Gleanings From The Passing Scene: (Politically Uncorrected)

What Me Worry ObamaFirst, you can relax; the State Department recently informed us that there are NO known, active al-Qaeda or Hezbollah terror cells in the West at this time. This has no connection with the State Department’s universal nickname of: ‘Foggy Bottom.”

It is our custom in these weekly excursions, to report on the peaceable city; the home of tight gun control, Chicago. For this week only, we move to New York, which obviously tired of coming in behind the Windy Cit. The Big Apple somehow managed to shoot 25 people in 48 hours.

As our economic  recovery proceeds, U.S. manufacturing in May, shrank faster than at any time in the last four years.

And as Obamacare steams ahead, our largest employer has changed its policy re hiring temporary workers. Walmart is now adding many more temps than has been its wont in the past. They will work fewer hours than the workers who have to be covered by Obamacare. You may analyze this for yourself; I will not tell you how to think about it… or about Obamacare.

Senator Rand Paul (noted right wing extremist who probably owns a gun) has informed Evangelical Christians (Listed as ‘religious extremists’ on the Obamafolk watch list) that a war is being conducted against them. This must have surprised them mightily…

We understand the undoubted stress IRS agents face these days after their naughty deeds as Administration thugs have come to light, but one does wonder why they were recently caught training–at our expense, no less–with military AR-15 assault rifles?

Still on the IRS, FBI Chief Robert Mueller couldn’t remember when he was asked by a Congressman: Who was in charge and how many agents were conducting the IRS investigation ordered by the President? More important things on his mind, no doubt. Oh, and no Tea Party group (that the IRS was abusing) has been contacted by the FBI. The investigators are under cover, right?

The Los Angeles Unified School District (‘LA Unfed’ to some locals) in its mightiness as among the very worst of large city education, has found the way to at least, get the kids to come to jail every day. Or anyway, more days than they used to. Since money is free, growing as it does on taxpayers, just bribe the kids  with cars, cash and ipads for showing up! If nothing else, this makes it clear why, with these great minds in charge, L.A. schools are in their position emulating the President in leading from behind…

In another school case, an 8th grader showed up at school wearing an NRA T-Shirt with (gasp!) a picture of a rifle on it. He was suspended, arrested and is now being prosecuted; he faces a fine and jail time. I wonder, does the leadership have a watch list of dangerous, threatening T-shirts?

These were gleaned from the news as it passed, reflections of the times in which we live. I’ll leave to you an evaluation of what they suggest about the society we’re making for ourselves…

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About Jack Curtis

Suspicious of government, doubtful of economics, fond of figure skating (but the off-ice part, not so much)
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27 Responses to Gleanings From The Passing Scene: (Politically Uncorrected)

  1. Axel Singh says:

    U.S. Manufacturing shrank? What about the Mining and Metals Sectors? Green Energy? Are you not familiar with the Agenda? What’s happening now NEEDS to happen. It’s inevitable. Believe it or not its for the future benefit of humanity. Can’t really judge your beliefs/understanding on “how far the rabbit hole goes” and your assumptions based on your understanding.

    • Jack Curtis says:

      Well, the ‘Politically Uncorrected’ in the title is intended to convey that I’m not trying to tell anyone how to view things, just presenting what seems to me indicative of the present society.
      To respond to your query, I see a declining world economy in response to government policies and social changes that have resurrected Malthusianism, one symptom of which is the to me, illusory ‘green energy’ mandate of the politicians.
      I’m at a loss trying to identify any historical civilization that has succeeded by either stasis or retrogression… And I share the concerns of Dr. Stephen Hawking: That to survive into the future, our species must escape earth…

      • Nevertheless I am not entirely sure that what “seems to [you] indicative of the present society” is entirely correct. Consider, one of the hallmarks of the global economy is that different types of manufacturing naturally drift to the locations with the most suitable labor. This is undoubtedly NOT the United States in most cases. High tech manufacturing may well continue here (not talking about Foxcon , more high tech than that), but by and large, the US has moved past the period where manufacturing is going to be as considerable part of the economic makeup. It will undoubtedly continue, as the economy is so large as to support some manufacturing, but not in the manner associated with the USA of 50 years ago. That USA is dead, and it is neither bad, nor good, it is simple economic evolution. I am not sure that your manufacturing metric is a valid method of measuring economic health, I would be interested in seeing whatever justification you have for using it.

