Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Struggle for Dominance Between Lingerie Clad Special Agents


If it is true, as some say, that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is being used as a metaphor for our civilization, then we would expect to see certain signs that show that its purpose and attributes are of the highest order.

There can be no compromise in art, certainly not in fine art, which this purports to be. But can we say that all the Marvel Cinematic Universe aspires to this pinnacle of excellence? Sure it might be true for the movies, but what about the “television” spin offs? Whatever, that is, "television" may mean in the era of the bold new Internet paradigm that has put the knife into the heart of what we used to call “broadcast”.

I am happy to report that I have seen excellent evidence that even the lesser manifestations of the MCU, the television version, is clearly aspiring to the highest aesthetics of our cinema. I am still working my way through the back episodes, but very early on in the Second Season of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, I came across a sequence that proved to me that indeed there was a lot of very serious thought and ideas behind this show.

What convinced me was the sequence in Season 2, Episode 4 in which Hydra disguises one of their agents as Coulson's sidekick, May, thus setting up a most excellent encounter between the anti-May and real/good May in the form of an extensive “catfight”.

As we all know, the catfight is an honored trope of exploitative B movies. Two women beating the shit out of each other in scanty outfits have contributed to the cinema since the very early days and have a special place in the heart of the American adolescent male. A stronger statement could be made about the value of the catfight to contemporary cinema and aesthetics.  I believe that it should be rated much higher than it is and be considered on the same level as a fight between giant robots or a 15 minute car chase (how old-fashioned!) When properly executed with vigor and imagination, it can greatly contribute to the cinematic experience.

Important examples of the genre include the fight between Sharon Stone and Rachel Ticotin in Total Recall (1990) (see hereand Charlize Therone and Teri Hatcher in Two Days in the Valley (1994).  (see on youtube here). When critics discuss what was important about these two movies, they often refer to these memorable sequences.

In the following images we begin with the good May in bondage in her lingerie who first must escape in order to confront the impostor.

As a practical note, for those of you interested in how these sequences of trick photography are achieved, notice that somehow we do not see a representation of a "nipple" in spite of the flimsy lingerie and tremendous exertions of the two competing women, one in lingerie/slip and the other in her revealing evening gown. No shallow exploitation of the female form that might endanger a general audience rating here. You can be sure that some special effort was required to achieve this.

Meanwhile the bad May has stolen the good May's evening gown to try to fool Agent Coulson, but it doesn't work. This sets up the climactic encounter between good and evil, real May vs bad May, who slug it out.  Of course this is all played by one actress, at least one stunt double, and the power of visual effects.  Note the use of wires in one part of the struggle, as well as the true hatred between the two women, who are, of course, in real life, one and the same.

Now that I know what is being offered here, I look forward to reviewing the rest of the series. Greatness may lie within even the humble Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on IMDB

Total Recall (1990) on IMDB

Two Days in the Valley (1994) on IMDB

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Design of the Modern Home: Human Sacrifice

I have several friends who are designing their new home and even one friend who has started a business to create affordable, stylish and sustainable housing.

Although I have not been asked to contribute, I am so jealous of these friends of mine that I can not help but think of what I might build if I had the funds, in other words, if I had not made the tragic decision to go into Computer Animation, a decision which clearly destroyed my life, and deprived me of the material success necessary to create one's own home.

This “thought experiment” about design and living has led to many productive questions and issues, including but not limited to the issues of whether one should provide living quarters for the slaves or whether or not it makes sense to prepare now for the inevitable Zombie Apocalypse and build defensive structures into our homes.

And from time to time I come across good visual support material to help stimulate ideas and contribute perhaps to the design process.

Along those lines, here is an image from the film Sherlock Holmes (2009) near the beginning of the film in which Holmes and Watson thwart a human sacrifice in London.

I think this room gives a good impression of a venue for ancient evil and provides an appropriate place for the sacrifice of an unspoiled maiden, the first fruits of the harvest as it were, to the ancient Gods.  You don't want to be cavalier about human sacrifice, that would show disrespect. You would not want to just cut someone's throat by the pool or on a patio, but should prepare a special place for this purpose. There are some details here of course which will guide the design as, for example, if one is recreating ancient Aztec practices and plan to rip the still beating heart out of the victim, then one would need to provide for better blood drainage, presumably.  


Sherlock Holmes (2009) on IMDB

Administrative Note: The "Conclusions" Category on Global Wahrman

We announce here a new category, or tag, for Global Wahrman, the so-called “conclusions” category.

One purpose of Global Wahrman is to explore a variety of ideas and beliefs about such things as the role of the Illuminated Masters in determining algorithms for Google, the failure of the cultural myth, the role of corruption in our civic governance and whether our politicians are motivated directly by Satan or merely *appear* to be motivated by Satan. These are just a few examples of the ideas that we discuss here on Global Wahrman.  

