Tuesday, July 27, 2021
Monday, July 26, 2021
If they die, they die.
Stop trying to persuade vaccine-refusers with information, prizes, and pleas.
Be a smarter salesperson. Back off.
Biden wouldn't be "giving up" on his fellow Americans. He would be doing what any competent salesperson knows to do. Notice the cues.
What to do? Sell smarter. Announce publicly that Biden and the CDC understands that one size does not fit all, and that they will now re-focus resources to where they are wanted. Publicly--visibly--close under-used vaccine centers in areas of concentrated vaccine-hesitant Trump voters, and move those resources to areas of Blacks, Hispanics, and groups where low vaccination rates are due to access and information, not political opposition. Step up use of trusted Black leaders to do outreach to Blacks and recruit more youth celebrities to target young people. Make a show increasing resources to places where it will do good, but not wasting them on people who don't want them, i.e. dug-in Trump voters.
I am suggesting Biden lean back in the chair. Empathize. Say openly that Biden understands that hesitant White conservatives trust other sources of news. Say Biden understands that many of them dislike and distrust Anthony Fauci. The GOP won't buy it. Republican officeholders and their media will complain loudly that Biden is no longer begging us! Biden wants Trump voters to die! Why look, he is ceding responsibility to Trump and Fox News to persuade people.
Sunday, July 25, 2021
"We've lost the right understanding of, and appreciation for, populism."
The opening words of the Constitution assert that the country is created by the people. Populism makes the assertion that the country should be governed by and for the people.
Herb Rothschild's Guest Post reminds readers what "populism" really means. Educated at Yale and Harvard, Herb Rothschild returned to his home state of Louisiana to join the English Department at LSU and get into the Civil Rights Movement. He promoted civil rights and civil liberties in Louisiana. He worked in the Peace Movement in both Louisiana and Texas. After moving to Southern Oregon in 2009, he ran Peace House in Ashland, and for many years wrote a weekly column for the Ashland newspaper.
Guest Post by Herb Rothschild
Because our political commentariat, Up Close not excepted, has come to identify populism with Donald Trump, too many of us associate populism with racism, xenophobia, flag-waving, and a contempt for democratic values. Thus, we’ve lost the right understanding of, and appreciation for, populism. This guest column is my effort at redress.
When the admirable Tom Harkin of Iowa came to the U.S. Senate in 1985, he helped found the Populist Caucus. Harkin said that populism is based on the conviction that “freedom and democratic institutions rest on the widest possible dissemination of wealth and power—and we’ve come to the point where too few people have too much and the rest of us have too little.” That same year, in his address to the National Press Club in D.C., Jim Hightower, then Texas Secretary of Agriculture, affirmed Harkin’s characterization. He said that populism “is rooted in that realization that too few people control all the money and power, leaving very little for the rest of us. And they use that money and power to gain more for themselves. Populism is propelled politically by the simmering desire of the mass of people to upend that arrangement.”
It wasn’t Trump’s racism, xenophobia and fascist temperament that disqualified him as a populist. Both in the U.S. and abroad, some genuine populist leaders have embodied and extolled such dreadful values. What disqualified Trump was that, in office, he served the concentrated wealth and power he had bamboozled people into believing he would challenge. His 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act and his rollback of corporate regulations gladdened the hearts of the oligarchs. It is because he used his power to do just the opposite of what a true populist would do that the Republican establishment permitted—and still permits—the party to be the Party of Trump.
The behavior in office of Huey P. Long, one of the few great people to come from my home state of Louisiana, exemplified a genuine populism. Long was governor of Louisiana from 1929 through 1932, then U.S. senator until his assassination in 1935. As senator, he continued to run the state, over which he achieved total political control. No one before or since did for the people of Louisiana what Long did. His achievements were astonishing.
In 1928, Louisiana had roughly 300 miles of paved roads, which meant poor farmers often couldn’t get their crops to market. By 1935 it had 9,700 miles of paved roads, this during the Depression. Before Long, the parishes (counties) maintained the few public schools there were, and nothing was free. He made sure the state provided free schooling, busing, and textbooks to every child. He made college almost free and required only an in-state high school diploma for admission; enrollments tripled. Among Long’s public works projects was the charity hospital system, at which medical care was free. He abolished the poll tax, reduced utility rates, and exempted from taxes the first $2000 of a home’s value. He created the Debt Moratorium Act, which stopped foreclosures and gave families a grace period to pay mortgages and settle debts. If space permitted, I could extend this list.
