Something to Celebrate July 4th: Young People, Old People, and the CNN Poll

Fail News Channel

In perhaps haste to show “relevant” news concerning the battle flag issue, CNN concentrated on a poll question about whether the CSA battle flag was a symbol of pride or a symbol of racism.

“The poll shows that 57% of Americans see the flag more as a symbol of Southern pride than as a symbol of racism, about the same as in 2000 when 59% said they viewed it as a symbol of pride. Opinions of the flag are sharply divided by race, and among whites, views are split by education.” [CNN]

And just as certainly, the views were divided along ethnic/racial lines:

“Among African-Americans, 72% see the Confederate flag as a symbol of racism, just 25% of whites agree. In the South, the racial divide is even broader. While 75% of Southern whites describe the flag as a symbol of pride and 18% call it a symbol of racism, those figures are almost exactly reversed among Southern African-Americans, with just 11% seeing it as a sign of pride and 75% viewing it as a symbol of racism.” [CNN]

Thank you CNN for once again concentrating on the perfectly obvious and missing the much more interesting.

For example the poll also presented results by age.  A point not emphasized in the coverage, and those results were interesting in themselves.  One of the questions asked was if the crime in Charleston should be considered terrorism. The results by age:

CNN poll terror q 47% of individuals 18-34 saw the act as one of terrorism, compared to only 37% in the 35-49 cohort, 39% in the 50-64 group, and 37% of those over 65 years of age.   Since the CNN results and reportage invite speculation, let’s engage in some.

Most children by age four are aware of major national events, if not entirely capable of explaining them.  By seven the gears are clicking such that the young person can at least form an emotional reaction to the events, situations, and ideas being presented to them; ideas which are more fully informed when they reach eleven years of age.  In simpler terms, what happens before a person is about 10 is history and what happens afterwards is current events – none of us willing to perceive ourselves as museum relics.

Thus a person who is 34 years old now was 12 years old when the first attack was made on the World Trade Center in New York City (1993) and saw “terrorism” on the television set.  A 34 year old person was 14 years old when the Oklahoma City Bombing occurred, 1995.   For an individual born in 1985, that domestic terrorism bombing happened just as they were capable of a better understanding of the event.  That person is 30 years old this year.

Perhaps terrorism has a broader definition for those who are old enough to remember the Khobar Towers (1996), the African embassy bombings in 1998, the attack on the USS Cole (2000), the WTC/Pentagon Attack (2001), the Madrid train bombing (2004), and the attack on the London underground rail system (2005).  We might contend with some rationality that for those under 34, if an attack of any sort includes multiple victims, in significant places, for particular ideological reasons then it’s terrorism.  That the Charleston attack is not perceived as “terrorism” by more than half the respondents may be a function of the media’s tendency to attach “Muslim” to any and all assaults, hence it’s not terrorism if it isn’t associated with the followers of Islam.

The hate crime question seemed a bit less divided.  CNN asked if the attack on the Charleston church was a hate crime:

CNN poll terror 2 Every age group overwhelmingly categorized the act as a hate crime. What’s intriguing in this question is the 5% difference between the younger group, who were more likely to classify the act as terrorism, and the over 65 group 90% of whom categorized it as a hate crime.

A person now 65 years of age (born 1950), one now 70 (born 1945) will more likely have a frame of reference tilted toward classification of attacks as hate crimes because they witnessed these during the modern Civil Rights Movement.  A person born in 1945 would have been aware of the murder of Emmett Till (1955), Medgar Evers was murdered in 1963, and the iconic image of the carnage, the Birmingham Church Bombing took place in September 1963.  A person now 65 was 13 years old when that happened, and one 70 was 18 at the time.  The bombing of the Church and the murders of Civil Rights Movement advocates are within the ‘current events’ time line of those over 65.  Little wonder they would slot the Charleston Church attack into the hate crime category.

It would be interesting to see the results of an academic study that tests how individuals categorize insidious attacks perpetrated for ideological reasons, and if the nature of the reporting and publicity given to the event at the time informs their classifications as they age.

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Filed under anti-terrorism, media, racism

Happy Fourth of July: A More Perfect Union

Flag July 4th

It’s a good 4th of July weekend.  The benefits of citizenship have been affirmed for members of the LGBT community, but as the founders told us we’re on a path to create “a more perfect union.”  Therefore, there’s more work to be done to insure that housing, employment, and other areas of American life aren’t stumbling blocks of discrimination. We will have to keep up efforts toward building that “more perfect” union.

