TF: Tribulation baggers

TF: Tribulation baggers June 7, 2010

Tribulation Force, pp. 229-231

Before Left Behind there was Hal Lindsey. His 1970s best-sellers — The Late Great Planet Earth and There's a New World Coming — were just as big a publishing phenomenon, selling millions of copies even without the aid of distribution through the mainstream outlets like Walmart and Barnes & Noble that helped boost sales of the Left Behind series.

Lindsey, a former tugboat captain turned prophecy expert at Dallas Theological Seminary, popularized premillennial dispensationalism and its insistence that Daniel and Revelation laid out a prophetic check list for the very near future. Lindsey's particular prophecies haven't aged well over the passage of time that he hadn't expected to continue passing. The end of the Cold War, which formed the basis for many of his predictions, makes his books today seem like a relic. (The 1980's: Countdown to Armageddon is, like most books with "The 1980s" in the title, now out of print.)

But Lindsey's runaway best-sellers remain influential. The broad outlines of what many people now "know" about the book of Revelation and what it teaches tends to be what Hal Lindsey injected into American popular culture. His books provided the template that subsequent PMD prophets have followed. Lindsey's assumptions and presumptions and wild guesses were absorbed as conventional wisdom that came to shape the "prophecy scholarship" of those who followed him.

CoverMarketing01 Tim LaHaye wouldn't likely classify himself as one of those who followed Lindsey into the Bible prophecy business since he was, to an extent, preaching about this stuff before Lindsey's books made a splash. But LaHaye's first books on the subject — The Beginning of the End (1972) and Revelation: Illustrated and Made Plain (1973) — were both published after Lindsey's late, great best-seller as part of the effort to cash in on the phenomenon he had started. The various cover-designs shown here to the right illustrate how LaHaye's publishers once sought to capitalize on Lindsey's success, and how Lindsey's publishers are now returning the favor.

It's difficult for LaHaye or any other supposed prophecy expert to acknowledge Lindsey's influence because doing so would undermine their pretense of a blank-slate approach to the Bible. PMD "scholars" base their claims of authority on this pretense — on the claim that they're simply reading the Bible without any presuppositions and finding in its pages the clear outline of their End Times check lists. They can't admit to the shaping influence of Lindsey or Scofield or Darby because to do so would be to raise the suspicion that they carried that influence with them in their approach to the Bible, finding there only a reflection of what they had been seeking.

The late great planet earth (book) In Tim LaHaye's case, I think, it's legitimate for him to claim that his prophecy framework was not shaped mainly by the template provided by Hal Lindsey. LaHaye cannot be accused of turning to Revelation and twisting what he found there to fit the pre-existing mythology provided by Lindsey. What Tim LaHaye has done, instead, is turn to Revelation to twist what he found there to fit the pre-existing mythology provided by the John Birch Society. LaHaye's eisegesis was not shaped by the popular speculation of some tugboat captain or some Seventh Day Adventists from the 1800s. His eisegesis was instead shaped by the fantasies of right-wing, segregationist, anti-communist whackjobs from the 1950s.

The fear-driven conspiracy theories of the John Birch Society are central to Tim LaHaye's ideology. He is, he says proudly, a student of the Illuminati. His word. Michael Standaert explores LaHaye's Bircher roots in detail in Skipping Towards Armageddon: The Politics and Propaganda of Left Behind. Standaert highlights this quote from LaHaye's 1992 book, No Fear of the Storm, republished and repackaged post-Left Behind as Rapture Under Attack in 1998:

I myself have been a 45-year student of the satanically inspired, centuries-old conspiracy to use government, education and media to destroy every vestige of Christianity within our society and establish a new world order. Having read at least 50 books on the Illuminati, I am convinced that it exists.

As we discussed recently, those books on the Illuminati included the works of William Guy Carr, whom LaHaye seems to regard as an authority and not as a paranoid anti-Semitic nutjob (he was, in fact, very much the latter).

Tim LaHaye has got to be enjoying the resurgence in popularity and influence of his John Birch ideology, now marketing itself as the "tea party movement." The influence of this rebranded Bircherism can be seen, for example, in the newly adopted platform of the Republican Party of Maine — a relentlessly goofy document that includes, among its many strange and delirious provisions, a call to "Repeal and prohibit any participation in efforts to create a one world government."

That platform shows not just the unlikely vitality of Bircher conspiracy delusions, but also Tim LaHaye's particular influence in shaping and promoting this ideology. Reality provides no basis and no motivation for the Maine GOP's platform, but it was not drafted and ratified because of reality. It was drafted and ratified in opposition to the policies of Nicolae Carpathia.

The World's Worst Books outline this political agenda, but even more than that they supply and nurture the mentality that makes this agenda attractive. The tea partiers imagine themselves to be the Tribulation Force. It's members are engaged in an elaborate Live Action Role Playing fantasy in which they have cast themselves as the righteous remnant battling against the satanic forces bent on one-world government, one-world religion, one-world currency and the Mark of the Beast.

While LaHaye's popularity and influence have grown enormously over the past 40 years, Hal Lindsey's fame and influence seems to have shrunk. He has become something of a fringe figure even in the PMD prophecy world. His own "prophecy scholarship" has led him to more of a pre-occupation with Israel and an ever-adapting string of theories about its role in the prophetic schemes he imagines.

LaHaye, by contrast, has never been particularly pre-occupied with Israel. Of all the pop-prophets of PMD, he seems the least interested in the day-to-day drama of the Middle East. Compare his attention to Israel with the much more intense focus of, for example, John Hagee or Jack Van Impe. If you want to keep track of the search for a pure red heifer or of the latest cock-eyed plans for rebuilding the Temple, then you can turn to Hagee or Van Impe or Lindsey or any of the many other prophecy experts tracking that sort of thing. But if you want to know instead how health care reform or cap and trade is related to the new world order of the coming Antichrist, then you turn to Tim LaHaye.

