Saturday, September 29, 2007

Ring, Ring

Hello China

This is the US calling. Have you heard about what's going on in Burma?

You have? Then why aren't you doing anything? Rumor has it that if the Burmese, I mean Myanmar generals were going to listen to anyone, it would be you.

Oh, you don't want to cause problems with you exports. We understand. But you know who you export a lot of cheap crap to? Us, and we've been having problems with you sending us poisoned pet food, toothpaste and lead painted toys.

Yeah, so we were thinking of putting some massive tariffs in place to pay for all the safety inspections we're about to perform on all the goods you send here.

Oh I know that Walmart would be pissed if we did that, but right now our people are pretty pissed off about their dead pets and about dead monks in Burma- I think they'd be cool with the tariffs.

So you're gonna talk to the Burmese generals and your going to institute your own safety inspections. Nice. Yeah, I think you can do the inspections more cheaply there than here. That way you don't have to pay for shipping twice when we send contaminated crap back.

Let me know how it goes with the Burma call.

(And that is how diplomacy works- not that our president would know).

Assumptions about power

A good friend once said to me "Economics is the math of self-fulfilling prophecies". Since she can't remember saying it (blames red wine) I am stealing it for myself.

Maybe a better way of explaining it is that economics is all about assuming that all actors start from a completely equal place and that all actors follow all the rules all the time.

Tell me, where in history have people ever actually acted like that? Can you? No, because people don't act like that and people don't start from the same equal playing field. There is no "law of gravity" when it comes to people's behavior.

In economics when exceptions start pilling up to disprove a theory (like "trade benefits everyone") instead of rethinking the theory economists will say "they weren't following the rules". But not following the rules is exactly what happens when power is concentrated. Look at any human system- be it politics, education, sex and relationships, employment, sports- anything where there is section of people with enough power (financial, physical, whatever) to alter the rules to their benefit- they will. Women live under the daily fear of rape from all men(when statistically is a small number of men who do most of the raping), employees (who massively outnumber employers) have little ability to alter their pay or benefits on their own, politicians are much more easy influenced by powerful lobbies than individual constituents, sports stars get away with rapes and murders- etc (but not with dog fighting- cause dogs have so much more social capital than women these days).

So a better way of saying "trade benefits everyone" is saying "trade benefits the more powerful actors in a situation". That is decidedly different from everyone.

I'll give you an example using corn- my favorite to pick on subsidized crop. We subsidize the hell out of corn, that's why in America everything is sweetened with corn syrup instead of sugar cane and why ethanol additives in gasoline are from corn products instead of some other plant. Under NAFTA we were going to start shipping out super subsidized (and therefore super cheap) corn to Mexico. Now Mexico is not a corn-free country. You might have had these things called corn tortillas- they come from Mexico, and tamales, also Mexico. For a good chunk of the population, corn is a staple food and a staple crop. But it is not subsidized by the Mexican government. Corn farmers in Mexico do not have a giant agri-business lobby. They are mostly small family farms, the kind we romanticize, but filled with brown people who speak Spanish instead of white people in Iowa.

So the Mexican government agreed to import the subsidized corn as long as the US agreed to pay tariffs on the corn for several years so that corn farmers in Mexico would have a chance to transition to some other form of employment. That's nice, a little band-aid for the family farms.

But that's not what happened. Instead Mexican ranchers that wanted cheap feed, tortilla factories and businesses that wanted to switch from locally produced, unsubsidized sugar cane to cheap corn sweeteners got the Mexican government to ignore the tariffs as soon as NAFTA went into effect. Mexican corn farmers were reduced to subsistence farming.

Now an economist would say- they weren't following the rules (either by subsidizing the corn in the first place or by ignoring the transition tariffs) except that is how most international trade agreements end up. Rules that are meant to protect those with less power are ignored while those with more power benefit. Actually, that phrase right there sums up our entire social structure.

There is an old joke about a chemist, an engineer and an economist stranded on a dessert island with one can of food. The chemist creates a solution that will open the metal of the can. The engineer builds a contraption open the can. The economist says "Assume there is a can opener".

