Rat Flood

Rat FloodIn Chapter Eight of Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, Don Federico is an exterminator obsessed with destroying all rats, because he blames himself for allowing rats to eat his baby sister alive. So I decided to look on my phone to see if rats have ever been known to eat humans. They aren’t. Occasionally, they will bite sleeping people. This is probably because they are trying to eat food particles off people. Rats don’t see humans — or any creature — as prey. Rats will eat just about anything, but brown rats are known to prefer a diet much like mine. Favorite foods: “scrambled eggs, macaroni and cheese, and cooked corn kernels.” Least favorite foods: “raw beets, peaches, and raw celery.” But I doubt they were ever offered my excellent peach pie. They are also known to like chocolate.

But all this research brought me to the story of the rat flood — once thought to be a mythical periodical deluge of rats in eastern India. From time to time, the rats would just be everywhere and eat everything. Well, not everything. They didn’t eat the humans. But they might as well have, because it decimated the food crops and stores and caused a famine during those years. And then, just like Keyser Söze: poof, they’re gone. Scientists and political authorities didn’t think it was real, because hey, peasants. But it not only was real, it is.

This happens every 48 years. The Indian states of Mizoram and Manipur are roughly 30% covered in bamboo forest. It has a 48 year ecological cycle called the Mautam. So after the bamboo flowers, it dies and releases all its seeds. Rats like the bamboo seeds and suddenly, they are swimming in them. So they don’t have to spend a bunch of time finding food, so they eat and do that other evolutionarily important behavior: have sex. What’s more, studies indicate that female fertility goes up as does the litter size. Suddenly, eastern India is overflowing with rats.

Of course, it doesn’t matter at this time. The rats have their food supply and they are doing just dandy. It is the following year when there are huge numbers of rats and no more bamboo seeds. So they “head into town” and eat the food of the humans. And there isn’t a lot that the humans can do. This is why it is referred to as the “rat flood.” We have records of this happening in 1862, 1911, 1959, and 2006.

The people of these regions are getting better at dealing with the problem. In 2006, the Indian government sent in the army to help out. They used little bitty guns. No, just kidding. They were there mostly to provide education on how to deal with the coming hordes. Interestingly, as I mentioned above, rats have different food tastes. And there are things they really don’t like. Apparently, they don’t like the smells of turmeric and ginger.

In addition to being a human tragedy — although one we could eliminate if we wanted to with a simple application of resources — it is also a rat tragedy. Because of the excessive food supply, the following year is necessarily a famine of unheard of proportions. And there is really nothing that can be done to stop it. God really is evil.

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The Folly of Cherry Picking New Economic Ideas

Paul KrugmanBut while European policy makers may have imagined that they were showing a praiseworthy openness to new economic ideas, the economists they chose to listen to were those telling them what they wanted to hear. They sought justifications for the harsh policies they were determined, for political and ideological reasons, to impose on debtor nations; they lionized economists, like Harvard’s Alberto Alesina, Carmen Reinhart, and Kenneth Rogoff, who seemed to offer that justification. As it turned out, however, all that exciting new research was deeply flawed, one way or another.

And while new ideas were crashing and burning, that old-time economics was going from strength to strength. Some readers may recall that there was much scoffing at predictions from Keynesian economists, myself included, that interest rates would stay low despite huge budget deficits; that inflation would remain subdued despite huge bond purchases by the Fed; that sharp cuts in government spending, far from unleashing a confidence-driven boom in private spending, would cause private spending to fall further. But all these predictions came true.

The point is that it’s wrong to claim, as many do, that policy failed because economic theory didn’t provide the guidance policy makers needed. In reality, theory provided excellent guidance, if only policy makers had been willing to listen. Unfortunately, they weren’t…

But back to the question of new ideas and their role in policy. It’s hard to argue against new ideas in general. In recent years, however, innovative economic ideas, far from helping to provide a solution, have been part of the problem. We would have been far better off if we had stuck to that old-time macroeconomics, which is looking better than ever.

