Thursday, November 24, 2022

Something to Know - Thanksgiving Day 2022

On this day, we do as we have done before; give thanks.   To me it was the story of the Indians and the settlers getting together for a dinner in peace, or so it went.   In her story for today, HCR reminds us or acquaints us to the battles of the Civil War, and how we emerged from a dark period in our history by beating back the attacks of the proponents of slavery who were hell bent on tearing down our nation.  The story, for me, hints at the comparison of events between the Civil War and the War of 6 January 2021, and how we feel about it.

Open in app or online

The past week has brought seven mass shootings in the United States. Twenty-two people have been killed and 44 wounded. I'll have more to say later about our epidemic of gun violence, but tonight, on the night before Thanksgiving, when I traditionally post the story of the holiday's history, I simply want to acknowledge the terrible sorrow behind tomorrow's newly empty chairs.

Thanksgiving itself came from a time of violence: the Civil War.

The Pilgrims and the Wampanoags did indeed share a harvest celebration together at Plymouth in fall 1621, but that moment got forgotten almost immediately, overwritten by the long history of the settlers' attacks on their Indigenous neighbors.

In 1841 a book that reprinted the early diaries and letters from the Plymouth colony recovered the story of that three-day celebration in which ninety Indigenous Americans and the English settlers shared fowl and deer. This story of peace and goodwill among men who by the 1840s were more often enemies than not inspired Sarah Josepha Hale, who edited the popular women's magazine Godey's Lady's Book, to think that a national celebration could ease similar tensions building between the slaveholding South and the free North. She lobbied for legislation to establish a day of national thanksgiving.

And then, on April 12, 1861, southern soldiers fired on Fort Sumter, a federal fort in Charleston Harbor, and the meaning of a holiday for giving thanks changed.

Southern leaders wanted to destroy the United States of America and create their own country, based not in the traditional American idea that "all men are created equal," but rather in its opposite: that some men were better than others and had the right to enslave their neighbors. In the 1850s, convinced that society worked best if a few wealthy men ran it, southern leaders had bent the laws of the United States to their benefit, using it to protect enslavement above all.

In 1860, northerners elected Abraham Lincoln to the presidency to stop rich southern enslavers from taking over the government and using it to cement their own wealth and power. As soon as he was elected, southern leaders pulled their states out of the Union to set up their own country. After the firing on Fort Sumter, Lincoln and the fledgling Republican Party set out to end the slaveholders' rebellion.

The early years of the war did not go well for the U.S. By the end of 1862, the armies still held, but people on the home front were losing faith. Leaders recognized the need both to acknowledge the suffering and to keep Americans loyal to the cause. In November and December, seventeen state governors declared state thanksgiving holidays.

New York governor Edwin Morgan's widely reprinted proclamation about the holiday reflected that the previous year "is numbered among the dark periods of history, and its sorrowful records are graven on many hearthstones." But this was nonetheless a time for giving thanks, he wrote, because "the precious blood shed in the cause of our country will hallow and strengthen our love and our reverence for it and its institutions…. Our Government and institutions placed in jeopardy have brought us to a more just appreciation of their value."

The next year Lincoln got ahead of the state proclamations. On July 15 he declared a national day of Thanksgiving, and the relief in his proclamation was almost palpable. After two years of disasters, the Union army was finally winning. Bloody, yes; battered, yes; but winning. At Gettysburg in early July, Union troops had sent Confederates reeling back southward. Then, on July 4, Vicksburg had finally fallen to U. S. Grant's army. The military tide was turning.

President Lincoln set Thursday, August 6, 1863, for the national day of Thanksgiving. On that day, ministers across the country listed the signal victories of the U.S. Army and Navy in the past year and reassured their congregations that it was only a matter of time until the United States government put down the southern rebellion. Their predictions acknowledged the dead and reinforced the idea that their sacrifice had not been in vain.

In October 1863, President Lincoln declared a second national day of Thanksgiving. In the past year, he declared, the nation had been blessed.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, he wrote, Americans had maintained their laws and their institutions and had kept foreign countries from meddling with their nation.

They had paid for the war as they went, refusing to permit the destruction to cripple the economy. Instead, as they funded the war, they had also advanced farming, industry, mining, and shipping. Immigrants had poured into the country to replace men lost on the battlefield, and the economy was booming.

And Lincoln had recently promised that the government would end slavery once and for all. The country, he predicted, "with a large increase of freedom," would survive, stronger and more prosperous than ever. The president invited Americans "in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea, and those who are sojourning in foreign lands" to observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving.

The following year, Lincoln proclaimed another day of Thanksgiving, this time congratulating Americans that God had favored them not only with immigration but also with the emancipation of formerly enslaved people. "Moreover," Lincoln wrote, "He has been pleased to animate and inspire our minds and hearts with fortitude, courage, and resolution sufficient for the great trial of civil war into which we have been brought by our adherence as a nation to the cause of freedom and humanity, and to afford to us reasonable hopes of an ultimate and happy deliverance from all our dangers and afflictions."