Ravenal Bridge

There may be some dead-enders, some battle flag flying remnants of blatant racism, but no matter how hard the Klan and their allies try, their proposed demonstration will be nothing compared to the thousands who walked along the Ravenal Bridge in Charleston, South Carolina.  We’re closer to being a nation of people who are taking Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s message to heart:

“When evil men plot, good men must plan.  When evil men burn and bomb, good men must build and bind.  When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men must commit themselves to the glories of love. “

At least two churches in the south have been the target of recent arson attacks, so in order to form that more perfect union it’s time for people of good will to build and bind.   It’s been a long walk from the bridge in Selma to the bridge in Charleston, but we’re getting there.  We still have to acknowledge the often painful accuracy of Winston Churchill’s backhanded compliment, “You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they’ve tried everything else.”  

In a more perfect union, we’d not have maps showing that a person earning minimum wages cannot achieve a point at which only 30% of his income can pay for a one bedroom apartment.

Rent map

The darker the blue the worse the problem.  We’ll have a more perfect union when we address the complications of living on inadequate wages.  It does no good to march behind banners proclaiming that hard working Americans should “save for the future,” – when simply meeting basic needs for food, housing, and adequate clothing consume all the family’s income. It takes us no closer to a more perfect union to proclaim, “if the poor would just work harder they’d get ahead,” when elements of our judicial system, parts of our educational system, and the myopia of commerce combine to force workers into multiple jobs at minimal wages.  We are no closer to forming a more perfect union when we reward those who prosper at the expense of those who produce.

Unassisted graph

In a more perfect union this graph would be significantly lower.  How do we care for the least able among us? The learning disabled young man with nerve damage, but not quite enough to meet disability standards?  Unmarried, with no dependent children, unemployed except for odd jobs paying about $10 per hour?  A victim of child abuse, and now a victim of a system in which he doesn’t qualify for benefits because he’s never been able to find employment which sustains them. [Reuters]

We’ll be a more perfect union when we are more aware that the able-bodied are not necessarily able to fully function in our modern economy.  In a more perfect union there is more educational, job, housing, and food support for those who live on the margins of despair.

I look to the diffusion of light and education as the resource most to be relied on for ameliorating the condition, promoting the virtue and advancing the happiness of man.” Thomas Jefferson to Cornelius Blatchly, October 1822

And yet:

“About seven in 10 (69%) college seniors who graduated from public and private nonprofit colleges in 2013 had student loan debt. These borrowers owed an average of $28,400, up two percent compared to $27,850 for public and nonprofit graduates in 2012.   About one-fifth (19%) of the  Class of 2013’s debt was comprised of private loans, which are typically more costly and provide fewer consumer protections and repayment options than safer federal loans.”  [TICAS]

In a more perfect union, education advances the “happiness of man,” not merely the bottom line of banking institutions, and certainly not the unrestrained avarice of some for-profit operations who once having the federal funds in hand look to more recruitment without much concern for those already recruited.

And, then – predictably – there’s the Wall Street Casino, which has created SLABS (Student Loan Asset Based Securities).  While certainly not in the mortgage meltdown class, these are problematic because:

“What I find most disturbing about SLABS is that they create a system where an increase in tuition (and the debt-burden on the borrower) equals an increased profit for the investor. When you consider the role that unscrupulous speculators played in the mortgage crisis, one can’t help but wonder if a similar over-valuation of college tuition is taking place for the benefit of SLABS investors. With the cost of attending college increasing nearly 80% between 2003-2013 while wages have decreased, it’s no wonder that so many people are having difficulty paying off their student loans.” [MDA]

This situation is NOT the way to “diffuse light and education.”

There are countless other topics and issues on which we might dwell, assistance for the elderly, transportation, trade, economic security, police and community relations, infrastructure issues, voting rights,  domestic terrorism, domestic violence, gun violence, climate change … the list is  as long as the population rolls, as we try to create that more perfect union of imperfect human beings.

What we need is Churchill’s optimism – that eventually, after avoiding problems, exacerbating problems, tinkering with problems – we’ll do the right thing.

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Filed under banking, civil liberties, education, financial regulation, Global warming, homelessness, income inequality, Minimum Wage, poverty, racism

Cliven Bundy: How Can We Miss You If You Won’t Go Away?

Bundy Riders

Let’s Talk Nevada covered the adventures of Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) in Mesquite, NV complete with pictures, and an interesting exchange:

“Cliven Bundy’s son, Ryan, stated there is no place in the U.S. Constitution that allows the federal government to hold land and he asked Paul what he would do to correct that problem. Paul agreed that public land should belong to the states and local governments, but that private ownership is best.”

