Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

The Combination of Things

What about all the forest fires in the West? The most proximate cause of these fires is high temperatures along with associated lightning and high winds; both of which, directly or indirectly, can easily ignite a fire in tinder dry forests.

Beyond beyond being dry, many western forest are far from being healthy. There are large areas in the southern Sierra Nevada Range where the forest are dead and gone; they were the first to go. There is less damage to the forest as one goes farther north; still, going east on Highway 108 up over the Sonora Pass, it is not unusual to see forest areas where upwards of half the trees are dead or dying. Most are dying from infestations of bark beetles. Healthy trees can survive bark beetles, but these trees were first weakened by long periods of drought. The damage has being worsening for decades.

Drought is not new in the West; there is ample scientific evidence of at least two extended periods of drought in California over the past 1200 hundred years. There is the possibility that we are entering such a period now. It is far more likely that what we are seeing is what has long been predicted by climate Change Models. Speaking of models, has everyone seen ProPublica’s, ‘New Climate Maps Show a Transformed United States’ https://projects.propublica.org/climate-migration/ ? Poor Texas. Near the end of the piece, future predictions down to every county in the US. And the models will only get better at predicting with more and better data.

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To Do I, II, & III

The COVID-19 Pandemic, the inadequate response thereto, and the incompetency of the Trump Presidency in general, combined, have exposed our nation’s weaknesses and failings to an extent unknown since at least the Great Depression. This is likely a do or die moment for America. Recovery will be difficult. Improbable unless we are careful in our choice of goals and daring in our efforts to achieve them. The margins for error do not allow for dawdling. Attempting to just return to a time before Trump and The Pandemic would be disastrous. A time like this should also be seen as a time of opportunity.

First, we must rid ourselves of denominational economics such as Capitalism, Socialism, Hayekism, Free Marketism, … These, but ideologies, dogmas, that some would impose on economics, on the rest of us; have done the Nation great harm. They are, at their very best, reasonings of a time past. As likely to be the answer to today’s problems as Adam Smith is to rise from his grave.

As a first step toward becoming again competitive in today’s world; we must stop blindly paying twice as much for inferior healthcare, internet, and cellphone service,… as is being paid in other developed nations; and while we are at it, we need to solve our homeless problem. These are all essential services that should be provided to all. In the grand competition of things; we’re losing. Have been for a while. Were before the pandemic. Ideology is a luxury we can no longer afford.

Let’s pay for these things that need to be done, and help with our wealth distribution problem, too, by taxing the piss out of the too rich and too profitable. Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Sheldon, Warren, …; fun and games are over guys, time for you to pay up.

Let’s pay for these things that need to be done by cutting the ‘Defense’ Budget in half. Halve the number of Generals, the number of Admirals, the number of Aircraft Carriers, the number of Missiles, …; and full-stop attacking other nations. Half of $720+Billion is $360+Billion; $360+Billion is aplenty for Defense, nothing for Attack, and about right for expanding Medicare to Medicare For All. Ike was right about that and Harry was right about health care.

I. Internet Access and Cellular Networks

All those fireman who died because of poor communication on 9/11/2001 should have taught us the need for an ubiquitous cellular network. Mobile radio networks separate cellular networks should have shown us the need for one network. A police car with a half dozen radio antennas on the roof is ridiculous.

So, too, the fact that our cell phone uses a cellular network, our computers use a cable based internet service, and that we need a WIFI router to use our laptops. What’s now the cellular network should be the WIFI router and these routers should be all over our homes, all over every floor in every building, everywhere on our streets, and all across and over rural America. Ubiquitous. Today, thousands and thousands of teachers across America are trying to remotely teach kids, many of whom have very limited internet access, over an internet system that is not reliable. When the fires struck Santa Rosa, the cell towers went down. The internet w/ phones must work at all times during normal times and during times of emergency; needs to be bullet proof. This new inclusive internet is too critical to be trusted to the ‘Market’. Cell phone and Internet should be one and that one should be regulated as a public utility; a service, as a service application, and, as always, the application dictates. Not the ‘Market’.

As a Post Office service, maybe?

