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

The Birth of a Bomb and the Rebirth of a City

1945 and 2018

On August 6, 1945; The US dropped an atomic bomb (Little Boy) on Hiroshima destroying much of the city and instantly killing 80,000 of its citizens. 60,000 more would die later

On August 6, 1945; The Enola Gay dropped the first atomic bomb ever used in military combat on Hiroshima. A second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki August 9, 1945.

On August 6, 2018; On the 73rd anniversary of dropping of the first atomic bomb, the residents of Hiroshima will pause to remember the 80,000 residents and the destruction which changed the course of history. Church bells will ring at 8:15 AM, the moment the bomb was dropped from the Enola Gay.

Later on August 6, 2018 and in the evening, Toro Nagashi Lanterns will be floated down the Motoyasu river and past The Atomic Dome (Prefuctural Industrial Promotion Hall). First held in 1946, the Toro Nagashi (literally, “flowing lanterns”) ceremony was first held in Tokyo. Participants Float glowing paper lanterns down a river to commemorate the souls of the dead.

Today, Hiroshima is a prosperous manufacturing city.

Hiroshima Today, Laura McCamy, “Business Insider,” August 6, 2018

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Saturday Night News Clips

Rude Tipping

How to torment the wait staff for their tip. A fun game to play on a night out with your wife or friends. The diner shared the experience on Facebook claiming his methods resulted in “the best service experienced.”

Explaining at the beginning of the meal, he would place five single dollar bills on the table for the server to see and not say anything to them. If they messed up, he would take a dollar away and so on. At the end of the dinner, whatever was left was their tip.”

Wait staff would keep looking at the money with a puzzled look on their face. Once he took away a dollar because of forgotten table bread. He replaced the dollar when the waiter brought extra bread later. “Ha ha all in all a great evening of fun with my love and a good dinner experiment we both wanted to see play out. Try it, you will be surprised!” he wrote.

One waiter’s comment: “I served for years putting myself through college – i would have ignored you most of the night for the satisfaction of letting you know your condescending $5 means absolutely nothing to me while i racked up $10-$20 tips from people that can actually afford to go out to eat.”

NRA alleges financial difficulties

The National Rifle Association (NRA) is alleging it is facing financial danger after the state of New York pressured financial institutions to cut ties with the gun group.

Obtained and first reported by Rolling Stone, the NRA claims in a lawsuit, the state of New York sought to hurt the organization by urging financial institutions and insurers not to work with the gun group.

The organization is suing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), the state’s Department of Financial Services (DFS), and Maria Vullo, New York’s superintendent of financial services. An amended version of the complaint was filed in U.S. District Court in New York last month.

The lawsuit stems from a May decision by New York financial regulators over “Carry Guard,” a-NRA marketed insurance policy for members who face legal costs after firing a gun legally. The DFS determined that the policy was illegal under New York state law, and the insurers who provided it must stop selling the policies and paid a $7 million fine.

Trump commission did not find widespread voter fraud
Republican President Donald Trump convened a commission to investigate the 2016 presidential election after he made unsubstantiated claims of 3 million to 5 million ballots were illegally cast. Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap and other critics rejected Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud.

The Trump administration last month complied with a court order to turn over documents from the voting integrity commission to Matthew Dunlap. The commission met just twice and had not issued a report.

Dunlap’s findings received immediate pushback Friday from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who acted as the vice chair of the commission with VP Mike Pence serving as the chair.

“For some people, no matter how many cases of voter fraud you show them, there will never be enough for them to admit that there’s a problem,” said Kobach, who is running for Kansas governor and has a good chance of unseating the incumbent, Jeff Colyer, in the Republican primary Tuesday.

“It appears that Secretary Dunlap is willfully blind to the voter fraud in front of his nose,” Kobach said in a statement released by his spokesman.

Kobach said there have been more than 1,000 convictions for voter fraud since 2000, and that the commission presented 8,400 instances of double voting in the 2016 election in 20 states.

“Had the commission done the same analysis of all 50 states, the number would have been exponentially higher,” Kobach said.

In response, Dunlap said those figures were never brought before the commission, and Kobach has not presented any evidence for his claims of double voting. He said the commission was presented with a report claiming over 1,000 convictions for various forms of voter misconduct since 1948.

“The plural of anecdote is not data,” Dunlap said in his Friday letter to the shuttered commission’s leaders.

