Liberals Can’t Read Graphs, Pt. 2

Just as they can’t tell when there’s a downslope, and read flat lines as downslopes, so do liberals think 7% is zero.

Here is an important chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

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The only possible reading of these data is that capital always wins, and has been winning bigger since the ongoing Carter/Reagan Restoration began. But notice: Even in the supposed Golden Age of alleged equality, labor’s compensation growth rate was only 93% of its productivity growth rate. And remember, too, that productivity growth is based on final sales, not just worker pay, so each percentage point of growth there yields a larger absolute amount of money than does any corresponding growth of employee compensation. Hence, even if the growth rate of wages were equal to the productivity growth rate, capitalists would still be winning. But such equality has never existed in the USA since the end of World War II. Even in its supposed heyday, labor was clearly and substantially losing the race.

The plain fact is that the only time in the corporate capitalist epoch that inequality has not grown was World War II, when the state ran the economy and full employment existed.

Nonetheless, the official reading of the above chart is this: “Since the 1970s, growth in inflation-adjusted, or real, hourly compensation—a measure of workers’ purchasing power—has lagged behind labor productivity growth.”

Don;t you just love special pleading?

Theses on NSA

nsa 1. No shit, Sherlock. WTF did you think they were doing this whole time?

2. NSA’s operation is tiny and one-dimensional compared with the data-gathering happening in the marketing operations of the 1,000 largest business corporations.

3. Much of the data being gathered by NSA already exists — and is submitted by — corporations like Google and the cell-phone squatter-oligopolies/profit ranches.

4. One excellent answer to all this spying would be to empower the US Postal Service to set up and run a national, not-for-profit, no-ads, no-spying internet and cellular network, with the explicit charge of out-competing the private sector.

5. We await any kind of left stirring…

6. “Market totalitarianism” is not hyperbole.

Do They Really Hate Regulation?

over-regulation We know, of course, that one of the many overclass insistences promoted and protected by both wings of the reigning Duopoly is the claim that public rules for doing business are “burdens that have stifled innovation and have had a chilling effect on growth and jobs.”

The premise of this claim, of course, is that only unleashed capitalists could ever possibly create full employment, because “vibrant entrepreneurialism is the key to our continued global leadership and the success of our people.” This, despite the screamingly obvious fact that the one and only instance of full employment in the modern United States occurred when the government suspended the unhindered operation of corporate capitalism, i.e. during the publicly administered economy of the Second World War.

If you know somebody who says regulations have prevented any aspiring capitalist from proceeding with an investment, ask that person for the details. There won’t be any, because, contrary to prevailing dogma, existing regulations simply do not stop anybody from investing in anything that is even remotely decent and beneficial to anybody but the aspiring overlords.

Meanwhile, adherents of the over-regulation shibboleth might profit by reading this little article from Bloomberg Business Week. There, author Ken Wells reports:

Over the past five years the price of photovoltaic panels has plummeted 75 percent, due largely to a glut of Chinese-made panels. The fall in prices rendered technically advanced photovoltaic panels, like those produced by Solyndra and other U.S. companies, too expensive to compete. But cheap panels have been a godsend for consumers.

Nationally, the average cost of residential installations—including hardware, permits, and labor—has plummeted from $9 a watt in 2006 to $5.46. Averaging in commercial industrial installations, the national installed price plummets to $3.45 a watt, says the Solar Energy Industries Association, a Washington-based trade group.

The result is a burgeoning rooftop revolution. The SEIA says almost 52,000 residential rooftop systems were installed in the U.S. last year, up 30 percent from a year earlier. Total rooftop installations, including on commercial buildings, grew 109 percent from 2010 to 2011, according to SEIA data. Total photovoltaic installations are projected to grow an additional 71 percent this year from 2011 levels.

But this boom is puny compared to what it ought to be:

Australia projects that 10 percent of its 8 million houses will have rooftop systems within the next 12 months—most of that growth coming in the past three years. European rooftop installations continue to outpace those in the U.S., even as some countries begin to pare subsidies that have helped spur a continental rooftop boom. Including residential, commercial, and industrial-scale projects, the world had installed about 67 gigawatts of photovoltaic power at the end of last year—up from just 1.5 gigawatts in 2000.