Tricky Answer: The notion that the federal government may not own land, (pretty well covered by Article IV, section 3, clause 2 if we want to get specific about it, put to one side for the moment) – Notice that Senator Paul really didn’t answer the question.  What Bundy 2.0 wanted was reassurance that his outlandish right wing theory was correct, but what he got was pure corporate libertarian-speak. The candidate didn’t say he would actually do anything about the reversion of public domain lands, to the state, to the locality, or to any other public entity. He merely recited the corporate mantra that private ownership is always best.  If Bundy 2.0 was listening carefully, the response could easily mean that corporate interests would be able to purchase land and then charge users (ranchers) for the use of the property.   If for-profit entities were in charge, does Bundy 2.0 believe they would be under any compulsion to perform  land management activities other than that which would enhance the corporate bottom line?  Re-seeding? Noxious weed control? Grazing management? Would Bundy be able to evade paying for land use under corporate control, as his father has tried to avoid paying grazing fees?  And, if a higher bidder came along – would Bundy be looking for grazing property elsewhere?

But wait, there’s more:  There was more than a question from the audience.  Politico reports:

“The encounter came after Bundy attended an event for the Kentucky senator’s presidential campaign at the Eureka Casino in Mesquite, Nevada. When the larger group dispersed, Bundy said, he was escorted by Paul’s aides to a back room where he and the Republican 2016 contender spoke for approximately 45 minutes. (“There were no scheduled meetings at Senator Paul’s stop in Mesquite. He spoke to many people who came to this public event, none for 45 minutes and none planned,” Paul spokesman Sergio Gor said.)”

Cliven Bundy seems to have picked up the point about state ownership, “The state already owns the land…”

“The Nevada rancher said that he had expected only to have an opportunity to shake hands with Paul and make small-talk. He was surprised when campaign aides found a private room and allowed Bundy, his wife and son to speak with the candidate for the better part of an hour.

According to Bundy, the two mainly discussed federal land oversight and states’ rights, in addition to education policy — a theme Paul brought up in his speech.

“I don’t think he really understood how land rights really work in the western United States,” Bundy said. “I was happy to be able to sort of teach him.” [Politico]

How nice of Mr. Bundy to be so “educational?”  He doesn’t claim ownership, he claims “rights.”  Bundy 1.0 apparently understands that private ownership means private responsibilities – for fire prevention and fighting, grazing management, re-seeding, and maintenance – and he doesn’t want to pay for these.  He’d like the state to do it and let him put his livestock on the ground for free. Because? Freedom. Freedom as in Free loader.

Reprise:  Little wonder the Rand Campaign staff was anxious to tell us that the session between the Bundys and the candidate wasn’t “scheduled.” The candidate has already had to back away from Mr. Bundy once before:

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” Bundy told supporters shortly after the standoff, according to video footage captured by an onlooker. He recounted a time he drove past public-housing in Las Vegas “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do? They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom.” [Politico]

Thus much for any outreach to African American voters? So, are the Bundys “in tune with” the Paul Campaign? [MSNBC]

And even more:  Last June two Las Vegas Police officers were gunned down by anti-government extremists.  Officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo were assassinated and the motivation was reasonably clear:

“…a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag and a Nazi swastika the couple placed on one of the police officers they ambushed Sunday at a pizza restaurant. They pinned onto the other officer’s body a note saying something to the effect of “this is the beginning of the revolution,” Second Assistant Sheriff Kevin McMahill told reporters.” [CNN]

Later reports said the Millers were too much even for the Bundyland bunch, not necessarily because of their views, but because of Jerad Miller’s criminal past.

“Jerad Miller was eager to support Bundy, who was confronted by federal officials after years of refusing to pay grazing fees. On April 9, he wrote on Facebook:

“I will be supporting Clive Bundy and his family from Federal Government slaughter. This is the next Waco! His ranch is under seige right now! The federal gov is stealing his cattle! Arresting his family and beating on them! We must do something. I will be doing something.”