Long wasn’t a racist; his programs helped blacks and whites alike. He was, however, contemptuous of civil liberties and resented any opposition to his authority. In organizing nationally in pursuit of the Presidency, he formed a close relationship with Gerald L.K. Smith, an increasingly notorious racist, anti-Semite and pro-Nazi sympathizer. What explains these behaviors is Long’s belief that he, and only he, could fix the nation. In that regard, he resembled many populists of both the Left and the Right.
As long as wealth remains so concentrated in the U.S., populist politics will appeal to voters. The 2016 Presidential campaign testified to this truth not only by the success of the pseudo-populist Trump, but also by the remarkable showing of the real-populist Bernie Sanders despite his lack of name recognition by Southern black voters and Hillary’s early lock on the Super-delegates. The Trump and Sanders candidacies aroused levels of enthusiasm that no others approached.
It’s fortunate that Biden has pursued in office policies far more committed to economic justice than did the Clintons and Obama, the last of whom recently admitted that he misjudged how ready Americans were for progressive politics. If Biden and Congressional Democrats can surmount the obstacles Senate Republicans are erecting to the pursuit of a more equitable polity, the Democrats can once again be a perennially majority party.
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Saturday, July 24, 2021
"As long as the music is playing, you've got to get up and dance. We're still dancing."
The dancing destroyed Citibank, and with it my retirement savings. I remember that.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average hit a new high yesterday: 35,000.
Today's blog post is less a market prediction of future market turmoil and collapse than it is a reflection on the mindset that can come from memory and experience. I am less bold now than I observe young people to be. I see red flag warnings everywhere.
I may have over-learned past lessons. Home prices seem crazy high to me, priced way beyond what the incomes of purchasers can support. If people need to sell an overpriced house to buy an overpriced house, then experience shows me that before long, prices will adjust down. People buy houses with leverage, a few percent of the price paid as a down-payment, the rest borrowed. When trouble hits many owners owe more than their houses are worth. Banks get the houses back, and they dispose of them quickly. That cascades into more selling pressure and lower prices. High home prices are red flags to me.
There is more. People are paying high prices for one-of-a-kind images, identical to others available for free, and treating them as investments. I remember the beanie baby boom and bust. Day traders are buying and selling "meme stocks," including companies in bankruptcy. I remember 1998 and 1999, when people with good careers quit them to day-trade. Investors are putting money into blind pools priced at far more than the dollars invested. I remember go-go mutual funds. Academic economists and central bankers promote MMT--Modern Monetary Theory--now confident that money can be created without limit to buy bonds issued by the government to finance deficits. I see the public employee pension crisis. Eventually people want the government to pay people what they are owed. Red flags.But I have been wrong in being so cautious, or at least early to think we are facing a coming crisis. We are progressing merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily down the stream, and there has been no waterfall surprise to end the joy-ride. The investment world is full of short, memorable sayings, one of which is "Would you rather be right, or would you rather be rich." The meaning is simple: An investor who is sure that he understands what is right--what ought to happen--may stick to a position while the world passes him by.
Republican and conservative media messaging on Joe Biden repeatedly points to his presumed mental incapacities. He is a doddering fool, they say, barely able to express himself, confused, and senile. It is an unfair, exaggerated view, but it has traction because he looks frail compared to many other people his age. The truth may not be dementia, but it may be the incapacity and timidness than comes from knowing too much history--from having lessons of experience burned deeply into one's memory. Humans can over-learn things. When Citibank collapsed, and with it much of my retirement savings, I absorbed a hard lesson about the fragility of markets. I see red flag warnings everywhere now. Maybe I should see them as progress, or at least new realities. Sometimes the world reverts; sometimes the world changes.Joe Biden is old school. He believes in NATO, perhaps too well. He believes in trade unions, perhaps too well. He believes in trains as the transportation vehicle of the future, perhaps too well. He believes that Republicans will "come around" and embrace bipartisanship like the old days, perhaps too well.