        Secondly, I have read Malthus, and I am not sure you are using the term correctly, can you please elaborate. The “green energy mandate” as you refer to it, is something that is a huge industry worldwide, and will only grow. Why do you encourage the US to fall behind in this considerable world market? What are your fears?

        Also, why do you define this as stasis or retrogression? What standards are you using for analysis?

        I am somewhat confused, could you explain?

      • Jack Curtis says:

        Putting the last, first: I remain perpetually confused myself at the passing scene, reaching for fleeting facts as an entomologist might strive to capture a particular butterfly from within a swarm of culls. Nor is my success rate awfully encouraging, but one persists at endeavors perceived worthy…

        From there: Cheerfully conceded: The ‘hallmarks of the current society’ are absolutely seen from my particular hall. Thus, a given challenger may prove to be correct and something learned.

        American industrialization has indeed moved in two directions: offshore for cheaper labor and perhaps less regulation/taxation and into more sophisticated, higher value content products. The former reflects government policy as well as investment patterns and display as you state, normal economic forces at work. When a government/union partnership drives up labor costs (for one specific example) someone able to avoid unions will compete via cheaper labor. When the locals can’t do that, someone will do it from elsewhere as soon as transport costs facilitate it. All econ 101. I submit though, that such is good for the new competitor and bad for the old guy with his high costs.Economics is nature, I think and nature is perfectly ruthless.. Manufacturing has sustained much of the American middle class; its recession proceeds faster than any currently clear replacement and must have high social costs therefore. No, it isn’t the whole story but it’s for me, an indicator of what seems on ongoing social stress source here. Public schools for instance, appear to continue turning out prospective employees for manufacturers or similar. I

        As to Old Thomas, he seems to have seen us as breeding ourselves out of enough to eat; our species is demolishing that upon which we depend, in a more general sense. Should you disapprove my more general usage, I’ll accept your reprimand as my generalization lacked Malthus’ approval… Re the green part, I see that as an enormous mix of common sense, politics and flim-flam with which much money is pure waste: Solyndra, ad infinitum. Green power generation mandates are heavily uneconomic; the money is needed more in research than in windmills and silicon solar cells. A dictum: That money could help with the present deficits in both social spending needs and research/investing in economic replacements for diminishing manufacturing employment…(pure opinion!)

      • You ignore that the same forces you would criticize in America, unions for example, function well in other countries. Why is it that nothing works in America, but things do work elsewhere, Sweden for example?

        Why does nothing work in the USA, when it does work elsewhere?

        As to the investment, the same could have been said about the space program (which had no immediate benefit outside of national pride) but has provided countless benefits. Considering the problems inherent in continue fossil fuel use, only a fool would ignore the potential.

      • Jack Curtis says:

        I suppose you know that U.S. and E.U. unionism differs in important ways; those contribute to different effects. However, my point is not the desirability of unions; it is the economic fact that they are one of the primary factors, along with government, that have created the opportunity for ‘developing’ countries to compete economically with the industrialized countries.

        That many other places ‘work’ vis-a-vis the U.S. is much too airy to go unchallenged, but that’s a whole new book! I will point though, to the E,U.s’ current financial imbalances which for me, channel the U.S. And Sweden, though rather quiet about it, has severe immigration as well as financial difficulties.

      • In what ways do US and EU unionism differ and how does it impact the success? Some unionized regions are competing with non-union manufacturing in the US, so why is this an issue?

        What are Sweden’s financial difficulties? Sweden has some immigration problems, but that should be expected with a decent economy.

      • Jack Curtis says:

        I suspect you know that E.U. unionism was historically more politicized than the U.S. version, a factor in the faster advancement of welfare statism there than here. Neither has proven economically viable for the long run; both areas are troubled by growing offshore competition sheltered by their relatively higher cost structure. Consider Detroit, Gary, Flint etc. as effects. Few heavily unionized firms are competing successfluly with non-union ones to my knowledge; the U.S. autofolk failed trying and had to be sold off. Much of the impending financial retreat of Western society is a result of inability to (yet) compete with lower labor costs elsewhere. Ironically, the Western surplus wealth and its technology largely underlies the shift, seems to me. As you remarked, I think, economics doesn’t care, it just is.