For LaHaye, the obsessive tracking of the Antichrist's OWG has always served as a proxy for the OWG of the socialist menace warned of by the John Birch Society. Same sermon, slightly different text. The Darbyite mythology was mainly just a convenient vehicle for promoting the Bircherite mythology. And a very successful one, as evidenced by both the Maine Republican Party platform and those new orange-and-black-cover editions of Hal Lindsey's books.

Yet Lindsey's influence on that Darbyite template can still be seen in the pages of the Left Behind series. Nicolae Carpathia's evil agenda is primarily the nightmare scenario of the Birchers, but parts of it still come from Darby as filtered through Scofield as filtered again through Hal Lindsey.

Thus we come to Nicolae's plan for a single global currency. This is a bit of an afterthought in the Left Behind series, perhaps because it makes little sense. The less attention paid to this aspect of Nicolae's agenda the less pressure there is for LaHaye & Jenkins to concoct an explanation for why Nicolae would want such a thing.

Everybody knows, of course, that this has to happen because everybody knows that Revelation teaches that the Antichrist will control global commerce through a single currency and the Mark of the Beast. And by "everybody knows," I mean that Hal Lindsey said so. This was a big theme in The Late Great Planet Earth. It's thanks to Lindsey's book that many Americans have an enduring fear of UPC labels and PayPal accounts. The Georgia legislature's recent consideration of a bill to "prohibit requiring a person to be implanted with a microchip" can be traced directly to the influence of Hal Lindsey's warnings about the Mark of the Beast.

(The link there goes to reporter Jim Galloway's description of the painful spectacle of a hearing on Georgia's bill which, as he says, "becomes much less funny when a truly tortured soul bears her torment." Read Galloway's entire post, then re-read that Republican Party platform from Maine. Both, in precisely the same way, would be very funny if they were fictional. But because both are actual true stories they are instead, in precisely the same way, heartbreaking and tragic.)

Thus we come to today's passage in which Buck — still on the phone with Steve Plank — learns that the Lindsey agenda is still on track. We first get another two pages in which Buck repeatedly insists — contrary to his behavior thus far in these books — that he is a principled journalist who cannot be swayed by perks, prestige or personal favors to cover or not cover a particular story. Steve, who was involved in the negotiations of at least two such quid-pro-quo arrangements by Buck so far, isn't buying it, but he eve
ntually tires of the argument (long after I did reading it) and
triumphs over his friend by playing the "I know something you don't know" card:

Remember your big-shot predictions about a new one-world currency? That it would never happen? Watch the news tomorrow, pal. And remember that it was all Nicolae Carpathia's doing, diplomacy behind the scenes.

I'm not really sure how this particular prediction of Lindsey's is supposed to fit in with the competing scheme offered by LaHaye and the Maine Republicans. Their desire for a global return to a single gold standard seems more like what Lindsey described than anything sought by the global commie-hippie-greenie conspiracy they oppose. I suppose it has something to do with the nefarious machinations of international Jewish financiers, but unlike LaHaye I don't have the stomach to plow through all of William Guy Carr's and Ron Paul's writings to try to make sense of that aspect of their conspiracy theory.

But this business about "a new one-world currency" also seems a bit shakier when considering the recent news from Greece. That country's debt crisis seems to have called into question the very future of the euro and the limited attempt at an international currency that it represents. At this point in history it can't be easy to remain terrified of an impending "one-world currency."

This isn't the first time that the European Union has caused problems for LaHaye and the rest of post-Lindsey Bible prophecy fandom. They all followed Lindsey in believing that the 10 nations of the European Common Market were the 10-horned beast of the book of Revelation. When the common market grew to include more than 10 nations, they simply adjusted to the claim that it was both the 10-horned and the 7-horned beasts from John's Apocalypse. Then they sat back to wait for the European Common Market to reach 17 members, at which point they expected Jesus to rapture them to heaven and start torturing the unbelievers left behind.

The European Union now has 27 members — a number difficult to reconcile with any permutation of horns, heads or wings from any given set of beasts in Revelation. The expansion of the European Union coincided with the end of the Cold War — a time that also brought on an even more troubling development for the post-Lindsey PMD prognosticators: the violent reassertion of separatist nationalism. It must have been hard to keep oneself fearfully confident of an impending one-world government while watching the Balkanization of the Balkans unfold. How do you manage to stay frightened of the coming OWG when even a unified Yugoslavia proves impossible to sustain?

Thus was the context for both the Birchers and the Lindseyites by the mid-1990s when the first of the Left Behind books were published. History and reality and the world itself were not cooperating with the nightmare conspiracies on which they had staked their ideologies and their entire sense of meaning. A one-world government is coming, both groups warned, even though no one seemed to want one and history seemed headed in the opposite direction. A one-world currency is coming, both groups warned, even though no one could figure out why anyone would want such a thing.

And this is where Tim LaHaye rode to the rescue with the World's Worst Books. As history and reality and the world itself appeared increasingly hostile to the very identity of the Birchers and the Lindseyites, LaHaye provided them a refuge in fiction.

It's pretty awful fiction, of course, but that doesn't matter. It doesn't have to be compelling or interesting or any good at all in any conventional sense. All it needs to do is whisper to them that they are right while reality is shouting that they are wrong. If you're listening to reality, that Maine Republican platform seems ridiculous. But if you're ignoring reality and instead listening to the fiction of Tim LaHaye, then it makes perfect sense.