But from time to time, I think it is fair to say that we reach conclusions, or proximate conclusions, about these weighty and complex issues, and want to mark these posts as being of particular interest. Such posts will be marked with the “Conclusions” tag. Eventually these posts will also be collected and put in some category on the right hand side of the blog to also make them easier to find.

As an example of this, consider Globalization and Its Discontents which discusses the role of our government in the collapse of the American economy.  Although perhaps not the final statement on the culpability of our government in this collapse, it is certainly a partial statement on this topic. Did our government know full well that their policies would impoverish millions of Americans in order to increase the profits of the rich?  Of course they did.

So while the term "Conclusions" is a little overblown, it is fair I think to identify these posts as being a little less speculative and of greater interest to those who want some of the ideas of this blog boiled down, distilled as it were, into a relatively few posts.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Drug Companies Have Nothing to Worry About

In the following article in USA Today about Mylan, the exploitative company behind the notorious EpiPen, the authors make the point that Mylan is not the only guilty party, but that many drug manufacturers use their market position to extract monopolistic fees from their victims.  See the article here.

In particular, they have a fabulous quote by a market analyst about why investors have nothing to worry about from government legislation.
Some think the fears about government attention on high drug profit margins are overblown. "We believe that this effort (efforts against Mylan's price hikes) likely will follow the same playbook that lawmakers used to shame Gilead, Valeant (VRX), and others," according to Spencer Perlman, analyst at Height Securities. "Congressional hearings and a press onslaught, but no substantive legislative action."

In other words, our politicians, corrupt to the very core, pay lip service to the problem but take no action. As always. As long as they get their money from the corporations, they don't really care about anything else.

The problem with this “business as usual”, is that we are expected to be patient with the process, to trust these people, our representatives, to have our interests at heart, and very clearly they do not. Being patient, and trusting them is in fact part of their game. Therefore it is a reasonable response to demand substantive legislation immediately, or take direct action through the proposition system, and then, of course, to expel these corrupt miscreants, our elected representatives, from office.

Of course, anyone who knows the history here knows there is very little chance of anything good happening. The pharmaceuticals industry is spending over $100 million in the state of California to defeat a proposition designed to allow Medicare to get the same prices as the VA department.

That would be horrible, wouldnt it, to help poor people get their medication?  Why, that violates everything that America and our political system stands for.  You can be sure that our politicians will not allow this to happen.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The 1980s in Los Angeles: Choose Me (1984) By Alan Rudolph

The early 1980s was a particularly good period for independent films. Notable from this period is Chan is Missing (1982), Repo Man (1984), Buckaroo Banzai (1984) and Alan Rudolph's Choose Me (1984).

If you have not seen the latter, its a low-key, ensemble, actor-oriented romantic comedy. It makes excellent use of the environment of Los Angeles and its art scene.

A complete version of the film with good sound but low resolution and no commercial interruption can be found on Youtube here   Or you can order it from Netflix as a DVD.

The movie has no special effects, and nothing large explodes. Nevertheless, it is entertaining for many reasons not least of which is the performance by Genevieve Bujold. If you want to see what can be done without digital visual effects and a low budget and some talented friends, this is a good place to start.


Choose Me (1984) on IMDB]

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

SIGGRAPH 2016 Report

This is the first report on the SIGGRAPH 2016 conference. I might or might not add a later, more detailed, report. If you have any specific questions, please send me email or comment here and I will try to answer them.


Special thanks to Michael Deering, Terrence Massan, Tom Duff and Ken Perlin for their material contributions to my ability to attend SIGGRAPH at all. Special thanks also to Jon Snoddy for enabling the Disney R&D participation, Wendy Wirthlin of Pixar for enabling my entry into the Pixar reception and to Jerry Weil for a tour of the exhibit floor.  Thanks go to MK Haley for her general hand holding even in absentia.  

Also thanks go to Michael Johnson of Pixar for indulging my neurotic job search issues.


SIGGRAPH this year was about the same as it has been for the last several years.

A. It is very pleasant on a social level.  B.  It is moderately interesting on a technical level, but nothing outstanding.  C. The tradeshow floor was very useful as a way of keeping up with what is happening in production technology.  D. SIGGRAPH has been essentially useless for me for a decade for economic or employment purposes.  E. The job fair was completely useless.  F. The people who run SIGGRAPH seem completely unaware of anything going on outside their very narrow interests, but it is not clear to me that this is the wrong thing.


The idea that SIGGRAPH formed a community of people who were inventing a new field is long, long gone. And thats the way the people who run SIGGRAPH want it to be.  Too bad.  They fucked it up.