In 1861, Americans went to war to keep a cabal from taking control of the government and turning it into an oligarchy. The fight against that rebellion seemed at first to be too much for the nation to survive. But Americans rallied and threw their hearts into the cause on the battlefields even as they continued to work on the home front to create a government that defended democracy and equality before the law.

And they won.

My best to you all for Thanksgiving 2022.

Notes:

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/nov/23/us-gun-violence-mass-shootings-2022-walmart-virginia-colorado



--
****
Juan
"I was thinking about how people seem to read the bible a lot more as they get older, and then it
dawned on me—they're cramming 
for their final exam."- George Carlin

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Something to Know - 23 November

Today, we have the 2nd of two papers from Andy Winnick.  You also have a lesson in our history from HCR.   Family and friends will be arriving today, and will be here through much of the weekend.   We will all enjoy being together for conversation, food, and the fact that we are still around despite the waves of Covid and insurrection.  You should do the same.



A Preliminary Look at the November 2022 Midterm Election

Prepared for a talk at the La Canada Democratic Club 11/20/2022
Andy Winnick  (andy.winnick@gmail.com)
Professor Emeritus of Economics and Statistics and
President, The American Institute for Progressive Democracy

1.  I assume all of you have rather carefully been following the election results in the various media, so I will not discuss the detailed state-by-state results.  Rather I want to focus on some particular trends and patterns.

a. There were 7 states (6 "battleground"  and one, Indiana, solid Red) in which there were elections for key officials, such as Secretaries of State, officials that have significant influence over how elections are conducted, and where MAGA supporters, i.e. Trump Republicans, were running. In all but Indiana, the "election deniers" lost. In Arizona, a rather conservative state, Trump-supported candidates ran for governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state and for the Senate – and all lost.

b. There were 5 states in which the abortion issue was specifically on the ballot, some were more liberal states, some more conservative.  In 2 cases the issue was whether to put the right to an abortion in the state constitution, and in 3 others there were measures to severely limit or prohibit abortion.  In every case, the pro-abortion rights measures won.

c. There were 6 states in which Trump-endorsed candidates ran for the Senate, in 5 of the 6 the Trump person lost.  The only exception was Vance in Ohio, and his Democratic opponent failed to get much of any support from the national Democratic party (which is a whole separate issue).

d. There were 6 Trump-endorsed candidates for state Governor… all lost.

e.  In the House of Representatives races, while some Trump-supported folks running for the house won, 8 lost. Overall, Republicans beat incumbents in only 5 races, while Democrats beat incumbents in 3 races. Looking at the races where there was no incumbent, that is, the seat was open: 32 Republicans won, and 30 Democrats won. So overall, there was no significant switch to the Republican side, and no significant increase in Trump-supported Republican representatives to the House. As usual, most incumbents of either party won re-election.

f. In a study by the news organization POLITICO of what is called "ticket-splitting," wherein individual voters vote for the candidate from one party for Governor, while voting for the candidate from the other party for Senator, it was found that this phenomenon played a crucial role in the defeat of Trump-supported candidates.  Moreover, this occurred in the face of a 30-year trend of the reduced incidence of ticket-splitting, from 25% in 1990, 16.6% in 2014, 10.3% in 2018 and only 7.4% this year. Nevertheless, in state after state, voters who supported a, shall we say, traditional Republican for Governor or for Senator, turned to vote for the Democrat candidate for the other office in an effort to reject a Trump-supported Republican candidate for that other office.

The overall conclusion is not simply that, in defiance of historical patterns, Republicans, as a party, in the 
 first mid-term election of a new                                                President, failed to take control of the Senate and won only a slight majority in the House. But far more significantly, democracy with a small "d" won. The movement toward election denial, toward autocracy and a loss of personal and political freedom was halted, or at least slowed. The American people, as a whole, chose to defend democracy, and for that we can be quite thankful.
Moreover, despite all our fears and the abundance of violent language before the election, there were almost no incidences of political, physical violence at or around election sites.

In addition, despite various efforts at voter suppression in some states, preliminary statistics indicate that the proportion of eligible voters that chose to vote was 47%, just under the 48% in 2018, which was the highest recorded voter turnout for a midterm election since 1978 when this type of statistic was first tracked by the U.S. Census Bureau. And, in 14 states, the turnout was higher than in 2018. On the other hand, compared to voter turnout in many other democratic nations, this is a rather pitiful figure. Nevertheless, for the U.S., this was another sign of a successful effort to defend democracy as a system.

Finally in this regard, compared to the post-election turmoil, legal and otherwise, that was threatened by Trump and his supporters, especially if they failed to win, and from the perspective of only 10 days after the election, things are remarkably quiet. Yet another good sign.