—Paul Krugman
That Old-Time Economics

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Our Political System, Not Hillary, Is the Problem

Hillary ClintonMatt Taibbi wrote a very good rant on Thursday, Campaign 2016: Hillary Clinton’s Fake Populism Is a Hit. But I’m not sure he’s quite right to write off Clinton as a fake populist. I think the arguments against her could have been levied against FDR. Now I’m not saying that Clinton will actually turn against her class once she is president. In fact, I don’t think she will. She seems to be a total neoliberal, and if she wins the presidency, she will be the third New Democratic president we’ve had in a row. And sadly, in as much as the American voter notices, it doesn’t seem to care.

The real problem is buried in one thing that Taibbi focused on: the carried interest loophole — that bit of the tax code that allows people literally making billions of dollars to pay only a 15% tax rate. He commented facetiously, “Raise your hand if you really think that Hillary Clinton is going to repeal the carried interest tax break.” Anyone raising their hand it a complete idiot. As he noted, Obama promised to get rid of this loophole in 2008. And 2012. Yet the loophole has been around for thirty years. It ain’t going nowhere.

Matt TaibbiAnd the reason is clear as day. There are rich people who benefit greatly from this loophole. Some of them give massive amounts of money to the Republicans and some give massive amounts of money to the Democrats. And no national politician is going to forego that money that benefits them directly to do something that would be good and fair for the country as a whole. Now if the electorate stands up and demands something be done, it will be. Or if the electorate stands up and demands that we get money out of politics, it will be done. But otherwise: forget about it.

I’m tired of hearing about the “invisible primary.” Why don’t we just call it what it is: the money primary. The mainstream media is so corrupt that they define a “viable” candidate to be one that is able to raise a lot of money. But here is something that is almost never mention: money doesn’t matter that much in the general election. Jonathan Bernstein recently wrote, “Believe it or not, general-election presidential campaigns are where political spending matters the least.” So we’ve been sold this bill of goods about the importance of money. But all that does is give people with a lot of money that much more influence over our politics. Thank you, neutral press corps!

Just the same, I don’t agree with Taibbi’s larger point. I don’t mind Clinton’s pandering. The fact that she is reciting a “medley of Elizabeth Warren’s greatest stump hits” is a good thing. As Ezra Klein has written a lot about in the past, what politicians say really does matter. The fact that she is talking in a more populist way doesn’t mean she will get rid of carried interest loophole. (And even if she wanted to, I’m not sure Congress would go along.) But it does mean she is more likely to be somewhat more populist and somewhat less neoliberal than she would have been had she won in 2008. The problem is the system, not Hillary Clinton.

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TPP Could Create 4,000+ Minimum Wage Jobs

Timothy B. LeeTimothy B Lee over at Vox yesterday, wrote a very neutral discussion of TPP, The Trans-Pacific Partnership Is Great for Elites. Is It Good for Anyone Else? And it is still a blood bath. The answer is: no. It is not good for anyone else. Let’s just discuss the one positive section in Lee’s article, “Trade Liberalization Has Modest but Real Benefits.” According to an estimate by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, in a decade, the TPP will add a half a percent to our GDP. Now that is down there in the noise — literally so if you look at the variation of GDP after subtracting the trend line.

But we don’t even need to think about the size of this. After all, a half percent of GDP would come out to roughly $77 billion in 2025. That’s still a lot of money. That would represent decent paying jobs for a million American workers. The problem is that the $77 billion is not going to go to workers. We’ll be lucky to get a hundred thousand minimum wage jobs out of this. In fact, let’s take a nice little statistic from our friend Bernie Sanders:

Bernie Sanders' Questions

That first statistic is stunning. It comes from a Brookings Institution speech back in February, “In fact, the latest information that we have shows that in recent years, over 99 percent of all new income generated in the economy has gone to the top 1 percent.” The fact-checker at The Washington Post had a bit of a problem with it, but it was mostly along the usual lines where liberals have to be found wanting, so the complaint is that not everyone agrees with the study cited. Check out the whole article — most especially including Sanders’ response.