In order to fully utilize our Nation’s productivity, better fulfill our personal lives, and assist in times of emergency, the Internet needs be ubiquitous and bulletproof. We should be able to access the internet from our backyards, on a hike, in the mountains, in transit, …; from anywhere we are or can be. It was a big mistake letting cable companies have the internet and the cell phone companies the phone towers. Let the cable companies have Cable TV. Internet and cell phone transmission should be one and the same; should be a Public Utility. It isn’t about ideology, it’s about how it should be; what should be. Half-arsed won’t get it. If we continue to stick with ideology and dogma, China, Japan, and the EU will continue to eat our lunch.

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Tone Deaf

Working-class Black and Latino Americans, more likely to be paid lower wages, less likely to own significant assets; feel that they are being deprived of a fair share; see this as a consequence of white privilege. Meanwhile, white working-class American’s see themselves as less than privileged, barely hanging on; feel that such demands by Blacks and Latinos amount to a threat to their meager share, their livelihood. Neither group is the other group’s problem, the two groups have a common problem; America’s wealth and income distribution problem.

In a prosperous nation with more than 800 billionaires, no one should have to work for low wages, work multiple jobs, in order to survive. Yet, not enough is coming down to the working class for sharing. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is not the answer. It is because of America’s unfair income distribution that the two groups are being pitted against one another in their struggle to eke out a living. More needs to come down to the working class in toto. Less needs to go up to the already wealthy.

While the Democratic Party seeks to attract the vote of working-class Blacks and Latinos, Republicans have made significant progress in attracting votes from the white working-class; thus splitting, thereby negating, the working-class vote. Choosing sides is not the answer. These are the same group with an artificial distinction being made on the basis of race and ethnicity. There is only one side here – that’s the side of the working class; the side of a majority of Americans.

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Markets and Entrepreneurs

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

That’s easy, First, there had to be a market. Without a market, no matter how good the idea, how well capitalized the enterprise, how competent the management team, or how skilled the workforce; there can be no business.

So, where do markets come from? Markets seem to come in three forms. They may be found in plain sight, they may be hidden in a forest of commerce, or they may be foreseen and realized only by people of exceptional vision. All three forms are available in a wide range of sizes.

Existing businesses, facing things like changing taste, obsolescence, … are obliged to always be looking for ways to expand their share of an existing market or for different markets to enter, and to always be on the lookout for new markets.

Entities and individuals considering starting a business might have a plan for capturing a share of an existing market, think that they have spotted a market not being well served, or have a new product idea that they believe will create a market.

So, how does this search for markets go down? Who are the diviners? A well-capitalized start-up will do market research; have a formal market survey done by professionals. Market Research is a highly developed science. The report will probably be highly confidential, provide great detail, and get really close to getting it all right. A Mom and Pop start-up may be more of the snoop, pry, and mostly dream type of survey. We see the Well-Heeled, the Mom and Pop, and everything between.

What do we call these entities and individuals, and everything between, that start up a business? If they start up another Mom and Pop Pizza Shop; maybe Pizza Shop Opener? Or foolish? Round Table Pizza Restaurant; Franchisee. What if they start up a business that no one had ever heard of before? One that will provide lots of new jobs and save the Nation’s economy?

What’s that sound? It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s an Entrepreneur! The Nightly News Readers on Cable TV casually toss off the word while affecting their knowledgeable airs. High School Business Academy Teachers always speak the word with a little excitement in their voices. Entrepreneur — a french word loosely translated — describing either a contractor or someone who undertakes doing something, or both…

Webster says: one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.

Wiki says:

a person who has possession of a new enterprise, venture or idea and assumes significant accountability for the inherent risks and the outcome. … is a term applied to the type of personality who is willing to take upon herself or himself a new venture or enterprise and accepts full responsibility for the outcome.

And, yes, the two are not the same.

Or, … Jean Baptiste Say said, “one who undertakes an enterprise, especially a contractor, acting as intermediatory between capital and labour.” Or, … choose a level of personal, professional or financial risk to pursue opportunity.

Well that settles that.

Innovator, from Latin, not french, a term less often heard, might be easier to get a handle on.

Webster says, to innovate is to:

intransitive verb: to make changes: do something in a new way

transitive verb: to introduce as or as if new

Wiki says:

Innovators are the persons or organizations who are one of the first to introduce into reality something better than before.

An innovator innovates. Someone like an inventor, a researcher, a futurist, an idea man, … Got it!

