Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


Today I took half a bottle of crappy Merlot I had hanging around, grabbed my guitar and took the dogs in a tow and headed to the park. I sat by the river and played and singed and screamed. And I wrote a song about the protests in Wisconsin. I really don't know why I caught this fervor. Intellectually, I know why unions can be a Bad Idea and how when you assume a perfectly competitive market they meddle with the efficiency of the market etc etc...but when I see the videos of the protests I see ordinary people fighting together fiercely for themselves, their families and for each other. And I could not not be moved.

If I feel brave enough I might just record it later.


I know the world's not black or white
but that won't stop me from telling wrong from right
I'm not in a union but I gotta choose sides
between the fat cats and labor it's not hard to decide

So I'll stand with the teachers stand with the firemen stand with the nurses
stand with the common man...I'm going to Wisconsin (x4)

When we join our hands it's about more than bread
It's about dignity, it's how we hold our heads
We're in the depth of winter but no matter the weather
we'll stay warm if we stay together

So preach it to your father preach it to your mother
preach it with your sisters and your brothers...I'm going to Wisconsin (x4)

(spoken)I'm not really going to Wisconsin...I'm all the way in Taiwan. But
I'm sending you crazy cheeseheads all the love like the world sends you pizza from Ian's. And in the end we're all one world and one people. Where
ever you are...please do what you what you can...go take a stand!

So find them on Twitter
friend them on facebook
Like them on youtube
do what ever you can do

Open your eyes, we'll never be free
unless we stand in solidarity
Doesn't matter if it's Egypt or USA
You gotta stand up if you've got something to say

I say, go, go, Ohio
Minnesota I love you too
SEIU, keep doing what you do

I'll stand with you if you stand with me
we'll stand together set the whole world free (x3)

I'm sayin' UNION (x4)

go to Wisconsin...don't let the tea partiers have all the fun...go to them how a peaceful protest is done...go to's the first battle now the war has begun...go to Wisconsin...please stay strong until our rights have been won.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Behind the LOLs: Ireland forced to take EU bailout

This piece on the Irish bailout is very close to my heart.

Why? First of all, we explained the Irish banking crisis with leprechauns and Riverdancers. Illustrating economics and international relations with crude national stereotypes is an NMA specialty. But the real reason is because I got to slip in a reference to Father Ted, my favorite television sitcom of all time.

I love how many of the youtube commenters are mad about the broad use of "Oirish" stereotypes, yet there is simultaneously suspicion from others that this piece isn't "really" made in Taiwan because the specificity of the cultural references, especially the one to Father Ted. Seriously, we live in a globalized world, people! Folks move around and cultural products move around...there's nothing inauthentic about it.

Anyhow. Father Ted. Best show ever. Every episode is gold. But the clip linked below, which contains the relevant reference to the animated piece, is as good a place to start as any:

The talented Mr. Battlepanda (also a big fan of Father Ted) contributed a fine portrait of Father Jack for the occasion.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Hu-Obama Battle Rap

Hi guys. Long time no blog. See, I have been too busy over the past year bringing you the LOLs as a part of the NMA team.

But this is something I have to share with y'all on the ol' Battlepanda blog because being a blogger is how I first got interested in politics and started paying attention to economic issues and international affairs and all that good stuff. Without this blog, I would never have written...the Hu-Obama battle rap.

U.S.-China Currency Rap*
(By Angelica Oung, Richard Hazeldine, Emily Wu with music by Shen-Yi and Action Zero)

Hu/Obama: We're both superpower economies
caught up in a battle over monetary policy
Hu: For social stability, we've got to export
Obama: And we're sick of being the consumers of last resort.

Obama: Times are hard in the U.S.A.
Listen up Hu, I've got something to say.
Help us out, you know what I'm talking about,
the RMB's too low without a doubt.

Now I ain't sayin' you're a currency manipulator,
but you ain't lettin' the Yuan float...float.
Protectionism ain't cool it's understood;
an undervalued Yuan inflates the price of US goods.

My dogs in the IMF are on my side,
we'll wag our fingers 'til you do right.
Until then won't you get some sense,
and stop beating up on Nobel-winning dissidents.

Hu: Shut up fool, you spin ain't genuine,
if the RMB goes up, your exports still can't win!
From the Mao to the Deng to the Jiang to the Hu,
you think you can keep on telling us what to do?

And the Nobel Peace Prize, ain't all that son,
even you've got one and what have you done?
Now the shit's gone down I'm gonna make it rain,
Norway, get ready for a smorgasbord of pain.

You're the one to blame for the great recession
so don't come round looking for concessions.
You're in no position to call me a sinner,
without Bretton Woods, you'd be Argentina!

NMA Anchor Girls: They're not enemies, but frenemies
with co-dependent economies.
For stability, China's gotta export,
and the US is the buyer of last resort.

Obama: That's right we're the world's reserve currency,
in times of uncertainty, they all want USDs.
So what if our fiscal picture's discombobulated?
The world's resources are dollar denominated.

And we paid with IOUs so if what you say is true
when the dollar crashes, what you gonna do?
And won't you learn to make toys without lead?
I bought your bargain kibbles and now Trixie's dead.

We're through with being polite!
We're getting ready for a fight!
Ma man Timmy G is gonna set you right.
*Go Timmy! Go Timmy! Go Timmy! Go Timmaaaaaaay!*

Hu: It's a trade war fool, forget your guns and rockets.
We've got it where it counts and that's money in our pockets.
Don't talk smack 'cos China's striking back.
We're gonna keep stacking those Wal-Mart racks.

