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

Two Audio Interviews: Rethinking the Constitution and The New PhD

I thought readers would enjoy the following two interviews.

The first is with Mary Anne Franks: The Cult of the Constitution. The discussion is titled: Rethinking the Constitution. She gets into the first and second amendment. What I found thoughtful was her presentation of the Constitution being viewed as a sacred document. Think the Bible etc. Considering the influence of the Evangelical Right in the Republican party, it put clarity to the Right’s arguments involving the Constitution. This discussion coincides with Peter Dorman’s post: We need a Plan for Militias.

The second interview I heard a bit ago: The New PhD, How to Build a Better Graduate Program. Leonard Cassuto and Robert Weisbuch. What they suggest is that the Graduate programs have to change from their conservative (not political conservative) historical approach to this aspect of the education and make it more relevant to what is present for such students in today’s world.

Both interviews are about 1 hour long. Enjoy.

Karl Marx/Benjamin Franklin Mashup

Karl Marx/Benjamin Franklin Mashup

Capital itself is the moving contradiction, in that it presses to reduce labour time to a minimum, while it posits labour time, on the other side, as sole measure and source of wealth. Remember that time is money. Hence it diminishes labour time in the necessary form so as to increase it in the superfluous form; hence posits the superfluous in growing measure as a condition – question of life or death – for the necessary. 

He that can earn ten shillings a day by his labour, and goes abroad, or sits idle one half of that day, though he spends but sixpence during his diversion or idleness, ought not to reckon that the only expense; he has really spent or rather thrown away five shillings besides. On the one side, then, it calls to life all the powers of science and of nature, as of social combination and of social intercourse, in order to make the creation of wealth independent (relatively) of the labour time employed on it. On the other side, it wants to use labour time as the measuring rod for the giant social forces thereby created, and to confine them within the limits required to maintain the already created value as value. In short, the way to wealth, if you desire it, is as plain as the way to market. It depends chiefly on two words, industry and frugality.

How Biden Is Walking His Talk on Unity

Writer Nancy LeTourneau describes herself as “a pragmatic progressive who has been blogging about politics since 2007.” She writes at her blog, “Horizons” and also commentary on Twitter @Smartypants60. In the past, Nancy has written articles for the Washington Monthly.


How Biden Is Walking His Talk on Unity,” Horizons, Nancy LeTourneau, January 27, 2021,

There are roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States today. According to Pew Research, two thirds of them have been in this country for more than 10 years. 

Back in 2013, when Congress last considered passing comprehensive immigration reform, the CBO estimated that providing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants would reduce the federal deficit by $197 billion in the first 10 years and an additional $700 billion in the second decade. Additionally, the Center for American Progress calculated that such reforms would increase the earnings of all American workers by $470 billion over 10 years, increase tax revenue by $109 billion over a decade, and create on average an additional 121,000 jobs per year. Finally, over the next three and a half decades, legalized immigrants would add a net of more than $606 billion to the Social Security system. 

When President Biden prioritizes immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, the arguments in favor of doing so aren’t simply about allowing over 11 million people to come out of the shadows. The economic benefits of doing so would redound to all of us. 

But even Republicans like Senator Marco Rubio, who once advocated for immigration reform, have already stated that they will not support Biden’s plan. 

Unity

“Unity,” they cried. “First, we must have unity.” “Whose unity shall we have, yours or mine,” I asked?

Knowing there was a Unitarian Church nearby, I stopped by and asked the minister. This ordinate tells me that theirs is all about a god of one; a unity god. Always wondered.

Is there such a thing as unity of minds? A singularity? Called up an old physicist friend; says it’s something to do with essence, he thinks.

This unity you are demanding, can you please tell us what you mean by unity?

David Graham at the Atlantic on The matter:

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/01/why-are-republicans-being-so-divisive/617648/

Three days later in the Biden Administration

Letters from an American, Newsletter

History Professor Heather Cox Richardson at Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences, Boston College chronicles today’s political landscape. Because it is difficult to understand today’s politics without an outline of America’s Constitution, and laws, and the economy, and social customs; the professor’s newsletter explores what it means, and what it has meant, to be an American.

Professor Richardson follows in the same manner as did Hector St. John de Crevecoeur (Letters from an American) in recording the daily events of our nation during the Revolution.

History doesn’t repeat itself, but it sure rhymes.


Three days (January 23rd) into the Biden administration and lots of commenters are noting the return of calm in the media, and the return of a sense of stability in the government. People are sleeping so much better that the word “slept” trended on Twitter the day after the inauguration.

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris appear to be eager to reestablish expertise as the foundation for public service. Biden is appointing what the Washington Post calls “technocrats” and what others have called “nerds” to public service. The former president tried to “burrow” his loyalists into office, politicizing positions that were supposed to be nonpartisan. Biden asked for the resignations of those political appointees and, when they refused to resign, fired them.  