        Sweden appears (my view) to have reached the end of its social bargain with the switch from socialist to more moderate government not too long ago. The dissatisfaction is exacerbated by the Moslem immigrants’ resistance to ‘becoming proper Swedes’ and their increasingly annoying social and financial cost, accompanied by what Swedes evidently see as a bad attitude.

        My own view is, the welfare state model is not viable indefinitely; the politicians ultimately bring down the system by having to promise the electorate more than available resources can provide. Our present society seems to be approaching that. That’s opinion, of course; that the U.S. and E.U. are unable to fund their spending, is a fact.

      • Ok, so if European unionism led to welfare statism faster, is more politicized than the US, etc… why does unionism work in Europe where you would claim it is killing the US? When you say “has proven economically viable for the long run; both areas are troubled by growing offshore competition sheltered by their relatively higher cost structure” you are ignoring the reality that unionism has proven viable in the long term, in some places that are not the US.

        Can you explain why?

        You say, “Sweden appears (my view) to have reached the end of its social bargain with the switch from socialist to more moderate government not too long ago. The dissatisfaction is exacerbated by the Moslem immigrants’ resistance to ‘becoming proper Swedes’ and their increasingly annoying social and financial cost, accompanied by what Swedes evidently see as a bad attitude.”

        You tend to add “my view” to a lot of statements. Could you explain using evidence? Source material that explains what people are thinking that would support the idea that ” dissatisfaction is exacerbated by the Moslem immigrants’ resistance to ‘becoming proper Swedes’ and their increasingly annoying social and financial cost”?

        Also you said “the welfare state model is not viable indefinitely…That’s opinion, of course; that the U.S. and E.U. are unable to fund their spending, is a fact.”

        The odd thing is that your opinion does not seem supported by the facts. For example, when you say, “are unable to fund their spending, is a fact”, you do not seem to have bothered to actually look at facts. For example, Sweden, which is what we are talking about, has been running a budget surplus, which means it is able to fund its spending.

        http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444032404578007742772286774.html

        Why is Sweden, with its welfare status, political unions, social spending, socialist healthcare, etc… doing what the US cannot do?

      • Jack Curtis says:

        I see E.U. unions more integrated politically at an earlier stage (part of why welfare statism advanced faster there) but that is not to imply that those unions ‘work’ economically; the E.U. is in the same overspending trap as is the U.S. from what I can see.

        The Christian Science Monitor has reported the Swedish riots: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2013/0528/What-s-behind-Sweden-s-youth-riots-video and outlined the debate there.

        This Reuters report discusses the Swedish view of the mostly Moslem immigrants, with the related political changes: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/27/us-sweden-riots-idUSBRE94Q0E620130527

        The Swedes, the E.U. generally and the U.S. have followed similar spending patterns and much of that spending has flowed into social welfare. Here is the pattern; http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc1/GovernmentSpending.html Sweden has among the worlds highest taxes; the Swedes have accepted that as the price of their welfare state.

        Swedish taxes: http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/tax_tot_tax_as_of_gdp-taxation-total-as-of-gdp

        Sweden has been retreating from the Socialist model since its people dumped the long-ruling Leftish party for the current “moderate’ (actually, pretty conservative, at least economically) government. The Economist explains: http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21570840-nordic-countries-are-reinventing-their-model-capitalism-says-adrian?zid=309&ah=80dcf288b8561b012f603b9fd9577f0e. Sweden is now able to fund its spending, because it has been reducing said (govt) spending.

        “Why is Sweden doing what the U.S. cannot do?” That seems the $24 question! Clearly, Sweden was able to generate a replacement government aimed in a different direction, one that is more conservative economically. Why so, is a debate. The Nordics have been a small, uniform and well-integrated society for a long time. Maybe that helps, dunno. But it doesn’t seem likely that the U.S. will generate a comparable set of changes less considerably more trauma, from present appearances. I fear that said trauma will be provided…

      • The Swedish problem with immigration is as old as immigration itself, so this is nothing new. The Swedish government is actually very liberal economically, if you apply the terms correctly and understand the definition of liberal economics.