2. We need to wait a bit to see a detailed analysis of how folks voted broken down by age, gender, race/ethnicity, income, education, etc. But a few indications are already visible.  Young voters, under age 30, voted in almost as high a proportion as the record they set in 2018, and they voted even more for Democrats.  
On the other hand, the proportion of the major BIPOC groups supporting Democratic party candidates, while still high, fell across the board compared to the 2018 midterm. Black voters fell 4 to 7 percentage points, while remaining above 80%. Latino voter's support fell by 9 to 10 points but remained at 56% to 60%. Asian voter's support dropped precipitously from 77% in 2018 to 58% in 2022. Indeed, there were some complaints that the Democratic party was paying too much attention to winning back the white working class. (see #3 below) College students seemed to have voted at a record high level for the Democratic party. Preliminary figures indicate that, despite the abortion issue, both male and female voters swung more toward voting for Republicans. In fact, it appears that, compared to the 2018 midterm elections, while male voters swung 10 points toward Republicans, women voters swung 11 points toward them. Nevertheless, in 2022, males voted more Republican (51%) compared to Democratic (47%), while women voted more Democratic (59%) compared to Republican (40%). The so-called gender gap apparently continued, and indeed widened.

3. One more issue needs to be mentioned. For the first time in a long time, there were signs of more Democratic candidates very consciously reaching out to white, working class voters. Two examples, Fetterman in Pennsylvania successfully ran for the Senate, by vigorously campaigning in every county, while wearing very casual clothes (sweatpants and shirts and never a suit and tie), while showing his tattoos and stressing his working-class roots. In contrast, Hillary Clinton did no campaigning at all outside of the two urban centers of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Fetterman beat a Trump-endorsed Republican. On the other coast, Marie Glusenkamp Perez beat a white, male Trump-endorsed candidate in an eastern rural Congressional district in the state of Washington by stressing that she and her husband owned and actively operated an auto repair shop and built their own home, when they could not qualify for a mortgage to buy one.  Her most successful TV advertisement showed her in work-clothes, an overall, sliding out from under a car she was working on.

On the other hand, in Nevada, a split within the Democratic party between its older establishment elements, and its mostly younger, explicitly progressive members, caused the party its only loss of a Governor's race in the country, and almost cost the nation a successful, female Senate seat that kept Democratic control of the U.S. Senate.  Catherine Cortez Masto was running against a Trump-endorsed, white, male candidate -- which, ironically, may have helped lead to her narrow victory,

4. So, the two big takeaways from this election are, in my view, that democracy won, and Trump lost.
But both battles will surely continue for the next two years, as we move toward the 2024 Presidential contest. This is especially true since Trump has already announced his candidacy for the Presidency; the Republicans have gained control of the U.S. House of Representatives, but by only a very narrow margin; and the Democrats have maintained an even more narrow majority in the Senate (50-50 plus the Vice President who can decide ties), though they may gain one more seat in the run-off in Georgia on Dec. 6th.  Combined, this seems a sure recipe for tension, gridlock and many political battles as we move toward 2024. And the danger of physical politically motivated violence certainly remains. But hopefully the demonstrated commitment of the majority of Americans to democracy will endure.

5. There is a need for one significant footnote.  We should not be overly focused on Trump as an individual. Many of the core politicians in the Republican party clearly share his anti-democratic convictions. People like Dos Santos and too many others have shown themselves more than willing to gerrymander congressional districts in order to disenfranchise Black and other voters, quite willing to discriminate against LGBTQ people and their interests, block the right to an abortion, and interfere with young peoples' right to even read full versions of our nation's very mixed record about such things as our history of racism and misogyny. Indeed, it is being argued that Republicans won control of the House of Representatives in this election only as a result of new racist gerrymandering in Florida (Dos Santos)(+4 seats), Tennessee, Ohio, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana (+1 seat each) for a total of 9 Republican seats that would otherwise have seen a majority of Black voters electing Democrats. It appears that Republicans gained more seats by running in new gerrymandered districts than by challenging and beating Democrats. This was not done by Trump. (This is not to deny that Democratic state politicians attempt their own gerrymandering, but in more liberal states there are beginning to be independent, citizen commissions that every ten years, as required by that year's new official Census, draw new Congressional district boundaries.)

These same MAGA-type Republican politicians have also proved themselves quite willing to manipulate the conduct of elections in any manner that they think will support their gaining and keeping access to power.  Moreover, they have already clearly shown their willingness to lie about virtually anything if they perceive the truth as threatening to their quest for power and political control. To be blunt, they are proto-fascists and have no serious commitment to democracy or civil rights, except perhaps to the right to carry arms whenever and wherever they choose.  So the threat to democracy goes far beyond Trump and his specific movement and base, and will continue even if Trump himself is pushed aside. As Benjamin Franklin so famously said, we have a democracy (as flawed as it is), IF we can keep it.  The threat to even our flawed democratic structures is hardly past and clearly will not end when Trump exits the scene. Eternal vigilance is indeed the price of freedom.

