Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Going to Hell in a Handbasket

Coming Apart - The State of White America - 1960-2010

by Charles Murray

Spent the past week or so plowing my way through this one.  The author makes a good case for the decline of "traditional community values" in the working class of American society.

There is little doubt that family and community life have changed, likely for the worse, 

Near the end, after presenting so much evidence of this decline, the author veers off on a Libertarian rant, eventually getting to his main thesis: get rid of the "welfare state" because that's what's causing all of this.

What he doesn't even start to examine is the role of poverty, frustrated dreams (especially the American one), wildly tilted rules of the game... how all of these might be contributing factors.  At one point he suggests that all a state would need to do is get rid of all these social welfare programs and life would return to the way it should.  You know, the "good 'ole days".

He give a small nod to what he calls "unseemly" behaviour (ostentation would be another word he could have used) of some rich people building 58,000 square foot mansions and retiring from companies with million dollar "thank you gifts" even while their company's share prices dropped.

Not a mention of the simple fact that the top 10% (never mind the top 1%) have managed to slant the rules of almost everything to their advantage and to the detriment of everyone else.  Some examples:

Trade deals that enable corporations to take factories and jobs to lower wage countries and still sell the products back into America (and other western countries) cheaply and without import duties.  Vast differences in taxation of various forms of income (note the much smaller tax rate on capital gains vs the tax rate on employment income).  A health care system that is, in America at least, almost impossible for millions to use simply because of cost.

In short, the author documents some possibly troubling changes in American society (he calls it a drift towards the European model) without really examining what's at the root of those changes.

I'm not the only one to have wondered about the author's lack of curiosity.  David Frum, a conservative if there ever was one, has expressed his wonder as well.

As Frum pointed out in an earlier book of his:
As I looked backward and forward in time, however, I had to face this awkward fact: America became more culturally stable between 1910 and 1960 as it became less economically and socially libertarian. As it became more economically and socially libertarian after 1970, America became culturally less stable:
Once again, the evidence shows that neoliberalism and libertarian notions of small, less-interventionist government and the espousing of "trickle-down economics" aren't working.  It's just a matter of time, one would hope, before enough people recognize the problem's source for what it is.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Beware the Ides of March Already

Based on how my day went on Wednesday, I'd have to say that the Roman sorcerer who first warned about this day must have been on to something.

The backstory began on Tuesday.

Catherine was coming back from Vancouver Island and her flight was supposed to arrive in Trail in the late afternoon.  Accordingly, I drove down to retrieve her.

Too much fog.  The morning flight didn't even leave Vancouver and the afternoon flight came out, flew past but couldn't see the airport because of the fog and went back to Vancouver.

She opted for a late morning flight to Cranbrook for Wednesday.  That flight went fine and she landed there just after lunch.

Meanwhile, on the ground....

First I drove to Trail and Rossland.  This normally takes about 2 hours.  Fine so far.

Later in the afternoon, I drove down to the Trail airport, waited, listened to the plane fly past, up in the fog, and went back to Rossland, while the plane went back to Vancouver.

In the morning, I headed for Cranbrook.  Normally, I would drive to Salmo, over Kootenay Pass to Creston and then on to Cranbrook.  About 3 hours in total.

Completely unannounced, Kootenay Pass was closed.  The radio was still saying that they were planning for a 4-hour closure at some point during the day.  But by 8 am, it was closed.  The only way past is to go to Salmo, down to Nelson, to Balfour, over the Kootenay Lake ferry, back up to Creston and then to Cranbrook.  A diversion that turned a 3-hour trip into a 4.5 hour trip.

Despite this, I made it to the airport in Cranbrook just after Catherine's flight landed.

We arrive back in Creston in an hour or so and Kootenay Pass is still closed.  It's now been closed for about 6 hours.

Kootenay Pass clearing avalanche debris on a sunny day

The only option is to continue north to the Kootenay Lake ferry where we arrive at around 4:30 pm.  Unfortunately, that's where everyone else has gone too.  The lineup is massive.  At least 2-sailing wait, with each round trip taking about 2 hours.

Catherine takes the ferry as a foot passenger because we have arranged for our daughter to meet us at the ferry terminal at Balfour with our grandsons, who will be staying with us for a few days.  We don't have any way to contact her to make alternate plans.

I wait.  And wait.  I don't get across the Lake for 5.5 hours.  I get home by about 10 pm.

Meanwhile, there has been a mudslide at Coffee Creek, which is between Balfour, where the ferry is and Kaslo, where I'd like to go.

