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More Proof People Who Still Think My Homelessness is My Fault are Delusional

Who Is REBNY? Bullies.

Rating the Best Films of the 21st Century So Far

I have seen only four films that made The New York Times‘ list: Inside Llewyn Davis, I’m Not There., Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, all of which I rated 10/10, and The Gleaners and I, which I rated 9/10. I went and looked at my film ratings list, and I gave the following films from 2000 and beyond (I know 2000 is not really part of the 21st century, but I followed their lead) 10/10. It would take a bit to narrow it down to 25, though:

Absolute Wilson (doc)
Across the Universe
American Splendor
Before Sunset
Behind the Sun
Bowling for Columbine (doc)
Brand Upon the Brain!
C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America
Capitalism: A Love Story (doc)
Choking Man
Cowards Bend the Knee
The Darjeeling Limited
Donnie Darko
Electric Shadows
Fahrenheit 9/11 (doc)
The Fairy Faith (doc)
The Fall
Garden State
Ghost World
The Happiness of the Katakuris
History Lessons (doc)
Home Room
I Heart Huckabees
In America
In Praise of Love
Intolerable Cruelty
Junk Drawer (short)
Lady in the Water
McDull, the Alumni
Mullholland Dr.
My Winnipeg
The N Word (doc)
No Country for Old Men
Notre Musique
Official Welcome (short)
One Hour Photo
Pan’s Labyrinth
Paradise Lost trilogy (doc)
Persée (filmed opera)
Platée (filmed opera)
Play (short)
Please Give
Protégé de la Rose Noire
Russian Ark
Ryan (short)
The Saddest Music in the World
The Science of Sleep
The Screwfly Solution (short)
A Serious Man
Sicko (doc)
Sleepwalkers (short)
A Slice of Lynch (doc)
Spider-Man 2
Synecdoche, New York
Tanner on Tanner
Touch the Sound (doc)
Two-Bit Waltz
The Vyrotonin Decision (short)
Waking Life
What Where (short)
Where to Invade Next. (doc)
Wisconsin Death Trip
With a Friend Like Harry

Perhaps I will narrow this down at some point from the 72 finalists or rerate some of my 9s.

J Is for Junk Economics: Michael Perelman, Michael Hudson, Bertell Ollman

I missed church at Unity of New York for the first time in a year by attending the Left Forum, but this year, I didn’t present at that time. I instead saw a fascinating presentation by Michael Perelman, Michael Hudson, and Bertell Ollman. Perelman was primarily the moderator, Hudson discussed his new book, J Is for Junk Economics, and Ollman presented his criticisms of Hudson’s book, with which Hudson agreed if he sometimes considered the arguments tangential to his point. They said that the talk will be posted on YouTube at openunivoftheleft, but nothing has been posted there in years, so here is a summary of my notes (mostly a transcription fleshed into full sentences–some elements don’t make sense because of weaknesses or illegibility in my notes).

Update: Here it is:

In keeping with his religious imagery, Perelman added the word “sin” to the presentation title, which he said was for “stupidity,” and that the stupidest was that the “Carnival Barker in Chief” had embraced the idiocy of Arthur Laffer. Perelman said that a lot of economics is designed strictly in reaction to worker uprisings, as we saw in Adler. He mentioned that Francis Werner was asked by the British Parliament in the early nineteenth century was asked to write an improvement on Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations–then seen as a deeply flawed work, but he refused to do so until smith’s work was done. He believed that the ideology of Smith outweighed its truth. Perelman also said that psychological studies show that people who study economics have been shown in psychological studies to be the most selfish of any discipline.

Lionel Robbins’s The Nature of the Economics of Science was a standard textbook for economics students well into at least the 1960s. It opens with a nonsense paragraph claiming that it was an indisputable fact of science that everyone is rational, which shows how unsound his arguments are. Today, the Koch Brothers pour money into economics departments and have a huge influence over what gets taught, including making them read an introduction to Ayn Rand.

A standard argument among economists is that Marx was responsible for the Paris Commune, although he actually had little to do with it. William Stanley Jennings, Paul Ross, and Karl Meuer, known as the marginal revolution, taught economics as a mathematical scheme based in calculus and called it a science as a direct reaction to Marx. In reality, it was nothing but an ideology under a façade of mathematics. Today, economics has regressed.