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  • Lonespark

    Oh, yeah, HH. But that’s eeeevil affirmative action, dontchaknow?
    Even in wingnutty AZ, the cafeterias for the state government buildings were all run through a program for blind entrepreneurs. Seemed to work pretty well, until the funding got cut back on everything in the state government. Small businesses, woman- and minority-owned businesses, all get a boost through those kinds of programs, even when they work as subcontractors or partner to bigger, more established firms. It is a mountain of paperwork, but it’s worth hiring someone to do that paperwork for a lot of small(ish?) businesses.

  • Ursula L

    On another board I frequent, I started a thread on April 15 called “It’s Tax Day! Yay!” specifically as a place for people to post about things that taxes pay for which they appreciate. (I started it off by posting that I liked paved roads and sidewalks.)
    It was very interesting, because people came up with all sorts of nice things, there were relatively few naysayers, and for those who tried to claim that they got nothing from their taxes people quickly came up with lots of things they really use (such as even if they live on an unpaved road, they still drive on lots of paved roads.)
    It is so fashionable to gripe about high taxes that few people really think about what they get for their taxes, and many who do notice that they get a lot of good things for their taxes are hesitant to speak up when they hear others complain.

  • Lonespark

    I love that. I feel so damn lucky to be able to pay a lot in taxes. I want it to go to more people like my family, getting school loans and GI Bills, and CPS-subsidized childcare, and unemployment insurance, and healthcare for people with chronic conditions. And people unlike my family, too.

  • Brad

    Speaking of taxes…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POjRqJDvAjk
    On another front, Andrew Tobias has been touting raising taxes (although he doesn’t specify exactly who should pay – be nice if it were the class who got all the cuts in the Reagan years…).
    http://www.andrewtobias.com

  • Your Mr. Pointy is a thing of great beauty, colorlessblue. Thanks for sharing that picture! I confess all my experience has been with drop spindles rather than supported ones, which I find slightly mystifying. And it’s lovely to see more merino-silk blends–lots of folks have been bringing permutations of that to our local monthly spin in, mostly recently a big brilliantly tie-dyed looking drumcarded batt of merino-silk-glitz…. *sighs over the pretties*
    I can’t find it in me to resent paying more taxes now than I used to. It means my household makes more money than it used to; thus we are both more well off than before, and we are able to contribute more to our community’s well-being.
    As for affirmative action: Not long ago (within the past 5 years) I read of a study in which identical resumes (I forget whether actually word-for-word identical, or simply identical in level of credentials based on some objective metric) were sent out to a large selection of potential employers. Some of these resumes had typical “white” names and some had typical “black” names. Think “Sally” versus “Latoya.” Some of these resumes went in pairs to the same employers over a period of time. Guess which resumes more often got call-backs?
    As long as people presumed black are being passed over, sight-unseen, for jobs which people presumed white are getting called in for interviews for, even though their resumes show the same level of credentials, we need affirmative action. Tilted playing fields don’t make themselves level by themselves.
    (And we’re not even getting into people with hispanic-sounding names, or Arab-sounding names, with this anecdote… Imagine how little joy your hypothetical Rafael Gonzalez is getting applying for jobs in Prescott right now.)

  • What also needs to be taken a lot more seriously is the need to promote low unemployment. In particular with the true unemployment rate on an alternate metric hovering between 15 and 20 percent, it really does mean something has to change.
    I remember reading in 2008 that the ongoing economic crises and the onset of new stiffer regulations for businesses would mean a relatively staid economic environment, like the 1950s. Well, in the 1950s unemployment was between 3 and 5 percent.
    Bout time they started taking it a lil more seriously.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Hearts Club Band

    @ Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little
    There have been a few of those studies done in different countries. This one was done in Australia in 2007. Quoting from the results:

    To get the same number of interviews as an applicant with an Anglo-Saxon name, a Chinese applicant must submit 68% more applications, a Middle Eastern applicant must submit 64% more applications, an Indigenous applicant must submit 35% more applications, and an Italian applicant must submit 12% more applications.
    Even in data-entry jobs, there is substantial discrimination against non-Anglo applicants. This indicates that it can’t just be customer-based discrimination, but must be either driven by coworker or employer biases.
    “After completing TAFE in 2005 I applied for many junior positions where no experience in sales was needed – even though I had worked for two years as a junior sales clerk. I didn’t receive any calls so I decided to legally change my name to Gabriella Hannah. I applied for the same jobs and got a call 30 minutes later.”
    ~ Gabriella Hannah, formerly Ragda Ali, Sydney

    This research also looked at the majority/minority callback ratio across a bunch of studies over almost 4 decades in Australia, Germany, UK, US, Sweden and the Netherlands (chart shown halfway down the page).

  • Caravelle

    In France you already don’t put your picture on your CV, and now there’s been talk of having anonymous CVs for this reason.
    It’s an even more significant problem for self-employed people like doctors and lawyers and so on, because addressing bias in the employer population still isn’t as tough a call as addressing bias in the looking-at-the-yellow-pages customer population.

  • Caravelle

    Pius Thicknesse :

    Well, things like that are now heavily synonymous with wasteful military spending. And to some extent it is true that it used to be that the Pentagon would, in effect, pay 25 cents for a 5 cent pencil, even in bulk.

