1.17.2023 – these illusory

these illusory
and ridiculous promises
never understood

My feeling that writers who write about economics get to use the best multisyllable words was reinforced by the NY Times opinion piece, The Crypto Collapse and the End of the Magical Thinking That Infected Capitalism, by Mihir A. Desai, a professor at Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School.

Mr. Desai gets to use wonderful $5 words when he writes:

Pervasive consumer-facing technology allowed individuals to believe that the latest platform company or arrogant tech entrepreneur could change everything. Anger after the 2008 global financial crisis created a receptivity to radical economic solutions, and disappointment with traditional politics displaced social ambitions onto the world of commerce. The hothouse of Covid’s peaks turbocharged all these impulses as we sat bored in front of screens, fueled by seemingly free money.

For me, this opinion piece was summed up in two sentences.

The first, These illusory and ridiculous promises share a common anti-establishment sentiment fueled by a technology that most of us never understood. Who needs governments, banks, the traditional internet or homespun wisdom when we can operate above and beyond?

Not only does it explain, for me the bitcoin fixation but most of the aspects of the covid era.

What I found fascinating was that Mr. Desai linked two worlds together for me.

There is this group, right, that for the most part, boiled down to its essence DOES NOT TRUST GOVERNMENT.

Vaccines, elections, gun rights and border control.

This group does not trust the government and wants the government out of their lives.

Who are these people?

As Mr. Desai pointed out, they are ANTI-ESTABLISHMENT.

They are the 1960’s HIPPIES come to life as 2020’s conservatives.

And at their core, just like the hippies, they are against everything.

As Brando said when asked, “ Hey Johnny, what are you rebelling against?“, replied, “Whadda you got?

Who needs governments, banks, the traditional internet or homespun wisdom when we can operate above and beyond?

And really what do these people want to accomplish?

Don’t ask me.

these illusory
and ridiculous promises
never understood

Not only did Mr. Desai explain identify this New Hippie Era to me, he also explained the mystery of cyber currency for me.

Mr. Desai writes, “Speculative assets without any economic function should be worth nothing.”

I feel that way and I am not a professor at Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School.

May I paraphrase and say, something without value is should be worth nothing!

BOY HOWDY!

What to do?

Of late James Garner’s tag line from that goofy old western, Support Your Local Sherriff, keeps coming to mind.

Me?

I am just passing through on my way to Australia.

these illusory
and ridiculous promises
never understood

1.7.2023 – America is

America is
a disappointment only
because it is hope

In his best book, “American Politics: The Promise of Disharmony,” published in 1981, the political scientist Samuel Huntington distills the tension in his final lines:

“Critics say that America is a lie because its reality falls so short of its ideals.

They are wrong.

America is not a lie; it is a disappointment.

But it can be a disappointment only because it is also a hope.”

So writes Carlos Lozada in his New York Times Opinion Piece review, I Looked Behind the Curtain of American History, and This Is What I Found, of the book, Myth America, on January 7, 2022.

Cards and letters may be coming on this one and boy, howdy, do I wish I would stick to the my avowed purpose of this blog and stay away from political comment.

But how can I not?

Maybe a way to get the point of today’s haiku across is to quote Amerigo Bonasera when he said, “I believe in America. America has made my fortune.

Those are the opening lines of the defining American film, The Godfather.

For Amerigo Bonasera, because he had hope, America was a disappointment.

Sad to say that Mr. Bonasera also said, “Then I said to my wife, ‘for justice, we must go to Don Corleone.'”

Don Corleone succeeded when hope failed and disappointment took over.

Disappointment because there IS a hope.

And that hope, bless it’s heart, continues.

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible,

who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time,

who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”

So said Barack Obama in Chicago’s Grant Park in 2008 on the night he won the presidency.

Not sure how that can be so long ago.

Hope sure has been kicked around a lot since that night.

I still have hope.

I still have hope that America is the city on the hill where all are welcome.

The problem is, I am not so sure that is what America wants anymore.

Maybe it was all just a hypocrisy.

But it was a useful hypocrisy one.

12.25.2023 – good to be children

good to be children
sometimes – Christmas, its founder
was a child himself

When this strain of music sounded, all the things that Ghost had shown him, came upon his mind; he softened more and more; and thought that if he could have listened to it often, years ago, he might have cultivated the kindnesses of life for his own happiness with his own hands, without resorting to the sexton’s spade that buried Jacob Marley.

But they didn’t devote the whole evening to music.

After a while they played at forfeits; for it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself.

Stop! There was first a game at blind-man’s buff.

Of course there was.

And I no more believe Topper was really blind than I believe he had eyes in his boots.

My opinion is, that it was a done thing between him and Scrooge’s nephew; and that the Ghost of Christmas Present knew it.

