Close to 90% of these people actually believe they have a soul? Or are at least some of them simply kind-hearted folks who feel it is unfair to agree to such a contract?

And – what is the legal situation for an atheist here?

What they won’t tell you about the Iranian Election on CNN

July 4, 2009 at 20:11 | Posted in Iran | Leave a comment

 

The War Nerd comes from the same stable as Taibbi – the now defunct and on-line only Exile(d), which once was probably the most scurrile and frustrating weekly paper ever published anywhere. The War Nerd was one of those columns you simply had to read – even if you didn’t want to, if only because its creator takes a deliciously dark-humour approach to all things military and revolutionary.

Enjoy.

War Nerd: Iran’s Cedar Show, A.K.A. Don’t Get Excited, the Protestors Are Just Letting Off Some Steam

By Gary Brecher

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It took me a while to figure out why everybody was nagging me to do a column on the Iranian elections. Everybody seemed to think it was all mysterious and world-shaking. Finally I realized, you’re all het up because every news service in the US and England has been selling these riots like a new Star Wars episode, and people are just trying to figure out what’s going on and what it all means.

Well, I can answer that in one note: nothing much is going on, just letting off steam; and what little is happening isn’t mysterious at all. Basically, this is simple steam release, something the Mullahs have to allow now and then when the kids, and there are a lot of young adults in Iran, need to remind everybody they’re tired of being bossed around. There’s a huge, huge difference between that kind of “revolution” and the kind that has a real foundation in tribal differences or religion or city/country, the real fault lines. What’s going on in Iran now is a lot like the big fizzle in Lebanon after Hariri’s assassination in 2005. So if y’all will permit me to digress, let me take you back to the Cedar Revolution that supposedly “gripped” Lebanon. All that really happened was that some of the few Christian/Sunni elite Lebanese kids who hadn’t emigrated yet got so pissed off at the Syrians for just blowing Hariri away in broad daylight that they came out and waved the Lebanese flag–the one with the Cedar tree on it. Well, you’d have thought the Berlin Wall had fallen all over again. The same Anglo news networks that are declaring an outbreak of democracy in Iran now were screaming into microphones all over Lebanon, just so touched by these rich Christian/”Phoenician” Lebanese kids announcing that no durn Hezbollah Iranian-puppet thugs were gonna repress their craving for freedom…and discos, and wearing about a quart of perfume, and all the other accessories that go with what they call a Western orientation in the Middle East.

These are the kind of people Anglo news crews glom onto like horny refrigerator magnets: young, well-dressed, a lot of them speak English, and they talk about nice familiar stuff like “freedom” and “democracy.” They make great TV. But they can’t win a war. You win wars with poor people, numbers and toughness and discipline. Hezbollah proved it had the numbers by producing counter-demos with a million people cheering the Syrians and asking Allah to zap the West and Democracy and that Cedar Tree. If democracy means “we got more people with us than you do,” that should’ve proved Hezbollah beat the Cedar All-Stars, but that story never came out much. Hezbollah’s demonstrators weren’t the kind of people the BBC or CNN really felt comfortable around. It’s hard for a Western news crew to relax with a huge crowd of agitated lower-class Shia. Their way of making a point is by getting bloody, showing off wounds and cuts and shaving nicks, whatever they’ve got. Nobody at CNN wants that to be the future; nobody wants to go to commercial with a bunch of shrieking Shia mothers like hysterical Hefty Bags proudly saying they hope their 14 or so sons become martyrs, and the sooner the better. No, what you want for an upbeat TV story is a bunch of taller, skinnier, paler, English-speaking rich kids.

Which brings us to Iran. Iranians aren’t Arab, but they are Shia, and excitable. Keep that in mind. Different countries explode at different temperatures. There are places where yelling is a declaration of war. If a Norwegian raises his voice, Hell is about to break loose. If a Canadian yells at you, get a restraining order. But Iranians will scream at each other over how to cook an egg, and be all chummy and laughing the next minute. They used to keep that hysterical side in control with opium–the whole country was on the pipe until the sixties–but it’s harder to get now, so they just keep yelling.

So when Iran has a national election, it’s going to be loud. People are going to yell in the streets, people are going to shoot guns off, sometimes in the general direction of the opposition, and anybody who gets hit is going to tweet his bloodstains, youtube his bulletholes, and send it all over the world.

And if the people doing the demonstrating are mostly that same Cedar-Rev demographic: rich young city kids–then duh, they’re also the ones who are going to be web-savvy tweet freaks. In fact, Iran has probably the biggest dissident blog network in the world. I don’t read Farsi–I wish I did–but I read this pretty decent book, I Am Iran, about the anti-mullah blog scene there. Check it out if you want a better idea of who the opposition is, the people flooding the streets in Tehran. They’re sick of it, which is easy to understand; living in the Islamic Republic of Iran must be a lot like going to a Catholic school where you never, ever graduate, where kissing is a felony and not wearing the uniform is a crime against God. Hell yes, they’re sick of it, and they have every right to be.

