Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Democratic Capitalism

It is in America's political heritage that the word socialism is considered dirty. For a country that defeated the Soviet Union, it might be partly pride. 

There are more than 3,000 kinds of apples on the planet. I have a feeling socialism might be similarly varied. Countries in northern Europe practice a brand that I quite like. 

But the American political and economic systems have serious problems that I think can be better addressed by using the term Democratic Capitalism. If America is a democracy it is unraveling fast. One of the two parties is party to organized attacks on basic voting rights nationwide. Even before that the system was hardly democratic. My definition of democracy is one person, one vote. 

Campaign finance reform has to happen. Public funding of elections has to be considered. 

People should vote for the president directly. You get enough presidents who lost the popular vote and the person starts illegitimate on day one in office. The electoral college needs to be abolished. Every vote ought to count. 

Abolishing the filibuster would be a joke since, already, it is like 10% of the country rules over the other 90%, such is the structure of the US Senate. But, yes, the filibuster has to be abolished. It is a Jim Crow relic, except Donald Trump outdid Jim Crow. 

The Senate has to be restructured. The US needs to become a union of 100 states, one Senator each at the minimum, with the more populous states having more. 

Gerrymandering has to be outlawed. Democracy is people electing politicians, not the other way round. States may still carve out the districts, but they must obey federally passed guidelines as to how they may do so. Redistricting is not that different from voting rights. There are federal voting rights laws. 

The fundamental primary in America is fundamentally rigged. It is said a few tens of thousands of people in the country decide who the two major candidates will be in each election at every level through the money primary. Before China gobbled up Hong Kong, Beijing was offering something similar to the massive movement in the city. You say you want direct elections. You can have it. As long as we decide who the two candidates will be. That was a sham offer. But that is what the money primary in America is. 

No taxation without representation. Legalize everybody who is in America. 

Allow voting on mobile phones. Take voting to 90% or more. 

The US Supreme Court needs two more judges. 

Capitalism has three components: human capital, physical capital, and financial capital. Human capital is the most important of the three. But America does not act like it. No wonder it is losing its edge. In this knowledge economy, ignoring investments in human capital is hardly a choice. Education offerings need to be delinked from property taxes. 

Capitalism is free markets. The American economy is not a free-market economy. Pretty much all sectors have minor and major pockets of monopolies. Tech is basically four or five companies. Freedom has to be introduced into the markets so there is fair competition. Without that there will not be the needed innovation. 

Capitalism is secure property rights. The data collected around an individual is the property of that individual. That fact needs to be established nationally and globally and, in the 5G era and the era of tens of thousands of satellites beaming down the internet, that just might pay for a Universal Basic Income. Every individual sits on an oil well when data is oil. But companies steal that data. There can be an arrangement that up to a billion-dollar valuation, companies may monetize and need not pay, but beyond that it is 70% to the individual and 30% to the company. 



Thursday, July 22, 2021

The Delta Variant

In The News: July 22

Why People Are So Awful Online Online is where I found a community beyond my graduate school peers. I followed and met other emerging writers, many of whom remain my truest friends. ....... and partake in the collective effervescence of watching awards shows with thousands of strangers. .......... online engagement is fueled by the hopelessness many people feel when we consider the state of the world and the challenges we deal with in our day-to-day lives ........ Online spaces offer the hopeful fiction of a tangible cause and effect — an injustice answered by an immediate consequence. On Twitter, we can wield a small measure of power, avenge wrongs, punish villains, exalt the pure of heart. .......... we have lost all sense of proportion and scale. We hold in equal contempt a war criminal and a fiction writer who too transparently borrows details from someone else’s life. It’s hard to calibrate how we engage or argue. ........... In real life, we are fearful Davids staring down seemingly omnipotent Goliaths: a Supreme Court poised to undermine abortion and civil rights; a patch of sea on fire from a gas leak; an incoherent but surprisingly effective attack on teaching children America’s real history; the dismantling of the Voting Rights Act; a man whom dozens of women have accused of sexual assault walking free on a technicality.

At least online, we can tell ourselves that the power imbalances between us flatten. Suddenly, we are all Goliaths in the Valley of Elah.