AR and VR

AR and VR is now in the "spend money to show how creative we are", or not creative, as you please. Everyone agrees that there is some AR and VR in our future, and most people seems to think that AR will totally dominate over VR, or so it seems from my casual conversations with a few dozen Siggraph participants. Beyond that, there is a lot of skepticism that the hardware available today is definitive, but general agreement that the hardware available soon will be. And that AR in particular will make it easier to deploy this technology vs VR because of the ability to see and not bump into things and the lack of nausea in most AR situations.

I personally had a strong negative reaction to the hype-based "vanity" projects at SIGGRAPH based on AR/VR.  But this might be a little hypocritical of me since, after all, I had benefited so directly from such projects in the early days of computer animation.

Fast Forward

As always, the Fast Forward was the best part of SIGGRAPH. It allowed one to quickly and efficiently get a feel for whether or not a paper was of interest. There were quite a few papers of minor interest to me, but none of compelling (that is, I had to see it) interest.  There should be guidelines about humor for the participants so they do not humiliate themselves.

Keynote Speech

One more time we have a keynote speaker who has nothing to do with the field (an executive from JPL) and who was very nice about thanking us for “our” work maybe 20 years ago. What she forgot to say is that there is absolutely no financing for visualization in space science, that maybe 5 people are employed in that area in the entire United States, and one more time the Keynote Speech was useless, even contemptuous, of all of the thousands of people who devoted their lives to computer animation but have no way to make a living at it. Thanks a lot, SIGGRAPH, I really appreciate it.

Pioneer Reception

The speech by Alvy Ray Smith was interesting but all too short. I was intrigued to see that he was wearing the moral equivalent of a Nehru jacket and that he acknowledged that in general evil geniuses tend to wear them.

Anaheim as a Venue

Remember that this is peak summer and that Anaheim is across the street from Disneyland. Anaheim has in two years become much more expensive, and thus has become less suitable for a SIGGRAPH location. There were no rooms in any hotel for about 50 miles, unless you wanted a $300 a night suite.

The Exhibit Floor

Walked the trade show floor with Jerry Weil and saw numerous interesting things. In particular an Israeli handheld scanner thing that was spectacular.

HDR / Technicolor

Josh Pines and colleague gave an informative discussion of high dynamic range imagery in the glamourous and rewarding motion picture industry.

Pixar Reception

Pixar, it would seem, has completely changed out their old software suite for a completely new one. Which of these are available to the public and which are internal only is not clear to me.

Disney R&D Mixer

I knew almost no one there, but had a very nice chat with Christophe Hery of Pixar and Scott Watson of Disney R&D.

I think that this event could benefit from more structure and I humbly propose one here. Since I presume that most of the attendees were there to push their agendas within the larger Disney financing pool, this could be assisted perhaps by a large Disney org chart positioned somewhere near the entrance, or perhaps also in the food or drink line, that color codes their executives in helpful ways.  It might report the amount of currently budgeted discretionary financing.  Then the Disney executives could wear special color coded hats or other easily visible apparel that could be checked against this chart.

Alternatively, one might consider a handout at the entrance with a picture of each executive or project leader and a brief description.  "Stanley Berriview will entertain concepts based on the real time use of surveillance technology to create a more meaningful guest experience."   And so forth.

Another Point of View

One attendee, Lance Williams, who looks remarkably like an old school Russian revolutionary these days, points out that his employer, NVIDIA, had a foveal display of some sort. This is certainly an idea worth looking at more closely.

Sightings and Social Activities

Richard Chuang, founder of PDI, announced that he was on some committee to help SIGGRAPH figure out what its future is.  The future, or perhaps the doom, of SIGGRAPH will certainly be the topic of one or more posts on this blog.

John Hughes, founder of Rhythm and Hues, and now of Tao Studios in Beijing, was sighted at SIGGRAPH, perhaps the first time in decades.

Jim Hillin was informative about the failure of the crafts to sue to force the US Government to enforce the trade laws regarding subsidies.

Kawaguchi Sake Party had a video of an inflatable Kawaguchi style critter that I thought was very appealing.

Finally met Gene Miller and Garland Stern.

Had a nice chat with Richard Edlund, Ray Feeney, Andrew Glassner, Dave Leavitt, Debbie Deas and Richard Cray.

Finally got to to talk to Aung Min after all these years.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Implications of the 270 Riverside Drive Experience

As readers of this blog know well, no event is random, and no situation should be assumed to be without consequence but all of them should be analyzed and re-analyzed for their deeper meaning and for clues to our mysterious future and probable doom.

In this search for meaning in our pointless lives, sometimes the use of the Esoteric Knowledge is necessary but sometimes it is not. In this case, no esoteric knowledge is required to see our stark choices. The future is only too clear.

First review my little post about my former living conditions at 270 Riverside Drive to understand the situation. Now lets ask some questions about what living there might have meant.