Federal judge says Trump must fully restore DACA

A federal judge ruled Friday that the Trump administration must fully restore the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

In his 25-page opinion, Judge John Bates said the Trump White House had “again” failed to provide justification for its proposal to end the Obama-era program, under which nearly 800,000 people brought to the country illegally as children, known as “Dreamers,” have received work permits and deferral from deportation.
The judge also said in his opinion that he has agreed to delay his ruling to give the Trump administration 20 days “to determine whether it intends to appeal the Court’s decision and, if so, to seek a stay pending appeal.”

There Are Still a Lot of Men Without Jobs

The prime-age employment-population ratio which is the most straightforward of job market measures hit a new post-recession high of 79.5 percent in the U.S. in July, according to today’s jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However when looking at a separate analysis for men and women, the measurement for men still falls short for men.

For prime-age women, the employment-population ratio is back to its peak from the previous business cycle, and within 2 percentage points of its all-time high in March 2000.

For U.S. prime-age men, meanwhile, the employment-population ratio is still almost 2 percentage points below its peak from the last business cycle, and nearly 10 points below its all-time high (the data series goes back to 1948) in March 1953. Countless studies have addressed the possible causes of this disappearance of prime-age men from the workforce, and I’m not going to go into them here. It just seems worth noting that, even with the unemployment rate dipping to levels last seen on a sustained basis in the 1960s, there are still a lot of prime-age men out there without jobs (8.6 million in total, according to the BLS) who could conceivably be put to work.

Colbert “Daddy’s Little Contradictor” Perhaps, feckless is too weak a term to describe the lady?

To Close Saturday Night . . . Dan Rather on Trump’s attack on Lebron

“This is apparently what the President of the United States feels the need to share with the world at what should be long past his bedtime?

It’s a disgrace. It’s racist.

And it’s the product of petty but dangerous hatreds. I repeat this is the PRESIDENT??!?”

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“Paid Off” A Noir Style Game Show to Pay off Student Loans

I do not know what generation Maxwell Strahan of Huffpost is of; but if he is of the Millennials, he has it correct in his HuffPost article. . . “The Greatest “Crisis of My Generation is Now a Dystopian Show.” The crisis? Student Loan debt, the penalties associated with it, and the inability to declared bankruptcy are the greatest crises facing younger generations and will also be for this nation when millions of them default. The Show? “Paid Off!

There is a certain degree of cynicism and blackness to this show which places it in a “film noir” category or show noir (if such a category existed) to be precise. Young students saddled with a life time of debt from profit and non-profit institutions to which there is no escape unless disabled or dead. The blackness to this show comes when the indebted contestants turn to answering zany questions taken from stranger categories in the hope of eliminating their student loan debt which should not be such a burden if they could work in the field they were trained or educated in and make enough to pay off the debt. If delinquent, the burden increases, and rather than capitalize the accrued interest, the student must pay the interest before they can pay down the principal which acquires more interest. It is a vicious cycle created by a Congress favoring financial institutions over constituents.

If an 18 year old student received the right advice and chose the correct education with adequate funding; they were probably successful, courted by others, and can now sit back and critique those who were less fortunate. If the 18 year old was not so fortunate to have had the right advice, direction, and low-cost financing or a paid-for education; they potentially ended up saddled with a lot of debt, indentured to a life time of payments, and a degree which possibly will do little for them. Having a college education has turned into a crap-shoot for many as it may not offer the expected monetary returns. Or as the Knight (Robert Eddison) guarding the Holy Grail in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” said; “He (or she) chose poorly.” Or chose poorly because of a lack of knowledge, being sold a worthless product by hucksters, and a lack of jobs.

The “Paid Off,” show is a take-off of Jeopardy (see the clip below) except instead of winning money, the contestants gets a chance to eliminate student loan debt. The “Paid Off” host Michael Torpey asks each x-student-player a series of Jeopardy-style questions from selected categories which each must win. Each player clicks on a button and whoever is first and answers correctly wins that question and receives multiples of $100. At the end of the game, the person with the most $dollars goes to the final round and must answer 8 questions in 60 seconds. If they are successful, the show pays their student debt in total. If Michael Torpey is a familiar name to you, he is best known as the Corrections Officer Thomas Humphrey of “Orange is the New Black.”

A clip of the show

Here, Maxwell Strahan describes the intensity of the show.