Most Business Academy teachers don’t tell their students that SRO Hotels are full of entrepreneurs.; that being an entrepreneur is an extremely high-risk venture. That if the odds are one in a million of making a $million; don’t invest your life. In fact, don’t invest more than $1. That Jobs and Wozniak had a really big idea was much more important to Apple’s success than any willingness to risk it all. Musk has taken tremendous risks starting up Tesla, risk based on the considered conviction that electric cars were the future. Gates and Allen didn’t take the risk of starting Microsoft for the thrill of it. They did it because they, like Jobs, Wozniak, and Musk, were sure that they had glimpsed a future market. They saw the odds of success as being pretty good.

Which came first, the idea or the market?

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Trump and Antifa

No one seems to know what or who Antifa is; so far be it from me to pretend that I do. I did meet a self-avowed one once. Interviewed the young man for 30-45 minutes; even talked on the phone a few minutes with his parents who lived in Oakland. By way of providing context; this was during the Occupy Wall Street protests in Oakland, CA. Down from Portland, OR, he was looking for a place to stay for ‘up to a week’. Twitchy, desperate, and vague, …, fits the description. I encouraged him to talk on the premise that I would learn more from listening than from asking.

It’s been a while, memory fades, but here’s what I recall: There was some connection to Guy Fox (Fawkes). His parents told me that they were estranged from their son, that he was involved in activities they didn’t approve of, would not allow their son to stay in their home, and couldn’t recommend that I do so. Joining a protest movement in progress was obviously nothing new for him. He was a bit of a Peter Pan; having no visible means of support. Others from Portland had come down at the same time. He talked vaguely about radioactive materials. For sure, he wasn’t down to sit in a tent on Broadway. I came to conclude that the young man was an anarchist, sought to somehow bring the Occupy Wall Street protest to a boil, to get a real revolution going, and, that somehow, he thought that doing so was a good thing. He intimated that he may have somehow been tangentially involved in the WTO riots in Seattle; not sure those numbers worked.

There is little evidence that Trump knows or cares what Antifa is other than a word that spits well. He does seem to believe that it would be good to associate such a mysterious sound with liberalism. Here in the US, it seems that no one is clear on what or who Antifa is. I hear that there is a more defined Antifa Movement in Europe. But anarchists abound. Some of the right-wing armed militia groups advocate Civil War which would certainly lead to anarchy. Many of Bernie’s Bros wished to pull the house down.

What is the appeal of tearing the house down and starting all over again? For the Right, it appears to be a wish to erase all changes to the nation since 1950; 20-30 years before most of the militiamen were born. For Bernie’s Bros, a wish to somehow impose their political philosophy on us all; something straight out of the bowels of 1950s Brooklyn, NYC. Seems 1950 was a very good year.

In the breast of every good anarchist beats the heart of one who sees themselves coming out on top in the end. All takers of shortcuts to the top of the mountain they would reduce to rubble. Hard to think of the armed right-wing militia groups separate seeing them as white supremacists wishing to return us to those good old days when blacks and browns knew their place. Cases of arrested development the both. Fantasies of Anarchism are common to teenage boys; fantasies fortunately most outgrow. What are the odds that these fantasies would persist so long in so many into middle age and beyond? Our times.

What of those who would employ these lost souls for their own purpose? Trump, no doubt saw right-wing, white supremacist, armed militias as part of a coalition allowing him to attain and retain the reins of power. In case of anarchy, Trump would do his fail-up trick to come out on top. Bernie must have thought that he could somehow leverage his <30% of about 30% into his gaining control of those very same reins. As to how Bernie was planning to ascend to the top in the advent of anarchy, don’t know.

In Trump’s case, they did follow. Alas, for Bernie’s, we will never know. Is America a land of sheep, or only a land of half sheep?

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A Carrier Named Stennis

That’s Stennis as in John C. of Mississippi. An Aircraft Carrier as in a really big ship that cost $4.5 Billion in 1995. John C. Stennis was a renowned segregationist who rose to power in the US Senate on the basis of seniority which means that he was very popular in Mississippi; US Senate from 1947-1989. Senator Stennis was always generous with northern states’ money when it came to the Defense Department Budgets. Never met an aircraft, tank, or ship that he wasn’t in favor of; sort of Mississippi’s entitle. So it isn’t surprising to learn that the Navy named a Carrier after him; excepting for the segregationist part, that is.

