space bike, wealth gives rise to a sense of entitlement and narcissistic behaviors

Spacelander Bicycle

Spacelander Bicycle. Designed by Benjamin Bowden for a 1946 exhibition of British industrial design. While this great postwar example of streamline futuristic design was a critical success at the exhibition, Bowden had a difficult time finding a manufacturer who would put it into production. By the time it found a manufacturer in the U.S. in 1960, much of the public’s taste in this kind of style had changed. Only around 500 were sold. Though now it is was of the most highly valued old bicycles on the market.

Study finds wealth gives rise to a sense of entitlement and narcissistic behaviors

According to a new study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin this month, wealth tends to increase a person’s sense of entitlement, which in turn can lead to narcissistic behaviors.

Paul Piff of the University of California at Berkeley told PsyPost “there is something about wealth that gives rise to a sense of entitlement, a sense that one deserves more good things in life than others, which in turn gives rise to an increased or inflated sense of self-importance, vanity, grandiosity, and omnipotence (narcissism).”

“Narcissism is a multi-faceted and complex construct, but that wealth is specifically associated with it suggests that as a person’s level of privilege rises, that person becomes increasingly self-focused – in a sense, becoming the center of their own world and worldview,” he explained.

“The studies in the paper measure narcissism in a whole host of ways, including measuring how likely someone is to stare at their reflection in a mirror (wealthier people do that more often). Even students who come from wealth, but have done little to create their own wealth (yet), report more entitlement. This suggests that wealth shapes an ideology of self-interest and entitlement that’s transferred culturally from one generation to the next.”

This is obviously not always the case, some people with wealth turn out to be great humanitarians. For those people the Spiderman message about great powers  being coupled with great responsibility does sink in with some people. I’ve experienced this quite a bit. There is an attitude of entitlement over the phone or in person – do you know who I am – I want what I want, I want it now and I deserve it because I am a executive VP or a wealthy lawyer or banker. Very strange behavior, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.

beach walkway

beach walkway. I noticed this morning that the 6 am sunrises are gone and then along came the big yellow school buses. Summer will soon be gone.

This recent editorial is a good example of the culture of entitlement and narcissistic behavior that guides our economy, The Leveraged Buyout of America

According to legal scholar Saule Omarova, over the past five years, there has been a “quiet transformation of U.S. financial holding companies.” These financial services companies have become global merchants that seek to extract rent from any commercial or financial business activity within their reach.  They have used legal authority in Graham-Leach-Bliley to subvert the “foundational principle of separation of banking from commerce”. . . .

It seems like there is a significant macro-economic risk in having a massive entity like, say JP Morgan, both issuing credit cards and mortgages, managing municipal bond offerings, selling gasoline and electric power, running large oil tankers, trading derivatives, and owning and operating airports, in multiple countries.

A “macro” risk indeed – not just to our economy but to our democracy and our individual and national sovereignty. Giant banks are buying up our country’s infrastructure – the power and supply chains that are vital to the economy.

These assets – airports, toll roads, and ports; control power plants; and store and hoard vast quantities of commodities of all sorts – are being packaged as investment instruments, a bet on their future value, much like the collateralized debt obligations that contributed so much to the Great Recession of 2007. And their are doing it with your money, your deposits – the excess of deposits over loans – as collateral for borrowing. Once again making bets that they cannot pay, if like the housing market, values should go down.


privatization is a synonym for stealing

black and white city wallpaper

black and white city wallpaper

8 Ways Privatization Has Failed America. Paul Buchheit takes a look at the ways privatization fever has given working class Americans the shaft. Those who enjoy a good argument are welcome to try debating the congregation of true believers preaching the gospel of privatize everything. I find that like most zealots, their minds are not open to either facts or humanitarian based arguments.

Worse yet, corporations profit from the very water they pollute. Dioxin-dumping Dow Chemicals is investing in water purification. Monsanto has been accused of privatizing its own pollution sites in order to sell filtered water back to the public.

Internet, TV, and Phone

It seems the whole world is leaving us behind on the Internet. According to the OECD, South Korea has Internet speeds up to 200 times faster than the average speed in the U.S., at about half the cost. Customers are charged about $30 a month in Hong Kong or Korea or parts of Europe for much faster service than in the U.S., while triple-play packages in other countries go for about half of our Comcast or AT&T charges.