I was out there but they told me and my wife to leave because I am a felon. They don’t seem to understand that they are all felons now for intimidating law enforcement with deadly weapons. So don’t tell you that they need people. We sold everything we had to buy supplies and quit our jobs to be there 24/7. How dare you ask for help and shun us dedicated patriots.” [MJ]

And here comes another Rand Paul connection:

“Jerad Miller’s Facebook “likes” include the NRA, American Patriot Media Network, Support the 2nd Amendment, The Patriot Party, Rand Paul 2016, Ron Paul, the Washington Examiner, Legalize Weed, Draft Judge Andrew Napolitano, the Heritage Foundation, FreedomWorks, American Crossroads, and Allen West.” [MJ]

Granted, any campaign gets its share of whackies. However, the Millers were making connections which the Paul campaign isn’t avoiding: Guns + Ultra Libertarianism + Candidates who espouse the connections between guns and ultra-libertarian views.  And, if one Paul campaign in Nevada could create chaos, there were some people imagining what a second one could do to the state’s clout in national elections.  (AB 302, SB 421, 2015)

The Ron Paul Campaign, which made the 2008 Republican state caucus such an interesting debacle for all to watch unfold, could be the prologue to a 2016 version of chaos created by Rand Paul’s version?  Efforts to convert Nevada’s caucuses into primary elections failed in the latest session of the Legislature. [Ralston]

In Nevada it’s hard to find room to wield a fly swatter without slapping at least one Tea Party enthusiast.  However, with that enthusiasm comes some perilous ground:  Association with dead beat rancher and resident racist Cliven Bundy; Association with the circumstances that left two police officers murdered in a Las Vegas pizza parlor; and, Association with one of the most controversial (but entertaining for Democrats) presidential season caucuses the Republicans have ever convened.  However, there are 496 days until the next presidential election so the GOP could find ways to skirt the impact of the Paul campaign in the Silver State.

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Filed under conservatism, elections, Nativism, Nevada legislature, Nevada news, Nevada politics, public lands, Republicans, Rural Nevada

It’s All Greek

Greece Parthenon When Greece joined the EU back in 2001 it was economically speaking the weak sister of the regional organization, and life didn’t get better for the Greeks after the Recession of 2007-08 – it got significantly worse.

Background

“Greece has a capitalist economy with a public sector accounting for about 40% of GDP and with per capita GDP about two-thirds that of the leading euro-zone economies. Tourism provides 18% of GDP. Immigrants make up nearly one-fifth of the work force, mainly in agricultural and unskilled jobs. Greece is a major beneficiary of EU aid, equal to about 3.3% of annual GDP. The Greek economy averaged growth of about 4% per year between 2003 and 2007, but the economy went into recession in 2009 as a result of the world financial crisis, tightening credit conditions, and Athens’ failure to address a growing budget deficit” [theo]

Here we go again – back to the perpetual phrase in DB’s assessment of things financial — “one man’s debt is another man’s asset.”  And, Greece has plenty of debt.  By way of contrast, the United States’ public sector accounts for only about 23.1% of our  GDP.  [World Bank] Several factors made the Greek level of indebtedness problematic:

  • Greek levels of public employment appear to have been artificially high.  In a stronger economy this might not have been a serious difficulty, for example the UK’s public sector is about 42.1% of its GDP, but Greece did not have a “strong economy.”
  • The extent of Greek indebtedness was masked by dealing with Goldman Sachs, which created a “financial instrument” allowing the Greek government to push its health care costs far into the distant future, roughly analogous to a family taking out a second mortgage to pay off credit card debt.  [NYT]
  • Previous private investment assistance included disguising loans as “currency trades” which further obfuscated actual levels of indebtedness. [NYT]
  • The solution to the financial anxiety of 2010 was alleviated by having the European Central Bank, IMF, et. al. consolidate Greek debt. This, it appears, got the private investment firms off the hook but shifted the problem to the international banking institutions.

Fiscal Hyperthermia

What gives Wall Street the jitters is exposure, otherwise known as risk, especially when that risk threatens to go into default.  Investors, private and sovereign, have gone to elaborate lengths to reduce their risk (exposure) to defaults.  Ever more esoteric financial instruments (paper products) have been created – and continue to be created – to spread the risk as far and wide as possible.  When the risk is widespread so is the “exposure.”

(1) While interest rates are low investors can borrow to invest in these risk-spreading products, betting that their investment returns will cover their costs. (2)  Or, while interest rates are low the higher yielding Greek paper looks very attractive for short term investors.  When terms like “default” get tossed around the  bankers get anxious, and when they get anxious we’re told they are fearful of global “exposure” to Greek default.  Translated down to an oversimplification: Bankers are afraid that they won’t get the return on the investments they made in Greek paper. Lower returns = lower revenue; lower revenues = lower profits.

