Odds and Ends Vol 20

Odds and EndsWe’ve got some interesting things here. This volume of Odds and Ends is a bit screwed up because of my recent computer problems. I now have three different hard drives where things are stored, so I’ve lost a couple of funny things. One was a joke Jim Webb sign having to do with his lack of time at the debate. The other was the Gettysburg Workout, which I think had something to do with Paul Ryan taking over as Speaker of the House. Whatever. Let’s get started.

Raise Rates Before US Reaches French Employment Levels!

I love this graph from Paul Krugman for a couple of reasons. First, it shows that this bigoted American idea that the French are lazy is just wrong. But it also shows just how far we are from full employment. Still, the Federal Reserve is almost certain to raise interest rates next month and stop the employment growth that we are seeing. If you still believe we live in a democracy, it is time to wake up my friends. It was a pleasant dream we had, but it was only ever that: a dream.

France vs US Employment

Television Commercials From the 1960s and 1970s

This is a 17 minute long collection of television commercials. It’s pretty amazing for people of my age. What’s perhaps most remarkable, however, is that ads haven’t changed that much. They’ve become more slick in terms of production. But the approach to advertising is the same. There has been no revolution in that way. It’s also interesting to see beloved actors like George S Irving (White Owl cigars), Vic Tayback (Parkay margarine), Nancy Walker (Bounty paper towels), John Houseman (Smith Barney), Ricardo Montalbán (Chrysler Cordoba), Bobby Short (Charlie by Revlon), James Harder (Fig Newton), David Naughton (Dr Pepper), Geoffrey Holder (7-Up), Mickey Spillane and a bunch of other people (Miller Lite), and of course, Orson Welles (Paul Masson). If you notice any others, mention them in the comments. Obviously, you can’t mention the three who gave their names!

Health Inequality

This graph is from a paper on health inequality. The data are from 2007 — so before Obamacare. I think it is shocking in how well it correlates with the red state and blue state maps. The truth is that most of the conservatives I read are of the intellectual variety. But when you look at this graph, it’s clear how much nonsense that all is. Conservatives are just selfish and don’t care about anyone but themselves. And as a result, people die. It is not the case, as most centrist pundits claim, that we are just arguing over the best way to meet the needs of everyone. Conservatives don’t care about that at all. They just care about how much wealth they can accumulate, and screw the rest.

Average Life Expectancy by County - 2007

Angels In The Outfield

James Fillmore always seems to get embarrassed when I highlight his work, but his article on the two Angels In The Outfield films is really good. I had wanted to just cross-post it here, but I don’t want to get in a copyright dispute with SB Nation. So just click over and read his article, it’s really good. If James has anything to feel bad about, it is that he didn’t offer the article to me first.

Racist Liberals

This 12 August 1996 cover of New Republic comes via Matt Bruenig. Over the last year, I’ve been really pleased with the magazine. But during the 1990s, it was horrible. And this racist cover is amazing. How do I know it is racist? Well, how do we know that woman is on welfare? How is it that “The Editors” signified that this woman was on welfare? By making her black. Notice that this is 8 years after the Willie Horton ad. And it is coming from a “liberal” publication. And the welfare “reform” bill that they thought the president should sign has been a catastrophe. But I doubt any of those editors is suffering as a result of it.

New Republic - Welfare Reform

That’s all for today. I had some other things, but they were from Late Show With Stephen Colbert. And the images I created are on my backup computer. And I can’t get them from the show because CBS, in its greedy stupidity, only allows non-subscribers to watch the last five episodes. So we’ll have to leave this edition of Odds and Ends on kind of a downer. Oh well. You’ll survive.

GOP Candidates: Screw the Poor, Love the Rich

Republican DebateI did end up listening to the Republican debate last night. I was watching it through the Majority Report feed and it got shut down by Fox Business News. So I just listened to the rest of it on their site. It was hard to take. But I guess the candidates got what they wanted. They got to push their talking points without being countered on them. They did come off slightly less crazy than usual. But their economic positions were the same old truly vile ideas as always.

It’s funny that Trump gets a little push on his claim that his tax cuts will create 6% economic growth, but Bush does not on his 4% growth. They are both ridiculous. But the best part of the night was when Ted Cruz was asked about his budget busting tax plan. He too went for the supply side nonsense that his cuts would rev up the economy (despite this literally never working). And then he noted that his plan would not even cost quite a trillion dollars. Now, I don’t especially care. But these are the guys who go on and on about the budget deficit. But even under the best (unrealistic) case, they are still going to increase the deficit.