.............. My online following came slowly, and then all at once......... Then I wrote a couple of books, and blinked, and suddenly hundreds of thousands of people were seeing my tweets. ......... there are those who harass me for all kinds of reasons — some aspect of my identity or my work or my presence in the world troubles their emotional waters. .......... After being on the receiving end of enough aggression, everything starts to feel like an attack. Your skin thins until you have no defenses left. .......... It becomes harder and harder to distinguish good-faith criticism from pettiness or cruelty. It becomes harder to disinvest from pointless arguments that have nothing at all to do with you. An experience that was once charming and fun becomes stressful and largely unpleasant. .........

We have all become hammers in search of nails.

.......... There is another category entirely of racists, homophobes, transphobes, xenophobes and other bigots who target the subjects of their ire relentlessly and are largely unchecked by the platforms enabling them. And then, of course, there are the straight-up trolls, gleefully wreaking havoc. ............ Lately, I’ve been thinking that what drives so much of the anger and antagonism online is our helplessness offline. Online we want to be good, to do good, but despite these lofty moral aspirations, there is little generosity or patience, let alone human kindness. There is a desperate yearning for emotional safety. There is a desperate hope that if we all become perfect enough and demand the same perfection from others, there will be no more harm or suffering. ................

Some days, as I am reading the news, I feel as if I am drowning.

......... I have a wife, a busy career, aging parents and a large family. I have more physical mobility and, in turn, more interest in being active and out in the world. I now spend most of my time with people who are not Very Online.








The Legacy of Toni Morrison There is a blossoming of black women writers who are following in her footsteps and making their own impact. ....... She said she appreciated her ability to “say more and write less,” and her “desire to give the reader space.” ......... Everything I am and ever will be as a black woman who writes begins with the work of Toni Morrison. .......... When I read each of Ms. Morrison’s novels for the first time, I saw far more than a reflection of what it means to live in a black woman’s body. I saw majesty and infinite possibility. I saw a writer wielding her craft masterfully, being bold and audacious, avoiding the facile choices despite the risks in doing so. ......... “I can accept the labels because being a black woman writer is not a shallow place but a rich place to write from. It doesn’t limit my imagination; it expands it. It’s richer than being a white male writer because I know more and I’ve experienced more.” ..........

Ms. Morrison taught me and an entire generation of black writers to recognize that we are rich places to write from. She showed us that we must matter first to ourselves if we hope to matter to anyone else. She demonstrated that there is no shame in writing that is both work and a necessary political act.

.......... She was of us and wrote for us nuanced, complicated, authentic and honest representations of our culture, our lives, our triumphs, our sufferings, our failures. She demonstrated the importance of raising our voices and challenging power structures that harm vulnerable peoples. ......... She wrote impeccable sentences. She imparted wisdom in ways that seemed effortless. She commanded attention and demanded respect. She told incredible, passionate, resonant stories. .............

the very real life she lived, how hard she worked and how often she had to break through glass ceilings so that others could follow.

.......

how Morrison wrote her debut novel, “The Bluest Eye,” in stolen moments, while working full-time as an editor and raising her two sons as a single mother.

.......... she actively put in the work of being a writer, even in circumstances that would have stifled lesser people




A 5-year-old with COVID-19 died in an extremely rare case in Georgia Wyatt Gibson, who died Friday, had no underlying conditions before he got get sick ...... He had been diagnosed with COVID-19 as well as strep throat and a staph infection ....... Six percent of COVID-19 cases in Georgia have been reported in children under 11, and just five children have died with the virus ....... Wyatt had "barely had more than the sniffle" before getting COVID-19........ "No appetite, a little vomiting, a bit lethargic," Mitchell said. "He'd barely had more than the sniffle or two as prior illnesses go. Then the white tongue. Alarmed, he was hustled off to the local hospital." ...... Wyatt's father and baby sister have also tested positive for COVID-19 ....... Several US states have reported a slight rise in hospitalizations of children with COVID-19, highlighting the importance of adults getting vaccinated to protect them .........

"the most important thing to realize is that while children may be at low risk, they are not at no risk."