Modern US Navy Aircraft Carriers are huge and powerful. The Stennis is more than 1,000 feet long, displaces (weighs) more than 115,000 tons, and is very powerful. With 260,000 shaft horsepower she has a top speed around 40 knots; she can throw a rooster tail. Just guessing, I would say that each of her 4 screws is about 27 feet in diameter and that at full speed there is 2 and 1/2 turns torque in her number two shaft. US Navy Nuclear Powered Aircraft Carriers were once designated CVA(N)s. The A stood for Attack. Now CVNs without the A, attacks in faraway places is still what they are built for. They go all around the world, are known by their names, are seen by millions in faraway places.  At any given time, some 3,000 sailors have the Carrier’s name on a shoulder.

Mississippi is in the process of changing her state flag because of the old flag’s racial connotations. The US Navy needs to change the name of the USS John C. Stennis to something more in-tune with the 21st Century.

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250B

We have a President who tells us that he has an education in economics from an Ivy League School who doesn’t know what per capita means; who doesn’t understand doubling. Inescapable: Our president is not educated. Most of our high schools turn out a better product. This President is on track to be the very worst President ever. So why does he want to remain in office another 4 years? What is this guy really after?

It might be that financially he lives in a house of cards; that behind all the facades are cardboard walls and ceilings propped up with sticks. As President, he has $Billions and legions at his command, planes, helicopters, and armored cars at his disposal.  If reelected the charade can go on another 4 years. If he loses office, the tax collectors will take his couch and he won’t even have a place to sleep. Homelessness is a big step down.

It might be that this President is a criminal, that losing office could mean certain imprisonment; too, a long way to fall. It now appears that the Russian connection may go way back, involve loans that were not financially justifiable. Maybe Putin literally does own him. Having something on someone is something he could relate to, could understand, something he had learned at the knees of Father Fred, Roy Cohn, and Robert Moses. Something like this with someone like Putin could be a matter of life or death.

Might be that this President is a would-be Hitler. There are many similarities. He has managed to co-opt Departments of Justice, State, Health and Human Services, …; has his own armed militia of volunteers. And, there’s that kept at the ready nightstand copy his First tells of.

Maybe this President wants to be the richest man in the world. That he, like any good father, he wants to give each of his children $Billions and a Crown, and maybe each a small nation of their own. The richest man in the world would have to be very rich; at least $250B, and there are the children. Should we try to make our best deal now?

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Innovation

The customer goes online and chooses a face mask from those listed on the USPS Web Page and places an online order. Their order goes direct to the factory making the mask of choice where it is filled within minutes or less and dropped in the on-site USPS bin that is picked up several times a day. The USPS then delivers the order to the customer. The USPS could enhance its revenue stream by charging a very small fee for advertising on its Web Page

Background: For the last maybe five years I have, for the most part, limited my substitute teaching to AP and Honors Economics, Government, History, Physics, and Environmental Science. These are subjects where I can wing-it; take that late call where I know that there will not be a lesson plan. On my way in I thinking of subject matter related questions. I begin by asking the class where they are, then go Socratic asking questions that require that they apply what they have been studying. History took the longest to figure out the applied; I’ve shown some of how I do the History here at AB. I seldom lecture, don’t feel that I have to teach the subject matter; do want to help both the teacher and the students.

High Schools, desperate for ways to help their students succeed, can be too quick to fall for the buzzword economic solutions such as Entrepreneurship, Free Markets, … and offer them as panaceas without much justification. Both Entrepreneurship and Free Markets get my attention. If the students bring either of them up, I open it up to discussion then segue to innovation by pointing out that all Musk and Bezos did and are doing is asking how it should be. Something that they as students could do. The huge success Musk and Bezos enjoy comes from successfully implementing the changes. Walmart had asked the question of how it should be; Bezos saw what Walmart had done and asked the next logical question in re brick and mortar. I bring the class around to what’s next. I’ve no doubt that Bezos has fully realized that his warehouse model is already antiquated and that the next step is direct from factory as in my USPS example, that’s the way his mind works. Sorry Jeff, this time it goes to the USPS.