“The darkness (my emphasis) and most excruciating minute of the series premiere of ‘Paid Off’ ― truTV’s new game show offering contestants the possibility of a life free of student debt ― comes near the end. Madeleine, a graduate of North Carolina’s Davidson College, walks up to the middle of the stage as the only player to make it to the show’s final round.

Saddled with $41,222 in debt, Madeline has the chance to wipe it all away in an instant should she answer eight trivia questions correctly in a 60-second period. Before the final round begins, Michael Torpey of pauses to ask Madeline what her dream life would look like if she were to magically rid herself of the tens of $thousands she owes.

‘Right now, I live in a tiny little loft apartment with my boyfriend and my dog, I would love to marry my boyfriend and move into a home with a yard.’ (Sound familiar to all who have reached that point in life? Rather than funding bank profits, a couple starts to be more productive in their community and funds it).

If ‘Black Mirror’ is a dystopian glimpse at where society is headed, ‘Paid Off’ is an even more horrifying peek at where it already stands. Maybe on another game show in another era ― say, the ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ of the early 2000s ― Madeleine would have dreamed of a McMansion, or a fancy car, or a trip around the world on a luxury cruise. But this is the United States of America circa 2018 and it is much simpler and less exciting. Madeleine is one of the more than 40 million Americans struggling to get out from under a collective $1.5 trillion in student loan debt.

For Madeleine and the millions of other people like her, just getting back to zero would be a reason to celebrate.” Hence the noir quality of the show.

Oh and did Madeline succeed in wiping out her student loan debt? Unfortunately; she answered 7 of 8 questions in the 60 seconds, won $24,211, and not enough to pay off the $41,222 she owes.

“I know it’s not everything,” a consoling Torpey says to her.

“It’s a lot,” Madeline replies . . . just getting back to zero is a reason to celebrate and move on while young in life.

Madeline’s Full Episode “Paid Off” The show and Mike Torpey hit it on the head.

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Morning News Clips

NYT and Trump Meet

In a meeting between Trump and NYT Publisher with the NYT Editorial Page Editor in attendance, they discussed “the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media & how that Fake News quip by Trump has morphed into phrase, “Enemy of the People.”

D.J. Trump: “Had a very good and interesting meeting at the White House with A.G. Sulzberger, Publisher of the New York Times. Spent much time talking about the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media & how that Fake News has morphed into phrase, “Enemy of the People. Sad!”

A.G. Sulzberger: “I told the president directly that I thought that his language was not just divisive but increasingly dangerous.

I told him that although the phrase ‘fake news’ is untrue and harmful, I am far more concerned about his labeling journalists ‘the enemy of the people. I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence.”

Throughout their conversation Sulzberger made clear that if the president had qualms with the coverage of his administration, he was “free to tell the world.” Sulzberger also implored Trump to reconsider his attacks on journalism, which Sulzberger called “dangerous and harmful to our country.”

DeVos Puts the Burden of Proof on Defrauded Students

If you attended a school that misled you or engaged in misconduct, there’s a government program called Borrower Defense to Repayment that helps get relief from your federal student loans. The rules that explain this program were introduced in 2016, after a number of high-profile cases involving some for-profit colleges.

But critics and the administration have said those regulations were too broad — and allowed too many students to apply for relief.

“Basically, any students could raise their hand and qualify for free money,” says Mary Clare Amselem, a policy analyst from the conservative Heritage Foundation. When colleges misbehave and students get those loans forgiven, she explains, taxpayers are on the hook for the bill.

“Shrinking the budget that goes towards Borrower Defense is definitely a good thing for American taxpayers.”

The biggest change in DeVos’ rewrite of the rules: Students who want their debt forgiven will have to show that schools had the intent to harm them, with misleading advertising, a reckless disregard for the truth or financial harm.

Student loan default is not of the same magnitude as the banking and investment firm fraudulent default in 2008 which placed the economy and Main Street in danger. The government moved quickly to fix Wall Street and its malfeasant actions. This was a forgotten blip in our economic history and so easily forgotten by Heritage an other organizations promoting forced responsibility upon students who are conned into signing their life away.

Student loans has reached $1.5 trillion with 1 of 4 students in default or delinquent. Supported by Joe Biden, Debbie Stabenow as well as other well meaning politicians; instead of creating an opportunity to become a successful part of the economy, student loans have indentured them to a life time of payments, a circumstance from which many other citizens have escaped from through bankruptcy. Student loans should have the same relief as what President Trump experienced and received multiple times going bankrupt as well as Wall Street ivestment firms and banks at that time. Why destroy the country’s future taxpayers?

