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

The Long Term Consequences of Economic Downturns

Chairman Powell, Secretary Yellen, and President Biden have recently spoken about the long term consequences for many of economic downturns. More should, more often. The Media should recognize how important this is; ask the question whenever it needs to be asked. The Congress should put this front and center in any and all discussions about economic policy.

Why? Because millions of Americans never recovered from 1979-1980. Millions more never recovered from the 2001. More than from either of those never recovered from the recession of 2008. Who didn’t recover? Those who just gotten their first decent job, just taken out a mortgage, just gotten married and started a family, those who had just experienced a family medical emergency, … The types of folks that the likes of Mitch McConnell couldn’t be bothered to bring a bill to the floor for; those.

As they say — say way too damned often — through no fault of their own. It usually isn’t. Almost never is. But it sure does keep them in their place and at hand just in case they might be needed by the economy at some point in the future and no one else is available; and they don’t fall so completely as to no longer be useful. For more on this, visit your local homeless encampment.

What to do?

https://angrybearblog.com/2020/04/tip-of-the-iceberg#more-56219

  • The US spent $Billions to help Columbia stem the flow of cocaine. Why not spent a few $Billions to alleviate the poverty and social unrest produced by Climate change in El Salvador? Why not spend a few $Trillion to slow, then reverse Climate Change?

The Biden Administration is faced with a problem of asylum seekers at the southern border. The problem was there before, and before that, … The guy just before was of the throw rocks at them, build walls, treat the symptoms, type. Not much use, maybe worse. Was cheered on by the ever squawking, panic striker, “What ever shall we do?,” Fox News.

Let’s start by giving it all a good sorting. What are the area’s problems? Poverty for starters? The causes of this poverty? Well, … there’s failed economies, failed governments, … Backing up a step; figuring out the cause of these causes. Where to start? Population, maybe? What in heaven’s name were they thinking? Was it all simply a misunderstanding? Latin America, … , god, …, the world has never, ever, needed more poor people.

We are Better

There are 24 Senate Committees (listed here: https://www.senate.gov/committees/). Clicking on anyone of the committees yields the Committee’s Web Page from which one can choose Members and get a photo listing of the members by party. This allows for a side by side comparison of the membership by party. Do this for any committee, for each committee. Based on these comparison, which party has the better Senators? Do the same for the House Committees.

Sure, there are cases where there is little difference between a given pair of republican and democratic counterparts on a committee; where there are glaringly weak members on both sides, but, en balance, being objective as possible, there is no getting around the fact that democratic membership is head and shoulders above the republican. Perhaps more importantly, the democratic membership is many times more representative of the population.

In the House, the lack of diversity in representation by republican membership is in large part due to gerrymandering in states where the state legislature is controlled by the republican party. As an example: North Carolina’s current Governor, Roy Cooper, D, won the statewide popular vote by about 2.5%. North Carolina’s US Congressional delegation has 8 R, 5 D (a 60% difference). Its State Assembly is 69 R, 51 D (a 35% difference). The State Senate, also elected by districts, current make up is 28 R, 22 D (a 27% difference). Each of these imbalances in representation are in part, or totally, a consequence of gerrymandering. The 2020 presidential election was within 1.5%. Pew lists the political makeup of the state as 43% D, 41% R; North Carolina has more democrats than republicans.

First

Back in 1919, in the Schenck v. United States decision, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes reasoned that Schenck’s right to speech was not protected under the First Amendment because:

The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic. […] The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.

In 1969, the decision in Brandenburg v. Ohio limited the scope of banned speech to that which would be directed to and likely to incite imminent lawless action.

Today, in March 2021, we are hearing a lot about the right of free speech in re the January 6 insurrectionists and their supporters, and the right of certain persons of a certain political bent to express their uncensored views on social media.

Justice Holmes’ use of the word falsely was not an accident. It spoke to the heart of the issue. In the lead up to, and on the day of, the January 6th insurrection, Trump used claims of voter fraud that he knew to be false to incite an insurrection. The First Amendment, under neither of the two decisions, Schenck nor Brandenburg, protected him. What Trump did was every bit as dangerous as falsely yelling fire in a crowded theatre.

The Role of The Big Lie

Usually, lies are told for purpose. So, in most cases, if we can determine whose purpose is being served, we will know who is behind the lie.

Whose interests were being served by the Confederacy during the American Civil War? Sure as heck wasn’t those of the yeomen farmers who did most of the fighting and dying. There’s a good chance that it was the planters who told the lies that got so many killed. Heady stuff; people knowingly and willingly telling lies to people that were willing enough to believe in enough to die for those lies.

Whose interests are being served by American Capitalism? Free Markets? Who’s putting up the perpetuating? Sure as heck isn’t the lower fifty-percent.

Who in America’s interests were best served by the Vietnam War, the Invasion of Iraq? Sure wasn’t all those dead and wounded. Wasn’t the rest of the lower fifty, either.