        But again I ask, Sweden is working, and the immigration problem is not evidence that it is not, if considered in context.

        So why does Sweden do everything you believe against, but find it in a better situation overall? Also you cannot say that it is a welfare state with high taxes and then say it is a conservative economic system, should such a thing even exist. It is a contradiction in terms.

      • Jack Curtis says:

        Sweden is ‘working’ better than the E.U. and U.S., we agree. That I disagree with its policies is your assumption, I think but I must say that is less true since the old socialists were dumped in favor of the present spending-cutters now running the place. It was a welfare state with the world’s highest taxes; the people handed it to a new government that has reduced taxes but retained much of the welfare in one form or another. A nice trick, indeed! Some of how it was done is; http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/23/business/worldbusiness/23krona.html?_r=0. These are policies that we should follow in the U.S. Whether that is viable long term in a declining world economy will have to be seen.

        Immigration is hardly new to Sweden, but six consecutive days of multi-city rioting are new. The Swedes, like many E.U. members, have a growing problem with Moslem immigration. To date, they haven’t a policy that seems successful for dealing with it, while the public grows increasingly unhappy about it…far right parties are rising nationally in Sweden as well as other places, riding the immigration balloon. As hard times usually magnify this, it seems likely to fester into the future. The government can’t wish it away and too many politicians see opportunity in it.

      • You have said multiple times that the government of Sweden has changed, but this is not supported by the facts. It has changed as all governments do with elections, but it does not fit, at all, the paradigm of a good government you advocate, in fact it is the opposite.

        Sweden is diametrically opposed to everything you advocate in government. It has high taxes, a significant social safety net, considerable regulation, unions, etc… You keep saying things like “the old socialists” but the country is a socialist paradise, judging by what you look for in government vs, what is there on the ground. Please explain?

        The immigration problem is not as big a deal as you would likely expect. The US had an Irish immigration problem in the past. There is nothing unusual going on that would not happen with any foreign influx from bad economies to good ones. Nevertheless, this sort of influx is necessary, cutting it off would be bad.

      • Jack Curtis says:

        Re immigration: The Swedish public attitude is shifting somewhat: http://satwcomic.com/swedish-politics all is no longer as it was.

        The Swedish government is described by The Economist as “center-right” It goes on to say: “The facts bear him out. Thanks to deregulation, budget discipline and an extensive overhaul of the welfare state, Sweden’s economy has been transformed in the two decades since its banking crisis. The new Swedish model is quite different from the leftist stereotype.” http://www.TheEconomist.com/node/21564412 should guide you to the article (unable to copy as a link)

        Kindly note that it seems to me that you sometimes put words in my mouth… I don’t recall for instance, expressing an anti-union sentiment or denouncing social safety nets and government as a regulator. You will note that I oppose prostitutions of such but I have not rejected the concepts, if they can be implemented uncprri[ted/ I am one who rejects government but has found no replacement for it…

      • You rejected welfare concepts, and blamed unions for problems?

        Also the Economist is one of the best periodicals in print, but their view is not synonymous with the US spectrum. Center-right in European eyes is actually Conservative, but US Republicans and Tea Party membership are not Conservative, so the terms cannot be interchanged. You would consider them well to the left of the US spectrum.

      • Jack Curtis says:

        ‘Welfare’ and ‘unions’ are concepts a bit too broad to simply accept or reject, seems to me. One needs to be more specific as for instance, American unionism is corrupted by its partnership with a political party…and, so is that party corrupted. In discussing unionism, that must be considered.

        We agree on both The Economist and the spectrum location of a European ‘center-right’ party; neither seems pertinent to the discussion of Swedish government economic policy. The Applicable points made in the quote are the specific policies cited…lowering taxes, reducing and increasing the efficiency of social welfare, etc.

      • Well, Sweden has liberal maternity leave policies, national health care, significant social support, state provided family planning services, which includes abortion, high tax rates, etc… This is everything that we have been told is going to kill America, but works in Sweden.

        Why?

