Friday Reads: Oh, I wish I wasn’t in the Land of Surreality

Hi Sky Dancers!

I really had hoped that last year’s elections and dump of Trump would calm the country down. I can tell you that my street is already seeing infrastructure improvements. I lost water all day long while contractors cut out a huge–and I mean huge–old steel sewer pipe out of the street to replace it with PVC. This will be at least a year-long process. This pipe was put in the street before my parents were born. There are many more like it to be replaced.

I can only think about these pipes being formed in someplace where there were thousands of real steelers working up North. They were likely put on trains that could reach a place where they could be floated on barges to their home down here.  That pipe was at least 20 feet underground and was large enough for a good-sized man to crawl through it using hands and knees.  I’m now curious about what kind of cranes they had back in the day because that pipe likely weighed a lot. So, think back to those years where the dawn of the last century met science, technology, and progress.  That picture of pipes placed in Boston in 1909 looked a lot like the one they pulled out of the cross street on my block.

I bugged the crew with so many questions that they offered to get me sloggers and let me watch while they used an iron saw to take it apart.  I unfortunately, had to teach but this little girl that loved her building sets and her sandbox dump trucks would have been there in a minute if I could have.

So, I have messy, smelly, life-interrupting proof of infrastructure projects! Why do I feel so little progress is being made to get out of the mess the Republicans have made of this country this century?  Well, let me share some headlines with you.

This is from David Leonhardt writing for The New York Times: “Covid Malaise.  Why do Americans say the economy is in rough shape? Because it is.”  I’m writing this as I watched 3 neighbors get booted from their apartments with a 5-day  notice after the release of the evictions block by the Federal Government. I’m also aware that there was money available to their landlords and it appears a bunch of small landlords are booting their tenants and using the money to upgrade the property to seek higher rents instead of keeping renters in place.  Yes, I’m just full of anecdotal evidence today!

Offices remain eerily empty. Airlines have canceled thousands of flights. Subways and buses are running less often. Schools sometimes call off entire days of class. Consumers waste time waiting in store lines. Annual inflation has reached its highest level in three decades.

Does this sound like a healthy economy to you?

In recent weeks, economists and pundits have been asking why Americans feel grouchy about the economy when many indicators — like G.D.P. growth, stock prices and the unemployment rate — look strong.

But I think the answer to this supposed paradox is that it’s not really a paradox: Americans think the economy is in rough shape because the economy is in rough shape.

Sure, some major statistics look good, and they reflect true economic strengths, including the state of families’ finances. But the economy is more than a household balance sheet; it is the combined experience of working, shopping and interacting in society. Americans evidently understand the distinction: In an Associated Press poll, 64 percent describe their personal finances as good — and only 35 percent describe the national economy as good.

There are plenty of reasons. Many services don’t function as well as they used to, largely because of supply-chain problems and labor shortages. Rising prices are cutting into paychecks, especially for working-class households. People spend less time socializing. The unending nature of the pandemic — the masks, Covid tests, Zoom meetings and anxiety-producing runny noses — is wearying.

While some of these disruptions are minor inconveniences, others are causing serious troubles. The increase in social isolation has harmed both physical and mental health. Americans’ blood pressure has risen. Fatal drug overdoses have soared, with a growing toll among Black Americans. A report this week from the surgeon general found that depression, anxiety, impulsive behavior and attempted suicides had all risen among children and adolescents.

“It would be a tragedy if we beat back one public health crisis only to allow another to grow in its place,” Dr. Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general, wrote.

Schools are a particular source of frustration. Last year, the closure of in-person school caused large learning losses. This year, teachers have the near-impossible task of trying to help students make up for lost time, which has left many teachers feeling burned out.

Worker building New York’s Empire State Building circa 1930s.

I feel like I’m living in a developing country.  Inflation is rising. It’s about at levels it was during the Reagan years though.  It’s nowhere near peak Nixon level. This is from Jeff Cox at CNBC.  Actually, when a country is growing, inflation is not unusual. Nor is it unusual when a country is reeling from a shock like the Covid-19 epidemic that was badly mishandled by the Trump Regime.

Inflation accelerated at its fastest pace since 1982 in November, the Labor Department said Friday, putting pressure on the economic recovery and raising the stakes for the Federal Reserve.

The consumer price index, which measures the cost of a wide-ranging basket of goods and services, rose 0.8% for the month, good for a 6.8% pace on a year over year basis and the fastest rate since June 1982.

Excluding food and energy prices, so-called core CPI was up 0.5% for the month and 4.9% from a year ago, which itself was the sharpest pickup since mid-1991.

The Dow Jones estimate was for a 6.7% annual gain for headline CPI and 4.9% for core.

There is a difference between what’s called the headline CPI and the core CPI.  Headline inflation is the total inflation in an economy. … It is different from core inflation, which excludes food and energy prices while calculating inflation. Food and energy are not included in core inflation because their prices are volatile. It makes headline inflation a more volatile measure than core inflation. The core is a more reliable measure of underlying price trends.