‘I’m sorry, but it’s too late’: Alabama doctor talks about treating unvaccinated COVID patients, says they ‘beg’ for vaccine The state, like the rest of the US, is seeing a surge in cases and hospitalizations due to rise of the more contagious Delta variant, which is attacking more aggressively in younger age groups compared to previous virus strains. ........ State officials in Alabama reported that 94 percent COVID hospital patients that have died from the virus since April were unvaccinated. ........ Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have proven effective in preventing against the Delta variant, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has proven less effective ...... “What we saw in December 2020, and January 2021, that was the absolute peak, the height of the pandemic, where I was signing 10 death certificates a day,” she said. “Now, it’s certainly not like that, but it’s very reminiscent of probably October, November of 2020, where we know there’s a lot of big things coming up.” .......... Cobia worries the upcoming school year will bring about a similar surge. ...... “All these kids are about to go back to school. No mask mandates are in place at all, 70% of Alabama is unvaccinated. Of course, no kids are vaccinated for the most part because they can’t be,” Cobia said. “So it feels like impending doom, basically.” ...... “And the one question that I always ask them is, did you make an appointment with your primary care doctor and ask them for their opinion on whether or not you should receive the vaccine? And so far, nobody has answered yes to that question.”



Why NYC is still No. 1

Brazil's scandal-plagued President may face a reckoning as lawmakers consider impeachment The President said he's now feeling "100% well" after his recent health scare, a consequence he says of a failed assassination attempt in 2018 ........ 54% of Brazilians support a proposed move by lawmakers to open impeachment proceedings against Bolsonaro. The July poll also found 51% of Brazilians considered the Bolsonaro presidency "bad" or "awful." ....... Bolsonaro has been at the center of the storm, having downplayed the gravity of the virus from the beginning. This week, the President criticized governors for taking restrictive measures to contain the spread......... "Many governors have closed everything. They have destroyed jobs, especially informal ones. We have around 38 million people in Brazil who live from day to day, who work in the morning to eat at night," he said. "They have lost everything. If there wasn't emergency aid by the federal government, these people would be condemned to starvation." .....

"Trump of the tropics"

........ "They want to accuse me of genocide. Now, tell me in what country people have not died? This CPI has no credibility," Bolsonaro said. The President added he is "sorry about the dead, but people who were healthy had little chance of dying." ......... a "difficult scenario" for Bolsonaro in the run-up to the October 2022 presidential election, with Datafolha polling showing him trailing likely rival and former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. ....... Da Silva has hinted at a presidential run in 2022 after his convictions for corruption and money laundering were annulled in March, effectively restoring his right to run for office. .............. Bolsonaro's eldest son, Sen. Flávio Bolsonaro, tweeted about his father's recent hospital stay, "President @jairbolsonaro evolved for the better, he woke up in a good mood and, if he continues like this, he won't need to undergo surgery! Thank you all for your prayers! #WhoOrderedTheBolsonaroAssassination." ........... "May God bless us and continue to enlighten our nation. A big hug! -- Brazil above all; God above all!"




In The News (21)

In The News (20)

More than two thirds of India may have Covid antibodies, new survey shows evidence the virus may have spread far more widely than official figures suggest. ........ Our immune systems develop antibodies either induced by vaccination, or in response to infection. The majority of survey participants, 62%, had not received a vaccine ......... "More than half of the children (6 to 17 years old) were sero-positive, and sero-prevalence was similar in rural and urban areas," he said -- but "states, districts and areas without antibodies run the risk of infection waves," meaning about 400 million people will still be vulnerable if a third wave hits. .......... Active immunity, meaning protection against a disease, is often measured by the presence of antibodies -- proteins in the blood, made by the immune system to help fight infections, acquired either through prior infection or vaccination. ........ only 6.35% of India's 1.38 billion population has been fully vaccinated ........ "I would like to emphasize today that at hill stations and in markets, the large crowds who are not wearing masks or following protocols is an issue of great concern," said Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week, after photos emerged of tourists flouting Covid protocols in vacation destination towns. "This is not right." ............... the real toll of cases and deaths are likely much higher than reported, pointing to the discrepancy between official figures and the sero-surveys. .......... So far, India has reported about 31.2 million confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University -- less than 3% of its total population, and drastically lower than the proportion of survey respondents showing antibodies. ..........

the number of excess deaths reported during India's pandemic could be up to ten times the official death toll

........... Between 3.4 and 4.9 million estimated excess deaths were reported in India between January 2020 and June 2021 ..... compared to the Indian health ministry's reported death toll of approximately 400,000. ............. the first wave of the pandemic was "more lethal than is popularly believed," and that their estimates show a higher number of excess deaths reported during the first wave than the second. ........