At the time I was living there, I was vaguely aware of how lucky I was and that this was a situation that would be hard to recreate were it to ever go away, which inevitably it must. In part that was mixed in with my conclusion that living there also allowed me to live in Manhattan which was itself quite a blessing. But beyond that, what did it mean?

What was really going on, I conclude in retrospect, is that through an artifact of the ancient rent control laws of Manhattan, themselves left over from a more Socialist period when, briefly, the living conditions of the poor and disenfranchised were a concern, however modest, of our political elite. Through a series of lucky breaks, I had been permitted to live in a situation that I could otherwise never afford. But even more important, this was a living situation that I also did not deserve.

This is where the lower animals deserve to live

You see, in America, it is only the rich who are permitted to live in a way that their life is enhanced and ennobled. The rest of the population, by the very definition of being not-rich, are a lower animal form who are unworthy of any of this. They should live in dreary poverty, stupid stucco dingbats, or endlessly similar suburban housing, where they can pay inflated rents and mortgages, buy from chain supermarkets, and live out what is left of their so-called lives as servants of the rich.

The kind of lifestyle I had when at 270 RSD was thus completely anomalous and should not be allowed to occur and in general it does not. My choices now are to live in poverty and despair or in some way prove myself by making in excess of many tens of millions of dollars, no doubt through entrepreneurial activity or, to judge from the history of great fortunes in America, through various types of theft, crime or amoral and sociopathic behavior.

This does not seem like such a hard lesson to learn, but somehow it is.

Friday, August 12, 2016

270 Riverside Drive Apt 12A New York City

When I lived in NYC in the 1990s I was lucky enough to live in some spectacular apartments.This is all due to friends who welcomed me to New York and made it possible for me to stay there when by rights I should have had to leave. One of these apartments was on Central Park West in the upper west side.  The other was on Riverside Drive at 99 and Riverside.

This apartment was on the top floor of the building with a view of the Hudson from almost every room. It was, they tell me a classic eight (or seven?) with four bedrooms, three baths, a formal dining room, a living room, a study and my office (the former maid's room). One of the bedrooms was allocated for our guests, something that is quite rare in Manhattan where space is at a premium.

This apartment had been rent controlled for decades and the person who had the lease was very generous with those he sublet rooms to and I only had to pay my share of the total reduced rent. Ultimately he became a victim of his own pride in a dispute with the landlord and lost his lease so we all had to leave.  The place needed to be fixed up (it is an artifact of the rent control laws that such apartments are allowed to grow more decrepit) and I always wondered what it would rent for (or sell for if in a coop situation).

Thanks to the power of the bold, new Internet paradigm, we can easily find out. The apartment is listed on Zillow at about $6.8 million (see here for the Zillow listing).

If you look at the pictures in this listing, you would have no idea how completely wonderful this apartment is and what it was like to live there. Part of the reason for this is that they did not photograph the place to show you its environment and they made other mistakes as well.  Here are some photographs that may correct this impression and give a hint of the grace conferred on those who lived there.

View out one of the windows

On the street where you live

At night


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Harry Dean Stanton in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

[Thanks to Ken Perlin for noticing that I had incorrectly attributed Emilio Estevez's role in Repo Man to his brother, Charlie Sheen.]

I was recently reviewing the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) body of work and in particular the problematic issue of The Avengers series of films when I came across a scene between a security guard and Mark Ruffalo who plays The Hulk in this movie.

The security guard is played by one of my favorite actors, Harry Dean Stanton, and suddenly the entire movie was seen in a new light.

I was introduced to Stanton's work in Alex Cox's Repo Man (1984), where he played the role of the experienced car repossession mentor, Bud. In particular the sequence where Stanton explains to Emilio Estevez (oldest son of Martin Sheen and brother of Charlie Sheen) the “Repo Code” is memorable.

BUD: Never broke into a car, never hot wired a car. Never broke into a trunk. “I shall not cause harm to any vehicle or the personal contents thereof, or through inaction allow the vehicle or the personal contents thereof come to harm. “ Thats what I call the “repo code”, kid. Don't forget it. Etch it into your brain. Not many people have a code to live by anymore. Hey look at them, look at those assholes over there. Ordinary fucking people, I hate em.
OTTO: Me too. 
BUD: What do you know? You see, an ordinary person spends his life avoiding tense situations. A repo man spends his life getting into tense situations. Assholes. Lets go get a drink.

The sequence can be seen here.

Mr Stanton has a cinematic term of art named in part for him. As defined by Roger Ebert, the “Stanton-Walsh Rule” states that
No movie featuring either Harry Dean Stanton or M. Emmet Walsh in a supporting role can be altogether bad. An exception was CHATTAHOOCHEE (1990), starring Walsh. Stanton's record is still intact.