The scam where corporations poison your water and offer to clean it up for a profit is ingenious.

Your phone and ISP payments – they might be little cheaper if the CEO was not pretending to provide some absolutely essential management skills for which he must make $21 million in 2012. he did not do any like saving kidney surgery, find a way to improve solar cell energy efficiency by 10%. he did not rescue any elderly couples from a burning building, he did not take urine samples to the lab or clean up your sick uncle’s puke. he did not replace the trees clear-cut for that new strip mall. He did not invent any new telecommunications technology – scientists did that. He did not dig a little ditch to bury your cable line. he did not find a cure for arthritis or diabetes. he did not even program a cool video game or write a great song or paint an inspiring painting. The basic skills anyone needs to run a company can be learned at any local community college. Yet, as Will on The Newsroom would likely say, he and other CEOs are worth what they get because it is what the market will bear. Only that is based purely on the perception of subjective value. Like many CEOs, the CEO of AT&T is a magician whose best trick is making people believe he is worth more than $55k a year.

A page from The first six books of the Elements of Euclid in which coloured diagrams and symbols are used instead of letters, by Oliver Byrne; 1847; W. Pickering, London.

never let a libertarian take over your business, ultrasound may be the new anti-depressant

red and yellow wallpaper

red and yellow wallpaper


How a Libertarian Used Ayn Rand’s Crazy Philosophy to Drive Sears Into the Ground

…He thought he could increase profits, too. After making a nice wad of cash from Kmart by selling off the valuable real estate sitting under dozens of stores, shutting down 600 stores and laying off tens of thousands of workers in the name of cost-cutting and thereby jacking up the stock price, he got bigger ideas. He would use Kmart to take over another ginormous retailer, Sears.

…A handy chart on Yahoo Finance show that buybacks reached a high [13] just about the time that Sears’ sales went into the toilet. Stock buybacks are really just an effort to manipulate stock prices, and they don’t help a company’s long-term health. They divert money away from the things that a company needs to have to succeed, like decent salaries for workers and investments in new products and services. Wonder why Apple is no longer making anything interesting? Why its retail workers get paid squat? Check out what they’ve been doing with stock buybacks.

Lampert’s buyback scheme has raked in a pile of money for him and his early investors, but it’s also flushing the company down the drain. Hoovering cash out of any firm, especially a retailer that needs appealing stores and strong advertising, will eventually crush sales.

And so it has. Sears has lost half its value in five years [14].

Lambert also worshiped the Austrian economist Friedrich von Hayek, who is still a saint, regardless of how often he is proved wrong, to people like former VP candidate Paul Ryan (R-WI).  Hayek and his clones are pretty much in charge of the conservative-libertarian economic movement. In some ways they have turned the U.S. into Lambert’s version of Sears.

Roofs and Sky

Roofs and Sky, 1939. By Louis Lozowick  (American (born Ukraine), Ludvinovka 1892–1973 South Orange, New Jersey). This work was originally published by the Roosevelt era Works Progress Administration.

Ultrasound waves applied to the brain can alter patients’ moods

Ultrasound waves applied to particular parts of the brain have been found to be capable of altering a patient’s mood. The research, conducted by a team from the University of Arizona, may one day lead to the development of non-drug-based interventions for conditions such as depression.

The research hinged on the fact that ultrasound vibrates in megahertz at around 10 million vibrations per second — roughly the same rate that microtubules (protein structures in the brain linked to mood) resonate.

He placed an ultrasound transducer against his head for 15 seconds, but initially felt no effect. “And then about a minute later I started to feel like I’d had a martini.”

I’m not wild about feeling like I just drink a martini, that aside they might be on to something. They experimented with different frequencies and various time intervals, finding that a 30-second blast at 2 megahertz made patients feel happier and generally better for up to 40 minutes after the treatment.




tropical coconut trees wallpaper, when freedom shrinks down to property rights

tropical coconut trees wallpaper

tropical coconut trees wallpaper


Not Even a Bourgeois Freedom: Freedom of Contract in John Roberts’s America

Ever since the 19th century, one of the points of convergence between the free-market right and the socialist left has been that the most important freedom under capitalism is the freedom of contract.