So, now this is looking less of a temporary surge which means policymakers will have to make decisions.  This is especially relevant for the Federal Reserve Bank Board of Governors supported by information from its economists. This is from The Washington Post. and Rachel Siegel.

In time, it’s possible that lower gas and energy prices or unclogged supply chains can help steer prices back down to more sustainable levels. But there’s no telling when that will happen, and in the meantime, businesses and consumers could start to change their expectations of what’s still to come.

“Yes, inflation can abate, but what [policymakers] care about is, is it significant or insignificant to peoples’ lives and decision-making?” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton. “This is inflation that’s not likely to be insignificant anytime soon, and that’s a problem.”

Financial markets appeared to shrug off the news, with the Dow Jones industrial average and the tech-heavy Nasdaq up slightly on Friday.

Inflation has emerged as a top political concern for voters ahead of the 2022 midterms, especially because the cost of food or gas is often a test for how people perceive the economy.

Republicans criticized the high inflation numbers, blaming Democrats’ stimulus as the culprit and warning against future legislative packages.

The problem with Republican criticism is that Trump’s massive tax cuts and his original  Covid-19 payments are as responsible for this as anything the Biden administration has done to date.  Most of those funds have yet to be circulated and after all, we’re still on the Trump Budget since it’s stalled in the Senate.

Progress in the early 20th century also included giving women the right to vote. Here’s a list of 50 countries and when women achieved this. You’ll notice the US was behind many European countries.

What is most unsettling to me are the continuing stories about the ongoing Trump coup.  So little appears to be happening to punish the culprits in charge of the Trump Regime.  This headline would be so Hollywood if it wasn’t real.  From Reuters: “Kanye West publicist pressed Georgia election worker to confess to bogus fraud charges.”

Weeks after the 2020 election, a Chicago publicist for hip-hop artist Kanye West traveled to the suburban home of Ruby Freeman, a frightened Georgia election worker who was facing death threats after being falsely accused by former President Donald Trump of manipulating votes. The publicist knocked on the door and offered to help.

The visitor, Trevian Kutti, gave her name but didn’t say she worked for West, a longtime billionaire friend of Trump. She said she was sent by a “high-profile individual,” whom she didn’t identify, to give Freeman an urgent message: confess to Trump’s voter-fraud allegations, or people would come to her home in 48 hours, and she’d go to jail.

Freeman refused. This story of how an associate of a music mogul pressured a 62-year-old temporary election worker at the center of a Trump conspiracy theory is based on previously unreported police recordings and reports, legal filings, and Freeman’s first media interview since she was dragged into Trump’s attempt to reverse his election loss.

Kutti did not respond to requests for comment. Her biography for her work at the Women’s Global Initiative, a business networking group, identifies her as a member of “the Young Black Leadership Council under President Donald Trump.” It notes that in September 2018, she “was secured as publicist to Kanye West” and “now serves as West’s Director of Operations.”

Oh, and then there’s this:

Why is CNN trying to keep Trump in the headlines?  Is it really because of the coup?

Nothing is more symbolic than this picture. Guess who didn’t wear a mask to Bob Dole’s funeral?

So, I’m going to putting some headlines up about the signaling the Supremes seem to be doing on taking down Roe V. Wade next. This makes me shake with anger.  Women are headed back to chattel status on a state-by-state basis.

I am officially tired of this shit.  What will the backlash from this be?  I’m not sure how much more I got left in me.

Have a good, peaceful weekend.

What’s on your blogging and reading list today?


Can We Admit That What We’re Seeing Is More Than . . . ‘Weather?’

These are some images from my neck of the woods from this past weekend’s round of ‘weather.’

Now granted, I’m not a native of the southeast—South Jersey girl here.  But the locals tell me that vertical winds are a hellva lot different than tornado touchdowns, particularly when you’re living in hill country, in the shadow of the Smoky Mountains.  Locally, this time we were fortunate—some downed branches and yard mess.  The major damage was to the east and south of us.  Last year?  Not so much. 

In fact, last year’s April storm front in the southeast produced 280+ tornadoes in 3 days.  Historic, the headlines screamed.

If this were merely a local event, we could chalk it up to bad luck and Mother Nature in a cranky mood.  But consider that earth-orbiting satellites have been gathering scientific data not previously available, giving us the ‘big picture’, data on a global scale. The following evidence has been accumulated:

  • Sea levels are, in fact, rising, the rate of the last decade nearly double that of the last century.
  • Global temperatures are on the rise, increasing since the 1970s with the 10 hottest recorded temperatures within the last 12 years.
  • The oceans have been warming since 1969, measureable temperatures increasing in the top surfaces [2300 ft] and the acidification of the oceans has increased by 30% since the start of the Industrial Revolution.
  • Glaciers are retreating, the Arctic sea ice is shrinking and the ice sheets of Greenland [36-60 cubic miles per year between 2002-2006] and the Antarctic [36 cubic miles per year between 2002-2005] have declined.