It would be possible for Biden to mis-understand his mandate and the times. Voters wanted a restoration of comity in our political discourse, but not a restoration of the 20th Century. Biden has not yet sent clear signals of openness to fresh thoughts. Democrats want new deals and frontiers. He needs to show he is open to new realities. He may not be the person to do it.
Friday, July 23, 2021
You are what you eat.
I try to keep a civil, fair-minded tone in this blog. I try to be careful about what I read.
I don't want to create junk commentary.
Thursday, July 22, 2021
Is he trying to look like a jerk? Or doesn't he care?
I ask these as serious questions.
Jeff Bezos wore a cowboy hat and cowboy boots into space.
A candle as it diminishes explains,Gathering more and more is not the way,Burn, and become light and heat and help. Melt.
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Delta means change.
Events are changing ideas and behavior on vaccinations.
Political comment has focused on a shift in the message coming from the political right. The Republicans message had been that the vaccine was useless or risky, and not worth the risk--especially since Democrats were encouraging people get vaccinated. Events intervened to change the story. The delta variant, combined with realization that COVID hospitalizations and deaths were concentrated among the un-vaccinated in red parts of red states, made vaccine opposition seem foolish and self-destructive.
Guest Post by Michael Shear, M.D.
I finally capitulated and got my first (Pfizer) vaccination last week. Harvard now requires it of all students and employees (I continue to work part-time at the Harvard University Health Services). I’m not happy about that. I don’t think an injection of a biologic agent that still only has an Emergency Use Authorization should be mandatory. The other reason I’ve capitulated is because the writing is on the wall: if you want to travel internationally any time in the near future, you’ll have to be vaccinated. But I’ll still be careful where I go and what I do, and have a low threshold for wearing a mask.Of course I would be amazed if it doesn’t eventually get formal FDA approval, because the situation is so politicized that it would be unthinkable for it not to be approved. But as far as I’m concerned, we’re playing with fire.
I don’t have time to go into details (and the details are important). I would only say that the “science” is much more complicated than the public discussion would have you imagine.
If I felt at great risk of dying from COVID I would get vaccinated. As for the personal risks of COVID, I feel reasonably protected by my own behavior. The incremental benefit to me personally of vaccination I think will be small. Otherwise, I would wait. Either way, I would avoid high risk situations (prolonged exposure in small crowded spaces with strangers or anyone likely to be sick with a respiratory illness).
We aren’t going to vaccinate our way out of this. We will never attain herd immunity. It’s not possible with a highly contagious moving target, especially when you can’t get buy-in from nearly everyone (and why should you expect to when the vaccine technology has not been sufficiently vetted?). Science is undermining its own credibility with its careless messaging.
I am not an anti-vaxxer. But I know what good science is, and what isn’t. Most medical science isn’t. There is too much money and wishful thinking involved. We could do the studies that would give us the information we need, but they aren’t being done because people are impatient and most stakeholders don’t really want to know.
We still don’t really know how well vaccination prevents spread, so it’s hard to tell younger people that they have to get vaccinated, especially since they may incur a disproportion of the adverse effects (like the young women with cerebral vein thrombosis). If you come across studies that address explicitly the prevention of spread, please let me know. I just saw a preliminary report (from Qatar) in last week’s JAMA--the Journal of the American Medical Association--that suggested vaccination might be helpful, but we need more clean data without spin.
COVID could mysteriously disappear. I think it’s more likely that it will be with us for a long time, like influenza. We haven’t had much impact on influenza by vaccination. We’ve just learned to accept tens of thousands of annual deaths in the US as “normal”. We could adjust our cultural behavior to ameliorate that, but we haven’t, and from all indications, we probably won’t. I suspect it will be much the same with COVID.
The delta variant is raising many questions. And we here in HUHS are seeing more cases of COVID in vaccinated patients, though the University is keeping as quiet about it as possible and not letting us test for variants. There was an outbreak last week in Provincetown. Also an outbreak on the Yankees, all vaccinated.