"True deaths are likely to be in the several millions not hundreds of thousands, making this arguably India's worst human tragedy since partition and independence."





Amateur Astronomer Discovers New Moon Orbiting Jupiter “I’m proud to say that this is the first planetary moon discovered by an amateur astronomer!”

The Expanded Child Tax Credit Is Here. Here's What You Need To Know The expanded child tax credit is only for 2021. A budget deal announced by the Senate Budget Committee on Tuesday would extend it. President Biden has also proposed an extension under his American Families Plan but faces opposition in Congress. Not a single Republican voted for the American Rescue Plan, and some have criticized the expanded child tax credit........ "What I am hopeful for is that the power and the magnitude of what these checks mean for so many Americans is going to force the hand of politicians to make this permanent"



Will ‘the Great Wealth Transfer’ Trigger a Millennial Civil War? As this younger generation ages into its prime voting years — and boomers steadily age out of the electorate — the intergenerational “balance of power” will shift. ........ “such a shift in the balance of power could include a harsher inheritance tax regime, less income protection for pensioners, more property taxes, along with greater income and corporates taxes … and all-round more redistributive policies.” ......... over the next quarter century, roughly 45 million U.S. households will collectively bequeath $68.4 trillion to their heirs. This transfer will constitute the largest redistribution of wealth in human history. Generation X stands to inherit 57 percent of that $68.4 trillion; millennials will collect the bulk of the rest. ......... millennials are “questioning” individuals who value “experience,” while zoomers are “communaholics” who prize “uniqueness” ......... A person born in the late 1980s was raised on distinct media, cultural products, and economic assumptions from someone born in the early 1950s. ..........

Millennials gave Joe Biden about 60 percent of their ballots in 2020, while voters over 45 gave him only 48 percent.

..........

Poor, proto-socialist, tenuously housed — this is the generation that Deutsche Bank fears. It is also the one whose ascent the left eagerly awaits.

............ Our country’s exceptionally cruel brand of capitalism lived on bought-off boomers. It would not survive the rise of a debt-ridden generation with little taste for Fox News. ......... the boomers can’t take their appreciated assets with them, and capital is already trickling down family trees.

By the time AOC turns 50, millennials will be “the richest generation in human history.”

............. more than half of the estates bequeathed over the next three decades will go to low or middle-income households ......... it raises the possibility that intergenerational warfare will give way to intragenerational class conflict. ............ About half of millennials are invested in the stock market. Those with significant savings have seen their wealth multiply over the past three years: the S&P 500 advanced 31.5 percent in 2019, 18.4 percent in 2020, and about 17.8 percent through the first five and a half months of 2021. ............ the racial divide in millennial wealth is singularly gaping. White millennials lag white boomers in wealth accumulation by just 5 percent. Black millennials, meanwhile, own 52 percent less wealth than previous generations of Black Americans had accrued by their age......... Wealthy, white millennials will claim a massively disproportionate share of the impending inheritances and intergenerational gifts. And as familial wealth is transferred, and millennials’ “earned” assets appreciate, the generation’s internal class divisions are liable to become more invidious than those of its predecessors. ............ Advances in automation are expected to increase returns to capital and lower labor’s share of income. ................. Climate change also threatens to bring routine water shortages to many parts of the country, thereby periodically condemning ordinary millennials to a nigh-preindustrial living standard ......... Of course, it is possible that policy changes will avert our descent into a neo-feudal dystopia. ........ a manufactured housing shortage: There are 3.8 million more willing buyers than available homes in the U.S. today. .........

a house bought in 2021 won’t be a sound store of wealth unless U.S. home prices remain exorbitant in perpetuity

........... zoning restrictions that have kept housing artificially scarce ....... some other “angry millennial” renters have organized campaigns to eliminate exclusionary zoning and promote housing abundance. ............... it is also plausible that the twilight of the boomers will bring a new dawn for class politics, as the hegemony of social liberalism among the millennial generation lowers the salience of cultural issues, while the ever-compounding wealth gap forces questions of capital ownership back onto the American political agenda, for the first time in more than a century.