Despite [the] breakthroughs, the U.S. economy is harnessing only a fraction of solar’s potential benefits. Based on U.S. Census Bureau data, about 100 million U.S. residential units could physically hold rooftop systems one day, generating by one estimate 3.75 trillion kilowatt hours of electricity a year. In 2011, total U.S. electrical generation from all sources was about 4 trillion kilowatt hours—42 percent of that from coal, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

So, why does the United States — where a mere 52,000 installations constitutes a boom — lag so far behind? Turns out it’s the capitalists, who, in this case, fairly love their snarled and snarling regulations:

The trouble is, many of the big, investor-owned utilities that provide about 85 percent of America’s electricity see solar as both a technical challenge and a long-term threat to their 100-year-old profit models. And the lack of a national energy policy means regulation of solar is up to states, public service commissions, and a wealth of local governments and bureaucracies—many of whom have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

The hidden costs of obtaining permits and regulators’ approval to install rooftop panels is a big reason the U.S. lags behind Germany, which leads the world in rooftop installations, with more than 1 million. The price of installed rooftop solar in Germany has fallen to $2.24 per watt. In fact, on a sunny day in May, rooftop provided all of Germany’s power needs for two hours. “This is a country on latitude with Maine,” says Dennis Wilson, president of the Mid-Atlantic Solar Energy Industries Association, a solar-installer trade group. “Germany is showing us what’s possible—if we can just get our act together.”

That’s easier said than done. Unlike the U.S., Germany has a national solar policy, a quick, inexpensive permitting process, and a national mandate that utilities sign up rooftop installations under what’s known as a feed-in tariff—essentially a long-term contract whereby the utilities agree not just to allow the solar on their grids but also to buy the excess power from consumers.

By contrast, the U.S. has more than 18,000 jurisdictions at the state and local level that have a say in how rooftop solar is rolled out, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. What’s more, electricity is supplied by investor-owned utilities, mostly state-regulated monopolies, which supply power from centralized hubs to captured consumers. Profit is in part tied to growth based on an ever-expanding demand as populations increase.

Rooftop solar poses a threat to that model by turning consumers into producers, thereby sapping utility revenue streams. It also diminishes the need to build expensive new plants and transmission lines.

Pinkwashing

nfl_pink As it recovers from locking out its employees and tries to stave off its players’ claims about its obvious extreme health dangers, the National Football League continues to exploit breast cancer to soften its image and increase the emotional habits and brand loyalties on which it trades.

Idoubtit, an excellent “skeptic” blogger and activist, has started a helpful thread on the topic.

The numbers involved are fascinating. The NFL has annual revenues of $9.5 billion, and yearly profits of $979 million. Business Insider reports:

According to the website, by purchasing pink items in the NFL Shop, fans can “support the fight against breast cancer with pink NFL breast cancer awareness gear.” Of course, there is a huge difference between supporting “awareness” and donating money to research. In the case of the former, most of the money ends up in the pockets of billionaire NFL owners.

When we contacted the NFL’s online shop for clarification, we were told 5% of the sales are being donated to the American Cancer Society. If the pink products have a typical 100% mark-up at retail, that means the NFL is keeping 90% of the profit from the sale of Breast Cancer Awareness gear.

And then consider that only 70.8% of money the ACS receives goes towards research and cancer programs. So, for every $100 in sales of pink gear, only $3.54 is going towards research while the NFL is keeping approximately $45 (based on 100% mark-up).

When the NFL wrote back to Business Insider to “clarify” the facts, it defended itself by saying it donates “approximately $1 million per year” to this cause it wants its fans to believe it seriously cares about.

“Approximately one million dollars,” however, is a mere one tenth of one percent of the NFL’s annual profits, and roughly one one-hundredth of one percent of its revenues.

Gosh, I wonder why they don’t brag about those numbers…

A Peek at Food Styling

For some reason, after somebody complained about the fact that fast food in real life is much uglier than in advertisements, McDonald’s Canada decided to take us behind the scenes and show us the intricate, “several hours”-long process behind every product photograph they issue.

The tour guide is Hope Bagozzi, head of McD’s marketing in Canada.

Hope’s hope (always wanted to type that) is undoubtedly that her matter-of-fact tone will prevent the audience from actually pondering the remarkable waste and dishonesty of the process she depicts.

Bagozzi really tips her hand near the end, however, when she attempts to claim that the reason the patty in the ads looks so much bigger and prettier than the allegedly non-primped one she buys from the allegedly unaware (yet somehow giggling and supremely compliant) counter workers is the “steam effect” from the box containing the real-world burger! ROFL. Compare that shameless howler to the footage of the “food stylist” lightly browning but distinctly not cooking the advertising patty at the 1:30 mark of the video below. (Why brown the edges if you’re about to cook the burger, as the video, after a strategic cut-away, attempts to suggest has happened?)

The real reason for the huge difference between ad and real burger patties is fat content, which, of course, shrinks and leaves a greasy, gnarly result upon actual frying. McD’s clearly avoids this process in preparing its marketing imagery. So, now we know: Hamburger patties are actually raw in food advertisement close-ups!

In any event, this is a very rare little video. Marketers are loath to lift the veil, even with careful misdirection such as Bagozzi attempts here. Definitely worth a look.