    I was thinking recently of the West Wing episode where CJ is talking with that military guy she likes and she talks about wasteful military spending, maybe mentioning ashtrays… And the guy seems to get really mad and throws an ashtray on the floor, and it breaks into four perfect pieces, and he goes on to explain that it was specially engineered to break that way because you don’t want glass shards on a pitching warship now do you ?
    I thought that was really convincing at the time, but thinking back now I’m just baffled as to why they’d need fancy glass ashtrays like that on a warship anyway. Forget the smoking thing, it was the nineties I guess banning smoking wasn’t as conceivable as it is now, but how about metal ashtrays ? Or like those slots you have in cars ?
    That said I just saw an episode of Yes Minister! that deals with the same problem (except it’s administrative spending) and was a bit more convincing in making the same point. Also, funny.

  • chris y

    In France you already don’t put your picture on your CV, and now there’s been talk of having anonymous CVs for this reason.
    I’ve never heard of putting your photo on a CV (I’m British). What an appalling idea. In Britain you usually don’t put your age either.

  • Caravelle

    I’ve never heard of putting your photo on a CV (I’m British). What an appalling idea. In Britain you usually don’t put your age either.
    Hmmm, so maybe we do put photos on our cvs ? I know someone does, because half my cvs have a photo. Oh well.

  • Here in the US, you don’t put your photo or age on your Resume (that’s “CV” for our old-world neighbours), either. Won’t this information come out during your interview, though ? While it’s true that employers are not allowed to ask your age, both it and your face would be easy enough to estimate. Unless you wore a bag over your head, or something…

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Hearts Club Band

    No photos on CVs here. I’ve looked at hundreds of job applications and only a couple included a photo. Interestingly, both were attractive blonde young women. One was clearly taken at a party, with the applicant’s arm draped around another person who had been cropped out. Odd choice for an application for a professional job that had nothing to do with party organising or enjoyment.

  • chris y

    One was clearly taken at a party, with the applicant’s arm draped around another person who had been cropped out.
    Hmmm… Might not shortlist that one.

  • Caravelle

    Bugmaster :

    Here in the US, you don’t put your photo or age on your Resume (that’s “CV” for our old-world neighbours), either. Won’t this information come out during your interview, though ? While it’s true that employers are not allowed to ask your age, both it and your face would be easy enough to estimate. Unless you wore a bag over your head, or something…

    Of course the information will come out, but you’ll still have passed one hurdle. And once you’re in the interview stage the recruiter has a lot more information to deal with and choose from, so I assume unconscious bias will have a bit less weight. Short of falling on an out-and-out racist/sexist/etc but those are another problem.
    Anyway for some added information, it’s been a long time since those cv-writing classes so the only case I know I put a photo on the cv was for applications in Japan. Maybe I’ve just been applying for stuff in Japan a lot more than I thought…

  • Here in the US, you don’t put your photo or age on your Resume (that’s “CV” for our old-world neighbours), either. Won’t this information come out during your interview, though ? While it’s true that employers are not allowed to ask your age, both it and your face would be easy enough to estimate. Unless you wore a bag over your head, or something…
    How can you avoid giving ‘clues’ about your age on a CV – which starts with your schooling, lists the jobs you have done, and for how long ….
    My CV – starting with attended Sidcup Hill School (primary)1952-1958
    and then, after secondary school, showing 35 years with the same employer ….
    They’re really not going to think I’m a teenager — and without dates, the CV is practically useless.

  • I’m not actually on board with the small business incentives for government contracting, and I’ll use my situation as an example (not the only one I’ve seen in my time as a contractor, but as a representation, it’s pretty average).
    I work on a small project. There’s a law that a certain percentage of contracts have to go to small contractors, so they’ve decided that any contract under a certain amount can only be filled by small contractors. So far, so good – it only makes sense, right?
    I work for a large contractor. I get good pay and excellent benefits.
    Nobody wants our tiny crappy-ass contract; it’s a hugely complicated ancient system that exists, basically, to tie together a bunch of other, even more ancient and byzantine systems that are vital to our functioning as a nation. But our employer isn’t legally allowed to rebid for it, even though they’ve been handling it for years. So are they going to give the contract to a hungry young plucky upstart who just needs a leg up in business to really make themselves a success, thus creating more, better jobs and saving the government from bloated, wasteful contracts?
    Don’t be silly. What happens is that someone who qualifies under the rules puts together a couple of staffers and forms a “contractor” (who does no actual work beyond submitting the proposal) and we subcontract to them. They get all the overhead, which means benefits like training and health insurance get cut, and salaries are frozen. They’re getting paid to add an extra layer of middlemen between the workers and the people paying to get the work done, and returning no benefit other than the appearance of diversity.
    Happens all the time. Why are contractors paid so crappily when their work costs the government more than doing it in-house? Now you know.

  • Lori

    I said that small government helps poor people. I do mean this, although not so small that there is basically anarchy, of course. These bailouts that keep going through have been shown to be very ineffective at creating jobs – I saw one figure that said a bill had spent $250,000 per new job. That is not a good thing. During our history and that of other countries, it has been proven time and again that if you cut taxes more jobs are created, poor people do better, and usually the government ends up getting MORE revenue.

    The $250k/new job figure is fairly useless in this case because the vast majority of the bailout/stimulus money wasn’t designed to create new jobs. The automaker bailouts were designed to preserve existing jobs. The bank bailouts were designed to stabilize the financial sector before it sucked us all into a hell dimension.
    Which brings us to:

    What also needs to be taken a lot more seriously is the need to promote low unemployment. In particular with the true unemployment rate on an alternate metric hovering between 15 and 20 percent, it really does mean something has to change.

    QFT. The continued high unemployment rate is a disaster for the country. The stimulous should have been much more focused on job creation. Given that it was not we need another stimulus that is. The reason that we didn’t get that the first time and won’t get it now is almost entirely due to GOP political crap. There is no excuse for that. To the extent that there was any possibility of me getting over my Bush-induced loathing of the GOP (not all Conservatives, the GOP) they blew it with all the crap they’re spewing about the horrors of the deficit and how that means we just need to tell the unemployed to screw themselves.