Let’s assume that the $77 billion will be similarly partitioned. That means, the top 1% will get $76.23 billion and the bottom 99% will get $77 million. Now we know that isn’t reasonable. Most likely, the top 10% will get it all and then some, while the bottom 90% actually fall further behind. But let’s just suppose that the $77 million will go to minimum wage workers. The current minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Assuming a 2% inflation rate, the minimum wage would be $8.83 in 2025. This too is a joke, of course; the minimum wage is worth a dollar less than it was in 1956. But I’m being generous. Let’s assume $8.83. That’s a full time salary of $17,675 per year. That’s a big ol’ 4,356 new minimum wage jobs — or approximately 200 more McDonald’s franchises.

I’ve written about this subject before, No Trade Deals Until Our Economy Is Fixed. The fact is that I don’t care if the TPP is going to add $77 trillion to our economy. Until our economy is set up to share the fruits of our labors and our resources, it doesn’t matter. I’m not buying.

But as Lee’s article points out again and again, the TPP is not even about trade. It is about allowing the power elite to take an even bigger slice out of the economic pie. It’s about increasing the prices that we all pay for drugs and entertainment. And that extra cost will not go to employing more researchers and comedy writers. It will go to corporations to better exploit their rents. And the sad thing is that I don’t see much in the way of Democratic resistance to this. A nuclear deal with Iran — well them’s fightin’ words for Congressional Democrats. But funneling even more money to the rich? That’s just the American way! Am I right, Chuck?!

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Morning Music: Fahd Ballan

Fahd BallanFahd Ballan was a Syrian folk singer. I don’t know much about him, except that he was extremely popular in his day — both as a singer and as an actor (although I can find no record of his acting). He worked with the great Arabic composer and musician Farid al-Atrash in Egypt.

The following song is more or less, “Girls of Mukalla.” According to As’ad AbuKhalil, “In Arab folklore, the women of Mukallah are reputed to be most beautiful.” And the song has the lyrics, “Oh, the girls of Mukalla. You are the cure of every ill” — a typical sentiment in popular music everywhere, it would seem. Regardless, what he’s singing about, it is a very pleasant song:

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Anniversary Post: David Ricardo

David RicardoOn this day in 1772, the economist David Ricardo was born. In Mark Blyth’s book, Austerity: the History of a Dangerous Idea, he does not come off at all well. But why would he? He was writing 200 years ago. The problem with Ricardo and Smith and Locke is not that they have relatively little to tell us about the modern economy; the problem is that there are so many people who want to follow them for ideological reasons.

Let us consider the idea of Ricardian equivalence. It’s an interesting idea. According to it, the government spending money on stimulus won’t work. This is because, according to the theory, the extra money that the government spends will have to be paid off at a later time in extra taxes. The people know this and so reduce their spending by however much the government increases its spending. It’s a very clever idea. It’s also wrong.

Did World War II happen, or not? The military buildup in anticipation of war got the United States out of the depression. So it is a cool idea that if people were perfectly rational computers, extra government spending mightn’t do any good. But we have World War II and countless other examples of how government deficit spending does indeed stimulate the economy.

But let’s just assume for a moment that Ricardian equivalence actually did work. It most certainly wouldn’t work the way that I’ve heard many conservatives claim that it does. Let’s suppose that the government spends $100 to stimulate the economy. According to the theory, the people would reduce their spending by a total of $100. But the $100 that the government spends will be spend right now (or close enough). The extra taxes to pay for that spending will be spread out over many years or even decades. So if we assume that the tax liability will be spread out over a decade, the government would spend $100 that first year and it would be partially offset by reduced private sector spending of $10 — not $100. Thus, there would indeed be a $90 stimulus that year.