Returning now to The Avengers (2012) we have a sequence in which the Hulk has fallen from the sky, landed in an abandoned factory and transformed back into his human form as played by Mark Ruffalo. He is greeted by a security guard who reassures Ruffalo that he did not hurt anyone when he landed and has brought him some clothes. 

GUARD: Are you an alien?
GUARD: From outer space.... an alien?
GUARD: Well then, son, you've got a condition.
BANNER: (nods in agreement)

At the time that this scene was shot, Harry Dean Stanton must have been 81 or 82 years old.



The Avengers (2012) on IMDB

Repo Man (1984) at IMDB

Biography of Harry Dean Stanton by Roger Ebert

Harry Dean Stanton in Interview Magazine

M. Emmet Walsh in Wikipedia

Monday, August 8, 2016

Its Always So Depressing When the Russians Leave

I have mentioned this before, but it happened again. Every few months or so, maybe every 4-6 months, the Russians seem to come to my blog. I love them because my view count goes through the roof and I feel appreciated and loved even if it is fake, which it is. Or at least, almost certainly is. I suppose it could be possible that some Russian English class is using my blog as a way of learning eccentric English.

But probably, it is just some bot on a regular circuit based on some criteria that I could only guess at which hits my blog, extracts all the content as juice, and then goes away.

But I miss them, and I hate it when the blog goes back to its normal daily view count.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Why is Helena Bonham-Carter Always Falling Out of Bed?

This post is rated X due to comments about the "rubber/latex glove".

I just saw for the first time that epic tome on weird psychology, Fight Club (1999) by David Fincher. There are many theories about what it means, what happened, and so forth and so on. But none of these discussions of theories of masculinity or the lack thereof addressed the issue most important to me. Ms. Bonham-Carter appears to play a character that is always falling off the bed.

Ok, so she isn't always falling out of bed, but she is at least twice, and twice is enough to convince me that it means something.

First we have....

And then we have ...

If we add the great, even famous line, “That was the best sex I have had since grade school”, I think we have some sort of implication that falling out of bed indicates, well, a fallen woman, a woman who gives herself over to sex, or sexual pleasure.  Note for example the subtle use of a latex or rubber glove being worn by Brad Pitt.  Fisting perhaps?  Anal sex? 

Is this the role of women in Fight Club? Is this all that women are good for? Going to 12 step therapy sessions and hopping into (and off of) bed?


Biography of Helena Bonham-Carter on IMDB

Friday, August 5, 2016

Linux Security Tools

As we move finally into the new century, it becomes less and less clear who the enemy is. Is it the NSA as so many think, or is it the FBI, the DEA and local law enforcement as I believe? The IRS or the Franchise Tax Board? Does it matter? Well yes, I think it does matter but that may be above our collective heads.

After all, we, the citizens are not organized, can not defend ourselves, and for the most are, in my humble opinion, too stupid to understand the issues even though they are right before our tightly shut eyes. Like happy sheep, shorn for the benefit of the rich, we bleet our way through our pathetic lives on the way to the butcher. One last time through the scissors our happy middle class says as the harvest of their pathetic wealth, valuable only in aggregate, is extracted by our ruling classes. They only have our interests at heart we can be sure.

But there are tools which may be of use to the dissident, the criminal, or merely the consumer who does not want to share their pathetic lower middle class peccadilloes with our nosy neighbors. These tools provide a certain level of security to the computer user as long as some guidelines are followed, and these guidelines include (a) great diligence and attention to detail is required to use these tools successfully, (b) these tools and the details change constantly and it is up to you to not be complacent and stay up to date, and (c) any security can be penetrated if the adversary wants to enough, although different costs are imposed for different levels of security.

But with that in mind, here is a list of Linux security tools and guides as provided indirectly through and submitted for your consideration.

If you read to the end, you will find links to security guides for Windows and Android as well.

You Max OS X and IOS users are on your own.

Here is a quote in case the references post goes away, although has been very good about such things.

Security in-a-Box is a joint project of Tactical Tech and Front Line Defenders which provides practical help and information on digital security, published in 17 languages and reaching over 2 million people every year.

The six new Linux tool guides offer in-depth step-by-step help in installing and running six of the most essential open-source digital security tools, including the Tor Browser, Thunderbird with Enigmail for encrypted email and the Firefox browser with privacy Add-ons:

- Tor Browser for online anonymity & censorship circumvention:

- Thunderbird, Enigmail and OpenPGP for secure emails:

- VeraCrypt for secure file storage:

- Jitsi and OTR for encrypted instant messaging and VoIP calls:

- Firefox add-ons for secure browsing:

- KeePassX for secure passwords:

The new guides add to our existing 25 tool guides for Windows, Android and social media, as well as 11 in-depth tactics covering all aspects of digital security.