Risky Behavior

There is no such thing as zero risk. That’s why bonds pay interest.  The higher the yield, the greater the risk – assuming that higher rates of interest are the price of getting someone’s investment, anyone or any thing’s investment.  Until and unless bankers find it more profitable to be honest with themselves and others about the levels of risk, we’ll keep seeing these manufactured crises in financial institutions.  However, as the creative products for hedging their bets become ever more elaborate and opaque, the banks are essentially papering over their “exposure.

Meanwhile, the Greeks have asked for a last minute “2 year” agreement to restructure debt, extend terms, and make policy changes.

“There are big questions over whether the eurozone would consider Greece’s request. While European officials have said that a new aid program would be possible, it would require Mr. Tsipras to accept the policy overhauls and budget cuts he has so far rejected. Many officials also don’t trust Mr. Tsipras and his government to implement these measures.” [NakedCap]

And all of this to avoid “haircuts.”

Buzz Cuts

“A haircut, in the financial industry, is a percentage discount that’s applied informally to the market value of a stock or the face value of a bond in an attempt to account for the risk of loss that the investment poses.” [FinDict]

If the players in the Greek debt game willing to take a “hair cut,” we could get these headlines into the archives in short order.  Obviously, they are not.

The problem may be that the Greek debt is simply not recoverable in the foreseeable future?  Now, we circle back to “exposure.”

“The merest hint of bank collapses sends fear through financial markets. Then there is the prospect of contagion, that other European nations could follow Greece and fall foul of repayment commitments.” [abcnetAus]

In a world connected by hazy, mistrusting, and expensive financial deals, the fear of contagion is very real for the investment bankers.  Who’s next? The Portuguese? The Spanish? The Italians?

The impasse over Athens is taking on the appearance of an argument over how everyone can win and nobody loses.  The Greeks, billionaires included, need to pay their taxes, and probably more taxes than they’ve been wont to pay previously.  Some government services may need to be scaled back, but unrestrained austerity would only serve to further reduce their GNP. For their part, the bankers may need a quick to the barbershop.

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Filed under Economy, financial regulation

Nevada’s American History Curriculum: The Civil War Almost Happens

NV history curriculum Let’s acknowledge right off the bat that it is hard to develop a curriculum for U.S. History in American schools, because the old saw is inevitably true: Every ten years the course gets a week longer.

One of the current models is to divide the course work into convenient divisions based on when the traditional courses were taught, American History usually being slotted into the 8th and 11th grades.  Thus, the 8th graders get the first half (Colonial America to the Civil War) and the 11th graders get the second half (Reconstruction to Modern America).  Nevada has adopted this template:

NV History curriculum 2Therefore, the practical situation is that the 8th graders get

instruction concerning the American Civil War at the end of the school term, and if the ‘clock runs out’ then there may be the profound hope the topic is picked up three years later.  However, as the curriculum indicates, the “review” is to be a brief one.

There are some issues we ought to address beyond the cramped chronology.  Note the red outlined terms in the graphic showing the 6th through 8th curriculum recommendations.

Causes? Plural?

Any attempt to describe a cause other than SLAVERY for the American Civil War fails the “two question test.”  For example: “The civil war was caused by an act of northern aggression.”

  1. What caused northern invasions?
  2. Southern secession, so why did the south secede? (Slavery)

Example two: “The civil war started because of economic differences between the north and south.”

  1. If we allow the generalization that the north was industrial and the south was agricultural, then what labor force underpinned southern agrarian economies?
  2. If slavery underpinned the economic system of the south, then is it not logical that slavery constituted the fundamental difference between the two regional economies? (Slavery)

Example three: “The civil war began because the south wanted to exert its state’s rights and the north was defending federalism.”

  1. What “right” was the south so interested in defending that it was willing to launch an open rebellion against the United States government?
  2. (The questions end here)

Not only do common apologetics for southern rebellion fail the “Question Test,” the rationales also fail any credible historical reference.

When Alexander Stephens was waxing on about the foundation of the Confederacy he pointed out the corner-stone of the CSA:

“Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.” (March 1861)

In fact Article 1, 15 was clear on the subject: “15) To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Confederate States, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions.”  Now, just what “insurrections” might those be?  The CSA did forbid the importation of slaves from foreign countries, and from states not members of the Confederacy … this would also forbid African Americans from free-states from infiltrating the CSA “homeland.”  However, the intent was even more clear in Article 4:

“(3) The Confederate States may acquire new territory; and Congress shall have power to legislate and provide governments for the inhabitants of all territory belonging to the Confederate States, lying without the limits of the several Sates; and may permit them, at such times, and in such manner as it may by law provide, to form States to be admitted into the Confederacy. In all such territory the institution of negro slavery, as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected be Congress and by the Territorial government; and the inhabitants of the several Confederate States and Territories shall have the right to take to such Territory any slaves lawfully held by them in any of the States or Territories of the Confederate States.”  (emphasis added)

Want to join the Confederacy – then slavery must be recognized and protected.