Mary Janes

On Halloween, there was always someone handing out Mary Janes which could pull the fillings out of your teeth.

The NECCO plant in Revere, Massachusetts, was shut suddenly Tuesday by its owner, Round Hill Investments LLC. The investment company, owned by billionaire C. Dean Metropolous, bought NECCO out of bankruptcy in May for $17.3 million and then sold it to another company.

Operating since 1847 under various names, the New England Confectionery Company is the oldest continuously running candy company in America. At risk besides Mary Janes are NECCO’s Sweethearts, NECCO Wafers, Clark Bars and Mighty Malts.

A bit of history disappears.

Flint Water Crisis

You would think by now Republicans and Governor Rick Snyder would have resolved the Flint Water Crisis and re-piped the city. Yes, it costs money; but, this occurred under a state appointed Emergency Manager in control of the city with more authority than elected officials.

Michigan is #3 in the nation in giving subsidies to corporations. HT: The Real News

Secret in-flight monitoring of U.S. passengers for years

It used to be fun to fly to different parts of the globe on business. It has gotten to be more of a hassle to even fly within the US.

Federal air marshals have for years been quietly monitoring small numbers of U.S. air passengers and reporting on in-flight behavior considered suspicious. Even if those individuals have no known terrorism links, the Transportation Security Administration still monitored their activity as reported recently.

Under a sensitive, previously undisclosed 2010 program called ‘Quiet Skies,’ the TSA has tasked marshals to identify passengers who raise flags because of travel histories or other factors and conduct secret observations of their actions — including behavior as common as sweating heavily or using the restroom repeatedly — as they fly between U.S. destinations.”

When Black Nurses Were Relegated to Care for German POWs

On July 26, 1948, President Truman signed an executive order that desegregated the U.S. Armed Forces. The act was long overdue, particularly for African American nurses, who had just served in World War II.

Though the United States had been at war against Hitler’s racist regime, Jim Crow segregation permeated American culture and the entire military—including the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. Black nurses who served in the war found themselves in one of two places— segregated bases with black soldiers or German prisoner of war camps.

At the segregated bases, black nurses served in all-black units, lived in “colored” barracks, worked in “colored” hospitals, ate in separate dining areas, and socialized in segregated spaces on base. Along with the separate facilities, black nurses endured racist treatment from local white residents in town, fellow white army officers, and even from German prisoners of war.” History Stories

3D Bullet-Spewing-Weapon?

My terminology takes in everything which can be imagined with regard to weapons. No arguments to be had. The Trump Administration settled a lawsuit with “Defense Distributed” allowing anyone with access to a 3D printer to be able to manufacture a weapon using their plans.

“The decision means that people who can’t pass a standard background check ‘terrorists, convicted felons, and domestic abusers’ will be able to print out a gun without a serial number, Chipman wrote at at Giffords, The Courage to Fight blog. ‘This could have severe repercussions a decade from now if we allow weapons of this kind to multiply.’” As Giffords’ Senior Policy Advisor stated, “the ability to print weapons without serial numbers will be an even greater threat to safety.”

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Accidentally Booked on Fox News

Accidentally booked on Fox News as the only Democrat who supports ICE. Fox news booked the wrong candidate who did not tell them she was not Ann Kirkpatrick.
H/T Matt Shuham at TPM.

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Reading the news

Posted by Barbara Hermel Bach on Friday, July 20, 2018

Seagull existentialism

Posted by Philosophy Matters on Saturday, July 21, 2018

Same as it ever was….

Posted by Robert Sheidler-Lopez on Friday, July 20, 2018

Today's daily cartoon by Mary Lawton.

Posted by The New Yorker on Thursday, July 19, 2018

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86% of the 2018 Congressional Election Already Determined

A projection was made by Fair Vote Org as to what will happen in the 2018 Congressional Elections based upon a series of variables such as whether a candidate is an incumbent, the geographical location or rural versus city, the underlying partisan lean of a district etc. If we apply those variables to this election; the likelihood of a House takeover even with a Blue Wave of angry Democrats going to the poll will not yield us what we hope to achieve. It is worth considering the findings as Fair Vote Org. has accurately portrayed the Congressional results in the 2012, 2014, and 2016 elections.