Michael Hudson began his talk by saying that he had twice been on panels with Arthur Laffer, who said that he was embarrassed that his theory had been picked up by “the crazies.” He discussed how he was up for a position in Citibank’s economic research department, but in his desire to seek the truth, he was ultimately not offered the position, and the department’s name was actually changed to public relations. It had to do with then-president Harold Wilson wanting to devalue British sterling because he had just sold a lot of it to “a sucker.” The big banks want tax cuts in order to collect interest on those funds.

Paul Krugman has disagreed with Hudson and a colleague named Steve King about whether commercial banks create credit or whether economic rent still exists. That commercial banks create credit has been demonstrated in a multitude of sources. Hudson notes that economic rent, value, and price were all treated as distinct by David Ricardo, Thomas Malthus, John Stuart Mill, and Karl Marx. Marx based his Theory of Surplus Value, with economic rent as the excess of price over value.

Citing the linguist Benjamin Lee Wharf’s theories of how vocabulary changes concepts, Hudson discusses had the terminology of economics has shifted to opposite meanings of what it once had. “Free markets” initially meant a historical destiny for industrial capitalism that was free from landlords, parasitic banking, and feudal lords. Now it means free for predators, landlords, and corporations. This is why the history of economics is not taught in graduate schools. “Reform” meant organizing unions and regulating the economy. Margaret thatcher and Ronald Reagan made it just the opposite. “Economic rent” is now called “earnings.” It was not called “earnings” in classical economics. The false costs of production should be subtracted from GDP and not output value because there is no cost of production when interest is charged or land value goes up because there is no work involved. “Disposable personal income” is now used to mean everything a person has after taxes. It originally meant what a person has left after paying basic expenses, such as rent. In reality, only about 25%-30% of the average person’s income meets the original definition of “disposable,” which makes workers unable to buy what they produce.

By thinking of the economy in “business cycles” it rules out economic instability. Marx did not believe that the economy was self-stabilizing, but economists do, and use this faith to argue that there is no need for government regulations. Instead, we have a centrally planned economy not by government but by private financial institutions running it for their own interests. Marx was overly optimistic that the financial sector would merge with industry to become a planning nexus for socialist management. Instead, banking became about real estate, stock provisions, and asset-stripping in Britain and the United States (not so in the rest of Europe). The vocabulary is intentionally dumbed-down.

Adam Smith met with the physiocrats. He believed that cost of labor would keep going up because of landlord exploitation since housing prices were purely extracted. Ricardo expanded on this. At this time, banks were primarily involved with foreign exchange because a foreign exchange charge was not considered interest, which was then illegal. Fighting against landlords became essential, and it was seen that becoming a raw materials supplier was more profitable. Malthus, a lobbyist for landlords, expected that landlords would use their wealth to invest in agribusiness. They did not. They spent the money on tailors, butlers, coachmen, and other servants. Malthus is the father of trickle-down economics. Ricardo believed that there was no such thing as a permanent deficit because it would automatically stabilize. Friedman’s apology for the banks is never quoted because it is the worst economic theory.

Today, savings is counted as repaying a debt, and amortization is counted as savings, thus debt repayment is seen as prosperity rather than the debt deflation it actually is. All growth is in interest charges. This means that the economy is shrinking, but it is counted as growth because it is at the service of collecting interest. Socialism was designed to prevent this exploitation, which is wrapped in a mythology that deficits are bad. The last surplus the United States had was under Clinton, and that means the government sucking money out of the economy. Government spending is to support those who cannot pay their needs. The fraud of Alan Greenspan is in using this money to fund tax cuts on the rich. Bush was right when he said the money’s not there.

When Paul Krugman says that the government cannot create money, that puts him to the right of Milton Friedman. “The rich people enable us to consume” but the rich buy real estate, stocks, bonds, and “junk Andy Warhol paintings” causing constant stagnation. Hudson asks why the Tea Party has not been attacked for this. Obama broke his promise to break up junk mortgages.

Bertell Ollman’s criticism of Hudson is mainly that it attacks modern capitalism while ignoring capitalism in general. He refers to defense of ideology as the system, and the ideology is capitalism. For Marx, there were two capitalisms. The first is capitalism in general, the features that remain the same: profit maximization, exploitation/retention of surplus value, production of value in general as private property to be bought and sold under the qualitative labor theory of value, metamorphosis of value, alienation of labor contamination, fetishization of commodities, and ongoing class struggle between workers and capitalists. the second capitalism is inside the first and represents separate interactions of the general factors and the factors of each stage of approximately 20-50 years. The replacement of capitalism with modern capitalism actually coincided with capitalism in general with the rise of financial power, lingering economic crisis, globalization of quality and quantity of automation, containerization, climate change from capitalism ignoring externalities, nuclear power, quality and quantity of change of effectiveness of misleading ideologies of economists and society. Modern capitalism, Ollman argues, belongs to the world of appearances observed by standard empirical methods, but the main features of capitalism in general are relations and processes that are beyond what can be observed with the senses. Capitalists do not buy the hours of the hourly wage earner, but potential labor power, which is greater than the value paid for it.