So let’s all just admit that David Ricardo was a smart guy. And the people today who think that he was right are total idiots who are ideologically driven to find any justification for their preferred policies — which are to screw the worker and help the rich.

Happy birthday David Ricardo!

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Education “Reform”: Destroy Education, Replace It With Job Training

Gabriel AranaEven though my background and training are in the sciences, most of my friends are more humanities kinds of people. That’s probably because science for me is just one interest. It is not dominant. If I had to choose science or literature, I’d probably pick literature. But it bugs me that pretty much no college graduate I know took calculus in college. The reason is because calculus is college level math. But because our educational system is so very bad at teaching math, that the whole system has been adjusted so that people get out of college taking just a semester of algebra or statistics. And that’s sad because math is as varied and wondrous as English literature. These students lose out.

So I am actually a big believer is education standards. At the same time, I’m totally against Common Core. The reason is that it gets education backwards. It starts with the test and moves back to the education. Education shouldn’t be a second thought. When it is, it becomes a distorted simulacrum of real education. And I think this is one of the primary reasons why mathematics education is so bad. Things like multiplication tables are very easy to test for. Long division is very easy to test for. Equation solving is very easy to test for. There’s just one problem: none of those things have much to do with math.

What the proponents of Common Core, and education “reform” generally, want to do is to make all forms of learning systematized the same way math has been. This is why schools are pushing children to forego reading stories and instead read nonfiction. Education isn’t supposed to be fun; it is supposed to be for turning our children into adults who will be able to get good jobs. I come back again and again to this quote by Jonathan Kozol[1]:

The best reason to give a child a good school… is so that child will have a happy childhood, and not so that it will help IBM in competing with Sony… There is something ethically embarrassing about resting a national agenda on the basis of sheer greed.

Back in September of last year, Gabriel Arana wrote, Common Core’s Political Fiasco: How It United the Left and Right Against It. It’s actually kind of disturbing because the only reason that conservatives are against Common Core is because Obama is the president. If it were Mitt Romney or John McCain in the White House, they would have no problem with it. Liberals are against it because they are against standardized tests. (Or if you asked Jonathan Chait, they are against it because they care about teachers unions more than the kids. He knows because his wife told him so.) The fact that there isn’t much actual policy behind what conservatives want is not surprising, but it makes me worry about the future.

What I found most interesting about the article is the makeup of the group that created the Common Core standards:

[T]he 27-member committee that wrote the standards had few actual teachers on it, but plenty of representatives from the testing industry. Because it is illegal for the US Department of Education to exert influence over state curriculums, the Bill Gates foundation stepped in and funded most of the effort.

So it was developed by a billionaire businessman and some millionaire businessmen. In other words, it was just what Jonathan Kozol was talking about, helping “IBM in competing with Sony.” These are not honest actors. These are people with a very clear ax to grind. Yet most of the reporting on it (typically by upper-middle and upper class journalists like Chait) portrays these people as just looking out for the kids while those awful teachers only care about their salaries.

At best, the Common Core ends with educated cogs going into the modern assembly lines that I discussed this morning. And the result of that will be adults who hate and fear both math and reading. And after coming home from their soul crushing jobs, they won’t be capable of doing more than plopping down on the couch and watching the new season of Dancing With the Stars. I have seen the future of the human race: a boot stamping on a televised dance floor — forever.


[1] This is a quote from an interview in The Progressive, 1 December 1991. The complete quote is not online for free. I am searching for the full quote. All I have is, “The best reason to give a child a good school with a teacher who is confident…”

H/T: Diane Ravitch

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Israel as Proxy in US Middle East Control

David MiznerTo examine American policy in the Middle East is to reveal the rationality of US support for Israel. A proxy state, Israel aids America’s longstanding effort to control the world by controlling oil.