And what of the vision of that paragon on the old south, Robert E. Lee, what did he think of slavery? From an editor of his letters:

“He saw slaves as property, that he owned them and their labor. Now you can say he wasn’t worse than anyone; he was reflecting the values of the society that he lived in. I would say, he wasn’t any better than anyone else, either.”

We can take the Lee image back to an 1856 letter to his wife, which has a troubling similarity to the ranting of some modern racists:

“The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence.”  […]

“Although the Abolitionist must know this, & must See that he has neither the right or power of operating except by moral means & suasion, & if he means well to the slave, he must not Create angry feelings in the Master; that although he may not approve the mode which it pleases Providence to accomplish its purposes, the result will nevertheless be the same; that the reasons he gives for interference in what he has no Concern, holds good for every kind of interference with our neighbors when we disapprove their Conduct; Still I fear he will persevere in his evil Course. Is it not strange that the descendants of those pilgrim fathers who Crossed the Atlantic to preserve their own freedom of opinion, have always proved themselves intolerant of the Spiritual liberty of others?”

So, Lee’s slaves were to sit quietly and wait for the enlightenment of their masters, who were “spiritually” free to keep them enslaved until God freed them.  And, “a day in the sight of the Lord is a thousand years? (2 Peter 3:8)

So, we can tick off the “top five” reasons offered for the American Civil War: (1) There were economic differences – based on the use of slave labor in the agrarian south; (2) The southern states asserted their right to maintain the institution of chattel slavery; (3) The war began because of political differences between slave state proponents and opponents – yes, as in Bleeding Kansas; (4) The growth of the abolitionist movement – against slavery; and (5) The election of Lincoln – perceived as an opponent of the extension of —- slavery.  It all comes around to one ultimate cause. Slavery.

It’s disturbing to note that the Nevada social studies curriculum guidelines appear to provide comfort to those who would minimize the centrality of slavery in the near destruction of this country.   Perhaps even more disturbing that the guidelines appear to sanction the dubious “state’s rights” argument used to rationalize southern rebellion.   Not only should “the flag” come down, but our comprehension of its origin should raise up.

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Cost Benefit Analysis Scramble

Cost Benefit Analysis

One of the dark clouds on the week that was in the U.S. Supreme Court was the decision in Michigan v. the Environmental Protection Agency, one portion of which reads:

“Our reasoning so far establishes that it was unreasonable for EPA to read §7412(n)(1)(A) to mean that cost is irrelevant to the initial decision to regulate power plants. The Agency must consider cost—including, most importantly, cost of compliance—before deciding whether regulation is appropriate and necessary,…”

Important Distinctions

First, let’s differentiate between a CBA (a cost benefit analysis) and a Cost Effectiveness Analysis (CEA).   There are two important functions of a CBA: (1) To determine if an investment or a decision is justifiable or feasible. (2) To provide a way to compare and contrast alternative projects or proposals. Additionally, “In CBA, benefits and costs are expressed in monetary terms, and are adjusted for the time value of money, so that all flows of benefits and flows of project costs over time (which tend to occur at different points in time) are expressed on a common basis in terms of their “net present value.”

The most common use of the CEA is found in the health sector.  In a CEA  the outcome is expressed as a ratio.  The denominator is the quantified gain, while the numerator is the cost associated with the gains.  For example, we know that sterilized surgical theaters yield quantifiable positive results for patients, therefore the costs associated with sterilization far outweigh the costs of sanitizing the facilities.

Another analysis which gets folded into the mixture is the analysis of the Social Return on Investment, or abbreviated SROI.  There are four elements considered: Inputs (investments), Outputs (products), Outcomes (benefits), and Impact (difference between the policy or practice change and what would have happened if nothing had been done.) [Investopedia]

There are other formats for analysis:  Cost/utility analysis; Risk/benefit analysis; and the Economic impact/analysis.  The definitions and descriptions of these forms are readily available from online sources.

The problem is that the CBA isn’t a static form of analysis.  Just as each problem in both the public and private sector has unique factors, the CBA may take on some elements from other formats – the CEA, the SROI, and the others.  Often the term “CBA” is used with great precision, i.e. it returns a study yielding a net present value.  There are other examples illustrating how the term CBA in common parlance and news reporting is an admixture of individual studies speaking to the CEA ratios, or the SROI elements.

