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

Managing A Zoom Conference

Managing A Zoom Conference

As of the end of this week, I completed chairing the 30th annual international conference of the Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology and Life Sciences, with 54 participants from around the world.  It basically went well, and it was kind of cool to make introductory remarks at 8 AM during EDT, with somebody on at 6 AM their time in Montana and someone else on at 10 PM their time in Sydney, Australia.  It can be done, and even with parallel sessions happening.

Of course there were the usual snafus of people getting bad internet connections and disappearing or becoming mute while presenting, which does not happen in live sessions.  There were also some people who failed to present due to not being able to properly load or manage their slides or videos, although I have seen problems with this sort of thing even in live conferences.

Something I throw out there for anybody managing one of these involves how we managed the parallel sessions.  So we had both a co-host/moderator, who managed entry to a session, as well as a session chair who managed timing by speakers, with on this following the old incentive-compatible strategy of usually having that be the final speaker in the session, giving them incentive to keep the earlier presenter in line on timing.  Indeed, in our wrapup session someone noted, accurately near as I could tell, that there may have been better adherence by speakers to time limits in this format than is often the case in live sessions.

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School openings need….

Via Diana Ravitch’s blog on a Time magazine article What the U.S. Can Learn from 3 Countries About Reopening:

TIME Magazine just published a story about school reopening in Denmark, South Korea, and Israel, with lessons for the U.S.

Lesson #1 from Denmark: Get the virus under control before reopening schools. Unlike Denmark, the United States is bungling that, and the virus is spreading in the south and west. Perhaps states that have taken the necessary steps and flattened the curve can begin to reopen, with caution.

Lesson #2 from South Korea: Prepare to delay reopening if cases spike. Older students returned to school fumirst.

Lesson #3 from Israel: Infections increase when schools don’t take every safety precaution. Expect to close down again if you don’t follow the protocols of masks, social distancing and other precautions.

The necessary health and safety protocols require extra funding. No extra funding is available. Trump threatened to cut federal funds from schools that don’t open fully even without the small classes, masks, PPE, extra nurses, etc. He wants the schools open without regard to the health or safety of teachers and students.

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Suppose the Democrats win the Presidency and the Senate in 2020 . . .

Given the state of the race, people are starting to ask what this would mean for the future of progressive politics in America.

James Kwak is gloomy:

I think the policy solutions are obvious . . .

The problem, of course, is the politics—not just President Trump and the Republicans, but a Democratic Party controlled by its conservative wing, defined primarily by its insistence on fiscal responsibility, and terrified of doing anything that anyone might call socialist . . .

Julia Azari is more open to the possibility of a new political era:

An important feature of these orders are the social movements that energize the parties in power and help to define the issues. These movements tend to start their work creating a new political order well before the transition to a full reconstructive politics. The conservative movement that defined the Reagan years began to really gain influence during the Nixon years. The abolition movement helped shape the politics of Lincoln’s presidency. FDR was drawing on decades of Progressive movement thinking and action.

Simply put, Biden’s party affiliation allows him to reject the politics of Trump, Reagan and the Republicans in between – but no matter who the Democrats nominated this year, that person was never going to actually be the engine for major political change. Rather, that groundwork has been in progress for many years. If Biden wins in November, he might be in a good position to be a reconstructive leader. He’s an odd candidate for such a position – he seems much less likely than Obama at first glance. The thing is that reconstructive politics is about more than the president.

I see arguments on both sides . . .

Beginning with the case for pessimism.  There are several reasons for doubting that a big Democratic win in November will signify the beginning of a long run shift in American politics to the left.

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Weird News

Blacks Should Be More Afraid Of Other Blacks Than Cops

Rudy Giuliani joined Fox and Friends to trash Mayor de Blasio and decree that Black men should be more afraid of other Black men than of his cop buddies murdering black men with racist intent.

Echoing Trump’s “law and order” idiocy and hatred of the Black Lives Movement, Giuliani gave his unfettered support to law enforcement, and decreed that he has always been the true savior of New York.

Me: What can I say? The facts do not support Giuliani. He lies like Trumop does.

Rose Garden Strategy

Digsby: Bret Baier remarked that as a matter of tradition, past presidents “stayed away from overt campaign rhetoric from the Rose Garden or the White House.”

Not Trump!

“Trump managed to work himself up to deliver one of his patented incoherent rally performances as if the audience in front of him weren’t a bunch of masked-up, socially distanced reporters, who were undoubtedly confused as to why they had been summoned to the Rose Garden to act as props for Trump’s stump speech.