  • @Caravelle irt Ashtrays: When we allowed smoking everywhere, all the shipboard ashtrays I saw were plain steel, unpainted. Maybe the officers/captain/admiral had nicer.
    Now that smoking is only allowed in a small area, we use… well, let’s just say that every time we fired the big guns, we got new ashtrays.
    But it ties in with the super coffee pot I mentioned earlier: MilSpec written with something in mind (“Jet Fighters” vs “Cargo Planes”) misused, or even used properly.
    Example: the Army got in trouble recently over some special laptops for infantry officers. They were almost indestructable, you could drop it 12 feet, shoot it, run over it with a jeep, bury it in sand, soak it in salt water, and it would still work. For the cost, you could buy a dozen regular laptops with the same computer abilities but without the toughness. But they were intended for field work, and tough enough for it.
    Then they started appearing in Pentagon offices. Why? Because being a “Infantry Officer” looks good to promotion boards, and having one of these armored laptops was a sign of having been a “Infantry Officer”, even for those officers who worked thier career at a desk.
    @Cat Meadors: is your ‘contractor’ a “Alaskan Native Corporation”? Mine was. I told the government workers that they could fire the contractor, pay me as a GS-6, save money, and I’d get better pay and benefits out of it.

  • Lori

    Now that smoking is only allowed in a small area, we use… well, let’s just say that every time we fired the big guns, we got new ashtrays.

    Reduce, reuse, recycle.

  • sarah

    [[Hawker Hurricane: They were almost indestructable, you could drop it 12 feet, shoot it, run over it with a jeep, bury it in sand, soak it in salt water, and it would still work. For the cost, you could buy a dozen regular laptops with the same computer abilities but without the toughness. But they were intended for field work, and tough enough for it.]]
    My little brother needs one of those. He has an uncanny knack for destroying laptops (inadvertently, of course).

  • Pius Thicknesse

    I think there are a couple of consumer-grade laptops that have been ruggedized to an extent. ISTR Dell has advertised on the strength of this. :P

  • Thrifty

    On another board I frequent, I started a thread on April 15 called “It’s Tax Day! Yay!” specifically as a place for people to post about things that taxes pay for which they appreciate. (I started it off by posting that I liked paved roads and sidewalks.)
    It was very interesting, because people came up with all sorts of nice things, there were relatively few naysayers, and for those who tried to claim that they got nothing from their taxes people quickly came up with lots of things they really use (such as even if they live on an unpaved road, they still drive on lots of paved roads.)
    It is so fashionable to gripe about high taxes that few people really think about what they get for their taxes, and many who do notice that they get a lot of good things for their taxes are hesitant to speak up when they hear others complain.

    People frequently bellyache about this government program or that and say “I don’t want my tax dollars going to pay for this!”
    Here’s how I think about it. The annual U.S. revenue is, what, 2 trillion bucks? I paid $4311 in that last year to the federal government. I like to think that I paid for the stuff I like (public education) and not the stuff I don’t like (war in Iraq). So in 2009 I paid $4311 so that some poor children could get a free education.
    This isn’t to say that nobody has the right to gripe about how the government is spending money. More like.. that kind of all purpose gripe is just bumper sticker politics. I’d rather hear about why you dislike a given government expenditure.

  • Lori

    I think there are a couple of consumer-grade laptops that have been ruggedized to an extent. ISTR Dell has advertised on the strength of this. :P

    Yes. The consumer ones tend to be marketed at construction firms and the like. They cost the earth but in the long run are probably cheaper than treating regular laptops as de facto disposables.

  • tls

    I like to think that I paid for the stuff I like (public education) and not the stuff I don’t like (war in Iraq). I like to think that I paid for the stuff I like (public education) and not the stuff I don’t like (war in Iraq).
    That’s pretty much been my philosophy for a while. There are plenty of ways the federal government spends money that I don’t approve of, and more I don’t wholly approve of, but there’s also some I more or less approve and some I whole-heartedly approve of. Besides, unless I suddenly inherit the fortunes of the richest people in the country, I’m unlikely to be paying even a noticeable percentage of any given program, so it’s not like even if I could track the money and found out my taxes were supporting the Baby Seal Clubbing Fund, I would ever be paying enough into it to really matter.

  • Ysidro

    OK, so this was from a few days ago and I haven’t caught up with the thread but by the time I do everyone’s going to have forgotten about it anyway. So here’s hoping I’m not repeating something someone else says.
    That whole CEO’s put money back into the business/economy so the peons get hired and can better themselves? It doesn’t make much sense. I used to believe it, then I forgot about it until Bugmaster brought it up. And I realized it only counts in certain cases.
    Here’s the point: a CEO has an income that’s way out of line with everyone else probably works for a corporation. His income is not part of the corportion’s capital once it’s paid out to him. He’s not going to roll anything back into the company except his time and he’s already done that. What money he has is going to go into living expenses, luxury expenses, and further investment. OK, so he may spend more on living expenses and certain more on luxuries which are going to net some other corporation (and few privately owned non-incorporated businesses) more money and that’s good. Yay yacht builders, they do good work! And there’s investments, but those are probably going to be of the ephemeral type: stock markets, bonds, maybe some real estate which isn’t so ephermeral but there you go. None of that is going to have an immediate effect on anyone else and will tend to be locked up for decades.
    Now, Joe the Single Owner Businessman may put most of his take back into his business and be able to hire two more guys but chances are he’s not making as much as Ted, CEO of Conglomcorp anyway.
    So I guess I end up with two questions: How much do financial investments, real estate, and luxury purchases contribute to the well-being of others (particularly Bob the blue collar worker and Jane the white-collar but paid as much or less than Bob)? And also, how many non-incorporated owners are there who could conceivably be punting their own money back into the company to hire new workers actually exist to make a dent in the economy?
    Sorry if I’m a bit incoherent. Night shift does that to me, but it does give me time to read comments. Also, I think I may have done a drive-by posting a long time ago and haven’t killed anyone with sheep yet. I do, however, retain that right. And forgive me if I don’t follow up on my own post. I haven’t other people’s blogs very difficult to follow conversatons on. That’s one reason I tend to lurk.