As in so many other unfortunate instances, the cost/benefit analysis has come to mean what the partisan advocates want it to mean. One of the pitfalls involved in being a good consumer of news and political rhetoric is that the listener is required to sort out precisely what analysis is being described or advocated. The most common source of confusion comes when a CBA is conflated with an Economic Impact Study:

“One industry’s outputs are inputs to other industries, and vice versa. Input-output analysis measures all of the linkages and flows within the matrix (the economy). Based on these linkages and flows, the cumulative effect of any given stimulus (or change) can be derived. This is how multipliers are calculated.” [Decision Analyst Ser]

A public sector example might be that of a decision to build a public broadband access system.  This would trigger spending for infrastructure necessities for the system, which in turn increases employee and contractor income, causing (in sequence) more disposable spending for the local (or national) economy.  If we study the “linkages and flows” as the the project impacts the community we can calculate the cumulative “economic impact.”

So, when politicians speak to the necessity of doing cost/benefit analyses on government regulation it’s important to pin them down on precisely what form of analysis they are advocating, and how the form of the analysis can influence the reported results.

Good news Bad news

The bad news from the Michigan v. EPA  decision is that the EPA is required to perform a cost benefit analysis on emission regulations promoted by the EPA.  The slightly better news is that the decision doesn’t do what corporate radicals want – dismantle the EPA. Nor does the decision declare that the EPA may not issue rules on carbon or other pollutant emissions, granted that it does constitute another shackle on the Agency’s attempt to clear the air.

One way to support the efforts of the EPA to enforce the provisions of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts might be be advocate for more, not less, study – studies which incorporate the CEA elements (health benefits included) and SROI quadrants which incorporate social benefits.

The argument that government regulations should hinge upon the notion that private sector operations should agree that the regulations are “not too expensive,” is a narrow, corporatist, perspective, and one which would all but insure no regulation of exploiters and polluters.  A better approach is to take into consideration the cumulative economic impact of regulations and the social returns we can make on our national investments.

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Filed under ecology, Economy

The South Shall Lose Again: The SCV in Nevada

SVC logo In contrast to other states of the Union, Nevada provided few soldiers to the American Civil War; most of the residents of the silver and gold producing areas were busy with Paiute “depredations” and were clamoring for Federal assistance with troops to contain the violence, and screeching the mining towns needed Henry Rifles to defend themselves.  That hasn’t prevented the establishment of two chapters of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in this state.

The “Silver State Grays” are located in Las Vegas, NV and the “Lt. Dixon-CSS Hunley” group is located in Sparks, NV. [SCV]  As the Hunley chapter prepares to ‘celebrate’ the sesquicentennial of the South’s fight for independence (and the pleasure of owning other human beings) they’ll be meeting in a Sparks truck stop on September 20th.  Their web page lists officers: Lee Cross, Mike Tocci, Gerry Dunlap, and ‘historian’ Ernie Zebal.

A scan of their newsletter contents shows some interesting bits of ‘history’ indeed.  For example, there’s a notation that the SCV (Sparks) made a $450 donation on or about June 30, 2014 to the Southern Legal Resource Center, “which is the only law firm in the United States dedicated to preserving Southern Rights and Southern Heritage.”

And at this point we come to the South Carolina connection.  The SLRC was founded by four lawyers in 1995 (Carl A. Barrington (deceased), Kirk David Lyons, Larry Norman, and Lourie A. Salley, III). The organization is a South Carolina corporation, based in Black Mountain, North Carolina.  One of their first claims to fame concerned a Confederate flag dispute:

“The SLRC scored early victories in the late 1990’s when in 1996 it successfully defended the “Blacksburg (SC) 7” and in 1999 sued a Greenville, South Carolina, private academy on behalf of Dr. Winston McCuen, a teacher at the school who had been fired for refusing to remove a Confederate flag that was part of a classroom historical display, and for refusing to salute the US in protest.” [SourceWatch]

One of their novel approaches in litigation is the claim that Confederate Southern Americans are due 1st Amendment protections under the interpretation of ‘national origin’ as set forth in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  They aren’t having much luck with this.