A 1945 State Department memo pointed out that Saudi “oil resources constitute a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the great material prizes in world history.” That same year, President Roosevelt — who had established a close bond with Saudi Arabia — wrote to King Ibn Saud, assuring him that the US would take no hostile action against Arab nations and would not back the formation of a Jewish state without first consulting him.

Roosevelt died a week later, and his replacement, Harry Truman, was also reluctant to side squarely with the Zionist cause. But in 1947 — here it seems AIPAC’s forbearers had an impact — Truman supported a UN partition plan that called for the creation of a majority Jewish state covering 56.47% of “Mandatory Palestinian.” Truman faced dissent from the State Department, which feared that such a stance would threaten the country’s core interests…

So the American interest in controlling the Middle East’s economic resources — and preventing other countries from doing so — was clear; unclear was whether American support for a Jewish state served that interest.

Resistance to Zionism in the US political establishment began to melt away with Israel’s victory — and land grab — in 1948. Its strength impressed officials like Air Force Chief of Staff Hoyt Vandenberg, who wrote in a memo that “the power balance in the Near and Middle East has been radically altered,” and that Israel “has demonstrated by force of arms its right to be considered the military power next after Turkey.” He concluded that “as the result of its support to Israel, the United States might now gain strategic advantages from the new political situation.”

Still, US government support was relatively tempered — it gave its ally virtually no military assistance in the fifties — until Israel’s next big military victory, in 1967. Arab nationalism — particularly in the form of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser — threatened American hegemony in the region, as did the Soviet Union, which backed Egypt and Syria in the war. By defeating a coalition led by Egypt, Israel performed a valuable service for the United States (and for Saudi Arabia, which was fighting a proxy war against Egypt in Yemen.)

It’s widely accepted that the Six-Day War birthed the special relationship between Israel and the United States. No less significant, however, was Black September — the 1970–71 civil war in Jordan, which became another proxy battle in the Cold War. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger would call it “a test of our capacity to control events in the region.”

—David Mizner
It’s Not Just the Lobby

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The Nature of California’s Water Problems

Michael HiltzikI was out in the front yard earlier today pulling weeds. Really, the place is starting to look like an abandoned house. And given how often I leave the house, there is something to that. Never leaving is not much different from never coming. But it is remarkable that there is so much growth going on when there is so little water. I’m been worried about the water situation here in California since I was in seventh grade when we had a big drought. Not that I minded it at the time — it meant that I didn’t have to get naked in front of a bunch of boys to shower after PE. But ever since then, I’ve seen California is always on the verge of turning into a desert.

My concern only got worse when I went to graduate school and shared an office with another student who was doing work that showed in a warmer world, California was going to get much drier. And now California is experiencing its worst doubt on record. It used to be that in my hometown of Santa Rosa, the average annual rainfall was about 30 inches, but the new normal seems to be around 20 inches. In the 2013 calendar year, we got less than 5 inches of rain. This season (which is effectively over), we’ve gotten 21 inches — and that’s only because of a deluge of almost 13 inches we got in the middle of December. Historically, we got almost 6 inches of rain in January — this year, we got 0.02 inches. We should get over 5 inches in February, we got under 3. March should bring three and a half inches, we got 0.13. It’s very bad.

So what are we going to do about it? The first thing we need to recognize is that our current drought is not due to misbehavior by California farms and residents. This, my friends, is global warming. According to a recent Pew Research poll, only 37% of Republicans even think there is solid evidence that the earth is warming. That’s not “human caused warming” — that’s any warming at all. And only 25% of them think it is a major threat to the United States. This is with almost 27% of the country living in California, Texas, and Florida. But the numbers are not much better overall. Less than half of all Americans (48%) think that global warming is a problem.

I imagine someone with a cut on her leg. It’s not a big deal — she ignores it. But it gets red and somewhat inflamed. It’s a problem, but it isn’t notably worse than it was the day before. Soon, it is clearly festering — but only slightly more than the day before. And so on and so on until no one can stand the smell of it. She goes to the hospital and they have to amputate her leg. Global warming is like that. It isn’t going to be suddenly hotter one day. And as a result, charlatans like Fred Singer can go around saying global warming isn’t real, just as he said that second hand smoke didn’t cause cancer.