  • Pius Thicknesse

    So I guess I end up with two questions: How much do financial investments, real estate, and luxury purchases contribute to the well-being of others (particularly Bob the blue collar worker and Jane the white-collar but paid as much or less than Bob)? And also, how many non-incorporated owners are there who could conceivably be punting their own money back into the company to hire new workers actually exist to make a dent in the economy?

    For a fuller answer to this than a blog comment can give you I highly recommend reading Paper Boom by Jim Stanford.
    A short analysis piece on the book.
    The basic bottom line is that you can divide up most advanced economies into a “paper economy” (the stock market, forex markets and to some extent bond markets) and a “real economy” (real estate under nonspeculative conditions, real goods and services we consume).
    Stanford convincingly argues that in general these two economies are ‘disconnected’ from one another so that for all the pizazz and razmatazz of the stock market indexes, they reveal little about the health of the underlying driving force of all the computer bits flying around as shares are purchased, sold and repurchased in an ever-changing kaleidoscopic frenzy of stock market speculation. Ditto derivatives. Ditto-ditto forex. Ditto-ditto-ditto weird things that didn’t even exist in 1997 when Stanford wrote it like those fancy mortgage chunks being traded on unregulated exchanges which gave rise to the subprime crisis.
    However, there ARE linkages, however weak, and they are economic and psychological.
    Essentially, since it now takes more dollars moving through the paper economy to generate a dollar in the real economy, the fluctuations of the paper economy, when negative, can adversely hammer the real economy.
    Consider things like the 1997/1998 Asian financial crises and the 2007/2008 mortgage and other crises.
    In neither case were the fundamental assets of the countries unsound. The machinery and equipment in the factories owned by the companies whose shares were traded, or whose currency derivatives were traded, were still there after currency speculation wrought its damage, or in the case of the mortgage crisis, the houses that the people bought are still there as assets to SOMEone.
    Yet they can be driven to nothing, not because of neglect or purposeful asset stripping, but because of unrelated speculative factors that have little to do with the underlying real economy.
    Another article on Paper Boom. And even another one.
    Enjoy. :)

  • Ysidro

    Not quite what I was trying to get at, but very interesting anyways, Pius. Of course, I don’t know why I should pay attention to commie pinko Canadian “economics” though. It obviously has nothing to do with Real True American Capitalism! ;)
    Seriously though, it does seem that while there’s an effect on jobs through investment it’s not the most most efficient way of creating them (while maintaining economic health of course.)

  • Lee Ratner

    Pius: I’m personally skeptical of the people who claim that there is a stark difference between the “paper economy” and the “real economy.” The paper economy that so many people decry is what allowed the wide-spread expansion of human economic activities since the 17th century even if it did cause more than a few depressions. Without the concept of limited liability investment would be much lower. The concept of limited liability eventually led to the invention of stocks as a means to allow people to invest in particular company and fuel the economy, which led to stock markets where people buy and sell stocks etc. If allowed to grow reckless, the paper economy can do a lot of damage but properly managed it can fuel the “real economy.”
    Also, the idea of a difference between the “paper economy” and the “real economy” is a lot older than many people thing and its origins are a lot darker. During the 19th century, the Jew-haters attacked Jewish businessmen for engaging in the “parasitic paper economy of finance, banking, etc.” while praising Christian businessmen who engaged in the real economy of creating things.
    See: http://www.truthdig.com/arts_culture/item/zachary_karabell_on_capitalism_and_the_jews_20100611/
    See also: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/14/books/review/Rampell-t.html

  • Pius Thicknesse

    Oops. Sorry, my brain kind of didn’t quite connect to your text. I blame night shift too. XD
    I would say that it will help very little for wealthy people to buy even more stocks and bonds, because the majority are purchased from someone else. So there’s essentially no net new investment here.
    It would help a little if they splurged on luxury purchases but even buying fancy new airplanes (20+ years ago the very idea of hundreds, if not thousands, of wealthy people owning their own airplanes was a pipe dream and nobody figured they could make money building private jets for non-corporate use) would be a drop in the bucket compared to broad consumer demand for the staples of life.
    It would help more if they own a business and are willing to hire workers, upgrade capital equipment, that sort of thing. That shoves money directly into the real economy and via the multiplier effect, creates a loaves-and-fishes type situation where the money multiplies itself.
    :)

  • Pius Thicknesse

    The dirty little secret of economics, Lee Ratner, is in econ 101:
    Look up how to calculate GDP. Notice what’s missing.
    Share purchases on the stock market are not included because it’s been known for CENTURIES that for the most part, new share issues are a tiny fraction of the total trading volume on a stock exchange and contribute essentially nothing to fixed capital investment.
    You can actually run an economy with the stock market cut out of the picture. The USA from the 1940s to the 1960s fits this definition, since less than 10% of the US population directly held shares, and of those that had pensions, the true ownership was with the pension fund.
    More to the point, during the War, the USA ran on command-military lines where companies were told what to produce and who to give it to. You don’t need a stock market to outfit and equip a military, and even today a distorted form of that is still true in the military-spending sector of the US economy.
    Skeptic all you want, Lee, but there are valid and good reasons for sharply restricting the cultural and financial impact of share markets.