--
****
Juan
"I was thinking about how people seem to read the bible a lot more as they get older, and then it
dawned on me—they're cramming 
for their final exam."- George Carlin

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Something to Know - 22 November

 Andy Winnick has provided us with two recently written papers that he would like for you to read.   For those of you who don't know Andy, his status as a retired professor is at the beginning of this first document.   He is a resident of Claremont, and contributes regularly to activities that broaden our understanding of economic and political issues.   What we should know about "Inflation" is the subject for today.   The second document will appear later, and it is his analysis of the recent midterm election.


The (Real) Causes of the Current Inflation

November 2022
Andrew Winnick

Professor Emeritus of Economics and Statistics (Cal State L.A.)
President, The American Institute for Progressive Democracy

There are three distinct possible causes of the current inflation that we need to address, and then we also
need to discuss, as a Fourth Point, a Myth, regarding another often cited possible Cause for Inflation
1. Demand Pull – The argument: Too much money chasing too few goods causes price increases.
This argument is being used to attack government stimulus and relief efforts.
2. Supply Push – The argument: Increases in production or selling costs, including wages, necessarily

cause higher prices.
Current version: Breakdowns in the Supply Chain, especially from abroad, is causing
Inflation, as are the increases in energy and food costs due to Russia's
war in Ukraine. And recently there have been some increases in
nominal wages, but less that the increase in prices, so that real
(inflation adjusted) wages have not risen, but fallen.

3. Corporate Power Over their Markets (lack of competition).

The argument: Control of their markets allows corporations to increase their prices
faster than increases in their cost, and is done in order to generate higher profits.

4. The Phillips Curve: A Myth

The Supposed Tradeoff between Unemployment and Inflation
This is a disproved theory, no longer believed by most economists, but still fervently
believed by many politicians.

1. The Demand Pull Argument
This argument, as currently being expressed, holds that the government's programs to counter the
negative economic effects of the pandemic caused increases in demand that after a year or so caused
inflation. This is largely NOT TRUE. Government relief programs replaced only part of lost income via
money given to businesses to keep workers paid or via higher unemployment payments, and via some
increase in child allowances. Nevertheless, family income fell from 2019 to 2020 by 2.9%, and
continued to decrease through the middle of 2021. Only in the second quarter of 2021 did personal
income finally increase, due in part to temporary increases in government support programs, increases
that ended by the end of 2021. As of early 2022, personal income had still not yet returned to the 2019
level. Moreover, recent increases in wages and in family income have been well below the rate of
inflation and were certainly not enough to cause inflation.


2. The Supply Push Arguments
There has been a focus on three issues:
a. Supply chain interruptions and delays and their related costs: There is some truth here, but the
issue is why it happened and what did it impact.
"Just-in-time" inventory practices and the globalization of many inputs, both parts and raw
materials, and also the globalization of the production of many final goods, have indeed caused
some inflation.
Just-in-Time production: Instead of maintaining reasonable levels of inventories of
input materials, was irresponsible and left no production resilience. Plus corporate
efforts, with the support and cooperation of Clinton, Obama and both Bush
Administrations, caused production of both inputs and final goods to move abroad in
search of higher profits. But this caused lost jobs in the U.S., and only a modest
reduction in prices. But it did cause big increase in profits -- and even this could continue
only so long as the international supply chains worked without interruptions. But the
lack of having domestic inventories of inputs causes chaos, higher costs and lost
business when just-in-time input streams failed to work smoothly due to Trump
induced tariff battles, then were made worse by the covid pandemic, and finally were
disrupted by Russia's war in Ukraine and the various sanctions that followed.
Disruptions largely caused by the pandemic should have been addressed by government
much sooner, but were ignored by the Trump Administration and reacted too slowly to
by the Biden Administration. This has indeed caused some inflation in certain sectors,
but is not an explanation for the broader increase in prices that we are experiencing.
Example: Prices of cargo containers increased from $3000 to more than $20,000 and
then there was a lack of truck drivers w/ trucks to load them onto. Government should
have stepped in much sooner to increase the pass-through of incoming goods when
bottlenecks first became obvious in order to hold down the prices of shipping. Long
term we need a system of high speed, electric powered trains instead of trucks,
but…that's another topic.

b. Trump imposed tariffs and quotas that did interrupt some supply flows and caused some higher
prices. These policies, which have largely been left in place by President Biden, went on to worsen
supply chain problems when the Covid pandemic hit.
b. Russia's war on Ukraine: The interruption in the supplies of grains and other food products and of
oil and natural gas due to Russia's war against Ukraine has indeed impacted the markets for these
goods and led to an increase in their prices.
Net Effect: Supply push factors have caused price increases in some sectors, but are not the major
cause of overall inflation. Indeed, these factors do not even explain the extent of the increased prices
in the particular product areas most impacted by these supply factors.