By making assumptions of a perfect world in order to study economics, we are trying to open a can with an imaginary can opener. There are too many exceptions to economic rules. That is why "math of self-fulfilling prophecies" is so fitting. In math or any other branch of science, if your results didn't match up to your theories, a new theory would have to be created. In economics, when you results don't match up to your theories, you can simply discard the parts that don't fit by claiming they didn't follow the rules. Therefore all your theories will match your findings regardless of the actual outcome.

UPDATE: After thinking about it some more I really think it should be "Economics is the science of self-fulfilling prophecies" since economics is a social science and is supposed to follow the scientific method (you know, until you start throwing everything out because it didn't follow the rules).

Friday, September 28, 2007

Do you know what I do for a living?

Whenever I have computer problems (which is frequent- see below posting on Macs vs Pcs) and I complain about them to friends, you know, in the way that we complain about things that bug us, I ALWAYS get the same response "I have a boyfriend, husband, brother, son, other penis gifted person who can help you with that".

To which I answer "Do you know what I do for a living?"

On those occasions when I do actually need help fixing the frankenputer- I ask a tiny Japanese lesbian friend. (Hi Rain!)

So this cartoon just made me giggle

SHOCKING- I know! Girls use the internet! Girls understand technology! OMG they like high tech gadgets that do more than buzz when you turn them on. (Not to disparage the buzzy toys- I like those too). And they don't want to be harassed or condescended to. Who could have thunk it?

I have a big dirty secret

I run a mac lab, a lab full of Apple computers, and yet I am in no way, shape or form, a mac lover.

I am pleased as punch that because my lab is full of macs, my job rarely requires me to do any OS trouble shooting. But I have a PC at home and that ain't ever gonna change.

I hate alot of Apple products. I think Itunes blows giant chunks. I don't want it coming anywhere near my giant MP3 collection and turning files that will play on almost anything into files that only work on it's stupid program. I use Winamp instead. It's easy, doesn't require me to convert everything into a library before it will play it. I just right click on my PC and enqueue into playlist.

I don't own an Ipod. I have an Archos Gmini that I love love love. I just drag and drop files into it's music folder and tada- they play. It holds a charge for damn near forever (I think I last charged it for a few hours a week or so ago, maybe) and I can make playlists super quick on the device without sacrificing precious file space for a giant stupid program (hello Itunes- I'm talking to you!)

And now, proof that Apple isn't the shiny alternative to PC's that Mac freaks like to claim it is. The Iphone- that shiny piece of overpriced plastic that geeks lined up for (dumbasses) has been hacked to work on any GSM network. So Apple issues a software update for the phone that effectively kills all the phones that have been hacked.And this is all after Apple had to give 100 bucks back in credit to the early Iphone buyers to make up for the price dropping by 200 bucks just after its release-but that $100 credit can't be used at the Itunes store- you want content for your shiny new phone- you're gonna have to pay cash just like everybody else.

Nice. Makes me want to kick the dark haired geek boy from the "Hi I'm a Mac" commercials. But mostly it makes me feel really superior to those bright eyed Mac fanatics. Suckers.

UPDATE: Could I use the word shiny any more? Seriously, may be time for me to buy a fucking thesaurus.


I don't remember ever seeing Clinton get pissed off like this when he was prez. I feel a little flushed watching that. I think I may need a cold shower or a cold drink (righteous anger directed towards hypocrites and cowards does that to me)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

MMM tastes like bronchitis!

I got knocked on my ass by some evil flu bug. I am just chock full o' snot. Nice huh. I haven't had a bug like this since I was a perpetually dieting teenager. As a much younger version of myself, I lived on salads and water and 4 (yes 4) hours of exercise everyday.

And I got sick alot. I had bronchitis all the time and walking pneumonia a few times. I was always hacking up a lung. I came to know the difference between a cold and being really sick with bronchitis - it tastes different. And right now I taste like bronchitis.

So I went to hall my sorry ass down to the drugstore. It's less than half a mile. A short walk that I make everyday. But I could barely get out the door. Thank god for my neighbor, she pulled in just as I was walking out and drove me.