Soon the Dollar will be out and the Yuan will be in.
Nothing will will stop the dollar's long-term downward trend.
But since for now employment is our top concern,
we'll keep the Yuan cheap until the economy turns.

Don't try to stop us, it ain't realistic.
Don't believe me? Read the statistic.
Capitalism is socialistic,
if you do it with Chinese characteristics.

NMA Anchor girls sing X3

*Some of the lyrics were slightly different in performance...I've given the lyrics as it was written.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sarah Palin animated

Sometimes...I love my job.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Incoherence of Republicans: Feature, not bug.

Don't try and appease the American people. Don't try and pander to their policy preferences. Don't try and guess at what direction they really want America to take deep in their hearts...because they, themselves do not know.

Jacob Weisburg of Slate makes the point rather harshly, but well.
Anybody who says you can't have it both ways clearly hasn't been spending much time reading opinion polls lately. One year ago, 59 percent of the American public liked the stimulus plan, according to Gallup. A few months later, with the economy still deeply mired in recession, a majority of the same size said Obama was spending too much money on it. There's nothing wrong with changing your mind, of course, but opinion polls over the last year reflect something altogether more troubling: a country that simultaneously demands and rejects action on unemployment, deficits, health care, climate change, and a whole host of other major problems. Sixty percent of Americans want stricter regulations of financial institutions. But nearly the same proportion says we're suffering from too much regulation on business. That kind of illogic—or, if you prefer, susceptibility to rhetorical manipulation—is what locks the status quo in place.

At the root of this kind of self-contradiction is our historical, nationally characterological ambivalence about government. We want Washington and the states to fix all of our problems now. At the same time, we want government to shrink, spend less, and reduce our taxes. We dislike government in the abstract: According to CNN, 67 percent of people favor balancing the budget even when the country is in a recession or a war, which is madness. But we love government in the particular: Even larger majorities oppose the kind of spending cuts that would reduce projected deficits, let alone eliminate them. Nearly half the public wants to cancel the Obama stimulus, and a strong majority doesn't want another round of it. But 80-plus percent of people want to extend unemployment benefits and to spend more money on roads and bridges. There's another term for that stuff: more stimulus spending.

With all this in the background, Weisburg warns ominously that the politicians who will thrive are those who can best "call for the impossible with a straight face." Like Scott Brown, the newly-minted senator of Massachusetts, someone who wants to call himself a deficit hawk while pushing tax cuts.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Rapping up the economy

This is too good not to post.

The economist who participated in the project is Russ Roberts of George Mason University. No prizes for guessing where his loyalties lie when it comes to the battle between Keynes and Hayek. Having said that, the video was just amazingly informative and funny and even-handed. Well done to all involved. Except I think Keynes would have liked some male hotties in his entourage as well.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Technostructure vs. the Techonomy

I just finished reading the New Industrial State by John Kenneth Galbraith. It's a book that manages to be dated and prescient at the same time. Unusually for an economist, Galbraith attempts to describe the world in a relatively unreduced fashion. t is inevitable that the economic landscape has changed much since Galbraith wrote The New Industrial State. But it's to his credit that he does not retreat into the comforting simplicity of widgetland. In fact, he is hilariously scathing in his attacks on the economists who choose to study the parts of reality that are amenable to being fitted to theoretical models while leaving out parts that might actually be rather important.

Classical economic theory holds that individual profit maximization results in optimal societal welfare as long as the state stands back and let the market do its thang. An interlocking wheel of assumptions is required to prove this happy state of affairs. Galbraith is very good at pointing out the places where the cogs of the wheels just don't fit.

Galbraith's description of what he calls "the technostructure" could not be more relevant in the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 08/09. We need a reminder that in our capitalist system, it is not actually the capital that is holding the reins of our corporations. Galbraith patiently explains with wit and verve what, really, any fool with eyes could see. It is the managers who are in charge of the companies and the boards of directors are their tools. Stockholder power is immensely dilute. The individual interests of the managers are frequently not aligned with the the well-being of the company in the long run. Given the power, they will maximize profit for themselves, not the company. Food for thought when considering executive compensation. He's also very good at describing the insidious phenomenon of government and big business aiding and abetting each other. He does this with a fairly value-neutral shrug of the shoulder.

But looking around in 2010, it's also clear that the technostructure is not the whole story. For instance, General Motors, which Galbraith repeatedly uses as the example of an industrial titan destined to expand ever onwards outwards like a benign tumor, would almost certainly have faced corporate death last year without a bailout from the taxpayer. While technology is a bigger story than ever, a important part of the story is coming not from the established titans with monolithic research and development departments, but upstarts like Google who are aggressively poaching on the turf of bigger players. Who knows how things may shake out in the future, but for the time being, it seems there is a decent amount of game-changing afoot. The other staggering change since Galbraith's day, of course, is the increasingly agressive globalization in goods and services. The technostructure still rules a good part of our lives. But nobody is completely immune to competitive forces.

David Kirkpatrick et. al. coined the term "techonomy" to describe the part of the economy that is continually driven by technical innovations and entrepreneurial zeal. They cast the techonomy (including companies/entities as diverse as Google and the Federal Reserve!) as part of the answer to humanity's problems. I'm not quite sure about that, but it does seem to be a good addition to the vocabulary. GlaxoSmithKlein, GM and NBC seems to me very much part of the technostructure -- gliding along on corporate powess for better or for worse. Google, Zappos and the now defunct, on the other hand, belongs to the techonomy.