After all was said and done, ‘To be fair, if President Obama had given a speech like this in the White House, Republicans on Capitol Hill would have been up in arms.’ Indeed, if Obama had done anything like that, Republican heads would have swiveled on their shoulders and their mouths would have erupted with green bile like Linda Blair in ‘The Exorcist.’ After all, they had a full-blown hissy fit when Obama wore a tan suit to the White House briefing room one day.”

Me: More noise from the White House.

Video Catches Five NJ Cops Wrestling Black Man To Ground Over Open Beer

Five New Jersey police officers are being accused of using excessive force after they were seen wrestling a Black man to the ground for allegedly having a open beer at a beach.

Video of the incident, which was said to have occurred at Point Pleasant, was shared on social media. Typically, a ticket is issued rather than an arrest.

Me: They still have not learned Black Americans are people!

Navarro Attacks Dr. Fauci Today In Op-Ed Piece

Navarro’s op-ed, titled “Anthony Fauci has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on,” represented his most brazen effort yet to dress down the widely respected immunologist and veteran director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

When I was working feverishly on behalf of the president in February to help engineer the fastest industrial mobilization of the health care sector in our history, Fauci was still telling the public the China virus was low risk.

When we were building new mask capacity in record time, Fauci was flip-flopping on the use of masks.

Me: This was a supply chain problem. The issue was where to allocate the limited supply of face masks. Give to healthcare workers or allow citizens to hoard them?  Fauci made the right decision and lied.

Navarro and trump’s son-in-law could not plan their way out of a paper bag. They should not have had to build capacity. Dumb statement by Navarro.

New Postmaster Orders Workers To Slow Down First-Class Mail Delivery

The new head of the U.S. Postal Service established major operational changes Monday that could slow down mail delivery, warning employees the agency would not survive unless it made “difficult” changes to cut costs. But critics say such a philosophical change would sacrifice operational efficiency and cede its competitive edge to UPS, FedEx and other private-sector rivals.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy told employees to leave mail behind at distribution centers if it delayed letter carriers from their routes, according to internal USPS documents obtained by The Washington Post and verified by the American Postal Workers Union and three people with knowledge of their contents, but who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid retribution.

Me: That will “really” help mail-in ballots! Suggest one week for all mail to be delivered locally. Post Office should incorporate intelligent bar coding also to track ballots.

More white people’ are killed by Police

Me: “More” Trump Lies

Trump’s claim about more white people being killed by police in the US is misleading.

The Guardian’s investigative project The Counted in 2015-2016 that set out to record all people in the US killed by police showed that Black people in America were more than twice as likely to be killed by the police than white people.

And in 2016 Black men ages 15-34 were nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by law enforcement officers, and they were killed at four times the rate of young white men.

A similar 2016 analysis by the Washington Post also found that African Americans are 2.5 times as likely to be shot and killed by police offers as white Americans.

Another study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2018 found that African Americans are 3.5 times as likely to be killed by police compared to white people.

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“Speechless – Trump White House is now muzzling, bypassing, and kneecapping the CDC,”

Epidemiologist Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding . . . “No other ways to spin this.” Common Dreams, “Warnings of Possible Cover-Up in Progress”

I was hoping I could get the clip of Doctor Wen discussing what the Trump administration has done in its end run around the CDC. I couldn’t C&P the embed code as it is in a lock down and I do not have the wave length to create one for it. You can view the news clip here “Trump Orders Hospitals to give him the data.”

Common Dreams has a good article up concerning Trump’s take over of the Hospital Covid Data reporting. The general opinion is the data will be massaged into a better outlook favoring Trump and his followers. I do not read of many people claiming different about the political nature of this take over. Alex Azar’s H.H.S. will replace the C.D.C. in collecting daily reports about the patients each hospital is treating, how many beds and ventilators are available, and other information vital to tracking the pandemic.

Four former CDC directors wrote in a Washington Post op-ed Tuesday that “no president has ever politicized [the CDC’s] science the way Trump has.”

In the WaPo po-ed, Tom Frieden, Jeffrey Koplan, David Satcher, and Richard Besser wrote: “Trying to fight this pandemic while subverting scientific expertise is like fighting blindfolded. It is not too late to give the CDC its proper role in guiding this response. But the clock is ticking.”

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Americans should “adapt”

to coronavirus, like the famous pioneers who “had to turn to cannibalism” Rush Limbaugh, Media Matters for America, July 14, 2020

Something to sleep on tonight by our faithful idiot Rush.

“In the Spanish flu — ’17, ’18, ’19, 1917, ’18 — much death. Do you know that there was not one mention of it by the president of the United States at the time, Woodrow Wilson? Never talked about it, there was no national policy to deal with it. There was no shutdown, there was just, “Hey, go outside, get some fresh air, stand in the sun as long as you can, get some vitamin D, feel better.” It had numerous waves to it. It coincided with World War I, which is what Woodrow Wilson’s concern was. Soldiers going off to war arguably spread one of the waves. But there was no, “Woe is us.” It was just the next in a long line of things that happened to people that they dealt with — like the Donner party.