      • Jack Curtis says:

        I think you are perfectly correct overall. The Swedes had to trim and improve their ‘way’ and called in what they see as a Rightish government to make the necessary changes as the prior more Leftish one wasn’t up to that task. They are happy with a good deal more equality of incomes, accompanied by a less materialistic life style than we are accustomed to have, from what I have read…something common in varying degrees, to Scandinavia.

        The Swedes have acted politically as adults; we seem to react more as spoiled children these days. It’s a debate, but I see our abandonment of major elements of the earlier American zeitgeist as a large contributor to the present situation. Perhaps the Swedes haven’t moved as far from their socio-political roots as I think that we have…

      • You are still using Left and Right incorrectly. Keep in mind that the most neoliberal President in recent memory was Bill Clinton, not a Republican, but the Swedish government was, is, and will ever be, to the left of Ted Kennedy, so to use the term “Rightish”, coming from an American perspective it to somehow imply that the “Right” was qualitatively better than the “Left” but this is a false argument since the spectrum has no applicability in an American perspective.

        Which is the point you are missing.

        Sweden is the antithesis of everything that the Republican/Tea Party movement stands for, socially, economically, and politically, but it is a great success, because it is the antithesis.

        The problem is you’re trying to run from the concept that the beliefs that you hold are at their most basic level, wrong. You can certainly be a proponent of Christianity, free market capitalism, and even some social programs, but the method of implementation has to change or you, and the political movement you tend to associate with, will become more and more irrelevant in today’s modern society. That is what the Swedish success tells us.

      • Jack Curtis says:

        I’m not sure that we basically disagree very much. In detail, the Swedish replacement government reversed, curtailed and improved what had been done by its predecessor.The new policies were considerably retrograde economically and to some degree, socially. Forward progress would have been to the Left, so I characterize the reversal as toward the Right. It could also be called ‘less left’ I suppose, depending upon the reference point in use. Writing about Sweden, I ten to use the Swedish reference but that is certainly arguable.

        I don’t equate the GOP with the Teafolk. You called the latter ‘reactionary’ and we agree; The Republicans overall today seem watered-down Democrats to me by their actions (ignoring their rhetoric). I’ll remind: They are the source (House appropriations) of all the spending they so deplore.

        I see only two significant differences between the U.S. and Swedish governance at the moment, functionally. First, the Swedes have retained (as we have not) enough sociocultural cohesion to produce a governmental solution to their financial crisis while we, with the same need for similar reasons, dither. Second, the Swedish cultural outlook values equality more and individuality less than we have done and that is reflected in their governing of themselves. I suspect some of the Swedish social patterns stem from Viking times, a lot of cohesion whereas we a a goulash.

        The irrelevancy of the Republicans is a current theme, as was the irrelevancy of the Democrats a while back. Parties decline until they reinvent themselves or they are occasionally, replaced. Right now, both of them are taking us over a financial cliff and the result seems likely to empower changes currently unimaginable. Nor will I bet which (if either) party will be able to capitalize the situation… It seems likely to be more interesting than we will appreciate.

      • I’m not sure that we basically disagree very much. In detail, the Swedish replacement government reversed, curtailed and improved what had been done by its predecessor. The new policies were considerably retrograde economically and to some degree, socially….

        But that is the problem…they are not. The programs are not retrograde at all, they are programs a Democrat would joyfully embrace, and a Republican/Tea Party member would call the worst form of socialism. Sweden is going where Democrats want to go, and in a direction the Republicans claim would destroy the nation, so I am not sure what you are referring to.

        Could you be specific?

      • Jack Curtis says:

        The Economist characterized the actions of the government that took over after the bank crisis in Sweden as reducing spending and reducing social the social services; I see that as retrograde, vis-a-vis the preceding government. As I stated, my reference point is Sweden, so the fact that the result remains to the left of the U.S. (as it certainly does) doesn’t seem germane.

      • The Economist must be understood in context, and to move Right in context would still be to the far left of Ted Kennedy.

        Could you reference the specifics you see as a Right-ward move?

      • Jack Curtis says:

        That would be the Economist quote referring to reducing spending and curtailing social programs.

      • Which social programs were cut, which remain, what spending was cut, and what remains?

      • Jack Curtis says:

        I didn’t pursue that level of detail; you could ask The Economist…

      • I’ve done a bit of research, have you looked into nothing more?

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