3. The Corporate Power Over their Markets Argument
If companies merely raised their prices enough to cover their increases in costs, whether of the cost of
wages or of input goods, then their margin of profits as a percentage of costs would stay rather
constant. But that is simply NOT what is happening.
Inflation is the highest in 30 – 40 years ago, but corporate profit margins are higher than at any time in
the last 70 years ago. According to the U.S. Commerce Department, corporate profit margins are now
the highest since December, 1950. Simply put, prices are going up much faster than costs, resulting in
tremendous increases in profits. Indeed, the ability to raise prices is causing some employers to be
willing to deal with a tightening labor market, initially due in no small part to covid, by being willing to
raise wages since they know they can pass them on in even higher prices. One survey by the website
Digital.com reported that "more than half of U.S. companies reported raising prices beyond what was
required to offset rising input costs."
Insider, a web-based magazine, reported as early as Dec 2, 2021 that the:
"gains in U.S. corporate profits over the past year (37%) has vastly outstripped both
inflation (6.2%) and compensation increases (1.2%) leading Morgan Stanley to
recommend a return to a more equitable arrangement."
Insider goes on to state that:
"Even at their peak in the 1990s (which were well below the 1950s), corporate profit
margins were roughly half of what they are today…in part by paying workers a smaller
share (of the value) of what they produce. The Morgan Stanley researchers write that
the widening gap between company profits and worker compensation since the 1990's
is unprecedented and poses a threat to the health of the economy."

Indeed, corporate profits as a percentage of the Gross National Product (GDP) (that is, of the total
dollar value of all goods and services produced in the U.S.), even after taxes, increased dramatically
during the entire period of the pandemic and reached the highest levels in history in 2021, only to be
surpassed in 2022.
To give one example of this, consider the meat industry in the U.S. There are 100s of ranchers raising
cattle, but only a very limited number of what are called "feed lots" to whom the ranchers must sell
their cattle to be fattened on grains before being sold to the corporations who own the
slaughterhouses that process the cattle into the meat that goes to the super markets.
The key point is that there are only four major firms, two owned by non-U.S. corporations, that own all
of the major slaughterhouses that control this business. These firms set the prices that the feed lots
receive, which in turn determines the prices the feed lots can afford to pay the ranchers. The four
corporate slaughterhouse owners have seen their profit margins increase dramatically over the last
year or so, while (1) the prices consumers pay for beef have gone up dramatically, (2) the
slaughterhouse workers and their families have been dying of covid and (3) the ranchers are going
broke.
To his credit, Biden has shown an awareness of this pattern of corporations which control their
markets reaping increasing and record high profit margins and that this is "a" (really "the") major cause


of inflation. In fact, he even mentioned the meat slaughterhouse industry example in a recent State of
the Union speech. Moreover, he had instructed all relevant government agencies to begin to launch
investigations into the extent of corporate control of markets, with the goal being to begin to provide
the information necessary to design and enforce effective anti-trust polices. This would have been the
first such effort in the last four Administrations, two Democratic and two Republican. But there was
immediately a broad-based backlash by the corporate establishment and its thousands of lobbyists and
lawyers to deflect this effort. Their apparent goal was to block all of Biden's anti-trust efforts until
corporations fulfilled their hope for the Republican party to regain control of Congress in the
November 2022 midterm elections, which would become effective in January 2023. They then hope to
regain the Presidency in 2024, with the goal of putting an end to all anti-trust efforts. To date
(November 2022) no new anti-trust actions have come from the Biden Administration. And now the
Republicans have indeed taken control of the House of Representatives, which virtually guarantees
that no new anti-trust laws will come from the Congress that takes office in January 2023.
4. The Phillip's Curve – The Supposed Tradeoff between Unemployment and Inflation
As an aside, it should be noted that for decades economists argued that there was an inverse
relationship between the rate of inflation and the unemployment rate, such that as one increased the
other necessarily decreased. They also held that an unemployment rate of around 5.5 to 6% was a
critical point. Some even argued that it marked a sort of "natural" rate of unemployment and that if
government attempted to reduce the unemployment below about 6%, inflation would go up
significantly from an acceptable rate of about 2% until it become unacceptable. However, as early as
the 1960's many economists rejected that as a false theory.
It should be noted that the rate of unemployment for White workers was and is consistently well
below the national rate, while the rate for Black workers was and is about twice the rate for Whites,
while that for Hispanic workers was and is about 1.5 times the rate for Whites. So, accepting as
"natural," or as necessary to avoid inflation, a national average rate of unemployment of say 6%,
means accepting a rate for Whites of about 4.5%, for Blacks about 9% and for Hispanics about 6.7%.
Moreover, as every economist knows, the official, typically reported unemployment rate seriously, one
can say vastly, under-reports the real pain in the job market. It is one reason why a whole series of
alternative higher rates are calculated by the U.S. Dept. of Labor, but rarely reported in the press.
In the 1970's, we experience double-digit unemployment and double-digit inflation at the same time,
something the Phillips curve model said could not occur. Then, under Trump, we experienced the
official national unemployment rate dropping to 3.5% without incurring any substantial inflation at all.
Clearly the Phillips Curve was and is not useful as a predictive model. Nevertheless, many politicians
and some politically conservative economists still claim that efforts by the government to substantially
reduce unemployment will necessarily lead to accelerating rates of inflation. And on that false basis,
they argue against efforts to reduce unemployment and against efforts to reduce the impact of
unemployment on family incomes -- such as were implemented under both Trump and Biden in
response to the covid-19 pandemic. Now that significant inflation is occurring, these same folks are
quick to argue that it was the government stimulus programs that caused the inflation – something,


that as was argued above, is quite false. And these same folks are quite willing to entertain "the
necessity" (in their view) of causing a dramatic increase in unemployment, even a recession, in order to
reduce inflation back to the 2% level.