The way he went after that plump sister in the lace tucker, was an outrage on the credulity of human nature.

Knocking down the fire-irons, tumbling over the chairs, bumping against the piano, smothering himself among the curtains, wherever she went, there went he!

He always knew where the plump sister was.

He wouldn’t catch anybody else.

If you had fallen up against him (as some of them did), on purpose, he would have made a feint of endeavouring to seize you, which would have been an affront to your understanding, and would instantly have sidled off in the direction of the plump sister.

She often cried out that it wasn’t fair; and it really was not.

But when at last, he caught her; when, in spite of all her silken rustlings, and her rapid flutterings past him, he got her into a corner whence there was no escape; then his conduct was the most execrable.

For his pretending not to know her; his pretending that it was necessary to touch her head-dress, and further to assure himself of her identity by pressing a certain ring upon her finger, and a certain chain about her neck; was vile, monstrous!

No doubt she told him her opinion of it, when, another blind-man being in office, they were so very confidential together, behind the curtains.

from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

12.16.2022 – foxes have holes and the

foxes have holes and the
birds nests, Son of Man no
place to lay His head

We were in Savannah last weekend and walked through the latest addition to the park along the Savannah River.

Notice the new benches that line the waterfront.

A single block of stone or concrete.

Too short and too rough for anyone to try an sleep on.

In the book of Matthew, Chapter 8, verse 20, anyone can read, And Jesus says to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the heaven have nests, but the Son of Man does not have a place where He may lay His head”.

I won’t say Savannah has a homeless problem.

I won’t say it because if there is no solution, there is no problem.

Right?

11.24.2022 – O Lord, we thank Thee

O Lord, we thank Thee
and grant that we may feast in
paradise with Thee

A Thanksgiving Prayer … to be read in unison:

“O Lord, we thank Thee for this food,
For every blessing, every good.
For earthly sustenance and love
Bestowed on us from heaven above.
Be present at our table, Lord.
Be here and everywhere adored.
Thy children bless and grant that we
May feast in paradise with Thee.”

By Garrison Keillor.

Mr. Keillor recommends have the prayer on a poster on the wall as that printing the prayer on cards would … would feel like a school assignment. Instead, I just look up at the wall and start singing (to the tune of the doxology), and everyone else in the family chimes in.

Although you must all resume toting the barge and lifting the bale tomorrow, it’s inspiring to hear 15 people find harmony around the Thanksgiving table. And it sets a tone. No crying in the cranberries. Lighten up. It could, as we say, be worse.

11.9.2022 – civic value of

civic value of
ideological
diversity schools

On August 13, 2020, the great Sarah Vowell wrote an the opinion piece titled: Joe Biden and the Great Leaders of 2020 Are Part of a Club, and sub headed, They’re the graduates of public universities, and they’ve stepped into the void of presidential leadership.

Ms. Vowell wrote:

The inherent civic value of public universities in this quarreling country of strangers is ideological diversity.

For instance, like my Republican senator Steve Daines, I graduated from Montana State University, and I think it speaks well of the healthy variety of political views that are represented on that campus that I very much hope he will have a lot more time to ski next year.

Public universities are one of two major American institutions, the other being the U.S. military, where large quantities of random adults are thrown together and made to coexist for years on end:

the budget-minded,

the lightly parented,

the formerly incarcerated,

the downsized,

the underestimated,

veterans,

refugees,

late bloomers,

single moms,

divorced dads,

Bible thumpers,

empty nesters,

your swankier hicks,

Mormons who didn’t get into Brigham Young University

and a hodgepodge of souls who are working toward what is incidentally at the heart of every election:

a fair chance at a decent life.

University.

Uni.

Union.

A more perfect Union.

E Pluribus Unum.

One out of many.

One out of many hoping for a fair chance at a decent life.

The inherent civic value of public universities in this quarreling country of strangers is ideological diversity.

I couldn’t agree more.

10.26.2022 – sound of time ticking

sound of time ticking
Mr. Lincoln’s pocket watch
echoes across ages

It has been 10 years since the movie Lincoln came out.

I am not sure what made me think of it but, if you remember, they made a big deal about trying to get ‘sounds’ that Lincoln heard.

They went so far as to search out Mr. Lincoln’s watches and found that two were available in museums that experts agreed were part of Mr. Lincoln’s daily routine.

One watch was in the Smithsonian and the other was in the care of the Kentucky Historical Society.

The Kentucky people allowed sound technicians to wind the watch and record the ticking.

The ticking is heard in the movie for about 3 seconds.

Like I said, I got to thinking and after thinking about it, I got to work.

I messed around and downloaded a video file of the movie.

I found the scene and removed the audio.