Interestingly, our daughter, the grandsons and Catherine arrive at the landslide just after 6 pm and only have to wait a few minutes.  It's all cleaned up by the time I breeze past, in the dense fog, at about 9:30 pm.

I was listening to a CBC program in the car as I made my way east earlier in the morning.  It was about the history behind this special date.  Apparently, in Roman, "calen" is the first day of the lunar month (from which we get "calendar"), and "ides" is the middle of the lunar month.  So the Ides of March is nothing special, just the middle of March.

But there was this Roman sorcerer who warned Ceasar to "Beware the Ides of March".  I'm with the sorcerer.  Caesar should have heeded the warning too.

A Canadian favourite is Wayne & Schuster's spoof "Rinse the Blood Off My Toga".  You can see it here:

Monday, March 13, 2017

Health Care - American Style?

As Paul Ryan (or is it Ryan Paul?...these people with two first names....anyhow...) and his Republican cronies (cohorts? conspirators?...) try to explain how the new "American Health Care System" will work and how it will save everyone money and provide way more compassion and freeeedum of choice, like, American style, of course...

The Onion weighed in with this article: 

GOP Recommends Americans Set Aside Income From One Of Their Jobs To Pay For Healthcare Under New Bill

Once they get this new Healthcare system up and running, perhaps they can get around to dealing with these dammed socialist snowplows.

The Problem With Facts

If you were of the opinion that facts are'd be wrong.

According to Kellyanne Conway, there are facts, and, if you don't agree with them, there are alternative facts.

It's become a thing...

 In so many ways:

Of course, now we have to ask ourselves, what is true and what is not.  In some ways, it's not a new problem.  The dogged support of the tobacco industry fell into this category.  And politicians have always had a way of handling questions that they don't want to answer.

I'll leave you with this:

The Conservative Leadership Race....Again

One candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada, Kellie Leitch, has been receiving a bit of attention lately, and not the good kind.  I suppose that when you're running for office, any attention is good attention.  In any case, here is a sample:

First, a week or two ago, was this article about Ms Leitch's campaign video, The Magic of Kellie Leitch's Batshit, Beautiful Campaign Video.  It featured odd grimaces, loooong pauses, pregnant pauses while looking off screen....  It was weird, that's for sure.

The comedy group "This Hour Has 22 Minutes" re-worked Leitch's presentation and came up with their own interpretation.

This particular Ms Leitch, of course, is the same one who hit the federal election campaign back in 2015 with a call for a "Barbaric Cultural Practices" snitch line, along with her Conservative colleague, Chris Alexander.

That whole matter just hasn't gone away.

In this campaign, Ms Leitch has changed gears slightly, and is now asking that new immigrants be given an interview and have to pass a test of "Canadian Values".

Rick Mercer had this to say about that....

So.  I'll leave it to you to decide if this is good attention, negative attention, good regardless, or what.  Personally, I wish we didn't have to deal with people like this.  It's identity politics.  Politics that plays to feelings of hate and fear in a certain subset of voters.

Can't we move beyond this?

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Limitations of Scotland

Scotland.  Voice activated elevators.  The limitations of technology.

Find all about it here.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Liberalism, Neoliberalism and other Topics

It's no wonder people are confused.

Liberalism, Neoliberalism, Conservatism, Neoconservativatism, Left, Right.... Too many labels.

Following the Republican wins in late 2016, there has been a fair bit of finger pointing regarding the reasons for the Democrat loss.

As in this article: "Just as Neoliberalism is on its knees, So too is the left."

One self-described liberal traveled across parts of America interviewing Trump supporters.

Another writer described the receptive audience for Trump-style messages this way.

Neoliberalism is currently receiving the blame for much of what's happened, not just in America, but in parts of Europe as well, including taking some of the blame for the Brexit vote in 2016.

It seems to have started with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, back in the 1970s, although it's real start was during the 1950s, with Friedman and Hayek.

The problem, of course, is that for most, neoliberalism hasn't worked.  The rising tide of increasing wealth has not lifted all boats.  More and more are still languishing on the tidal mud flats, as this set of graphs illustrates:

The full article that goes with this graph can be seen here....

There is a concerted effort by some to kill neoliberalism.  Naomi Klein talks about Neoliberalism here.  The flawed notion of "trickle down economics" needs to die with it.

Another YouTube video from Tony Benn has a 10 min history lessons for Neoliberals

If you want to watch a good movie that's related to all of this, watch Noam Chomsky and Requiem for the American Dream.  It's on Netflix.