Ollman quotes Marx, “the law in its majesty prevents the rich as well as the poor form sleeping under bridges and stealing bread,” which essentially means that the law doesn’t really account for differences of circumstance, although when rich people do do these things, they are usually let off much more easily, because the law is not as balanced in practiced as it is in theory, it really lays bare the laws of motion in modern society. The features of modern capitalism appeared in unfinished form, and new stages arrive when one of these features appear in finished form. Social democratic reforms don’t change capitalism in general. Capitalism can simply respond by removing the reforms, thus improvements are modest and temporary. Attacks, therefore, must be focused on capitalism in general.

Hostility toward capitalism among youth is higher than it has been since the 1930s. An EU study showed a high percentage of 18-35 year-olds and a staggering 67% in Greece would be willing to join a revolt against the capitalist regime. The ideology, Ollman tells us, is designed to get us to avoid looking at the broad spectrum.

Michael Hudson proceeded to agree with all of Ollman’s criticisms but said that the laws of motion of industrial capital have been thrown off. Corporate industry is fincialized so that 92% of corporate earnings are spent on stock buybacks and dividend increases and underinvestment in capital and workforce, which is now stifled by the rentier class. He asks if this is capitalism at all or if it is neofeudalism. He said that MArx was too optimistic. He cites Florestine Berelyn, that a perversion of industrial capital has been created by banks mismanaging the economy, with most investment now in the form of real estate.

Michael Perelman returned to the microphone and described Wall Street as a a mafia organization. Since stock drops threaten a CEO’s job, they now do nothing to invest and make the company better. He also noted that Marx’s brother-in-law, an aristocrat, would regularly send the police to investigate him, but they eventually stopped after determining him to be a nice man.

Bertell Ollman does not see neofeudalism replacing capitalism. Most companies have a lot of stock, and industrial and commercial banks’ victories will will keep being rolled back in ever worsening situations if we fail to attack capitalism in general.

At this point the floor was opened to questions and comments. Aleksandr Buzagalin, an economics professor from Moscow, took the floor and suggested that neofeudalism is indeed what is happening. He said that it is impossible to determine what creative labor will do unless it is catering to the demands of what has hired it. A soul is free, but the feudal lord buys the soul.

Michael Hudson then discussed the importance of debt relief, saying that in ancient history, every ruler in Sumer, Babylonia, Akkad, all the way until ancient Rome, eliminated all private debts through jubilee, or andurarum, which freed them up to temporarily do public works projects or serve in the military. After World War II, the allies canceled all of Germany’s debt except for wages owed by employers. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, in his bid to become President of France, put personal interest above the needs of Greece. The IMF agreed that Greece’s debt, much of which was to France, was fraudulent, but Strauss-Kahn changed thew rules because he thought France would want someone who would make their debt be repaid. Debt, he argues, is really a systemic problem that system, not the people affected by that system. The junk mortgages that Obama failed to forgive were odious debt, and that Obama betrayed those who voted for him to the bankers. He also cites the prevention of Sheila Bair from shutting down Citibank, and how that was entirely about bondholders and not industrial capitalists. In response to a question about the tech sector, he declared that it was half industrial and half rentier because it is mostly monopolized. The tech sector was started with Arpenet by the government, but as with pharmaceutical research, most of it was given away to for-profit companies. The market failure here is not so much from exploitation of labor by the corporation by vast increase in rent and fire sector payments. The final stage of Stalinism was kleptocracy, and that’s where we are now. “Russian Marxism” failed to analyze capitalism, flight-capital, and reindustrialization.

At this point Buzgalin interjected that there is no connection between Russian Marxism and real Marxism. Russia is a caricature of the left.

Michael Hudson said that Say’s law is a hoax totally disconnected from reality. People did not expect that industrial capitalism would relapse to the rentiers, but that is what happened. He emphatically said that we do not, however, need to revive industrial capitalism to move to socialism.