Last week, the always insightful and generally brilliant Michael Hiltzik wrote, The Wrong Way to Think About California Water. He noted an amazing statistic: here in California, we use 38 billion gallons of water every day. So any time you hear about millions of gallons of water being wasted, bear that in mind. He also countered a common claim, “It takes four gallons of water to grow one almond.” That’s true, but that’s also over the course of four years. And almonds are actually not that water intensive a crop. If we are concerned about agriculture, we should think about meat.

Kyle Kim, Jon Schleuss and Priya Krishnakumar put together an amazing interacting info-graphic that shows how much water it takes to put food on your plate. A half pound of oranges takes 20 gallons of water. A half pound of rice takes a 130 gallons of water. (Note: rice is farmed very efficiently!) A half pound of potatoes takes just 124 gallons of water. But chicken? That’s 133 gallons. Pork? That’s 330 gallons. Beef? That’s a staggering 850 gallons of water!

Living in wine country, I’ve long thought that the vineyards used a lot of water. But that’s not true. An 8 ounce glass of wine requires only 28 gallons of water. Compare that to an 8 ounce glass of milk, which requires 44 gallons. In fact, wine is more efficient than apple, orange , pineapple juice. It is also slightly more efficient than a pint of beer. But the news is not all good: chickpeas (which I’ve been going crazy with in my recent obsession with falafel and hummus) require almost 610 gallons for every 8 ounces.

Hiltzik’s article is based upon work by Ellen Hanak at the Public Policy Institute of California. And it is focused on ways to improve the water market here in California — so that water is used in the most efficient way. This is classic free market environmentalism. And it is something I very much believe in. We are never going to fix our environmental problems by whining at people to act responsibly. So you would think that these kinds of ideas would appeal to conservatives. But they generally don’t. The truth is that existing businesses like things to stay the way that they are. And the conservative movement is only interested in maintaining the status quo. They will do nothing long past the point of no return. But hopefully, California will continue to make necessary reforms and accelerate them.

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Learning the Wrong Lessons from Modern Times

Dan PontefractLeave it to a business “guru” to ruin and totally misunderstand a great movie. Yesterday, while doing a Google search to go along with my article for Charlie Chaplin’s birthday, I came upon an article by Dan Pontefract, What CIOs Can Learn From Charlie Chaplin’s Film Modern Times. And really, I don’t want to rag on guy too much. He seems nice enough. I mean, he’s trying to use one of my favorite films to teach IT professionals how to do their jobs better. That’s preferable to telling them to read, Think and Grow Rich. But it is nonetheless true that he doesn’t understand the film.

Let’s start with this description, “Sheep metaphorically make way for humans, as the workers emerge from the subway en route to ‘the factory.'” The sheep don’t “make way” for the humans. The sheep dissolve into the humans. The point is clear: the humans are sheep. The modern world has turned individuals into an unthinking collective. This may be something that is hard for modern people to comprehend. But in 1936, there was still a living memory of a different kind of life. Our Town was written in 1937 and told the story of such a time. One of the biggest problems facing our society today is that no one remembers things being any different. And that is most of all true of Pontefract who doesn’t think about getting rid of the assembly line, but rather tinkering with it so that it works better.

Pontefract also seems confused about the technology in Modern Times. He refers to the “new technology the workers are getting used to.” But this isn’t the case at all. The little tramp — like the other workers — is extremely good at his job. The problems start when he acts like a human to stretch or brush an insect away. The whole point here is that workers have been turned into mere extensions of the business system. Indeed, one of the best moments of this first two reels is when the tramp clocks out to go to the bathroom. And even there — off the clock — he is given no peace.