Increasingly polarized and partisan voters give way to congressional districts being safe for a party holding the seat to continue to do so. In winner take all elections leaving many unrepresented, Fair Vote identifies it as the root cause of dysfunction in our electoral process and advocates going to a system of fair representative voting. While I agree with much of what is being said by Fair Vote Org., I would add to their findings, the average size of the congressional districts magnifies the dysfunction of Congressional elections by disenfranchising large elements of the population within those districts. Congressional Representatives have the luxury of ignoring a sizeable minority (in numbers) constituency.

The congressional districts in place today reflect Republican majorities in the U.S. House. Using the parameters identified, 208 Republican districts are counted as being safe for Republicans. To maintain control of the House, Republicans would only need to win ten of the remaining 61 seats in the upcoming 2018 election. Districts labeled safe for either party are those the Fair Vote Org. is highly confident of the outcome and it remaining in that party’s control.

In a year where the national party preference by constituents is split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, the 2018 election would still leave Republican candidates winning 244 districts (56%) or 53 more than Democrats. Incumbency is an advantage and hard to overturn.

The bias towards Republicans holds true in the Democratic wave year of 2018. Even in the case of a Blue Democratic wave year of as 54% or more of the national party preference by constituents, Republicans would still walk away with 226 districts compared to 209 for Democrats (Figure 1.4). A reverse scenario of a 54% wave year for Republicans, GOP candidates would result in a projected 254 districts (58%), with a Democratic advantage in the remaining 181 districts. Seemingly, the deck is stacked against the Democrats taking control of the House in 2018.

Unless more than 55.4% of voters go to the polls and prefer Democrats over Republicans, the House will still be controlled by Republicans. Maybe the 55.4% turnout will take place; but, I believe it to be unlikely given the numbers I am seeing. While Democrats will gain ground, Republicans will keep their majority even with as little as 45% turnout in a Republican party preference in this election.

Immutable determinations of Congressional Election Outcomes. What I attempt to show here is; unless changes in how we select our Congressional Representatives to office in winner take all elections and in the districts themselves, the population size of the districts, the representation of minority interests, etc., little will change in the House and how they represent their constituents. Michigan’s Mike Bishop is a perfect example of a Congressional Representative ignoring constituents and only because he does not need them to elect him. Lending credence to this report were the prediction results of the Fair Vote Organization on what had occurred in the 2012, 2014, and the 2016 elections. For example, the 2016 U.S. House elections were so uncompetitive, Fair Vote was able to accurately predict winners in 97% of seats more than a year before Election Day using only data from the three previous congressional elections.

Mostly due to the reasons cited earlier (incumbency, winner-take-all, size of district, etc.) the outcome of more than 80% of U.S. House races can be predicted with near certainty years ahead of the election. In 2012 and 2014 House elections, the model made “high-confidence” projections in 701 contests (80.5% of all races) and was correct in all but one. The remaining ~20% of the races were either in a favored status or a tossup.

Advantages built into the structure of House elections strengthen a continued Republican majority likely. For 2018, Fair Vote’s model makes high-confidence projections of the winners in 374 of 435 U.S. House races. Of these 374 projections, 208 races are safe for Republicans and 166 are safe for Democrats. Of the 61 seats our high-confidence model did not project, 22 favor Republicans and another 21 are toss-up seats. Republicans need only win 10 of these to maintain their majority.

Although 2018 might be a bad year for incumbents, the rates of incumbent re-election will remain high. Donald Trump’s unexpected election to the presidency did not nothing to change the House status quo. 98% of congressional incumbents won re-election in the 2016 general election. Mid-terms when one party controls all levels of government are extremely volatile; but, we can expect an incumbent re-election rate on the order of 90% or more.

Of the ten most vulnerable incumbents, five are Democrats and five are Republicans. 2016 upended many longstanding partisan and demographic trends, leaving many incumbents from both parties stranded in what is now enemy territory. Both of the incumbents with the highest projected margins of defeat, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, (R-FL) and Tim Waltz (D-MN) have already announced they are not seeking re-election.

Outcomes in most races are essentially predetermined and can be forecasted just months – or even days – after the previous election.

“Monopoly Politics; The Root of Dysfunction in the House of Representatives;” Fair Vote staff, led by Andrew Douglas, Theodore Landsman, and Rob Richie. Special thanks to Madeline Brown, Sarah John, Johnathan Nowakowski, and Drew Penrose of Fair Vote Org

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