21 January 2019

Stray Thoughts

* The Trump Administration has broken all past records concerning government shutdowns in the United States except for the record of the number of separate shutdowns per Presidency where he is currently tied in second place (he is tied for first place in number of shutdowns in a single Presidential term already). One more would tie Ronald Reagan who had three one day shutdowns over two terms.

He has the longest single shutdown. The most combined days of shutdown in a Presidential term or a Presidency. The shutdown affecting the most worker-days. It will no doubt be the most expensive to the government.

From here. The chart doesn't reflect another 420,000 "essential employees" who aren't furloughed but aren't getting paid either.

* The vast majority of government employees in the United States are not affected by the shutdown. The vast majority of government employees (more than 93% of civilians) work for state and local governments. All military employees of the federal government except the Coast Guard, and more than half of the civilian employees of the federal government are not affected because their appropriations bills were passed.

* There is enough bipartisan support in Congress to end the shutdown with a continuing resolution. Indeed, there is enough support to override a Presidential veto. Bills to do so have previously passed unanimously in both houses of Congress. The unwillingness of Mitch McConnell, who is a U.S. Senator from Kentucky and the majority leader in the Senate, to hold that vote to contradict Trump is the reason we are still shut down.

* A teacher's strike is looming in Denver as negotiations have broken down between the district and the teacher's union. There will be votes on January 19th and 22nd regarding a strike. A simultaneous Denver Public Schools teacher's strike and federal government shutdown are likely.

* Ultimately, the conservatism generally is driven by economic scarcity and insecurity. Racism, a center of attention on this Martin Luther King, Jr. day, is an indirect consequence of a feeling on the part of whites who are seeing real wage stagnation and persistent unemployment that they are suffering economically that opportunities that are "theirs" are going to others. Blue collar men in the U.S. have seen their relative status in society and capacity to provide dramatically eroded in the last 50 years. When that problem is addressed, the fuel that drives racism and xenophobia will be gone although racism won't go until that condition persists long enough for the existing racists to die.

* The U.S. in on the wrong track in multiple respects. It has ceased to invest sufficiently in infrastructure. It has permitted ranks of the desperately poor to persist in a way that no other developed nation does. It has too many people who have lost touch with reality, don't trust accurate sources of information, believe that education does more harm than good, and have developed a mean demeanor that condemns empathy as weakness. Deaths of despair like suicides and opioid overdoses are on the rise.

* Lots of people who recognize that big problems of the United States as problems have framed those problems in ways that suggest solutions that don't work. 

For example, the single biggest solution to a lack of affordable housing is to relax land use regulation, but many people think that rent controls and subsidizing the construction of affordable housing is the answer.

* It doesn't help to have a federal government run by people who don't believe in government as worthwhile or legitimate, who have the backing of a minority of the general population due to archaic flaws in our electoral system, who have the backing of an even smaller share of the economic wealth of the nation. This is unstable. Three million more people voted for Hillary Clinton than for Trump who won by razor thin margins to take the electoral college with dubious election administration decisions suppressing the vote and rampant lies. Not for the first time in recent memory either. Democrats represent two-thirds of the GDP of the nation because its urban base is much, much more productive.

* For all of the bleakness of the moment, it could be far worse. The agenda of inclusiveness has made great strides. Some has the criminal justice and drug war reform movement (sentencing reforms passed Congress even as all else came to a halt). 

The courts have restrained many of Trump's worst excesses and now there are Democrats controlling the House of Representatives to do so as well. Technology continues to improve. The NRA is in dire financial straights and has been a pariah in corporate America. The demographics that support the right wing are in decline and Republicans have almost completely forfeited the Millennial generation. The shutdown is going to hurt the GOP badly in 2020. Christianity, in general, is in decline in the United States.

* Every country has its problems. Far right movements have made political gains across Europe. Russia has engaged in unanswered military aggressions against the Ukraine. Syria and Yemen are active war zones that are living hellscapes. The situation in Afghanistan seems to be deteriorating. Latin America is plagued with extremely high murder rates and corruption driven by drug cartels. An insane far right President has been elected to lead Brazil. The continued existence of the United Kingdom is in doubt as a Brexit vote to leave the E.U. has proved intractable to implement. China's economy, while growing fast, is vulnerable and relies on deeply problematic and usustainable authoritarian approaches to maintain it. India's Hindu nationalists parties are pretty much as crazy as Christian conservatives on many scientific matters. The Sahel from coast to coast in Africa is immersed in a series of genocidal wars with religious dimensions and economic causes. Many countries, e.g. Finland and Canada and Iceland and New Zealand, are doing better in many respects. But, they all have problems and many of them have really big problems.

* There has never been a time when people have had so much access to global music, media and information. The Internet has made a lot of amazing things possible with deep cultural implications.

*  One by one, little by little, new discoveries are improving our technological ability to provide better health care, even though the U.S. is seeing falling life expectancy in many respects. China put a rover on the dark side of the moon this year. There is enough information being gathered about dark matter to sometimes right the ship on that front and find the true solution. The Standard Model works very, very well.

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