But, to get coldblooded about it, so what? They’re not going to overthrow the state. I don’t usually like that word, “the state,” but I’m using it here because it works better than “Ahmedinajad.” He’s the official bad guy here, the classic bigmouth runt who wants Israel turned into a gravel pit and America turned into a colony of Venezuela. Hell, he’s all kinds of obnoxious, down to the ratty beard and beady eyes and the way he dresses like a hungover Soviet janitor.

But he’s not the Islamic Republic of Iran.

He’s only the president. The way the Iranian government is put together, the Prez is more like a noisemaker, official annoyer-of-the-Anglos, than a decider. Way, way above him is the “Supreme Leader,” sort of an Ayatollah version of the Pope, Khomeini’s official successors. Right now the Supreme Leader is Ali Khamenei. He doesn’t talk to the press, or make official trips to hug Chavez. He just sits there in his big black turban and says “No” every time somebody asks for a little relaxation of all this pious crap. He’s seen’em come and go, these reformer types; he crushed Rafsanjani, Khatami, anybody who even suggested that the way Khomeini laid it down in 1979 might not be good enough for all eternity.

See, that’s the pattern I’m talking about: the people who matter in Iran won’t talk to foreign news crews, and the people who will, the ones in the streets right now…well, they may be brave, noble people, but they don’t have a chance in Hell.

That’s because the IRI government is a bunch of rival militias, intelligence agencies, and religious committees. There’s even a legislature, although nobody takes that seriously. If you remember the way the Iranian side was organized in the Iran/Iraq war, you might have a better idea how the people at the top like things to run: always with rival forces competing for power. That’s because Khomeini was thinking coups in 1979. So alongside the regular Army he set up the Revolutionary Guards, hardcore jihadis loyal to the Supreme Leader, not the Army Brass. To make sure the Revolutionary Guards weren’t vulnerable to a sudden decapitation by the army or anyone else, their cadres were placed with every agency, like Islamist commissars, and they set up militias in every city in Iran.

You get the same thing in any new militarized state, even tiny Hellholes like Duvalier’s Haiti, with the Ton=ton Macoutes balancing the army, bypassing the official channels so they could kill at Duvalier’s command.

Cops With Guns

Then there’s the Basij, a million or so amateur thugs who do what the Revolutionary guards tell them to do. When you see cop types firing into demonstrating crowds in footage from Tehran, it’s usually the Basij. The hottest hate of all right now is between the city kids, sick to death of being whacked around by Shia nuns, and the Basij, a bunch of redneck bigots with guns and clubs. That’s not to take away the amazing suicide courage they showed when they fought the Iraqis. I mean, the Pasdaran elite used the poor Basij suckers as human landmine detonators: “Here, go walk across that field for us please. You can’t lose; either Allah welcomes you to Paradise or you live and get to do it again!”.

Lots of people are brave, after all. Most young male humans are brave, when they’ve got a gang leading them on and backing them up. The Basij are brave and so are the kids marching in the Tehran streets. Like a lot of people in the same tribe who hate each other, they’ve probably got more in common than they wanna think about right now, starting with that whole martyrdom thing the Shias get off on. The Basij died like flies in the minefields, and the demonstrators are on twitter right now showing off their bloody wounds. Iranian to the core, both of them.

But they don’t feel a lot of common ground right now. There’s what you might call a culture clash between these pious thug dudes and the city people, the marchers and tweeters and bloggers. If you want an idea how snotty this kind of Iranian feels about the other kind, read that woman’s comic book (whoops, you’re supposed to call them “graphic novels”) Persepolis. There’s her and her high-school friends slipping Iron Maiden LPs under their chadors.

Kind of a sixties thing, kind of a hippie thing, if Kent State was happening ten times a day. But then Iranians are tough, brave people; you couldn’t scare them with just one Kent State. The problem is, not that many people were actually willing to die for the hippies. They all grew up and went into real estate.

That kind of divide doesn’t cut deep enough to make a war. Even those Lebanese Cedar Revolution camera hogs had a real ethnic/religious grudge, but from what I’ve been reading about Iranian election demographics, the divide between rioters and loyalists is pretty damn blurry. Here’s a link to the best of the articles I’ve found on the way the elections break down in class, ethnic, regional, and age terms. I warn you though, it’s written by a professor, and they train those bastards to write as bad as possible. It’s worth checking out, though, if you can slap yourself awake.

