Friday, April 26, 2013

Goose Green Spring

Goose Green Spring by Get The Flick
Goose Green Spring, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

If you show up every morning, you're bound to get lucky.

Don Brown
April 26, 2013

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

ITYS -- Home Run

I don't know how many times I've told you "austerity doesn't work".

99% of my education in this matter is due to one man -- Paul Krugman. My efforts in these matters are miniscule. Paul Krugman's actions have been nothing short of heroic. It takes guts to face the pressures he has faced -- the attacks he has had to withstand -- day after day on a national stage.

But even Professor Krugman's herculean efforts won't have the effect the clip below will have. From Stephen Colbert. A comedian. You can link my posts all day and nothing will happen. You can shove Kruman's columns in front of your friends and their eyes will glaze over. You can show them this clip and they'll get it. They will laugh. And the info we have been trying to convey will stick.

Oh, and as a bonus, Stephen starts the routine on the air traffic controller furloughs. Start sending this to all your friends. Do it now.

I hope it will dawn on my readers that millions upon millions of people around the world have been unemployed for years because of this now-discredited economic theory. The heartbreak, the societal pain and the economic loss is staggering. Even the derision of Stephen Colbert will not change the minds of the politicians that voted in this economic policy. Paul Ryan is not going to have an epiphany and change his mind about cutting government. It was never about economic policy with most of the Republicans. It was using political power to further their ideology. The fight is not won. That will only happen at the ballot box.

If you can find the time, open your mind and open your heart: Read this piece from the Washington Post today. Don't tweet or link this one at the expense of the Colbert clip. As sad as it is, that is the one that will change minds. But this piece from the Washington Post is the reason they need changing.

"In Florida, a food-stamp recruiter deals with wrenching choices"

And when you get to read about Lonnie Briglia, I hope it will hit you that he displays more courage than most of us will ever be asked to show. He let his story be told so that we might have a chance to learn and understand. Don't waste that chance.

Don Brown
April 24, 2013

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Storm Breaks (4-19-13)

Red sky at night and all that other stuff.

While y'all were watching cops & bombers, I was watching this. Fill in the moral of your own story.

Don Brown
April 19, 2013

Disagreed Fareed

It was sad, listening to Fareed Zakaria last Sunday as he talked about Margaret Thatcher. I think his pro-Thatcher stance was deeply flawed. But truth be known, this is one of the reasons I listen to him. His position doesn't alway agree with mine. In that I do think he is brilliant, it makes me take a long look at my own positions.

I was watching Fareed's show on CNN -- Global Public Square -- but there is a companion article in The Washington Post. That article made the fundamental difference in our opinion jump off the page.

Could Margaret Thatcher’s reforms work in 2013?

"I grew up admiring Margaret Thatcher. It was obvious to many of us in India in the 1970s that socialist economics didn’t work and that Thatcher’s radical reforms were the right course, one we wished someone would advocate in India. (It took 12 years and a massive crisis for that to happen.) Her plans to cut taxes, privatize industry and deregulate have been vindicated by history, but that doesn’t tell us much about what to do today."

I didn't grow up in India. Nor did I grow up with socialist economics. I grew up with regulated capitalism. I didn't admire Margaret Thatcher. But for some reason, Fareed takes Thatcher's "accomplishments" and transfers them onto America's economics.

"Britain was not unusual. In most European countries, the state had as large a role atop the “commanding heights” of the economy. And while the United States was always far more free-market-oriented, even U.S. tax rates in the 1970s were in the range of 70 percent, and government tightly regulated telecommunications, transportation and finance."

In the U.S., the government didn't own the airlines. We didn't own the trains, the oil companies, the phone company, the car companies, etc., etc. We were much closer to the middle of what I consider to be the ideological road of economics. AT&T ("Ma Bell") was a regulated monopoly. Pan Am was the de facto overseas airline of the United States. You can see where this is headed (hopefully.) I'm having trouble thinking of a finance giant on the order of an AT&T and a Pan Am -- a too-big-too-fail bank --because there weren't any. Banking was distributed. But mostly the entire financial system was completely different. Wall Street -- the stock market -- and Main Street -- the banking system -- were kept separate. There was this little thing called the Glass–Steagall Act .

So, in my book, Fareed is only one for three in his logic. In telecommunications, transportation and finance, I only consider telecommunications to be better off. Let me take one paragraph to explore that. What's different? We split up the Bell System (which financed the Bell Lab by the way) into little-bitty pieces. Fast forward 30 years and we have AT&T, Verizon and a couple of GTE types left over. In other words, we're right back where we started. The difference that makes it better? The internet and technology. Did I mention Bell Labs? And DARPA belongs to the big, bad government. So much for Thatcherism transforming technology. Would all this have happened without breaking up the monopoly? I don't know.

