Archive for January 25th, 2012

The breadth of the corporate state

| January 25, 2012 | Reply
The breadth of the corporate state

Chris Hedges explains that the corporate state has not merely confiscated our political system. It stretches much further into our lives. See the following video starting at minute 5:30, where Hedges explains that affected systems include communication, education and culture. In fact, there is an assault upon liberal institutions that once made meaningful political reform possible, such as labor unions and our great universities, the latter of which are oftentimes run as corporate entities uninterested in teaching the humanities and extolling an artificially narrow analytic view of what it means to be “intelligent.” What modern education excels at is training up systems managers who strive to be hyper-deferential to authority. Modern education no longer strives to teach students how to think, but rather what to think. Hedges has a “dark” view of what’s going on, essentially that the corporate state is “harvesting” what is left to be had of America “on the way out the door.” (min. 28:00). At this critical time, there is no mechanism for changing the system by way of voting–Hedges argues that there is no way, in light of the corporate loyalties of Barack Obama, to vote against Goldman Sachs in the upcoming presidential election, which is using tax money to re-inflate the bubble before the next crash. Lawrence Lessig prefers to use all of our resources for reforming the system, “even if there is zero chance of success.” Both men are big supporters of the Occupy movement.

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Media Warning

| January 25, 2012 | 16 Replies

Free Press handed out these decals about five years ago. The warning is as relevant as ever.

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How long would it take Mitt to earn YOUR salary?

| January 25, 2012 | 1 Reply
How long would it take Mitt to earn YOUR salary?

How long would it take Mitt to earn your salary? Visit this article to Slate and find out.

President Obama earns $400,000 per year. It would take Mitt less than a week to earn that much money.

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Jobs, Jobs, Jobs.

| January 25, 2012 | Reply
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs.

There is only one thing the President should talk about in his State of the Union and that is Jobs. If we look at what President Obama inherited, the GW Bush administration had eight years of private sector job losses and only had a net job increase due to government hiring

The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that private sector employment decreased by 673,000 over the eight years of GW Bush, while public sector employment increased. Total jobs created under the eight years of the GW Bush administration totaled 1.08 million. Ironically, increased public sector employment allowed for the Bush administration to not be the first to have net negative employment over its term since Herbert Hoover.
Total private sector jobs created since 2010 by the Obama administration number over 2 million (more than the total for the eight years of George W. Bush). President Obama has cut public sector employment by over 357,000 since taking office.

President Obama’s initial 2012 budget, despite yowling from the right that he never submitted any for a vote in 2011, was rejected in the US Senate at the same time as the Senate rejected the US House Budget plan drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan, (R-WI).

But, the US House Budget plan passed through the House on an almost party-line vote and supported by all the GOP Senators was projected to cost as many as 800,000 jobs and a 2% decrease in GDP in 2012.

The next jobs effort of the Republicans was to foment a false debt ceiling “crisis” which if the US had defaulted on its debt would have been catastrophic in causing a 5% GDP drop in 2012 and a loss of some one third of the value of US equities.

[More . . . ]

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What is randomness?

| January 25, 2012 | Reply
What is randomness?

Radiolab’s show on “Stochasticity” offers entertaining examples to explain the concept of randomness.   The story starts with the example of a 10 year old girl named “Laura Buxton” who released a balloon with a message: “Return this balloon to Laura Buxton.”    The girl who received the balloon when it came down many miles away was another 10 year old girl named “Laura Buxton.”  There were many other coincidences between the two Laura Buxtons.

Contrary to the assumptions of most people, randomness involves results that look like patterns.  What about getting seven heads in a row? If you were only flipping the coin seven times, this can happen only one time out of 100, but if you get seven heads in a row somewhere in the process of flipping a coin 100 times, you can expect this to happen one time out of six, not improbable.

Another example is the case of Evelyn Adams, who one the lottery twice in two consecutive years. If you look only at whether this will happen twice with the purchase of two tickets, it would only happen once in 17 trillion times. If you consider the entire universe of people who buy lottery tickets, the question becomes “what are the odds that somebody somewhere will win the lottery twice?” The answer to that question is that it would be surprising if that didn’t happen repeatedly, and it has happened repeatedly (listen to minute 17 of the show).

The lesson? (at minute 19) “If you don’t see past yourself [to look at the big picture], you become prey to superstition.”

In the case of the Laura Buxtons, the story becomes much more interesting when we focus only on the similarities of the two girls and downplay the many many things they don’t have in common.   But of course, listing their dissimilarities would not have been a good story, yet we prefer to believe in “magic”  (see min 20).

See also, this post on patternicity.

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More options = more difficult choosing

| January 25, 2012 | 1 Reply
More options = more difficult choosing

Psycho-economist Sheena Lyengar tells us that the average grocery store today offers 45,000 types of products. The average Walmart offers 100,000. The ninth biggest retailer in the world, however, is Aldi, which offers only 1,400 products. Aldi’s successful business model circumvents “choice overload.”

Less is more when it comes to choosing because more choices result in choice overload. In employee financial investment plans, more offerings means less participation.

She recommends that we take a bit of time to think about the consequences of our choices in a vivid way to stay on target. Another technique is to order the complexity of our choices so that we start with simpler easier choices to ease into complex projects.   These strategies are worth considering, since the average person makes 70 choices every day.  Most people could use help “managing their choices.”

There is quite a bit of overlap in this topic with the work of Barry Schwartz, who presented on the “paradox of choice.”

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Financial Advisors under the microscope

| January 25, 2012 | 1 Reply
Financial Advisors under the microscope

I recently finished reading Dan Solin’s The Smartest Portfolio You’ll Ever Own (2011), half of which is a damning indictment of most financial advisers. Solin makes a convincing case that those brokers who claim that they can pick stocks or time the market are selling unadulterated snake oil. In fact, avoid all of the following:

Buying individual stocks or bonds.
Actively managed mutual funds
Alternative investments
Variable annuities
Equity indexed annuities
Private equity deals
Principal-protected notes
Currency trading, and
Commodities trading.

Instead, Solin recommends the slow and steady historically documented growth associated with passively managed broad market index funds including many of the low-fee passively managed funds offered by Vanguard. Solin has ample shocking facts and figures to back up his claims and indictments, and he continues the attack on false claims and hidden fees here.

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