The lower fifty is constantly being admonished to work hard and do the right thing? Who says what is the right thing. Who benefits most from all the hard work?

Who in America’s interests were best served by offshoring all those jobs? Certainly wasn’t in the interests of all those who died from Methamphetamine and Opiates.

In whose best interests is America’s ‘worst in the advanced world’ healthcare system? The dead can’t talk? Too bad.

In whose best interests is America having a lower than living minimum wage? Whose are they that are getting more than their fair share and want to keep it that way?

In whose interests was it to take America back fifty-sixty years? Those whose support system is based on white supremacy, maybe?

Speaking of Trump: Trump lied impulsively with purpose; the purpose being his own interests.

The Big Lie is such a big part of America, where would we be without it? What would we do without it?

Bearing Witness

A very few of us now living lived through The Great Depression; only a very few more of us lived through WWII; some more than that of us lived through the Korean War; more yet of us lived through the Vietnam Era; and so it goes up until now. All of us now living may have thought of the possibility of seeing another war, pestilence, the disaster of Climate Change, … , may have even thought of the possibility of experiencing a pandemic; but who amongst us thought of witnessing the concurrence of a Trump presidency and this once in a century level COVID-19 Pandemic? In the past five years, each of us have witnessed a lifetime of history. These past five years have been equal several normal lifetimes.

On January 6, 2021, the unthinkable nearly happened. On that day in infamy, our venerated constitution barely survived to live another day. We are not out of those dark woods yet; our democracy is still very much on the block. A majority of one of our two political parties has chosen one-man rule over democracy; has joined the Trump cult. Of course, this didn’t just happen over night; fully one-fifth of those of us alive today have gotten to watch most of this unfold. Few, if any, of those one-fifth of us understood at any point what was going on during this time. Thus it was that Trump came as a shock to us, to the world. In the 20/20 of hindsight, it shouldn’t have. Enough was known. — How We Got Here

It doesn’t matter what you think.

It isn’t that no one cares what you think, they probably don’t, it is that what you think doesn’t really matter. Chances are that what you think, you didn’t; didn’t think that is. Even if you did, it doesn’t matter because facts are facts, and facts don’t care. Facts just are. Feel free to think, to opine, about the unknown, to believe what you want, but facts are reality and can be known. Facts couldn’t care less what you learned at mother’s, or anyone else’s, knee; what you learned in school; what you heard on Fox News, … . Facts are facts.

Opinions are not the same as facts. Opinions, in fact, have nothing to do with the facts. Opinions are just something, like a preference, that each of us is entitled to. This may help explain our fondness for our own opinions. Opinions, at best, are only worth the thought put into them. Opinions based on opinions, and/or preconceived notions, are worthless, or even less. Opinions based on knowledge and best thinking are known as considered opinions, Their worth is determined by the quality of the information/knowledge considered, and by the quality of the thinking of whoever is doing the thinking.

Believe is something one chooses to do for whatever reason. If they have good reason to believe something it probably means that they have thought about it and came to a conclusion, If they just believe something, it probably doesn’t mean anything.

If one must think, when to do so is of utmost importance. Always think before acting; because it may be too late after. In other words, don’t fall into that old learn from experience trap. The first law of survival is survive. If one doesn’t survive, they can’t learn anything. Even if one does survive, thinking does not a good band-aid make. Neither the FBI, nor the Judge, will accept post-factum thinking as an excuse.

Self-sufficiency

Trade is great; trade is good.

Since at least 2000 BCE, since the first inter-tribal (what was to become international) trading of horses, gold, silver, silk, foods, oils, wines, knowledge, technologies, …; trade between peoples has enrichened the lives of humans everywhere. Traditionally, trade was the great cross fertilizer. Without trade, our world would be a lot more like it was 4000 years ago than what it is like today. But first, before there was trade, there had to be enough self-sufficiency (self-sufficiency being relative to a given civilization at a given time) amongst the peoples, the tribes, trading for them to feel that they could afford to part with a goat, a horse, a bit of gold, … in exchange for something different they would more like to have.

Not all trade is great, or good. Certainly not the selling of weapons to warring nations. The exploitation of less developed people by more advanced people clearly wasn’t good for the less developed people. The trans-Atlantic slave trade was itself fueled by trade; trade that was intended to enhance the wealth of the then first world England, Portugal, Spain, Holland, and France. Did so indeed; at horrendous expense to the Africans enslaved and traded, and to the indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, and Southeast Asia. The enslaved Africans produced the tobacco, rice, cotton, and sugar that made their enslavers, and these enslavers’ international trading partners, wealthy. It was this pursuit of wealth that fueled the slave trade. Trade from which they, the enslaved, got but hardship and death. The pursuit of land on which to grow these crops for trade fueled the displacement and murder of indigenous people throughout the Americas, Africa, and Southeast Asia. The slave trade was a very unbalanced equation; the abducted were enslaved. This misappropriation of the natives’ land was theft; not trade. What is happening today, in this the 21st century, on palm oil plantations in Southeast Asia, is little different.