While some right-wing Republicans have howled that Biden’s firing of burrowing Trump loyalists betrays his promise of “unity,” in fact the new administration’s quick restoration of a qualified, nonpartisan bureaucracy is an attempt to stabilize our democracy.

About Time

About Time

Stacey Abrams on Biden’s leadership, Georgia’s election and challenging voter suppression, PBS New Hour January 21, 2021

Judy Woodruff:

And, in fact, what we saw in 2020 and at the end of the election, President Trump and the people who support him making almost the opposite argument, that too much has been done to go out and to make sure minority voters can vote, people who may not be citizens can vote, they claim.

How — I mean, there’s a wave of belief out there today that something went wrong in this election. They’re coming at it basically from the opposite direction.

  • Stacey Abrams:

I wouldn’t put this in terms of opposite direction. I would put this in terms of truth and lie.

We know that it is true that voters have been purged from the rolls, thousands of whom should never have been removed. We know that there are communities that experience multihour lines, when communities that are better situated and whiter have a faster attempt and a faster capacity.

We know that the issues of voter suppression played out in plain sight when we saw state after state try to force people to go to the polls in unsafe conditions, rather than allowing them to use the safety of voting by mail.

Then you have the lies that were told by Donald Trump and by his adherents. We had more than 60 lawsuits where evidence could not be produced. We saw Donald Trump himself at the outset of his administration convene a voting fraud task force and dismantle it because they could not find proof.

There has been absolutely no proof of widespread voter fraud. It did not happen. And, this year, Republican leaders acknowledged that that was true.

And so the moment we create this false equivalence between voter suppression, which has been baked into our nation since its inception, and voter fraud, which largely in the 20th century and 21st centuries has been a figment of imagination, then we cannot give them equal time and equal measure.

We have to dismiss and push back against voter fraud, so we can focus on ensuring that every eligible citizen in the United States of America has the same ease of voting, no matter who they are, where they live, or the color of their skin.

Populism

Populism has a nice ring; ‘will of the people’ and all that good stuff. So, why doesn’t it ever work? Not even in backward nations? Populism is disastrous in a nation as complex as the United States in times as complicated as these. There’s a reason that it never turns out well. Populism feeds off people’s need to believe, their resistance to thinking and learning, and, is invariably nurtured by ignorance. Knowing this, some politicians, when seeking votes, pander to the voter’s ignorance. When this pandering amount to the bulk of their campaign, a politician becomes known as a populists.

When the founders pondered on all this, their solution was a representative form of government; one where the people chose representatives to deal with the complexities beyond the ken of the common man. Back then, most Americans were functionally illiterate. The founding fathers’ chosen means of addressing this issue was brilliant. All things being relative, in today’s highly complex world; the ken of the common man ’tis relatively about the same as it was back then.

Libertarians: Hey look, it’s Haley’s comet!

How are libertarian lovers of liberty responding to the assault on democracy and the rule of law that took place in the Capitol Wednesday?

Over at Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen speaks out eloquently against Trump’s anti-democratic behavior.  Just kidding!  In a post entitled “That was then, this is now” Cowen reminds us about the terrorist attack on Congress by Puerto Rican nationalists in 1954.  But there is no analogy between a terrorist attack by a politically powerless minority (as bad as that is) and a mob attempting to subvert American democracy at the behest of a sitting President who just lost an election.  No analogy at all.

Cowen also has a post bemoaning the failure of the Capitol police to secure Congress, and a post quibbling over the correct definition of a “coup” and expressing surprise that some Capitol police officers seemed sympathetic to the protesters.  I enjoy a good debate over proper English usage as much as the next guy, but . . . No mention of Trump?  No mention of the Republicans who enable him?  No mention of the role of Fox News?  And being surprised by the behavior of the cops, what can I say?  We saw the sympathy of the police for armed right wing vigilantes this summer.

Zooming in on the Defects of PowerPoint

Zooming in on the Defects of PowerPoint

 I’ve just finished several days of staring, hour after hour, at the year’s economics meetings via Zoom.  What really struck me, beyond the content of the talks, was the way Zoom exacerbates “death by bullet point”.

PowerPoint’s capabilities encourage speakers to load up their slides with lots of text and graphics, which then leads the audience to glue their eyeballs to the slides and not the speaker.  This defeats the core purpose of public speaking in the post-Gutenberg era, which is to use the audience’s engagement with the speaker as a vehicle for communicating thoughts and feelings that the written word, even accompanied by pictures, can’t express.  The worst scenario, which all of us have experienced way too often, is when a speaker crams lots of text in tiny fonts into each slide and then reads it word for word.