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Why Democracy

Look what they’ve done to my song Ma ♪♫♪

Thanks, Melanie

Polls show that most Americans believe in democracy; that most Americans believe that America is a democracy. That even those who aren’t sure what democracy is think that they would recognize it if they saw it. That’s close enough; as close as one’s going to get these days. We think we are a democracy, therefore we are. FDR said that our constitution was a work in progress; so our democracy. A democracy, if we can keep it.

We have been warned that our democracy is fragile, that preserving our democracy demands constant vigilance, …; warnings that our democracy has enemies. And, lest we forget, democracy is complex; needs to be taught to be understood.

The American Enterprise Institute and The Heritage Foundation, the ex-Confederate States, Gingrich’s War on America, Mitch McConnell, Gerrymandering, former States of The Confederacy Republicans, The John Roberts’ Court, Tea Party Republicans, The NRA, Dictators around the world, Governors like Georgia’s Kemp, Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump, …; democracy has lots of enemies.

The American Enterprise Institute and The Heritage Foundation are quick to remind us that America is a republic; not a democracy. Rich coming from the two of them as they claim themselves to be something called Federalists; that’s the before the Constitution, not in the Constitution, gone since the early 19th century, Federalists; not the long after the Constitution, 1982, organization of right-wing conservatives and libertarians Federalist Society. Or, maybe, … it is that they wish to be associated the both? The two are quite different, you know.

Without democracy, a small minority like the Federalist Society might tyrannize the nation by securing the appointment of right-wing, libertarian judges to the benches of the Federal Courts. They already have. The Federalist Society, shown as having a membership of around 70k, now controls the US Supreme Court by way of having 5 of the Court’s Justices as members or former members by way of a non-representative US Senate led by Mitch McConnell from the small, backward, non-representative state of Kentucky. The Federalist Society isn’t a political party; has never stood for election to anything. We really needn’t bother asking.

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On Demanding Dignity

In 1968, when Richard Nixon called for Law and Order, a term used by Goldwater in 1964 and Reagan in 1966, he was appealing to working-class voters who would normally be expected to vote Democratic but were becoming more and more uneasy about a perceived increase in crime and frequent stories of protests in the streets. In 1968, the real domestic issue was the economy, but that was far too complicated for American political discourse, and, besides, this group might have found Nixon’s and the Republican Party’s real thoughts on economic policy unsettling. While Johnson had waged a War on Poverty to end a very real poverty in America, Nixon would wage a War on Crime to stoke fear and paranoia. Though economics, poverty, and crime are inextricably linked; that wasn’t a connection he was going to be making publicly lest he affront one of his Party’s most sacred cows. Catchy phrases and slogans can win elections; the under the hood stuff like economic policy might turn off voters; is best left for think tanks, universities, and board rooms. Richard Nixon was not above appealing to baser instincts; both the Law and Order and War on Crime phrases intentionally connoted racial overtones. Besides, there was the specter of George Wallace. Wallace an overt racist, nominally a Democrat, was in reality a Dixiecrat, aka Southern Democrat; one of those Dixiecrats who did not switch over to being a Republican after the Civil Rights Acts of 1964. Getting the vote of those yet and former Dixiecrats was all a part of Nixon’s and the Republican Party’s Southern Strategy. As a consequence of the success of these strategies, we would see more and more of this fine art of appealing to baser instincts being practiced by Republican candidates in the coming years. No more of that aspirational stuff for the once GOP, thank you. The once GOP was soon to become a Republican Party controlled by southern white Republicans, née Dixiecrats, who brought along with them their attitudes toward democracy. In the 1968 presidential contest, George Wallace carried Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. Thanks mostly to his friendship with Billy Graham, Nixon got 69% of the national Evangelical Christian vote. — Evangelicals felt that Nixon would protect the nation against Catholicism. Became gatekeepers to nomination.

When Reagan gave his ‘Birth of a Nation’ speech in Philadelphia Mississippi in 1980; he was telling white segregationist Mississippians, some yet Southern Democrats/Dixiecrats and some recent converts to the Republican Party, that it was OK to think about race the way they thought about race. In doing so, he validated their racism, and abetted their mendacity; accorded dignity to their odious opinions. By pandering to their racism and bigotry, he had, to their minds, legitimized their racism and bigotry. Reagan stooped for, welcomed, their votes.

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