So I had to buy something with suddafed in it. Not just regular suddafed though cause suddafed all by itself will actually turn post nasal drip into something more bronchial. I needed a suddafed/ guifinasen (I don't know how to spell that- it's what Robitussin is made of)combo.

Pre- scary meth days, this was an easy task. Go to drugstore- peruse cold isle. Buy medicine. Now I had to spend 20 minutes getting my id checked, signing my life away on a broken computer pad and arguing with the overworked pharmacist when he tried to sell me the name brand version that was $13 more than the generic.

All while running a fever. Nice.

Do we really think that locking suddafed up behind pharmacy counters is stopping meth from being made? No. We're just making sick people grumpy.

That is all I got for now.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Trusted advocates

Deek: White people are so fucking racist!

Me: Fucking boys! Oh my god could they be any worse?

Both of us- talking over each other: Did you hear about the Jena6? What about the girl that was kept in a trailer and raped? She's going to jail for bouncing checks!

You know you are a trusted advocate when someone from an oppressed group (in case you hadn't noticed- Deek's a big black guy with fab locks and I have ovaries)feels comfortable enough with you to bitch about things your group has done to oppress them.

If they feel comfortable enough to talk in front of you then they usually aren't talking about you. If you get the squidgy feeling in the pit of your stomach that they might be talking about you- then examine yourself and your actions before you get defensive. In other words- shut up, listen, think about it- in that order.

I think I just threw up in my mouth a little

So I am taking macroeconomics for the THIRD time this quarter. No I have never failed this class. The only class I ever failed was typing/intro to computers a million years ago and now I type about 60 wpm and tutor people in ... Intro to computers. Maybe I should fail a language course so that 10 years from now I can be an interperter.

I am taking macroeconomics (again) because I keep having to drop the damn course because the ONLY professor who teaches it is such a misogynistic asswipe that I feel like I've run the gauntlet at Tailhook every time I leave his class.

Let's see, in the first 15 minutes of class today we heard a joke about a dumb blonde who couldn't do math and that women are secretly making more money than men. (Who knew? That whole 75 cents on the dollar things is a big freakin lie)


I know that part of my education means learning to sit through and get through classes with jerks. I'm usually pretty damn good about finding subtle ways of of changing right wing proffs opinions through my writing (Hello Dr. L! Thanks for using my papers to lecture from and for the kick ass recommendations you write). But this guy- he is not someone whose opinion can be influenced by a mere student, let alone a student with a set of ovaries (ovaries of steel mind you, but ovaries none the less).

So, what's a girl to do when I have to get through this class (required for my major) but I feel like I need a shower and a machine gun every time I leave it?

Next time

someone accuses me of being an irrational woman- I am so pulling out these quiz results.

What kind of extremist are you?
Your Result: Rational Person

You consider these questions obvious straw men, designed to distract people from a meaningful investigation of facts and a serious discussion of relevant political issues. How boring.

Left-Wing Extremist

Moderate Extremist

Right-Wing Extremist

What kind of extremist are you?
See All Our Quizzes

(I couldn't help but choose the rocket launcher answer even if the rational part of my brain was screaming NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!)

So I go away for a summer and....

The housing bubble bursts.

Totally predictable- the puppet heads on TV don't blame reckless lending practices or the lovely shell game of packaging mortgages so they look lower risk than they actually are, they blame poor people.

Poor people who want to own their own home. Poor people who are doing what they have been told to do all their lives. Work hard, save money, invest in a house because it's the safest, most useful place you can put your money. People who are following the American Dream line that has been force fed to us all. But it's those damn poor people who can't qualify for traditional mortgages that are responsible for the current mess.

Fuck that. If Alan Fucking-I love Ayn Rand- Magic Fixer of the Economy- Greenspan could not predict this bubble bursting- then neither could all those people who don't have fancy degrees in economics or haven't spent their entire careers analyzing how money works.

Though I will say this- all those talking puppet heads on TV may finally make it really clear to the rest of us that the American Dream of the white picket fence was never intended for everybody but it was intended to make us work our asses off and not blame the power elite when all that work doesn't pay off.

Than again, maybe we'll be too busy watching the latest edition of Dancing with the Stars to care.