  • Pius Thicknesse

    And Lee? I’d appreciate it if you didn’t try bringing religion into it here. It is not, IMV, necessary and I am strongly feeling like you are trying something inappropriate by shoving this religious dimension into a discussion on the relatively unproductive paper economy vs the real economy

  • Ysidro

    It would help more if they own a business and are willing to hire workers, upgrade capital equipment, that sort of thing. That shoves money directly into the real economy and via the multiplier effect, creates a loaves-and-fishes type situation where the money multiplies itself.

    And there’s the other part. Just how many owners are willing to do that? If it’s too few (whatever tha amount may be) then saying they do so just isn’t true.
    Does anyone know just what sort of numbers we’re dealing with when talking about jobs with corporations (where income is not able to be turned back into the company. At least not easily.) vs. single owner/partnership/whatever-non-corporate-structure-we-can-think-of where the income can be folded back in? I’m guessing jobs with an incorporated entity are more common than not (especially if we don’t count government jobs). Which just goes back to my contention that CEOs aren’t putting money into any significant job-creating efforts.

  • Pius Thicknesse

    @Ysidro: I would be quite sure of being on firm ground in stating that no CEO would, unless the circumstances were far more dire than they are, even now, put his own money back into the company by foregoing not only his salary, but his perks and his stock options.
    Stock options in particular represent money saved to the company since typically, exercising them would mean a direct payout from the company to the CEO (effectively a share buyback) which, if foregone, could be used for things like hiring more workers or replacing old equipment.
    People make much of Lee Iaocca and a couple other guys who agreed to work for $1 a year, but they didn’t notice so much that they still had their executive perks and no doubt had other subsidized benefits like a company condo, company car, and were likely given stock options exercisable within a year.
    In short, as much as they wanted to portray the self-sacrificing CEO the real picture is considerably murkier, and shows, to some extent, the quasi-feudal lines that our society (Canada unfortunately gets dragged along!) has increasingly been evolving towards in the last generation, where the people on top are allowed to live well even as they act nominally ascetically.

  • Ysidro

    Yeah, there’s always the opportunity for a CEO to give up bonuses, perks, and options. But seriously, who does that? If CEOs all over the place were doing that sort of thing, I don’t think we’d be having discussions over income disparity.

  • As far as the evil pizza goes, all I can think of is a ridiculous line from an episode of Power Rangers Turbo.
    “Those evil pizzas were no match for a simple stop light!”

    The single best thing about Turbo actually happened in Forever Red. When all the past Red Rangers were reliving their past glories, TJ says “Hey, did I ever tell you about the time I got baked into a giant pizza?”

    I was thinking recently of the West Wing episode where CJ is talking with that military guy she likes and she talks about wasteful military spending, maybe mentioning ashtrays… And the guy seems to get really mad and throws an ashtray on the floor, and it breaks into four perfect pieces, and he goes on to explain that it was specially engineered to break that way because you don’t want glass shards on a pitching warship now do you ?

    That was Donna, not CJ.

  • Tonio

    “Those evil pizzas were no match for a simple stop light!”

    I saw the TV show two or three times, but thought that the enterprise was a scam made on the cheap. Each show used the same footage from Japan of the team going into battle, surrounded by scenes shot in English with different actors in the costumes.

  • Tonio

    It is not, IMV, necessary and I am strongly feeling like you are trying something inappropriate by shoving this religious dimension into a discussion on the relatively unproductive paper economy vs the real economy.

    At first, it seemed inappropriate to me as well. But rereading Lee’s post, I saw that the reference wasn’t about “religion” but about bigotry that claimed a basis in religion. I suppose one can interpret the reference as claiming that “paper economy” bashers are closet anti-Semities. My own interpretation? Lee seemed to be arguing that that “paper”/”real” distinction originated in bigotry and grew into its own myth for people unaware of its origins. I’m not knowledgeable enough about economic to know if the distinction is valid.

  • Will Wildman

    I saw the TV show two or three times, but thought that the enterprise was a scam made on the cheap. Each show used the same footage from Japan of the team going into battle, surrounded by scenes shot in English with different actors in the costumes.

    Not so much ‘made on the cheap’ as ‘localised’, with varying success. I was young enough* to be enthralled by the early seasons, and I assure you that when they made additional action scenes in the US, the quality plummeted. It also tended to get meddled with, such that the main villain of the second season was considered ‘too scary’ in the original Japanese (he was indeed awesomely terrifying) and so they started filming new scenes in the US in which he became more of a bumbler and got love-potioned into marrying the villain from the first season.
    It was always a vehicle for selling toys, but broadly I’m okay with them reusing higher-quality imported footage. There have also been fascinating debates among fans of both versions of each series about which is better/’truer’ (apparently the final English season bears just about zero resemblance to the Japanese series, but this is because they decided to set it in a Terminator-style post-apocalyptic machine-ruled wasteland).
    *In some cases, ‘old enough’ would also apply; I am friend to a family where the son, like me, thought Spandex ninjas in giant robot dinosaurs/etc were awesome, and the mother was quite content to watch the smoking hot Green Ranger flex his toned muscles. I suspect the execs caught on to this double-demographic, since Green came back later as White, then Red, then Black.