Remember, none of these are a panacea. Real security requires constant vigilance.


New word note: “aggregrate” for “aggregate”.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Fight Club, Richard Baily and the Subversion of Reality

It goes without saying that when a genuinely interesting movie comes out in America, that the film critics and media organizations will attack it and lie as hard as they can about what it is about in order to minimize the number of people who see it. That is the job of the media in our oppressive society. Whereas when we have a stupid movie like Avatar, everyone gets damp about it even though it has no content. So I heard for years that Fight Club (1999) glorified violence and so forth and so on and never had any desire to see it. Well I happened to see it the other day, and guess what, it has nothing whatsoever to do with what they said it did.

But we are not here to talk about content, or about the repression of truth, or about how shallow and superficial our civilization is. We are here to talk about something more important. Which is to say, visual effects.

What is the role of the artist? The role of the artist is to manufacture consumer products in order to maximize shareholder value of course. And it turns out that one artist that I knew quite well was the artist who blew up the buildings at the end of Fight Club. My friend Doctor Baily of Image Savant, under the direction of visual effects supervisor Kevin Haug and director David Fincher, blew up those buildings.

Richard "Dr" Baily of Image Savant

Furthermore, eschewing “photorealism”, that grossly abused and misunderstood term, the buildings blow up in a poetic and dreamlike fashion, thus contributing to the telling of the story. As we do not know if those buildings really did blow up, since by that time we are quite sure we do not know what is real and what is the perception of a disturbed individual.

And to do so a mere two years before the real buildings blew up at the World Trade Center! How wonderful for him, to have actually predicted and, symbolically at least, participated in the single event that has caused so much war and misery in our world.

Rarely does visual effects have such an impact.

Fight Club on IMDB

Globalization and its Discontents Part 2/2

I can't imagine anything more futile and tedious than spending time agonizing over how to present what I have learned about some of the structural economic issues of this country. It goes without saying that i have no credibility in this area and that there is zero opportunity for my opinions to make the slightest difference.

On the other hand, I have read that a so-called democracy depends upon an informed electorate assuming, that is, that we do have a democracy, which I doubt. And some of the most important issues that we as a nation face are at the very least non-trivial and with a long and interesting history so it hasnt been entirely boring for me, but for you, thats not so clear.

If we are going to participate in the political process, then it is up to us to investigate what is going on, what the options are, correlate what we have been told with what actually happened in order to form judgments about future behavior and take what positive steps we can in a world out of our control. Furthermore, certain of the issues described below, although they are part of a very complicated economic system, do seem to have some straightforward partial solutions that would be helpful.

I will call these “naive solutions”. I mean, why not?

So with my undergraduate degree in Economics in hand, I boldly set out to understand what is going on with certain economic policies of our country. Probably no one term describes these structural issues but the one most often used is “globalization” and that will have to do for now. And the goal of my little adventure in civics and participatory democracy is to learn more about what is going on in our economy which seems to have substantially changed in the last 30 years.

Lets ask some fundamental questions.

1. Just how many unemployed people are there in this country?

I grew up at the RAND Corporation, the very home and heart of quantitative research in this country. All economic measures are imperfect but they are often useful. We need some way to judge the effect(s) of policy, and if we are using modeling and simulation, some way to evaluate the results of proposed changes in policy.

I assumed that the “unemployment rate” that we hear so much about was an imperfect measure of the percentage of Americans who are either completely unemployed or mostly unemployed. Imperfect is not the right way to describe this measure, a better way might be “deliberately deceptive”. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the “unemployment rate” only measures the percentage of people in this country who had become unemployed in the last 18 months and are still unemployed. If you have been unemployed for more than 18 months, then you are no longer counted. But of the people I know who are unemployed, by far the ones who are most affected are those who have been unemployed for longer than 18 months. How many of those are there? No one seems to know.

Furthermore, there is no measure, as far as I can tell, of the number of people who did find work, but at a rate far lower than the one they had previously. So, if they previously worked as a Marketing professional at $80K/year but are now working slinging burgers at Jack in the Box, this is not measured. There is also no accounting for the people who have given up trying to work, but would be working if they could.

But our government does not measure or attempt to measure this. And when they talk about the unemployment rate they are deliberately lying. Well, I dont find that acceptable. What are they trying to hide. Thats an easy question to answer. They dont want to know how miserable people are in this country due to their policies and they dont want you to know either.

2. But, how much of this unemployment and underemployment is the result of “globalization”?

It would be easy to find out if they wanted to know, all they would have to do is to ask the companies that lay people off, or who no longer outsource to American companies, how many people they laid off or what is the value of the contract now sent overseas.