According to NASA data, there are certain facts beyond dispute:

The heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide and other gases was demonstrated in the mid-19th century. Their ability to affect the transfer of infrared energy through the atmosphere is the scientific basis of many JPL-designed instruments, such as AIRS. Increased levels of greenhouse gases must cause the Earth to warm in response.

Ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that the Earth’s climate responds to changes in solar output, in the Earth’s orbit, and in greenhouse gas levels. They also show that in the past, large changes in climate have happened very quickly, geologically-speaking: in tens of years, not in millions or even thousands.

We can take the facts and data of NASA, their orbiting satellites and sensors or we can fall back on the word of say . . . a Rick Santorum, who has proven himself such an expert on other subjects.  According to Santorum in a speech in Colorado:

[Climate change is] an absolute travesty of scientific research that was motivated by those who, in my opinion, saw this as an opportunity to create a panic and a crisis for government to be able to step in and even more greatly control your life. … I for one never bought the hoax. I for one understand just from science that there are one hundred factors that influence the climate. To suggest that one minor factor of which man’s contribution is a minor factor in the minor factor is the determining ingredient in the sauce that affects the entire global warming and cooling is just absurd on its face. And yet we have politicians running to the ramparts — unfortunately politicians who happen to be running for the Republican nomination for president — who bought into man-made global warming and bought into cap-and-trade.

We can argue the merits of cap and trade but I find it comical that Santorum is running around talking about Satan on one hand—a Santorum absolute–while denying climate change on the other.  This is a ‘don’t trust your lying eyes’ moment.  And certainly don’t trust science.  He continued with:

We were put on this Earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the Earth, to use it wisely and steward it wisely, but for our benefit not for the Earth’s benefit … We are the intelligent beings that know how to manage things and through that course of science and discovery if we can be better stewards of this environment, then we should not let the vagaries of nature destroy what we have helped create.

Huh?  I’m not sure what this rambling statement is intended to mean, other than we shouldn’t let nature clue us in that we’re skating on the edge, pushing the health of the planet and its inhabitants to the max.  Full steam ahead with those extractions, boys!

Of course, Santorum is not alone in this type of denial.  Rush Limbaugh, who has had his fair share of attention in the last few days [not of the good kind], had this to say after declaring climate change a ‘hoax’:

I happen to believe in God. I believe in a loving, brilliant – I know that this – there is no way, I don’t want to sound simpleton here, but there is not – it is not possible that we would be created by a creator in such a way that we would destroy by virtue of our created existence our own planet and environment. It just doesn’t compute and yet that’s what these people are trying to tell us. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 2/2/11

All righty then!  God, a loving brilliant God, would not allow us to destroy ourselves.  Scrap all that science and data, the fat man speaketh.

Beginning to see a pattern here?  We can believe in myth—Satan’s going to getcha and/or a benevolent, personal God-creator, who would never allow Man to be stupid enough to destroy His/Her creation.  No problem then.  Keep spewing those toxins into the air, don’t worry about contaminating our water supply and . . . heat?  What heat?

Despite the relentless war on climate data in particular and science in general, it turns out the public is beginning to catch on to all the corporate-friendly tap dancing.  After a dip in public sentiment about Climate Change and the mass investment in misinformation, Americans are using their powers of observation and taking heed to the mounting evidence.  According to the Brookings Institute National Survey, Fall 2011, a strong majority [62%] of the American public now believes that global warming is real and poses a threat to global security.  Observation to local effects of warming temperatures and world-wide reports of floods, droughts, freakishly warm temperatures, melting ice sheets, ocean acidification and the effects on wildlife and fauna are slowly turning opinion.

We cannot wait for a benevolent God-spirit to save us.  We’ll need to do that for ourselves, sooner rather than later.  Because we won’t get a second chance.  As Naomi Klien recently stated any real shift towards climate sustainability means a shift in the entire free-market ethos that depends on continual growth, massive extraction and profit-making over people.

. . . you can’t do it all with carbon markets and offsetting. You have to really seriously regulate corporations and invest in the public sector. And we need to build public transport systems and light rail and affordable housing along transit lines to lower emissions. The market is not going to step up to this challenge. We must do more: rebuild levees and bridges and the public sphere, because we saw in Katrina what happens when weak infrastructure clashes with heavy weather—it’s catastrophe. These climate deniers aren’t crazy—their worldview is under threat. If you take climate change seriously, you do have to throw out the free-market playbook.

In the end, so many of these pressing issues are related to a flawed economic and political model—the current corporate state.  It will be up to us to reimagine a new system or as Peter Barnes suggested in ‘Capitalism 3.0,’  it’s time to upgrade.

Because there’s no place to run or hide.  Earth is the only home we have. Reclaiming the commons isn’t optional; it’s a must.  And personally?  I’m just not into wicked tornadoes.

UPDATE: The Red Cross is now asking for donations for storm ravaged areas in the Southeast.  Contact your local offices for information. Or go here.