I hope it has hit you: We deregulated airlines and we're down to...what? Five majors for now? After so much pain. Repeating the telecommunication business litany -- Bell, bust and back to Big. That leaves banking. From diversified to combining with "finance" to Too-Big-to-Fail with a global economic catastrophe to its credit. I hope this makes it plain why I used quotations marks around Margaret Thatcher's "accomplishments".

Sorry Fareed. I can appreciate what Margaret Thatcher did for the United Kingdom. I think I have a sense of it because of the way Americans fawn over Ronald Reagan. But America didn't need Thatcher's cure because we didn't have England's system.

But here's the real kicker. Here's what really matters to me. What did Margaret Thatcher do to make her citizen's lives better? I'll ask the same of her buddy Ronald Reagan. I'm not asking about something as minor as riding out a recession. Reagan and Thatcher's supporters want to put them on the pedestal of Greatness. Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves. FDR won a world war and started Social Security. Winston Churchill saved England. Clement Attlee brought in the National Health Service. What did Lady Thatcher do to deserve Greatness? Making a people feel better about themselves isn't a minor thing. But it isn't Greatness.

Greed is not Great. It isn't even good. Show me a religion that says it is. Governments aren't founded to make people richer. They are founded to make our lives better. Easing or ending poverty is a worthy cause. Seeking riches isn't. Thatcher and Reagan helped generate enormous fortunes with their policies. I want to know if they made their citizen's lives better. All of their citizens.

Don Brown
April 19, 2013

Beauty Begins at Home

Beauty Begins at Home by Get The Flick
Beauty Begins at Home, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

Photographing my own yard. Hmmm. I know, right?

Don Brown
April 19, 2013

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Other Left

You may remember that 4 years ago I put up a simple bell curve chart of IQ distribution. Little did I know how right I was -- that this simple chart would become such a touchstone for my thoughts about America.

This chart still sits on my desktop. I've used it time after time as a graphic reminder of the issue at hand: There are good, worthy human beings unlucky enough to be born on the left side of that chart. Half of America is on the left side of that chart. Where do they fit into America's society?

I'm not interested in splitting mathematical or scientific hairs with anyone about the subject of IQ. What I'm interested in is public policy -- how does this issue affect the real world we live in? Wikipedia has an appropriate section under the IQ entry entitled "Real-life accomplishments". A quick view of it shows exactly what you would expect -- a person with an IQ above 100 continues to college. A person below 100 doesn't. And -- as you hear over and over again in the media -- tomorrow's jobs require a college education. So what does the left side of America do? Not the political left -- The Other Left -- the half of America on the left side of the IQ chart.

As I've said before, you can view this in an altruistic way but even if you don't have an ounce of empathy, you still have a problem. Without meaningful jobs for The Other Left -- jobs that pay enough so that they can support themselves -- you (those on the right side of the IQ chart) will wind up supporting them. Unless you think the United States of America will tolerate widespread starvation. I don't believe it will. Not and remain the America we all know and love. That is always an option you know -- the collapse of civilization.

Speaking of which, this one little blurb in the Wikipedia entry on IQ grabbed my attention.

"The US military has minimum enlistment standards at about the IQ 85 level. There have been two experiments with lowering this to 80 but in both cases these men could not master soldiering well enough to justify their costs."

How's that for a cold calculation? I bet the Lord's Resistance Army nor the Taliban make such calculations. As I said, civilization is optional.

So, let me leave you with just one thought to chew on. Do you think "market forces" will take care of this problem? Do you think "the invisible hand" will shove us all in the right direction -- before a revolution? Do you think America Inc. will address the situation or do you think it will just keep hoarding wealth within the hands of the 1% (who just happen to be on the far right of said IQ chart) ?

Or do you think government will have to step in and do that thing that governments do -- maintain order and organize society into a civilization?

Do you think our government is up to that task? You know, the government that is currently in gridlock and jumped off the fiscal cliff of the sequester? Do you think that government is up to the task? I hope it crosses your mind that the 1% -- The Other Right -- controls the media that tells The Other Left that government is the problem -- not the solution.

Sleep tight America.

Don Brown
April 16, 2013

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

As Easy As Falling In Love

The good news is that this sky means rain is coming. The bad news is that I have two writing projects to complete before I get to write for my own blog.

Free sure is popular.

Don Brown
April 3, 2013