Monday, August 29, 2016

The Kaepernick Kerfuffle

Yes, I confess, I had to check the spelling of his name!

And the other word – if you don’t know it, look it up, it’s a good word.

Colin Kaepernick is an NFL quarterback – for the San Francisco 49ers (for those who know what he does but not whom he does it for).  He has drawn attention to himself lately, by not standing for the singing of the National Anthem at a pre-season game against the Green Bay Packers.  And it seems that everyone is weighing in with his 2¢ worth.

So, here is my 2¢ worth.

Did he break a law?


Should his action have been against the law?

No, as he was exercising his right of free speech (yes, some actions are considered “speech”), a right that we hold very dearly in this land.  There are few things more precious to Americans than those rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

American Exceptionalism, Revisited

I have written that, while we are an exceptional country in many ways, it is boorish if not wrong-headed to go around crying “we’re no 1!”  I have also written in the same place that there is no other place in the world where I had rather been born.  We are special!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Be Fruitful and Multiply

The Holy Bible, in the King James version, quotes the Lord God as saying “be fruitful and multiply” seven times (always in Genesis).  He speaks to the animals (Genesis 1:22), to the first male and female human beings even before they are named (Genesis 1:28), to Noah about animals (Genesis 8:17), to Noah and his sons (Genesis 9:1 & 9:7), to Abraham about Ishmael (Genesis 17:20), and finally to Jacob (Genesis 35:11).  God urges His line to “be fruitful and multiply;” but He is done urging it even before Moses rescues the children of Israel from Egypt.  Maybe He meant it as an eternal commandment (for everyone, for Jews), and maybe He didn’t.

Jonathan Swift believes that the poor, at least, should be fruitful and multiply.  In his “A Modest Proposal,” he advises the poor that their children can help them climb out of poverty – by selling them to the highest bidder, as servants or as meat (sic!).  But of course this is Swift at his bitterest and most satiric; he doesn’t really mean it.

Finally, in order to have a successful national retirement system, where able-bodied men and women all contribute a part of their wages into the retirement system for the elderly, the greater the number of young people there are, the easier it will be to help the large number of elderly to live with some dignity.  So, for the sake of Social Security, they should “be fruitful and multiply.”

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Democracy Movement

The Democracy Movement is a war over democracy in America, whether we shall have it.

The Democracy Spring event in Washington, DC in the spring of 2016 was not the opening salvo of the Democracy Movement, it was merely a sign of where we are today.

The Democracy Movement began in earnest as a response to the infamous Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010, a decision that declared, not for the first time but in no uncertain terms, that corporations were natural persons under the Constitution and therefore entitled to Constitutional rights and protections, and that money in unlimited amounts was protected speech.  As this decision undermined what we all were brought up to believe – that we are a democracy, that We the People rule, and that we are all created equal under the law – a movement broke forth to correct this insult to our collective identity.  And for lack of a better name, this is The Democracy Movement.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Some Observations about American Economic Growth

They say that the first million dollars is the hardest.  Each successive million dollars of gross revenues is easier than the previous million dollars; growing from $1 million to $2 million is easier than earning the first $1 million, and growing from $10 million to $11 million is easier still than growing from $1 million to $2 million (all examples of simple $ growth).  The reason is easy to understand: whatever it is you’re doing, doing it again is easier; practice makes perfect (and after a while it is just more marketing).  On the other hand, it is easier to grow your business by 10% while your business is still young.  For example, growing from $10 million to $11 million is easier than growing from $100 million to $110 million is easier than growing from $10 billion to $11 billion (all cases of 10% growth).  The same is true of stock prices.  Adding $1 to a stock price of $10 is harder than adding $1 to a stock price of $100 (simple $ growth).  But growing the stock price by 10% from $1.00 to $1.10 is easier than growing it 10% from $100 to $110.00 (%age growth).  All “mature” corporations had their most explosive %age rates of growth (gross revenues or price of a share of stock) while they were young.  And what is true about the rate of a corporation's growth and the increase in the value of a share of stock is equally true of a nation’s economy – its GDP – which is pretty much the aggregate of millions of companies big and small; it is easier for a GDP to grow from $1 trillion to $1.1 trillion than it is to grow from $10 trillion to $11 trillion (10% growth).  All “mature” economies had their most explosive rates of growth while they were young; mature economies do not grow as fast as youthful economies.  China, with its 7% rate of economic growth, is not a “dynamic” economy, it is a young economy; the U.S., with its 1% to 2% rate of economic growth, is not a “static” economy, it is a mature economy.  And it is “stuck” with the fact that a mature economy does not grow as fast as a young economy.  Changing the party of the occupant of the White House will not change that.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Messing with the Right to Vote

OK, I can hear some of you already: “That Ben Paine, he is totally off his rocker; his idea is bad enough, but publishing it is a sure sign of really losing it!”
OK, what’s it all about?
Democracy!  And who has the right to vote.
You have heard me say that a democracy is the ONLY way to go; any other form of government – oligarchy (rule by a few) or monarchy (rule by one) – is a form of tyranny, because no matter how benevolent they may be, they are NOT self-rule, they are NOT We the People ruling ourselves.  And you have heard me say that everyone should exercise his right to vote, it is his civic duty, it is the least he can do!  But I’d like to impose some conditions on a citizen’s right to vote.  Just to make things interesting.
Democracy has flaws, fatal flaws.  Pretend: a 20km (12½ miles across, more than 3 times the area of Manhattan island) asteroid – a killer asteroid – is on a collision course headed for Earth.  It is a month away but astro-physicists all agree that its probability of hitting the Earth is just about 100%.  Word gets out and people panic, not everyone but many.  "We had better do something, and fast!"  But some folks just don’t believe the scientists, they suspect foul play, some kind of ulterior motive on the part of the scientists.  And they are persuasive, to some, to many.  “God would not do this to us” or “I can’t see it with my telescope” or “it will hit the ocean and cause a few tidal waves, no big thing.”  Putting aside the fact that our democracy is a representative democracy, and our representatives might pay attention to the scientists and get to work on a solution, a real (direct) democracy might paralyze our decision-making.  At this point, I would ask you: is a real democracy prepared for this kind of event?  Do we really want to have the people vote on the expertise of the experts?  Now obviously, our democracy doesn’t fight its wars by plebiscites, or initiatives or referenda; we have a chain of command with a commander-in-chief in charge and generals on the field.  But some wars take time – like the battles over Climate Change – and how the people think and feel is taken into consideration by politicians.  Every day that goes by is another day wasted, another day closer to “it’s too late, we are doomed.”  That is what happens in a democracy when you have a long-term problem and short-term thinking: infinite delay until time runs out.