https://netfiles.uiuc.edu/esfahani/www/IndexFiles/Esfahani-Resume.pdf

He takes 45 pages to say that Ahmedinajad won in 2005 because he was the ‘populist’ candidate, meaning he promised to bring the oil money home to ordinary people, instead of opening it up for a scary free-market scenario. It wasn’t an ethnic divide; it can’t be, in Iran, because the ethnic Persians are way bigger and stronger than the other groups (Kurds, Azeri, Arab) put together. Kurds barely even vote–their rate is 20% lower than Persians’, just like “minorities” here. The people who back Ahmedinajad are mostly Persian, and so are the protestors who want him gone. You can’t even call it a city/country divide, which I’ve been tempted to do, because according to this Iranian professor Ahmedinajad got a big vote in the cities as well as the villages. The only dividing lines he can find are pretty shallow ones, like hippie/straight back in the day: Ahmedinajad’s supporters have larger family sizes, and a cluster of other things that go along with conservative attitudes no matter where you are. And that’s about it; he says you can’t even claim that education levels matter much, because–and I love this bit:
The most visible impact of higher education is a sizable increase in the share of invalid ballots, implying that the educated are more likely to display their disenchantment with the system through invalid ballots than through non-participation.

That’s the key here, if you ask me. This isn’t a revolution, it’s a lot bummed-out, frustrated people wriing “Fuck You Goddamn Mullahs!” on their ballots in their best overeducated handwriting. They’ve got good reason to be pissed off–imagine being stuck in a giant Catholic school where girls have to wear black ghost sheets every day when you’re hitting 30–but it’s not the kind of fault-line that makes revolutions. What we’re seeing only looks big or historical for two reasons: one, it’s fuckin’ Persians, damn it, and they live large. They fight like this over whether rose-water ice cream is what Allah eats in Paradise or tastes like grandma’s cologne spilled on freezer scrapings (my vote, cuz I’ve tried the filthy stuff). Persians are like that amp in Spinal Tap: they go to eleven. And on the Persian scale, this is a two or a three, fun for a while but no biggie.

The other reason this seems big is that a lot of people on our side of the world have been waiting a long, long time to see Ahmedinajad take a big fall. They’re hyperventilating just thinking about what a great movie this is, with the people rising up to send the loud-talking shrimp back to midget wrestling. They’re so desperate they’re putting cellphone videos on the nightly news, desperate for some sign that Iran’s having its democracy rapture.

It ain’t gonna happen. Hell, for all I know Ahmedinajad actually did win the election. I admit it’s kinda weird how they counted almost 40 million paper ballots in a few hours, but who knows? Maybe they hire a better class of precinct worker there, math teachers or something.

Even if he fell, the IRI, the real system, would barely wobble. The President is a mouthpiece; the real power is purposely divided up by a half dozen creepy Islamic gangs that never talk to the BBC or CNN. All of them are seriously armed; they’re mixed up in everything from religious seminars to land deals; they’re sleazy but smart, a bunch of mean old survivors.

So the yelling will die down, the daredevils will get laid, if you can get laid in an Islamic Republic, by showing off their riot scars, and da regime, if you want to call it that, will let the pressure ease, release a little steam. If things get serious, and I doubt they will, somebody will take the big fall for Allah and the team. It might be Ahmedinajad, even. But there are about a million guys like him waiting for their chance to step up. The IRI will last a long time, whether the BBC or CNN face that fact or not.

It’s good discipline for a war nerd, facing depressing fact like that, reminding yourself that these people, whoever you’re looking at, don’t want what you want, don’t think like you do. Me, I thought the Shah was pretty cool, with those F-14s and trying to revive the great days of the real Persians, before Islam dulled them down. (And by the way, the Pagan Persia/Islamic Iran thing is still a sore point: on the government soap operas, the bad guys always have old-Persian names like Darius and the heroes are always something totally Arab/Quranic like Mohammed. Then there’s the Nowruz traditions, jumping over a crypto-Zoroastrian fire, also very cool and very frowned-on by the Islamic hicks.)

The point is, the Iranians disagreed with me: they kicked the Shah’s ass out, set him adrift with his cancer and picked Khomeini, who to us looks like Dracula’s mean uncle. To them, that freakin’ nosferatu was comfort food for the soul. I can’t see it; if there was a poster of that old demon on my bedroom wall I’d sleep with a garlic necklace and a shotgun. But they got their own world. Some of them may be pissed off with the mullahs, but what if some of them like it? I don’t know, CNN doesn’t know–and for every dissident blogger or tweeter they interview, there might be ten silent-majority types wanting those damn hippies in the streets of Tehran gassed.

Imagine the other way around; imagine Iranian Islamic tv covering, say, a classic culture-war US election like Nixon in 1972. You’d see Persians in expensive turbans blanket-covering every demonstration, every love-in (well, maybe not those so much), every draft-card burning…and then the US government announces that Nixon just stomped McGovern in the biggest landslide ever. Who’d believe it? That is, unless you knew that for every loud camera-hog hippie you saw on tv there were about a hundred fat nobodies wishing Kent State was a daily event.

Until those Ahmedinajad silent-majority hicks start tweeting, we’ll never have a clue what they think. And like Nixon’s people, or Forrest’s dragoons, they’re not really the Twitter type.

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