Ollman noted here that he is not opposed to reforms (Marx wasn’t either), but we have to recognize that they are short-lived. What Marx said about capitalism in general has not changed much except in the part Hudson discusses. He ends by saying that Hudson should deal more with capitalism in general and work toward eliminating it in favor of socialism or communism.

Not wanting to take over the panel with his own theories, Buzgalin put his e-mail address on the board.

Hudson stated his approval for universal basic income, but two subsequent panels I attended discussed that at length and will be commented on in a future blog entry.


Committee on Housing and Buildings New York City Council Fiscal Year 2018  Executive Budget Hearing, May 25, 2017 v/Video.aspx?Mode=Auto&URL=aHR 0cDovL2NvdW5jaWxueWMudmllYml0L mNvbS9mbGFzaC9tZWRpYV9wbGF5ZXJ fNzk4Yy5zd2Y%2Fc2VydmVyPW55Yy1 ydG1wLnBlZ2NlbnRyYWwuY29tJmFjY 291bnQ9Y291bmNpbG55YyZ2aWRlb0Z pbGVuYW1lPU5ZQ0MtUFYtQ0gtQ0hBX zE3MDUyNS0xMjA1MTIubXA0&Mode2=

Picture the Homeless’s testimony begins approximately three hours and seven minutes into the video, and I am the second speaker.

[Portions in italics were omitted from the oral presentation when the 75 speakers caused them to reduce our time from three minutes to two, but the written version was delivered to the Council in both hard and electronic copy.]

My name is Scott Andrew Hutchins, and I am an activist with Picture the Homeless, a five year resident of the shelter system, and have a master’s degree from CUNY College of Staten Island with $66,000 in student loan debt. I was recently laid off from my job and made $17,000 last year.

I am imploring the City Council to fund more housing for people making under $20,000 using funds currently budgeted for shelters.

Thousands of New Yorkers are working and cannot afford housing, and landlords often use pricing strategies to avoid taking vouchers. Mara Gay noted in an April 10, 2017 Wall Street Journal article that thousands of working New Yorkers are living in shelters because they lack the income needed to pay the rents in this city. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 260,000 college graduates are working for the federal minimum wage (not accounting for higher local minimum wages). A 2016 study by Zero Hedge showed that 52% of new jobs created are minimum wage jobs, and 23% of those working them have at least a bachelor’s degree.  Poverty is less a result of skill level than of available jobs.  Most of the working poor in shelters are not people who qualify for supportive or senior housing, nor are job developers in the shelters equipped to help people into jobs that pay a living wage.  I myself have medical issues that restrict me to a desk job but do not qualify me for Disability, and few desk jobs are easy to get, many of which will use overqualification as an excuse to narrow the talent pool, leaving me to compete with more experienced workers or jobs requiring prolonged standing, which I cannot do.

According to documentation from HRA, they pay my shelter $2,325.66 per month to house me, more than double the $1,018.75 rent of the apartment I lost in 2012.  HRA also pays nearly $274 a month to store the property I once had in that one-bedroom apartment.  My current shelter has me in a large dorm room with 22 strangers, some threatening, with only a painful cot and a small locker to myself.  The food portions are very small, the cleaning is inadequate, and the staff is not useful to me.  This $2,599.66 per month would be better spent on a one-bedroom apartment, but the LINC voucher limits the cost of the apartment to $1,213,  of which I have to pay $500.50, which is unreasonable on unemployment, which will soon be replaced once again by public assistance. If I were to take only a room, I would have to jettison the bulk of my stored property, a fine reward for my hard work.

According to Gay’s article, the city has only 2,662 apartments for the 865,000 households that make under $25,000 in New York City.  The mayor’s pseudo-affordable housing plan does not address any of these households where the need is most dire.  If conservative Utah can provide housing for such people, why can’t progressive New York?

The mayor’s current Housing First policy uses an unprecedented amount of public funds, but essentially amounts to corporate welfare for developers to house middle- and upper-class households while failing to reach anyone who makes under $30,000.  HPD needs to think about altering their programs and/or increasing subsidies so as to not push the bottom third of New York’s population into shelters.

For these reasons, the City Council should oppose the building of new shelters and instead use that funding to create permanent housing for people who make under $20,000 a year.


Dear Democrats

Source: Dear Democrats

Scott Joplin (1868-1917)

Scott Joplin is buried at St. Michael’s Cemetery in East Elmhurst, Queens.  The grave was initially unmarked, and she shares it with several unknown African Americans. ASCAP put the plaque there after interest in Joplin’s music was revived by The Sting‘s release in 1974.