  • Not so much ‘made on the cheap’ as ‘localised’, with varying success. I was young enough* to be enthralled by the early seasons, and I assure you that when they made additional action scenes in the US, the quality plummeted. It also tended to get meddled with, such that the main villain of the second season was considered ‘too scary’ in the original Japanese (he was indeed awesomely terrifying) and so they started filming new scenes in the US in which he became more of a bumbler and got love-potioned into marrying the villain from the first season

    I don’t know what the villain was in the sentai; Lord Zedd was an entirely american creation, not an import. And *he* was terrifying for the first two-thirds of the season. (In *most* seasons, the main villain was american-made. With only a few exceptions, the villains tended to be darker and more complicated in the US version — the Japanese versions were typically “Just like a normal monster of the week, only moreso”)
    Many of the seasons differed wildly from the corresponding Sentai. Lost Galaxy and RPM are generally cited as having differed the most (Seriously, at least take a look at RPM. As TVTropes says, it’s like if all you ever knew about Batman was the Adam West series, and then someone said “Here, look at this:” and popped in ‘The Dark Knight’), while Time Force and SPD probably varied the least.
    Also, while the battle footage *was* still imported from Japan, in seasons 2 and 3, it *wasn’t* recycled. Saban commissioned entirely new footage from the Japanese production company (Because the US franchise used the same costumes for three seasons, while the Japanese one changed costumes every year)

  • Will Wildman

    I don’t know what the villain was in the sentai; Lord Zedd was an entirely american creation, not an import. And *he* was terrifying for the first two-thirds of the season.

    Seriously? I was sure Zedd started out as Japanese. That’s remarkable – obviously there were more daring and talented people on the US side than I realised, though they always seem to suffer for it. (I understand the guy who set RPM on its dystopian path also got fired for his efforts.)

  • Pius Thicknesse

    At first, it seemed inappropriate to me as well. But rereading Lee’s post, I saw that the reference wasn’t about “religion” but about bigotry that claimed a basis in religion. I suppose one can interpret the reference as claiming that “paper economy” bashers are closet anti-Semities. My own interpretation? Lee seemed to be arguing that that “paper”/”real” distinction originated in bigotry and grew into its own myth for people unaware of its origins. I’m not knowledgeable enough about economic to know if the distinction is valid.

    I say it’s bullshit. Jim Stanford independently came up with the labels with no bigotry intended, and Lee’s seeing something that isn’t there.
    I particulaarly find it inappropriate that he’s trying to derail the discussion by labelling me a closet anti-Semite.
    I refuse to get dragged down that trail or to let him shut me up by that means. I will continue to assail the stock market, the forex markets, the derivatives markets and I will not be said nay.

  • Lee Ratner

    Tonio: That is exactly what I’m arguing. That the distinction between the paper and the real economy originated as part of anti-Jewish prejudice, remember one reason Jews were hated because they were money-lenders who engaged in usury. The 19th century anti-Semitic thinkers elaborated on this by making distinctions between the type of capitalism perpetrated by the Jews, whom they saw as engaged in parasitic, financial capitalism ranging from things like international banks to pawnshops while good Christian businessmen were engaged in creative capitalism from great manufacturing enterprises to neighborhood mom and pop stores. Its why banks and international finance play a very big part in most anti-Semitic diatribes since the 19th century. The distinction between the paper and real economy was latter absorbed by liberals without much awareness of where it originated and its why lots of populists talk about Main Street vs. Wall Street, which rings alarm bells.

  • Pius Thicknesse

    Oh ffs.
    Lee?
    You butted in on this, made it all about you getting the vapors over accidental historical parallels that don’t, in this context, have anything to do with each other.
    Not everything in here is all about you.

  • Lee Ratner

    I’d also like to point out that Jews scientifically speaking are not strictly a religious group: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/10/science/10jews.html?src=me&ref=homepage

  • Pius Thicknesse

    Ok. Lee? You’re officially derailing the subject. I’m not the moderator here but I’m done trying to deal with you dumping your crap where it’s not relevant to the discussion.

  • Will Wildman

    Lee, that sounds a lot like saying anti-slavery positions are bigoted against the American south. The whole Civil War argument about “The North just wanted to oppress our independence!”/”No, we wanted to end your slavekeeping” is based on this concept that objecting to a particular practice found in a culture is always an attack on all the people in that culture, as opposed to “Hey, mostly you can do whatever you want, but this one thing you happen to be doing isn’t good.”
    Further, just by population demographics, I’m guessing most of the people benefitting from the machinations of the stock market today are not Jewish. Unless you want to argue that Jewish people are inherently integrated with the stock market and any criticism of its function is automatically an attack on Jewish populations, I’d stick with economic arguments. For that matter, even if Jewish people are inherently tied to the stock market, stick to economic arguments, because the relation of an oft-oppressed people to a particular institution does not give that institution special right to be badly designed or harmful.

  • El Durazno de la Muerte

    Also, I don’t think Lee’s calling you a closet anti-Semite.

  • Lee Ratner

    No, Pius I am not trying to derail the conversation but merely pointing out where the origins of the distinction between the paper economy and real economy or Wall Street vs. Main Street come from. It really should be fairly obvious for anybody with a slight knowledge of history.
    Will, there is a distinction between financial capitalism and slavery in that financial capitalism properly is a boon while slavery is always a negative. I am not defending unmitigated financial capitalism but simply pointing out that it is actually helpful in a well-designed system and it is not parasitic while Pius seems to be suggesting that even a well-regulated system of financial capitalism is parasitic by its very nature and can never be a boon. However, people with knowledge of money and how it works can help finance a lot of projects and other things.

  • Will Wildman

    Also, I don’t think Lee’s calling you a closet anti-Semite.

    Not so much as he’s saying people who criticise the stock market are ignorantly parroting the irrational propaganda of blatant anti-Semites.