I tried to clean out any other sounds from the background music.

There is an occasional loud clock tick-tock but I let that stay as I learned it was recorded from a clock that had been in the White House with the Lincolns.

But the tic-tic-ticking is there.

The 3 seconds of the sound of time that echoes across ages.

I then copied the clip over and over until I had 70 seconds of ticking.

It was kind of creepy.

It was kind of cool.

Hear it for yourself by clicking here.

10.20.2022 – refused to believe

refused to believe
prejudice trample knowledge
and benevolence

Adapted from the recent article, Samuel Adams in Smithsonian, Oct 1, 2023.

The article states: Adams banked on the sage deliberations of a band of ambitious farmers reasoning their way toward rebellion.

That was how democracy worked.

He dreaded disunity.

“Neither religion nor liberty can long subsist in the tumult of altercation, and amidst the noise and violence of faction,” he warned.

He refused to believe that prejudice and private interest would ultimately trample knowledge and benevolence.

Self-government was in his view inseparable from governing the self; it demanded a certain asceticism.

He wrote anthem after anthem to the qualities he believed essential to a republic — austerity, integrity, selfless public service — qualities that would become more military than civilian.

The contest was never for Adams less than a spiritual struggle.

It is impossible with him to determine where piety ended and politics began; the watermark of Puritanism shines through everything he wrote.

Faith was there from the start, as was the scrappy, iconoclastic spirit, as were the daring, disruptive excursions beyond the law.

10.18.2022 – A 4 year old could

A 4 year old could
understand wonkiness go
find a 4 year old

Adapted from the Marx Brother’s Movie Duck Soup.

In the movie, the Treasury Secretary presents his departmental report saying, “I hope you’ll find it clear.

Grouch, in the role of President of Freedonia, Rufus T. Firefly, accepts the report and responds, “Clear? Why a four year old child could understand this report.”

Groucho hands the report to Zeppo playing the usual role of secretary to Groucho and in a lower voice says, “Find me a four year child. I can’t make head or tail of it.”

I just finished reading the article, NYT/Siena Poll Is Latest to Show Republican Gains.

The article asks, “Is four points the real margin nationally? That’s a good question.”

The writer of the article, Mr. Nate Cohen, then tries to answer the question.

His response seems to focus on the wonderful polling/statistical concept known as WONKINESS.

(I present a representative section of the article with buzzwords in bold for artistic license.)

Mr. Cohen writes:

Is four points the real margin? (Wonkiness 4/10)

Our poll may show Republicans ahead, 49-45, and yet it may not be accurate to say they lead by four points. In fact, they actually lead by three points.

This is a polling custom that has always left me a little cold. The case for rounding is straightforward: Reporting results to the decimal point conveys a false sense of precision. After a decade of high-profile polling misfires, “precision” is most certainly not the sense pollsters want to try to convey right now. And in this case, reporting to the one-thousandth of a point would obviously be ridiculous. We didn’t even contact a thousand people; how could we offer a result to the one-thousandth?

But there’s a trade-off. Characterizing this poll as a four-point Republican lead doesn’t merely offer a false sense of precision — it’s just false. That’s not something I can gloss over.

Sometimes, the difference is enough to affect the way people interpret the poll. We’ve reported one party in the “lead” by one percentage point when, in fact, the figures are essentially even. These differences don’t actually mean much, of course, but no one — not even those of us well versed in statistics and survey methodology — can escape perceiving a difference between R+1 and Even.

I am reminded of the old Saturday Night Live sketch of Chevy Chase playing Gerald R. Ford.

When he gets an question about economic numbers, Chase (as Ford) looks at the screen and says quietly, “I was told there would be no math.”

10.16.2022 – not going to say

not going to say
I will reduce my income
to achieve this goal

Sorry to say it but after 20 some years in the news business I am not used to seeing someone, anyone, be honest in print.

Brutally honest.

In an article that everyone should read but too few people will, the New York Times quotes Eli Ungar, the founder of Mac Properties, which is based in Englewood, N.J., and owns about 9,000 apartments, including 2,000 in Kansas City, who bluntly laid out the economics of rental development.

“The folks who think of themselves as middle class and are feeling increased worry and pressure as rents go up faster than incomes, and the people who are most vulnerable in our society and desperately need housing that no developer can provide without a massive subsidy,” Mr. Ungar said. “As a citizen, I would be entirely comfortable with my taxes being higher to provide well-maintained housing for those who can’t afford it.

The question is how that is achieved, and market-rate developers are not unilaterally going to say, ‘I will reduce my income to achieve this goal.’”

As I do think this article is worth reading and I acknowledge that most folks haven’t figured out the never expiring free three day NYT accounts available at many public libraries, I have created a download version of the article you can access here.