…For the free-market right, that’s the end of the discussion: Workers are free. No one’s forcing them to work. If they don’t like a job, they can leave it.

For the socialist left, it’s more complicated. Workers are not in fact free, the left argues, but the source of their unfreedom is not to be found in the usual guise. The most important constraint upon the freedom of contract is not the discrete or formal acts of coercion by power-holders (what political scientists sometimes call the first face of power), which are embodied in law and enforced by the state. Rather, it is systemic inequality and disparities of power between labor and capital: people with few resources are not in much of a position to say no to a job that they don’t like. Formally, workers are free; in practice, they are not.

I’m not a socialist, but you do not have to be one to know what he means. You only have to be a worker, even in management, where there is someone who has the authority to end your employment at will. The rerun of Mad Men I watched this morning, where Don throws a wad of money in Peggy’s face is a good example of the power dynamics at work and the alleged freedom workers have to walk away from a job. It flashed through my mind that if that was me Don would have been eating that wad of money. Yet the reality is that I was humiliated in a similar way once and did not get up in my bosses face or even walk out because I had made some financial commitments. I did learn from that incident. I learned to say f*ck it and tell bosses off. Though when you do that you have to be willing to pay the price. What is your financial situation, how fast can you get another job. Your old boss probably will not gossip about you because they know that employees have sued employers for that. On the other hand you’re not going to get a glowing reference either. This construct of power is deeply embedded in American and European culture. The way it should work, the ideal that conservatives and libertarians say exists, should exist, but it does not. If you see work as an exchange of labor/skills for money that is great, but in practice employers or bosses see it as a power arrangement. They have the power and you’re to do as you’re told. To some extent capitalism, the way we practice it anyway, has infantilized the majority of the work force. People come to work knowing on some level their employer has bought into this power arrangement or employees know that they are thought of as disposable, so other than some very grudging economic necessity, they are not particularly motivated to work or have their employer’s best interest in mind. Though one big exception. That small percentage of people who do their jobs well out of a sense of personal pride.

Emboldened by a series of Supreme Court decisions and an employers’ job market, many companies are starting to require workers to sign away their rights in return for a job. It is a trend that experts worry could further wear away employees’ power in the workplace. The contracts make it harder for employees to join class-action lawsuits, take their employers to court, or leave to go work somewhere else.

Mazhar Saleem is bound to his employer by a number of contracts that made it hard to earn enough money to live, but also hard to go work anywhere else. He drives a town car for a company in New York as an independent contractor, rather than as a full-time employee. That means he doesn’t get benefits, never gets overtime, and isn’t guaranteed set hours.

I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago. The issue of the conservative movement and libertarians seeing freedom in terms of property rights. Who owns the most property ends up having the most rights. Anyone think they have the same rights as the Koch brothers or Mitt Romney. On paer you have some, but even those are not the same in pratice. Rush Limbaugh is a multimillionaire. When he was busted for illegal drug possession and doctor shopping, he had some high priced attorneys get him off on charges that have and still do gets hundreds of low income Americans put in prison every year. How is that possible when we’re all “equal” under the law.

she done him wrong – nice of them to give a very young cary grant a mention.


Wall Street Journal says Egypt needs a Pinochet

The Chilean dictator presided over the torture and murder of thousands, yet still the free-market right revers his name.

On Friday, the Wall Street Journal published an editorial entitled “After the Coup in Cairo”. Its final paragraph contained these words:

Egyptians would be lucky if their new ruling generals turn out to be in the mold of Chile’s Augusto Pinochet, who took over power amid chaos but hired free-market reformers and midwifed a transition to democracy.

Presumably, this means that those who speak for the Wall Street Journal – the editorial was unsigned – think Egypt should think itself lucky if its ruling generals now preside over a 17-year reign of terror.