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Economists and Inequality

by Joseph Joyce

Economists and Inequality

Binyamin Applebaum of the New York Times has written a book, The Economists’ Hour: False Prophets, Free Markets and the Fracture of Society, in which he claims that economists are responsible for the increase in income inequality in the U.S. I thought this charge was off the mark and wrote a reply. My piece, “Are Economists Responsible for Income Inequality?“, has been published in the June issue of Society. Here is the abstract:

Economists are held responsible by some for the increase in income inequality that has taken place in recent decades. Milton Friedman in particular has been singled out for advocating the removal of the government from almost all sectors of the economy, which led to an increase in inequality. But this charge is flawed for two reasons. First, Friedman’s views were always contested by other equally well-known and respected economists who advocate government policies to deal with markets where there are distortions, such as health care. Second, policy decisions are undertaken by public officials in response to many factors, including the advancement of personal and ideological agendas as well as the influence of donors and interest groups. The study of the causes and effects of inequality has become a central topic of economic research, and economists have a role to play in developing policies to address it.

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No, it is not “erasing history”

Infidel 753 writes at his own site of the same name. From time to time in the past he has put up several of Angry Bear’s posts on Crooks and Liars. This post (of his), I find interesting as he discusses the history and legitimacy of statues honoring  Confederates and US military bases named after Confederate military leaders.

History needs to be recorded and remembered, regardless of how we today judge the events and people of the past.  What happened is what happened, even when the truth is painful.  But historical memory does not require that we preserve monuments explicitly meant to honor criminals and insult black Americans.

Most of the Confederate monuments now scattered across the country were not built right after the Civil War but between 1895 and 1920, when the post-war progress on civil rights had been mostly reversed and the grinding down and terrorization of blacks reached an apex.  They were less commemoration of history than assertion and celebration of the resurgence of white supremacy.

This is perhaps fitting given that that was the cause for which the Confederates fought.  The Civil War was entirely about slavery — the Confederacy was created solely to preserve slavery.  The declarations of secession passed by the Southern states at the time make this clear.  Any assertion to the contrary is simply a lie.  Yet it’s the people who claim to be concerned about preserving history who keep repeating this fundamental lie about it.

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Being Targeted

Being Targeted

Arguably this is paranoia, but the mayor and police chief of my city do not think so and have officially reacted with a formal response.  What a sign that I am an old whatever, praising local law enforcement, but, well….

So the issue is that late last evening a truck full of masked white men, and no, we are not talking health masks but ones that cover ID, with flags waving including the Confederate battle flag, were going up and down our block taking photos of certain houses, including ours.  What did these objects of this photographic effort find consistent?  We all had posters on our property declaring “Black Live Matters.” Many on our block became upset over this, including my wife, and now the City of Harrisonburg, VA  police are especially watching our block. I note that both the mayor and police chief of our city happen to be Black, for which at this time I am grateful.

Background here is that I have been living where I am for 32 years with my wife, Marina, in a block in Old Town of Harrisonburg, VA, where most of the houses are somewhat over a century old, and we are five minutes from the central square, as well as being 20 minutes from offices at James Madison University.  Where we are is given by the 2004 prez election.  There are 5 precincts in Harrisonburg, but ours, closest to JMU, was the only precinct in the entire Shenandoah Valley that went for Kerry over Bush. Yes, we are an island of “liberalism,” with Harrisonburg later in 16 going strongly for Bernie.

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Fed Deficit as a % of GDP now at new record

For once Trump is right to claim that he has set a new record as the federal deficit is now over 10% of GDP.  It is now 10.7% of GDP as compared to the prior record of 10.2% that  Obama inherited from Bush.

The deficit is looking more and more like what happened in Japan.  Despite ever expanding debt, Japan’s economy stagnated.  Expanding federal debt may keep the economy from collapsing, but it can not stimulate growth. The strongest growth in recent decades was under Clinton when the federal government ran a surplus. But the real cause of growth under Clinton was the sharp drop in computer prices and the widespread adoption of personal computers. Clinton followed the wise policy of just stepping aside and letting it happen.

Trump appears to just be following the pattern set by previous Republican administrations with their “starve the beast” strategy. That is to create such a severe deficit problem that when democrats get into office they can not afford to pass new liberal legislation.

The quick and dirty rule of thumb is that when Republican presidents leave office the deficit is larger — as a share of GDP — than when they took office.  It is just the opposite with Democratic presidents,  that leave a smaller deficit than they inherited. But it is funny that you never have the press question Republican presidents about their claim that tax cuts will be self-financing.

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