5. The Potential Effects of the War by Russia against Ukraine

Finally, the war by Russia against Ukraine has begun causing economic dislocations as mentioned
above. These include economic shortages caused by the imposition of sanctions against Russia as a
nation and against the Russian oligarchs. In particular, these economic effects include the impact of
the cut-off of oil and natural gas especially to European nations, since Russia normally supplies more
than 10% of the oil and more that 40% of the natural gas going to Europe. But also crucial is that
Ukraine, which is the largest nation in Europe after Russia, is usually a major supplier of wheat, other
grains and vegetable oils such as sunflower oil, and also many critical materials such as manganese,
titanium and other critically needed ores. The economic dislocations caused by the Russian War on
Ukraine on the economies of Europe and the world economy are now becoming visible, and there can
be no doubt that a significant impact will be inflation in the prices of many goods. In addition, the
decision by the 27 European Union nations and their 500 million people, and the U.S., to rapidly
increase the production of military goods will itself cause bottlenecks and increases in costs. All of this
happening on top of the inflation that was already underway is likely to make the situation worse,
especially as corporations which control many markets use this situation to increase their prices far
faster than their costs, in an effort to dramatically increase their profit margins. As we are already
beginning to see, these increases in profits are not going to new investments in research and product
development or even to increases in productive capacity, capacity that they feel may not be needed
after the disruptions caused by this war have ended. Instead they are simply going, as has so often
happened in the past, to higher dividends, more stock buy-backs and higher executive salaries.
6. The Possible Imposition of "Windfall Profit" Taxes, and even Price and Wage Controls
What is needed to slow this inflation is the imposition of taxes on so-called "windfall profits" to reduce
the incentives for corporations to increase their prices far faster than their increase in costs. This effort
has begun in many nations in Europe, where such taxes are already been implemented or are being
openly discussed. But in the U.S. there has hardly been a hint of the imposition of such taxes. Now
that the Republican party has taken control of the House, the possibility of imposing such "windfall
profit" taxes is virtually non-existent, as is any discussion of direct price and wage controls.
Conclusion
So what is the conclusion as to why the current inflation in prices is occurring? The disruptions in the
supply chain of inputs and of some final goods, especially in light of the prior shift to a just-in-time
process for inputs to production, has caused some degree of inflation in certain industries. And more
recently the impact of Russia's war in Ukraine is having some effect. But the far more significant cause
of the current inflation is corporations using their power over their markets to raise their prices far
higher than is needed in response to their increased costs – regardless of why those costs have
increased. Indeed, the tremendous increase in corporate profit rates leaves little doubt about what is
the primary cause of the current inflation. Even
--
****
Juan
"I was thinking about how people seem to read the bible a lot more as they get older, and then it
dawned on me—they're cramming 
for their final exam."- George Carlin

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Something to Know 20 November

Harsh winds of agitation and insurrection have crossed upon this land called the United States of America.   We find ourselves living amongst factions who denounce our values and purpose.   What HCR is presenting today is our recognition of those who died on the battlefields of the Civil War to ensure that we do not forget why so many fought and died for something as simple as maintaining dignity, freedom, and happiness for all.   Man's inhumanity to humanity is the source for much of our dysfunctions and cruelty, and we need to be reminded of who we are, and why we continue to preserve our Democracy:

Open in app or online

For three hot days, from July 1 to July 3, 1863, more than 150,000 soldiers from the armies of the United States of America and the Confederate States of America slashed at each other in the hills and through the fields around Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

When the battered armies limped out of town after the brutal battle, they left scattered behind them more than seven thousand corpses in a town with fewer than 2500 inhabitants. With the heat of a summer sun beating down, the townspeople had to get the dead soldiers into the ground as quickly as they possibly could, marking the hasty graves with nothing more than pencil on wooden boards.

A local lawyer, David Wills, who had huddled in his cellar with his family and their neighbors during the battle, called for the creation of a national cemetery in the town, where the bodies of the United States soldiers who had died in the battle could be interred with dignity. Officials agreed, and Wills and an organizing committee planned an elaborate dedication ceremony to be held a few weeks after workers began moving remains into the new national cemetery.

They invited state governors, members of Congress, and cabinet members to attend. To deliver the keynote address, they asked prominent orator Edward Everett, who wanted to do such extensive research into the battle that they had to move the ceremony to November 19, a later date than they had first contemplated.