In Nearly All Other Democracies, This Is Not Normal the Constitution’s requirement that House members serve for only two-year terms. ....... The two-year House term has profound consequences for how effectively American government can perform — and too many of them are negative. A longer, four-year term would facilitate Congress’s ability to once again effectively address major issues that Americans care most about. ......... In nearly all other democracies, parliaments are in power for four to five years. ......... in most democracies, candidates do not have to fund-raise all the time to run; governments typically provide public financing to the political parties.

The two-year term, combined with primary elections and the constant need to raise funds individually, generates exceptional turbulence and short-term focus in our politics.

.......... The Federalist Papers then had to devote a good deal of energy fending off the demand for annual elections. .......... If you think American politics is not chaotic enough, imagine if the Constitution had adopted annual House elections.




America Needs to Break Up Its Biggest States From its beginning, the United States was built to expand. Article IV, Section 3 of the Constitution grants Congress the power to create states. Starting with the Vermont Republic in 1791, as America grew, the country’s roster of states expanded as well. ........ But since the addition of Alaska and Hawaii in 1959, America hasn’t increased the number of states, and unless some future president winds up buying Greenland, the United States is unlikely to expand territorially. ........... Since 1960, the country has added over 150 million people through a combination of immigration and natural population increase. Yet we haven’t upped our state count. .......... America needs new states to improve the internal governance of the states and the country. We need new states — and the place to start is to carve them out of the largest states that already exist........... on its own, Los Angeles County would be the 10th-largest state in the union. The four largest states by population now make up roughly one-third of the population of the entire United States — more than the smallest 34 put together. ...........

Those four largest states have only eight senators, while the 34 smallest states have a supermajority of 68.

.............. On issues like environmental regulation and education policy, these behemoths can shape or frustrate national policy by their unilateral actions in ways that smaller states cannot easily dissent from. Their key industries and interest groups, meanwhile, wield disproportionate influence in the national and state capitals. ..............

Kentucky was created out of territory that originally belonged to Virginia, as was Tennessee from North Carolina territory and Maine from the territory of Massachusetts.

.......... creating states from a state that already exists would merely require the state legislature to vote to split up and for Congress to assent. ...........

carving the four megastates into three or more states each

............ If, as part of a larger national reorganization, New York City were to become a city-state — as Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen are in Germany ......... Inasmuch as New York City needs partners to coordinate with, the most important ones are in New Jersey and Connecticut, not in Buffalo and Rochester — so splitting up New York State could give new momentum to proposals for regional governance across state lines. ......... California could even plausibly be broken into as many as five states, if the Bay Area and Los Angeles were hived off to become city-states, which they are certainly populous enough to be. ............. Maine and Missouri were admitted in 1820 and 1821 to preserve the national balance between free and slave states. .......... it could be powerfully symbolic if, for example, members of the Seneca, Oneida, Mohawk and other nations of the old Iroquois Confederacy played a central public role in defining a state covering their old territory. ....... The genius of our federal system is that it provides a framework for a multiplicity of communities, with different interests and values, to live together as part of a single country. .......... Breaking up can be hard to do, but sometimes, it’s the best way to ultimately come together.




Snap Out of It, America! The country expanded its borders, abolished slavery, broadened the franchise; waves of immigrants reshaped and revised America’s character; the government added and dropped functions, amending the Constitution to fit the times. It was a restless experiment. ........... For more than 150 years, the United States had no official national anthem. “The Star-Spangled Banner” shuffled among “Hail, Columbia” and “America (My Country, ’Tis of Thee)”; the design of the flag shifted with the states and with fashion. ........... The country that passed Prohibition and created Social Security now spends decades dithering over how large a role the government should play in health care.

The country that went to the moon shrinks at the challenges presented by climate change.

.......... hard partisanship makes it difficult to create coalitions for sweeping changes. Wars, which once smashed through gridlock, no longer lead to collective action.