Another great moment in the debate was the discussion of the minimum wage. I get it: they are against it. But Trump — who was born rich and hasn’t really done anything with his money — said we shouldn’t raise the minimum wage. Trump actually said that “wages [are] too high.” This is because we have to compete with other countries. Now, great business thinkers are focused on productivity and how to make things more efficiently. But Trump wants us to become competitive by lowering wages?! It is truly amazing.

After Trump tackled the question, Carson did so by noting that it would lead to fewer jobs. This is one of those “facts” that every conservative knows, but just isn’t true given our currently low minimum wage. He said, “You know, I can remember, as a youngster — you know, my first job working in a laboratory as a lab assistant, and multiple other jobs. But I would not have gotten those jobs if someone had to pay me a large amount of money.” Let’s think about that for a moment, shall we?

Ben Carson was born in 1951. Let’s assume he got his first job at 17. That was in 1968. In 1996 dollars, that minimum wage was $7.21. Today, the minimum wage (in 1996 dollars) is $4.82. If we adjust the nominal $7.25 minimum wage to its level when Ben Carson got it, he was making $10.84. It’s true that this is not a lot of money. But it is a lot more money than minimum wage workers are making now. I continue to be amazes at people like Carson who think that people are doing well today on minimum wage because they only made $1.60 (the nominal level in 1968). Inflation is a huge issue for these people when it comes to their investments, but when it comes to the minimum wage, inflation just doesn’t exist.

But oh does it play! The audience just eats it up. The minimum wage is a starting salary! There’s no need to have it! And indeed, the minimum wage was a starting salary — at one time. Now it is different. Roughly 30% of all hourly workers make near the minimum wage. These are not high school kids with their first job. This is just the American economy. But even if it weren’t, why is it that people like Ben Carson think they deserved so much better pay as kids just because they were born two generations earlier?

Then we got to Rubio who said that if we pay people more, we will replace them with robots. This is indicative of something I talk about a lot: people not understanding how business works. Companies are always automating — always looking for ways to reduce their labor costs. Rubio is putting forward the old conservative standard, “Companies hire people out of the goodness of their hearts!” McDonald’s is already experimenting with kiosks. And no: it isn’t out of fear of an increasing minimum wage; it is just what companies do — all the time.

The takeaway from the debate is that we need to pay the poor less so that we can be competitive so that the rich can make more money. In addition, we must tax the rich less so that they will be incentivized to sell more stuff, the extra profits of which will not be shared with the poor. This is what the Republicans have to offer: more income inequality — a worse country for almost everyone. But in exchange, they are going to be “strong” like Vladimir Putin.

Morning Music: Snowball Earth

Jesse FergusonHere is another song from Jesse Ferguson’s 2013 album, Shift, “Snowball Earth.” It is nice to hear original folk music. It is a story song. He wrote of it, “The snowball earth theory suggests that snow/ice once covered the entire surface of the earth. This song imagines two lovers surviving it.” Ah, the imaginings of love by the young!

The Snowball Earth hypothesis is the idea that almost a billion years ago, the earth was entirely covered in ice. I don’t accept it. But the earth’s climate has been bizarre over very long time scales. I just don’t see how it all fits in with Milankovitch forcing. Certainly now we live in a period where the earth naturally has four periods: green Greenland; icy Greenland; icy Canada; and icy US. Glaciers over Mexico is hard to imagine. The oceans frozen is even harder to imagine. And there is no obvious mechanism for it to end. This all would have happened before the Cambrian explosion, however. So if the Snowball Earth really did exist, it could have been ended by life itself, giving more credence to the Gaia hypothesis.

Regardless, this is a beautiful song:

Anniversary Post: Mayflower Compact

Mayflower CompactOn this day in 1620, the Pilgrims signed the Mayflower Compact. This was their way of creating a government to inflict their religious views on everyone, because they didn’t land where they were supposed to. And it was largely due to their religious intolerance that Massachusetts remained a backwater compared to more liberal places like Pennsylvania. It is funny that we still teach our children about the Plymouth Colony when there were several that were before it. And the Dutch settled in Pennsylvania shortly afterward, where things ran much more in keeping with what we now think of as American ideals.

But I bring it up because Wikipedia claims, “They were fleeing from religious persecution by King James of England.” Well, kind of. They fled persecution and went to Holland where they were free of persecution. Then they went back to England for cultural reasons and then left for America. The real issue is that they wanted freedom for their religion and persecution for everyone else’s. Within two generations, these great religious seekers passed the first punitive law against Quakers. Religious freedom my dull fleshy ass!