I also take it the WSJ means us to associate two governments removed by generals – the one led by Salvador Allende in Chile and the one led by Mohamed Morsi in Egypt. Islamist, socialist … elected, legitimate … who cares?Presumably, the WSJ thinks the Egyptians now have 17 years in which to think themselves lucky when any who dissent are tortured with electricity, raped, thrown from planes or – if they’re really lucky – just shot. That’s what happened in Chile after 1973, causing the deaths of between 1,000 and 3,000 people. Around 30,000 were tortured.

Another good example of how conservatives do not see rights as something political and part of a moral philosophy, but mostly a byproduct of property rights. Obviously you can have tons of property rights and still live under a thuggish regime.

water drops wallpaper, pervasive culture of conservative corruption

water drops wallpaper

water drops wallpaper


Culture of Conservatism Exposed at Morally Corrupt Bank of America

Six former employees of Bank of America have come forward, alleging that the big bank intentionally denied eligible homeowners mortgage loan modifications, and lied to those homeowners about the status of their mortgage payments and documents.

Bank of America allegedly used these dirty tactics to lead homeowners into foreclosures and in-house loan modifications, both of which helped reap massive profits for BOA’s bottom-line.


Employees who did the best and most dirty tricks got gift cards and bonuses. It sounds like a bad satire that went straight to DVD because no one would believe it.

Philosophers are still good for something, Privacy and the Threat to the Self

To get a sense of what I mean, imagine that I could telepathically read all your conscious and unconscious thoughts and feelings — I could know about them in as much detail as you know about them yourself — and further, that you could not, in any way, control my access. You don’t, in other words, share your thoughts with me; I take them. The power I would have over you would of course be immense. Not only could you not hide from me, I would know instantly a great amount about how the outside world affects you, what scares you, what makes you act in the ways you do.  And that means I could not only know what you think, I could to a large extent control what you do.

Chipping away at privacy is the loss of freedom by way of dehumanizing people. The people who think they have nothing to hide  have not contemplated the the workings of their essential selves. Those who think they’re saving us in the name of national security are using a similar rationale as the old East German Stasi. That didn’t work out too well.

rainy day times square, rent seeking american plutocracy equals money fueled power

rainy day times square

rainy day times square


H/T to Mike for The Pay of Corporate Executives and Financial Professionals as Evidence of Rent Seeking in Top 1 Percent Incomes

The debate over the extent and causes of rising inequality of American incomes and wages has now raged for at least two decades. In this paper, we will make four arguments. First, the increase in the incomes and wages of the top 1 percent over in the last three decades should largely be interpreted as driven by the creation and/or redistribution of economic rents, and not simply as the outcome of well-functioning competitive markets rewarding skills or productivity based on marginal differences. This rise in rents accruing to the top 1 percent could be the result of increased opportunities for rent-shifting, increased incentives for rent-shifting, or a combination of both. Second, this rise in incomes at the very top has been the primary impediment to living standards growth for low and moderate-income households approaching the growth rate of economy-wide productivity. Third, because this rise in top incomes is largely driven by rents, there is the potential for checking (or even reversing) this rise through policy measures with little to no adverse impact on overall economic growth. Lastly, this analysis suggests two complementary approaches for policymakers wishing to reverse the rise in the top 1 percent’s share of income: dismantling the institutional sources of their increased ability to channel rents their way and/or reducing the return to this rent-seeking by significantly increasing marginal rates of taxation on high incomes.

The realization that top tear incomes are not connected to achievement, expertise, the noble forces of mythical perfect markets is an important concept for people to understand. Compensation of CEOs has become largely disconnected from merit. It is a cultural phenomenon with economic effects, not the result of market forces. There are certainly people in that income bracket with a conscience and realize this. On the other hand we have people with power and money. Historically and all too often psychologically, people with both will do and say whatever they have to in order to keep that money and power.


the first parachuting nurses, changing technology and worshipping false gods

A nurse parachutist, having jumped, is about to open her parachute.

One of the first parachute nurses. WHO/Red Cross photo.

The first parachute nurses WHO/Red Cross photo.

The first parachute nurses WHO/Red Cross photo.

While it is great that the WHO/Red Cross makes these photos available, they do not supply dates. As best i can find out these nurses may have been part of the Emergency Flight Corps (1933) or the Aerial Nurse Corps of America (1936), both started by Lauretta M Schimmoler (1900-1981).