This would not tell the whole story.  If $500 million dollars worth of salaries is extracted from a community and sent overseas to save $50 million for the corporation, that $500 million is no longer being spent in the local community. How many people does that effect and how to do you measure it?  And then of course that money is itself recycled through the community many times, perhaps to a lesser degree.  Given enough time and a research library, I would probably find that economists have measured or modeled this effect in the economy.  For our purposes it is enough to know that we do not know how much the mere outsourcing of work to save a few dollars for the corporation hurts the rest of us.

But just like the unemployment rate, we would expect that our government would want to know these numbers and would make an effort to estimate them. But they do not. All that is reported, if anything is reported, is that the corporation saved $50 million dollars that year by outsourcing. That must be nice for that corporation, and their shareholders, but how about the rest of us?

3. Surely you do not advocate "Protectionism"? What about "market forces"? 

Yes, there are market forces at work, but there are also many government forces, subsidies, taxes and so forth at work as well.  And believe it or not, "market forces" do not absolve anyone from ethics, planning or thinking.

Protectionism is a naughty word in Washington.  The code word du jour is "free trade". As previously referred to in a test case, should we allow a corporation to save $50 million if it costs our citizens $500 million in salaries?  Our Washington elite says yes. They say that so-called "free trade" will help everyone. Does it? Prove it.  

4. But doesnt Globalization help everyone?

In a word, no.

If 90% of the wealth of this country is owned by 1 percent of the population, then if profits are increased for some major corporations, those profits go to the 1 percent. But its worse than that. Not only does this not take into account the lost income to the now-unemployed workers, it does not take into account how much of that income would go to local taxes and to local businesses as people live their lives. In other words, Globalization deliberately increases the profits of the rich at the expense of the working classes and the local communities.

Furthermore, it is completely obvious to anyone who reviews the history of this process that the people who are most hurt by these policies are the people who are least able to afford it.  The worker with tiny savings can not just simply be unemployed and go get retrained as a lawyer.  First, he has a family to support. Second he has no money for school.  Third he is an older worker and our society is ageist as can be, and furthermore is ageist with specific government support to be so.  (1)

5. Why do you say the government specifically did this to hurt most Americans?  Isnt that paranoid? 

Of course.  Or maybe being called paranoid is just an ad hominem attack by people who do not want to discuss the issues.

It is the responsibility of our law makers, our bureaucracies, and our justice system to create and then implement a body of complex laws, rules, precedent and so forth.  When someone who is an elected representative tries to get support for a law, or a treaty, or a judgment and tells people it will make them more prosperous when he or she knows full well that it will not, then what do you call that?

The issues associated with so-called "globalization" have been well known in economic circles since the 19 th century. Technology has made things somewhat different, there is more work that can be sent offshore, but this is hardly the first time this phenomenon has been seen. Our politicians and leaders of industry knew to a great extent what the result would be and they did it anyway and lied about how it would be good for us the whole time.  When they knew full well that the people who would benefit would be the rich, and that the people who would be hurt would be the middle classes and the poor.  And they did nothing whatsoever to mitigate that very predictable result.  

Nor have they tried to even measure the result as we have shown.  

6. Arent you oversimplifying this situation?

Yes, the situation is far worse and far more blatantly abusive than I have described.  Lets go a little deeper.

Our government has worked to encourage business to send work to countries where slave labor, indentured labor, and vast numbers of impoverished workers look for anything to do to make a living.  They knew full well that this infinite sink of cheap labor would impoverish a tremendous number of Americans, but they did absolutely nothing to mitigate it.  What could they possibly do, you say?  One, there could be laws against sending work to countries and companies that use slave and indentured labor. Second, these laws would have to include criminal sentences and mandatory jail time for all executives of a company, to the very top, or they would do it anyway, as business in America always breaks the law to make a fast buck.  Third, we can make provision for the displaced American worker to be able to support their family and pay for their graduate school.  Fourth, we can pay for the previous item because the company that displaced them will pay for this retraining out of the profits made from globalization.  Anything else would merely say to the company, make as much money as you want but do not for a second be concerned or responsible for the immense suffering and economic results of the greed of the corporation.

Instead the government and corporations pretend that outsourcing or offshoring does not have negative effects in this country.  But it does, and someone has to pay for it.  Why not have the corporation that benefited from such outsourcing pay for it?

7. Our government has failed to enforce treaties and trade agreements designed to create a level playing field.

The case study of the visual effects and motion picture industries is quite illuminating.  The commonwealth nations (UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand) have created subsidies for foreign filmmakers to bring their films to these countries.  A producer who brings $10 million worth of production work to Canada will receive a check for $4 million up front.  No producer can resist that. This has affected all the filmmaking arts and crafts, but it has wiped out the American visual effects business (with a few exceptions).  Almost all visual effects has moved offshore and while some Americans have been able to leave the country and find work, or temporary work, many have not been able to do so and have been required to leave the industry and / or are otherwise impoverished.