And, almost as an afterthought, they asked President Abraham Lincoln to make a few appropriate remarks. While they probably thought he would not attend, or that if he came he would simply mouth a few platitudes and sit down, President Lincoln had something different in mind.

On November 19, 1863, about fifteen thousand people gathered in Gettysburg for the dedication ceremony. A program of music and prayers preceded Everett's two-hour oration. Then, after another hymn, Lincoln stood up to speak. Packed in the midst of a sea of frock coats, he began. In his high-pitched voice, speaking slowly, he delivered a two-minute speech that redefined the nation.

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal," Lincoln began.

While the southern enslavers who were making war on the United States had stood firm on the Constitution and said that its protection of property rights—including their enslavement of their Black neighbors— was the heart of the nation, Lincoln tied the country's meaning instead to the Declaration of Independence.

The men who wrote the Declaration considered the "truths" they listed "self-evident": "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

But Lincoln had no such confidence. By his time, the idea that all men were created equal was a "proposition," and Americans of his day were "engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure."

Standing near where so many men had died four months before, Lincoln honored "those who here gave their lives that that nation might live." But he noted that those "brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated" the ground "far above our poor power to add or detract."

Instead, "[i]t is for us the living," Lincoln said, "to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced." He urged the men and women in the audience to "take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion."

In November 1863, after more than two years of deadly fighting, Lincoln rallied Americans not just behind the idea of freedom for Black Americans that he had declared the previous January with the Emancipation Proclamation, but also behind a new concept of America, one that would bring to life the ideas the founders had put in the Declaration but never brought to life: that all men are created equal, and that governments "derive... their just powers from the consent of the governed."

Lincoln urged Americans "to here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Notes:

https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/national_cemeteries/pennsylvania/gettysburg_national_cemetery.html



--
****
Juan
"I was thinking about how people seem to read the bible a lot more as they get older, and then it
dawned on me—they're cramming 
for their final exam."- George Carlin

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Something to Know - 19 November

We are in a period between an election with a bunch of hullabaloo about the next one.   Watching the circular centrifuge of internal dysfunctions by Republicans is like watching coyotes wailing at the moon.   HCR points out that the Biden machine and the democrats are holding and rolling along doing the business of making America Great Again in classic style.   It should go without saying that staying close to the agenda and discipline, the Democrats just need to show what they do best - and that is to tackle those issues that need attention to help out the common citizens.   By comparison, the only thing that Republicans do is - NOTHING- no agenda, nothing.  Trump says he is running again - does that mean anything?   What needs to be done is that Democrats should constantly remind everyone what they are doing all along the way, and to point out that the Republicans do not offer any programs, are not interested in anything but power and guns, and gutting anything that hints of anything "socialism".   


Heather Cox Richardson from Letters from an American heathercoxrichardson@substack.com Unsubscribe

Nov 18, 2022, 9:40 PM (11 hours ago)
to me
Open in app or online

The price of crude oil this morning was $78.47 a barrel, down from $92.61 a barrel on November 4, falling by at least 18% over the past two weeks. This should help to relieve high costs of gas for consumers, although when the price falls to around $70 a barrel, the administration will begin to refill the strategic petroleum reserve, the release of which has helped to bring down gas prices. Diesel prices, though, are going up because of shortages caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine and a shortage of refinery capabilities after a 2019 fire shut down a refinery in Pennsylvania.

Shipping prices are also coming down, getting back to a normal range after crazy heights after the pandemic that fed inflation. The dislocations of the coronavirus pandemic sent shipping costs as much as 547% over the usual range by last January, driving up the prices of consumer goods. The return of more normal costs for transportation should help bring those prices down.

As Americans head out of town for the holidays, President Biden reminded them today that his administration is taking on the hidden "junk fees" on airline tickets and hotel rooms.

In other economic news, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) has already spurred dramatic investment in American manufacturing of battery equipment. Previously, China was dominating that industry, but now America is developing its own battery sector to help the nation move toward electrical vehicles and other climate-friendly technologies. 

Biden pushed for the IRA to combat climate change, provide jobs, and compete with China. By passing the IRA and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Biden administration "has basically seized the bull by the horns," Sanjiv Malhotra, the chief executive of a company building a battery plant in rural West Virginia told Harry Dempsey and Myles McCormick of the Financial Times. Malhotra's new plant will hire out-of-work coal miners.

Meanwhile, the two parties continue to try to organize themselves into new patterns after the midterms. The far-right, pro-gun "Second Amendment Caucus" today hosted Kyle Rittenhouse, the 19-year-old who shot three men, killing two of them, in summer 2020 during a protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and who was later acquitted of homicide. 

Representative Lauren Boebert (R-CO), whose Democratic opponent, Adam Frisch, conceded today rather than force a hand recount of their close election, told Emily Brooks of The Hill: "It was an honor to have Kyle join the Second Amendment Caucus. He is a powerful example of why we must never give an inch on our Second Amendment rights, and his perseverance and love for our country was an inspiration to the caucus." Rittenhouse tweeted a photograph of himself at the Capitol with the caption: "T-minus 5 years until I call this place my office?"

Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is facing opposition from the far-right MAGA Republicans in his quest to be speaker of the House, and welcoming Rittenhouse signals to the base that they will have a strong voice in the new Congress.

New candidates for Democratic leadership in the House are stepping up now that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she is stepping down. Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) today launched a bid to become the Democratic leader. Emphasizing continuity from Pelosi, with whom he is close, Jeffries called for working with Republicans "where possible…to deliver results for the American people," but noted that "the opposing party appears to have no plan to accomplish anything meaningful. If the Republican Conference continues to major in demagoguery and minor in disinformation, their bankruptcy of ideas must be aggressively exposed on an ongoing basis."

Jeffries called for Democrats to "unify around an agenda designed to make life better for everyday Americans from all walks of life," and to center Democratic "communication strategy around the messaging principle that values unite, issues divide. House Democrats are actually the party that defends freedom, promotes economic opportunity and values families by uplifting them. We must make sure that the perception of the Democratic brand matches up with the reality that we do in fact authentically share values that unite the Heartland, Urban America, Rural America, Suburban America and Small Town America." 

Massachusetts Representative Katherine Clark is running for the number two position in the party leadership—the place Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has held since 2003—and California Representative Peter Aguilar is running for the number 3 position. Both Clark and Aguilar are close to Jeffries, and the three are seen as a team. 

The coming Republican control of the House means shifting of the investigation into former president Trump. Trump was subpoenaed on November 14 to testify before the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol but didn't acknowledge the subpoena. The committee said it would "evaluate next steps."

Yesterday, committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said he established a subcommittee about a month ago to look at "all outstanding issues" and to consider criminal and civil referrals to the Department of Justice. The members of the subcommittee are all lawyers: Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA).

Today, days after Trump announced he would seek reelection in 2024, Attorney General Merrick Garland said he had appointed a special counsel to assume control over the investigations of the former president. One is the investigation into Trump's theft of United States documents, including some that were classified at the highest levels, when he left office. The other is Trump's role in the events leading up to the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol in an attempt to steal the 2020 presidential election for Trump.

The Department of Justice has been investigating both of these issues since they came to light, but with Trump now in the political ring for 2024—in part because he hoped an announcement would stop his prosecution—and with Biden likely to announce later, Garland said he thought it was important to demonstrate that the investigations were independent. It is also of note that a special counsel can be removed only for misconduct, insulating the investigations from the new Republican majority in the House. The White House was not given advance notice of Garland's action. 

Garland appointed to the position Jack Smith, a graduate of Harvard Law School who served as a prosecutor for government corruption cases and since 2018 has been a war crimes prosecutor in The Hague. A former colleague said of him: "I have no idea what his political beliefs are because he's completely apolitical. He's committed to doing what is right."

The appointment frustrated those who saw no reason to treat Trump differently than any other U.S. citizen and thought it would significantly slow the investigation; others saw it as a sign the Justice Department would indict the former president. Tonight, referring to the issue of the stolen documents, Trump's attorney general William Barr told CNN, "I personally think they probably have the basis for legitimately indicting [Trump].... They have the case."

Notes

https://www.benzinga.com/general/entertainment/22/11/29787325/biden-the-master-oil-trader-crude-drops-below-80-and-us-government-may-earn-windfall-on-eme

https://www.cnbc.com/2022/11/18/oil-climbs-as-dollar-slips-but-demand-outlook-clouds-market.html

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/diesel-fuel-new-premium-over-gasoline/

https://www.dtnpf.com/agriculture/web/ag/news/article/2022/11/16/shipping-prices-back-normal-just

https://optimoroute.com/why-is-shipping-so-expensive/

https://www.ft.com/content/05e7a6ba-bdde-4c3b-b7d1-657523204021

https://thehill.com/homenews/house/3741099-kyle-rittenhouse-meets-with-house-gop-members/

https://www.cnn.com/2022/11/17/politics/hakeem-jeffries-next-democratic-leader/index.html

https://www.cnn.com/2022/11/18/politics/read-hakeem-jeffries-minority-leader-announcement/index.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2022/11/18/katherine-clark-democratic-leadership/

https://www.axios.com/2022/11/17/congress-house-democrats-minority-leaders-plan

https://www.axios.com/2022/11/17/the-jan-6-committee-has-a-clean-up-crew

https://www.nytimes.com/live/2022/11/18/us/trump-garland-special-counsel

White House press briefing, November 18, 2022, 4:03 pm EST.

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2022/11/special-counsel-appointed-garland-trump.html

https://www.cnn.com/2022/11/18/politics/justice-department-trump-special-counsel/index.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/11/18/special-counsel-garland-trump/



--
****
Juan
"I was thinking about how people seem to read the bible a lot more as they get older, and then it
dawned on me—they're cramming 
for their final exam."- George Carlin