How Technology Is Destroying Jobs

Given his calm and reasoned academic demeanor, it is easy to miss just how provocative Erik Brynjolfsson’s contention really is. ­Brynjolfsson, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and his collaborator and coauthor Andrew McAfee have been arguing for the last year and a half that impressive advances in computer technology—from improved industrial robotics to automated translation services—are largely behind the sluggish employment growth of the last 10 to 15 years. Even more ominous for workers, the MIT academics foresee dismal prospects for many types of jobs as these powerful new technologies are increasingly adopted not only in manufacturing, clerical, and retail work but in professions such as law, financial services, education, and medicine.

That robots, automation, and software can replace people might seem obvious to anyone who’s worked in automotive manufacturing or as a travel agent. But Brynjolfsson and McAfee’s claim is more troubling and controversial. They believe that rapid technological change has been destroying jobs faster than it is creating them, contributing to the stagnation of median income and the growth of inequality in the United States. And, they suspect, something similar is happening in other technologically advanced countries.

The issue addressed should be of concern, especially since economic policy and cultural attitudes about work in the U.S., Canada and western Europe is driven by right of center Chicago school of economics. Though one of the things that bothered me was the possibility this gives to the far Right to use as another excuse. As in oh well, no sense passing any Keynesian economic incentives because they are of no use in light of changing technology. Some basics still remain. If you start paying all  low wage workers at fast food places, Walmart, Target, Sears, etc a living wage they will spend more, thus drive more demand. Because of technology the multiplier effect might not be as great as the post WW II era, but fair wages would create jobs.

There are some good thoughtful comments. Some seeing the new age as an opportunity, if you get the education and training. The whole article and those comments are worth a click over.

And let me address this troll in the comments section, or the attitude and empty platitudes:

@kbillet The idea that reward is directly tied to how hard you work is definitely a mindset of a past generation. Compensation in today’s world is about your output, and the comparative cost of your labor. Also, many business owners have put their fortunes and lives on the line for a shot to make a business happen. As you mentioned yourself, not everyone has the skills, vision, and luck to pull that off. For those that make that leap, if they’re able to succeed (or at least successful be enough to employ a team of engineers and programmers), I have a hard time not justifying the return on the investment.

Isn’t that the essence of the American Dream? Or does fairness now mean that every one should be entitled to same pay regardless of contribution?

Since when is “how hard you work” not pretty much the same thing as “output”. Excepting those who run around appearing to keep very busy yet create little in terms of products or services, work is productivity. Why is it this guys never supply a modern example of some one who put their fortunes on the line. Would that be businessmen like George W. Bush who tanked three businesses and still came out OK because rich friends bailed him out. Would that be Mitt Romney who used other people’s money, including tax payers subsidies, drained businesses of profits then sold them off. After which which many went bankrupt. How about the Koch brothers who were born into wealth and just made some basic business moves that made them even more wealthy. They have not put their wealth on the line. If they wanted to they could live off the interests of their liquid assets for three lifetimes. Are all the CEOs who make millions a year regardless of profits, risk something? – what exactly, the cash to buy a third mansion. kbillet’s tunnel vision is all too common. Why isn’t a worker – say a skilled programmer, or sheet metal worker or fishing crew, risking everything by working for company B instead of company C. If that hero risk taker CEO at B screws up, he or she will still have millions ( most American workers are still recovering from the Great Recession, while corporate America is back to make per-recession profits).  The worker will have invested a year, five years or maybe twenty years with a company whose CEOs did not have the vision or the humanity to see how their decisions affected their workers. When we start thinking about inclusiveness, the connections and interdependence of people, that is the kind of fairness we should always be thoughtful of. He is implying some enforced socialistic dystopia, a corrupt ignorant hyperbole at the mere thought of economic justice incorporated into our economic system. Let’s not be mindful of how we conduct business in the world because there are these mythical John Galts who are doing everything, inventing everything, risking everything  – while the mindless lazy workers are hanging behind the shed smoking a doobie, instead of being down on their knees in gratitude for letting them ride the great man’s coattails.