So what exactly are CIOs supposed to get out of Modern Times? Unfortunately, Pontefract doesn’t write in English; he uses business-speak. For example:

If we look to Charlie Chaplin and Modern Times for inspiration, the CIO ought not to look at their role as a “technology-only” function. A CIO and her team ought to think of themselves as a partner in the behavioral change requirements organizations desperately need to become and remain competitive in tomorrow’s future.

What this seems to mean is companies should encourage their employees to be better sheep and then give them the right technology to be the best sheep that they can be. But the CIO (as Pontefract labels him) in Modern Times would completely agree. The system is perfect! If only the little tramp didn’t take time to yawn! As it is, the CIO dismisses the idea of the feeding machine because it isn’t practical — it doesn’t conform to the needs of the worker.

Modern TimesBut I accept the fundamental point: in the film, humans are forced to conform to technology. But all Pontefract is offering is that we reverse the order of priority on the assembly line. He still sees humans as mere cogs in the business system. And worse, he wants to treat them as automatons that can be tinkered with to increase productivity so organizations can “remain competitive in tomorrow’s future.” This is all that Frederick Winslow Taylor was doing, and he too took into account the abilities and limitations of the human machine.

I think that the sheep metaphor is wrong. The workers filing into the factory at the beginning of Modern Times are not sheep; they are beaten dogs. The true sheep are people like Dan Pontefract and so many other people I’ve worked with over the years. They are eager to follow the lead of other sheep, offering up the newest catch phrases like, “Behavioral change” and “Copy Exactly!” They are not broken. They are eager to follow everyone else into “tomorrow’s future,” which to no worker’s surprise is just like yesterday’s future.


See Also: Unstable Weirdos and Business Success.

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Morning Music: Talking Heads

Remain in Light - Talking HeadsWhen I was younger, I was mad about Talking Heads. They put out a fine debut album, Talking Heads 77. They followed it up with three albums, each better than the one before: More Songs About Buildings and Food, Fear of Music, and Remain in Light. When Speaking in Tongues came out, it was so disappointing. How could it not be? Even if it had been as good any of the three previous albums, it would have been disappointing. And it wasn’t nearly as good as any of those albums. And then it just got embarrassing: Little Creatures. It would have been embarrassing coming from Madness.

But it is great that we have those three albums. And recently, I’ve noticed that there is video of Talking Heads during their “Remain in Light” tour. So here is “Crosseyed and Painless” from a performance in Rome. What a great band!

The whole Live in Rome concert is available on YouTube.

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Anniversary Post: Daffy Duck

Daffy DuckOn this day in 1937, the first appearance of Daffy Duck was made in the Looney Tunes short, “Porky’s Duck Hunt.” In those early shorts, Daffy is a much more likable character. He’s kind of like Bugs Bunny, but absolutely insane. He’s also a lot more like a real duck. I find him quite charming. And this sets up a long collaboration with Porky Pig. Although in subsequent shorts they are more friends or, as was more true later on, Daffy was often trying to con the trusting Porky. My favorite is “Fool Coverage” where Daffy sells Porky accident insurance that will pay a million dollars, “Provided the accident occurs as the result of a stampede of wild elephants in your own living room, on the Fourth of July — of any year — between the hours of 3:55 and 4:00 pm, during a hailstorm.” Which of course is exactly what happens.

Anyway, here is the short that started it all:

There is a middle period where Daffy is still kind of duck like, and still mostly insane. “Yankee Doodle Daffy” is a good example of it:

Later, the portrayal of Daffy Duck turned very meta — with Daffy constantly jealous of Bugs Bunny. These are still quite good, but I don’t really like the two characters being pitted against each other. It doesn’t show either of them in the best light. My favorite later Daffy Duck cartoon is “Duck Amuck” where he is all alone. Or is he?

Happy birthday Daffy Duck!

See Also

Joe Miller Joke Book
Bugs: Rabbit or Hare? (One of my favorite articles!)

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