There are laws about such things. There are treaties. There are remedies.  But in general it requires our State Department to act and they will not act if the elected representatives do not ask them to.  And our representatives will not ask the State Department to act unless the citizens demand it.  But labor is not organized in visual effects so they do not ask, or demand, their elected representatives to help them (or to invoke any of the other remedies that exist to deal with this kind of problem).

Our government had a responsibility to act and it did not do so, and as a result many, many people were impoverished and had to leave the country.  And why?  Because the movie studio wanted the subsidies, it helped them, not the worker.  But who cares about the worker, the non-shareholder? I presume that the field of visual effects is not unique, and that if our government is so completely in the pocket of the large corporation and against the worker in this industry, that the government also acts against the interests of the worker in other industries as well.

Isnt this really the fault of the worker for not organizing? Well, maybe, that is certainly part of the problem here. Maybe our system should require labor to organized to defend their basic rights? After all, the people who are hurt are not just those who did not organize (the craft of Visual Effects) but the local economies as well. But isnt this really just blaming the victim? Its all her fault because she did not scream loud enough when being raped? Maybe.

8. But what could our government do to change the situation?

The following would in no way solve all the problems.  Peoples lives have been destroyed to increase the profits of the rich and we can not turn back the clock.

First, measure unemployment. Second, pay for retraining (calculated at about 250K per person). Third, stop abusive visa programs such as the H2B program. Fourth, compel the corporations to pay their share of the retraining. Fifth, see to it the costs of shipping and communications reflects real costs and does not violate our laws. Sixth, enforce the trade laws regarding subsidies. Seventh, criminalize the corporate violations of the law that result in American unemployment. Eighth, stop oppressing the middle and lower classes with taxes, but increase the taxes on the rich. Backdate this five years. Ninth, use our intelligence community to shut down the transfer of wealth to off shore tax shelters and the work of companies to do the same. Tenth, make it illegal for our corporations to outsource or off shore work to companies that use indentured labor, slave labor, or suppress workers rights. As always with our corporations, these requirements must have criminal penalties attached.  Eleventh, the subsidy issue in the motion picture industry proves that labor must be organized to fight for its rights in our government, so not only must the "right to work" bullshit be eliminated, but unions of one type or another must become mandatory.  Twelfth, force our government to create a strategic economic plan for the economic well being of all our citizens. We have strategic plans for defense and energy, we should have one for our economy. Thirteenth, reduce the influence of big corporations on the political system.  Do this one first.

9. What conclusions should we draw?

I concluded from my little research project into the economic policies of this country the following:

1. That the policies that go under the term of "free trade" were guaranteed to impoverish and/or economically damage the American worker.

2. That the US Government knew this and lied to the American people about the likely economic results of their policies in order to increase the profits of the rich.

3. That the US Government does not measure nor does it want to measure the amount of economic distress that exists in this country.

4. That the US Government does not enforce the laws and treaties that might mitigate the distress their policies have caused.

5. That the US Government has not taken any of the steps or implemented the policies that would assist the American worker in this economy.

6. That in order for us, the 99 percent, to change this situation we will have to change our government, and force them to make the changes.  These changes include measuring the distress, stopping certain visa programs, implementing laws against outsourcing and offshoring to companies and countries using slave or indentured labor, or who deny worker rights, implementing new training and education programs for all Americans that put them on a even footing with the children of the rich, making it illegal to outsource or offshore unless it can be shown that the net benefit to society as a whole (and not just the profits of the corporation) are positive, criminalizing corporate malfeasance, making it illegal to outsource or outshore work to governments and companies known to be involved in immoral and unethical activities, creating real and non-insulting benefits for our unemployed and impoverished, force the State Department to implement the laws regarding subsidies, change the tax structure of this country to put the burden on the rich, and discover and punish off-shore and illegal tax accounts by our rich and our corporations.

Some of these are easier to do than others, but all of them are doable and should be done at once. Ha. Maybe you think that is unrealistic, and you are probably right. Our government has made it very clear what they think about the working classes of this country.

They could not care less.

[To follow: a post on the need to criminalize corporate crime and more specific remedies for the economic inequality our government has so conscientiously brought into being].


1. You are invited to spend a day reviewing the laws about ageism and ask yourself whether there is any chance for one second that these laws are intended, in any meaningful way, to prevent discrimination based on age.  My conclusion after spending a week on it, is that there is not the slightest chance in hell that these laws are expected to be taken seriously.  One more time our government pays lip service to some nice sounding social policy but does nothing to make it happen.  It would be a joke, if any of it was funny.

2. See the Congressional Research Service Report "The Economic Effects of Trade: Overview and Policy Challenges" at