“The problem with successful advocacy of this group, as noted by Chief Trial Counsel Lyons is that “Republican judges are adamantly opposed to any extension of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Democratic Judges are hostile to almost all things Confederate.” Lyons believes that Confederate Southern Americans are a viable National Origin group that can break through the legal barrier once they break through the political barrier that belittles and divides them.”  [SourceWatch]

There’s no avoiding the irony that the legal group is seeking “special status” which is usually decried in conservative circles.  However, this does provide evidence of the sense of victimhood among members who see federal, state, and local authorities infringing on their ‘rights,’ such as the right to wear a prom dress created from CSA flag patterned fabric, or wearing CSA symbols in schools, public and private.  That preservation of “Southern Rights and Southern Heritage” seems to devolve into protecting the flag of rebellion and those who like displaying it in public.  The Supreme Court decision in Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, and the controversy surrounding the battle flag in South Carolina, combined with their failure to induce NASCAR into agreeing to ‘fly the flag,’  appears to show  the SCV is not standing on much firm ground.

The SCV cut some of the ground from beneath its own feet during an internal power dispute in the last decade.  The result so far is an organization more racially extremist in its perspective than in previous iterations. [SPLC] Much of the SCV rhetoric is alarming:

From Alistar Anderson (SCV) we find out that the Pledge of Allegiance is to be denounced as enabling  a socialist mentality, and being supportive of a centralized Federal government, including a revision of the “atheist words of the radical French Revolution.”  [Sebesta]

According to Frank Conner, a contributor to SVC publications, the modern civil rights movement is “steadily shredding the traditional white society, first in the South and then the rest of the nation. But the liberals are in a big hurry to replace Christianity with secular humanism and limited government with socialism.” [Sebesta]

There’s a bit of the old Cold Warrior in the adherents to SVC ideology:

“Using the wedge of anti-racism, cultural Marxists orchestrated judicial and legislative changes to society over the course of decades – e.g. Brown v. Board of Education in 1955, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Immigration Reform Act of 1965. … The cultural Marxists relentlessly hammered away at Western cultural norms using the sledge of anti-racism as a battering ram to bring down the walls of traditional Western culture” …

“…And just as the Bolsheviks inflamed the masses to violence against the Russian aristocracy, today’s cultural Marxists harness the massed numbers of a new proletariat – composed of people of color, feminists, homosexuals and other disaffected groups – to secure social acceptance and the numbers sufficient to convey political power.” [Sebesta]

And, then there’s the notion of representative democracy which SCV promoted authors W.D. and J.R. Kennedy find definitely unappealing:

“The liberal concept of one man-one vote, or universal franchise, is so deeply entrenched in the liberal dogma of the Yankee government that very few are willing to challenge its legitimacy. This is especially true in the South. Here we are faced with the danger of being labeled as a society attempting to deny the franchise permanently on the basis of race. Where will anyone find a popular politician who is willing to confront charges of racism and bigotry just to promote an improvement of the quality of the electorate.” [Sebesta]

The current buzz word for this idea is “election integrity?”

The connection between organizations like the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the gun-lobby were made clear in the interview given by state Representative Bill Chumley recently [NYDN] the notion being inferred that perhaps the 87 year old lady who was shot should have been packing heat during Bible Study?  As if the victims were to blame for their own murders? [Grio]  Representative Chumley is a member of the SCV.

“We are focusing on the wrong thing,” Chumley told the reporter. “These people sat in there and waited their turn to be shot. That’s sad, when somebody in there with the means of self-defense could have stopped this, and would have less funerals than we’re having.” [digitalt]

Or perhaps we could say, if a rabid racist hadn’t had easy access to firearms we’d be having fewer funerals?

And so the good old boys of the Dixon/Hunley chapter will meet on a Saturday in a Sparks, NV truck stop – likely in a rather small room – and lament the good old days when being a white man meant you could have perfect ‘freedom,’ to: 

  • Refuse the pledge of allegiance to the liberal Yankee government?
  • Practice the discrimination which made white men the arbiters of social mores before Truman issued that blasted order integrating the Armed Forces?
  • Slather your motor vehicle with CSA decals and decorations without the neighbors looking at you as if you were a freak?
  • Pronounce that anyone supporting equal rights for everyone is a Commie Socialist Marxist Atheist minion of the Yankee government?
  • Lament the decision in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education as an “orchestrated judicial and legislative change” to society?
  • Loudly protest that slavery really really wasn’t the cause of the American Civil War in spite of all evidence to the contrary, and all the twisted logic which makes it seem the whole thing was a grand fight over tariffs and railroad construction?
  • Argue they really should be a “protected minority” in this country?

Have a few drinks fellows, the insanity and inanity will seem far more logical and rational after you reach the appropriate level of intoxication?

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Filed under Nevada politics, Politics, racism