Each year the cemetery has a memorial concert in May (why May rather than April I don’t know), and since this is the 100th anniversary of his passing, the May 27, 2017 concert was performed by The Paragon Ragtime Orchestra conducted by Rick Benjamin, considered the foremost Scott Joplin orchestra in the world.  Benjamin created the new orchestration of Joplin’s opera, Treemonisha, which asserts to be more historically authentic than the more familiar Gunther Schuller orchestration that has been in use since its premiere in the 1972.

Joplin biographer Edward A. Berlin said at intermission that the African-American paper The Indianapolis Freeman reported that Joplin had a grand funeral procession with names of his most famous works on each carriage, and that he died because of his inability to get Treemonisha staged, when in reality, he died of syphilis.

The small orchestra consists of Arthur Moeller, Melissa Tong, Colin Brookes, Lisa Caravan, and Troy Rinker on strings, Leslie Cullen on flue and piccolo, Vasko Dukovsko on clarinets, Paul Murphy and Mike Blutman on cornets, Mike Boschen on trombone, and Mike Dobson on drums and mallets.

The concert consisted of ten pieces by Scott Joplin, John Philip Sousa’s “The Thunderer,” a major influence on Joplin, and several works by Joplin’s contemporaries: C. Luckyth Roberts (1887-1968), J. Turner Layton (1894-1978), Will H. Dixon (1979-1917), Henry Fillmore (1881-1956), and two settings of spirituals by Clarence Cameron White (1880-1960). Composer Q. Roscoe Snowden (c. 1880-?)’s work made it to the program was was replaced at Dobson’s request with Joplin’s “Elite Variations.” Layton’s “Pork and Beans Rag,” were were told, was describned as “A song without a melody” by Prince Albert when he visited the U.S. in 1913 when it was new.

Also on the program was a medley of 1890s pop songs to which the audience was invited to sing along.  Many of the tunes were familiar from silent film scores, especially for Buster Keaton films, but the only song where I heard a significant number of people singing was Henry Dacre’s “Daisy Bell” (1892), which everybody knows from 2001: A Space Odyssey and umpteen other places.

It’s unusual to hear Joplin’s music performed by a full orchestra, and “The Entertainer” featured Dukovsko’s clarinet playing. Benjamin’s comment implied a lot of people who know Dukovsko were in the audience.   The entire orchestra stomped at the appropriate points in “The Rag-Time Dance.” “Pleasant Moments,” a rag waltz, seems to be the biggest influence on Randy Newman’s career. Most rags are written in 2 2 or 2 4.

To further commemorate the hundredth anniversary of Joplin’s passing, a memorial bench was installed and dedicated after the concert.

Seen from the road:


This is the view from the grave:


“We Will Rest a While” was performed next to a bower near to the bench by an all-white barbershop quartet (the opera calls for an all-black cast, which it had in the 1972 production that is available on video and in live full staging I saw at York College in 2007).

Lottie Joplin rejected her husband’s wish that “Maple Leaf Rag” be played at the funeral, considering the music too inappropriate (I wondered if these sorts of conflicts had anything to do with him contracting syphilis).  Rick Benjamin rectified this, but when the available chair couldn’t be matched to the keyboard stand, and he apparently didn’t want to stand and do it prog-rock style,

it was agreed that he should perform it from the bench:


If Lotte didn’t think it was funerary enough, the sheet music bumped one of the buttons on the keyboard to put in in harpsichord mode, but Benjamin kept playing unfazed to the end of the piece (though it was eventually switched back to piano voice), bringing the afternoon to its grand finale.

I’m happy I saw the announcement posted at St. Michael’s Church, where Unity of New York currently rents its office and classroom spaces.  My only complaints were that there wasn’t enough seating (many people brought lawn chairs, but in my situation, where would I have kept them).  Without the seating, I missed entirely the dance group waltzing to “Pleasant Moments” until it was pointed out after the piece was over.  There was also free food and soda, but I got only soda.  I saw veggie burgers being cooked before I got into line, but all they had left were hot dogs by the time I made it through, so I passed.  I wasn’t hungry, anyway, so I didn’t mind too much, since there was interesting conversation in the line from people familiar with Joplin’s work and how previous concerts had gone, although I no longer recall the details.


FACT: All Homelessness Is the Result of Capitalist Greed