Cause

Before Science, treating the symptoms of an illness was all we had. Along our way, using trial and error, we found a few things that worked. The big breakthroughs came when we started to look for the causes of an illness. The association of an illness with toxins was deducible. Then, as we knew more and could see farther, we found that most of our physical illnesses were caused by such other things as bacteria, and viruses.

Still and yet, we see attempts to treat illnesses symptomatically. It wasn’t that long ago President Ford wanted to the nation to deal with the swine flu by treating the symptoms. Only yesterday, President Trump wanted us to treat the symptoms of COVID-19 with whatever occurred to him. At first look, it might seem that this approach could be cost effective. That look was 300,000 dead wrong. The most proximate cause of all these deaths was a Corona Virus, COVID-19. The cause next proximate was the refusal to acknowledge the first. The President didn’t want to acknowledge the reality of the pandemic. The people didn’t want to make the necessary changes to their lifestyles. Those 300,000 and more unnecessary deaths could have been prevented by acknowledging and addressing the pandemic, the cause.

Economics was the reason most often given for not addressing the cause of these unnecessary deaths. But good economics would have mandated the expenditures necessary to quickly produce one-billion N95 face masks, and install needed workplace safeguards. Just as good economics would mandate looking to the cause of our inequities and disparities in income and wealth.

Politics is another area where looking to the cause is of utmost importance. With such matters as the electoral college, the inherently unrepresentative Senate, and qualifications for the office of President; treating the symptoms of these flaws in the constitution isn’t even a short term solution. The Senate impeachment vote is a case in point: 34 GOP senators representing 34% of the Senate votes but just 14.5% of population could have blocked the conviction of a president who tried to violently overthrow American democracy. The flaws in the electoral college, not the people, selected Donald Trump in 2016.

The treating of social ills seems to bring out the worst in us. We are want to treat the consequences, the symptoms, of poverty, disparity, and injustice with increased policing, incarceration, …, when we should be looking to the causes.

If we are to successfully deal with climate change, we must address the causes of climate change.

Lil·li·pu·tians

The Slightly Less Than August

Back in the days of Adm. Rickover’s Navy, we were taught the technical term CRUD for the radioactive metallic deposits found in the reactor’s coolant system, that the word stood for Chalk River Undetermined Deposits, Chalk River being a river in Canada with a Nuclear Lab named after it, which was mostly true excepting maybe the part about heavy water. This was long, long before the Republican Party started sending the likes of: Richard Shelby, Tommy Tuberville, Dan Sullivan, John Boozman, Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio, Rick Scott, Mike Crapo, Jim Risch, Todd Young, Mike Braun, Chuck Grassley, Joni Ernst, Jerry Moran, Roger Marshall, Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul, John Kennedy, Susan Collins, Roy Blunt, Josh Hawley, Steve Daines, Deb Fischer, Tom Tillis, John Hoeven, Kevin Cramer, Rob Portman, Jim Inhofe, James Lankford, Lindsey Graham, Tim Scott, John Thune, Mike Rounds, Marsha Blackburn, Bill Hagerty, John Cornyn, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Shelley Moore Capito, Ron Johnson, John Barrasso, and Cynthia Lummis to the US Senate.

Crud sounds right, has that certain ring. This lot is also remindful of Swift’s Lilliputians, a small, mean people. Some of the synonyms for Lilliputian are: illiberal, insular, narrow, narrow-minded, petty, sectarian, small minded, … Speaking of sectarian, what does Trump have on Kevin McCarthy?

From the Idiots are Coming to The Idiots are Here. The invasion began with Gingrich’s War on America. Instead of capable representatives, some states began sending cultural representatives to deal with the governance of the Nation. Never mind that some of the cultures was suspect, nor that some of those sent weren’t genuine anything, excepting, maybe sorry. Their culture could be described as being Ignorant and Damned Proud of It. It has come to this; a majority of Republican Congress Members who are not of much account.

Yet, why would forty some US Senators vote to acquit a man they know full well to be guilty of inciting an insurrection against the US Congress? Never mind the CYA he’s out of office, it was settled early, constitutionally, by procedural vote; it is really only being used as cover. As in, cover me I’m going in? Hardly. These are neither people of good character, nor of bravery. These are those of the type who always think of themselves first. After all, their very careers were at stake. To hell with America.

Perhaps they were afraid of being primaried, of losing their job. The effectiveness with which the Tea Party, circa 2009, employed the art of Tyranny by Minority was not lost on one Donald J. Trump. With a small minority, one could crush a primary candidate. Trump saw that he could extort the whole of the Republican Party with such a threat; that neither the party nor a candidate could win without his minority of deplorables.

Twice now we have seen a Senate Trial of Donald Trump. Twice now we have seen almost half of a jury refuse to consider the evidence; needn’t bother, their minds were already made up. Believe is something you choose to do. Nothing hard about that; any child could manage. This was a task for statesmen, people of good character. This lot simply wasn’t up to the task.