Our Love Of False Narratives

As the country spins farther and farther into division, truth becomes more and more of a punching bag.

One might reasonably believe that truth would unite us to some degree – even if we disagreed on what to do about it. Yet the fictional narratives in service of ideologies and scams are never ending. It does not matter if it is the government, politicians, Hollywood, the media or your neighbor – spinning fictional narratives in order to gain personal advantage has become the cultural norm. Americans attempt to hide their absurdity in numbers – “the more people I can get to believe my narrative the less absurd it becomes” is the general line of thinking. Check in on Bernie Sanders as the classic example of that line of thinking.

It does not matter how many people believe your narrative – it is still absurd if it contains only selective truth used to bolster the overall falsehood.

Camille Paglia recently remarked, ““What has happened is these young people now getting to college have no sense of history – of any kind! No sense of history. No world geography. No sense of the violence and the barbarities of history. So, they think that the whole world has always been like this, a kind of nice, comfortable world where you can go to the store and get orange juice and milk, and you can turn on the water and the hot water comes out. They have no sense whatever of the destruction, of the great civilizations that rose and fell, and so on – and how arrogant people get when they’re in a comfortable civilization. They now have been taught to look around them to see defects in America – which is the freest country in the history of the world – and to feel that somehow America is the source of all evil in the universe, and it’s because they’ve never been exposed to the actual evil of the history of humanity. They know nothing!”

How true – but in the absence of actual knowledge the false narratives abound. None of the false narratives are as damaging as the complete lack of knowledge as to how we arrived at our current economic dilemma, which I explained here.

Ray Dalio shared a very important post on his Linked-In page this weekend, “Our Biggest Economic, Social, and Political Issue The Two Economies: The Top 40% and the Bottom 60%.”

The post is worth your time.

Dalio remarked, “To understand what’s going on in “the economy,” it is a serious mistake to look at average statistics. This is because the wealth and income skews are so great that average statistics no longer reflect the conditions of the average man. For example, as shown in the chart below, the wealth of the top one-tenth of 1% of the population is about equal to that of the bottom 90% of the population, which is the same sort of wealth gap that existed during the 1935-40 period….

There has been no growth in earned income, and income and wealth gaps have grown and are enormous. Since 1980, median household real incomes have been about flat, and the average household in the top 40% earns four times more than the average household in the bottom 60%. While they’ve experienced some growth recently, real incomes have been flat to down slightly for the average household in the bottom 60% since 1980 (while they have been up for the top 40%). Those in the top 40% now have on average 10 times as much wealth as those in the bottom 60%. That is up from six times as much in 1980.”

I have often remarked that on the apples to apples comparison, i.e. white men, real-wages have been static since 1968. Note: the reason why white men are the apples to apples comparison is because other races and women were to varying degree shut out of portions of the economy at that time. Dalio remarks that “Since 1980, median household real incomes have been about flat” – which is including the absorption of all races and women into the economy. Household real-income gains from 1968 to 1980 are mostly attributable to the cultural shift from one- to two-earner households that took place in that time frame.

In short – the income and wealth disparity is primarily due to the financialization of the economy, and the financialization of the economy is primarily due to the tremendous amount of debt and more specifically the policies put in place in order that the debt may continue to be serviced with out government at all levels having to make hard decisions that might lead to guillotines. These policies have distorted the markets in such a manner that those who can create credit or invest in credit gain immense wealth for nothing more than moving that credit about in the digital world. What is driving the tremendous, historically unprecedented debt and historically unprecedented policies in regard to the debt are never ending political promises for more comfort.

The progressive argument that the solution to this is more taxes is absurd – if you are giving people free money in unlimited amounts they do not care if you tax them at 20% or 40% or 60% – you are giving them free money by the trillions! This is the very definition of hitting an empty paper bag.

Why are the progressives so wedded to trillions of dollars in wealth transfers to the 1%? Because all of the social spending promises that they have made and yearn for are dependent on the never-ending increase of that debt and the never-ending increase of that debt is dependent on the policies that transfer trillions of dollars in wealth to the 1%.

The fictional narrative the progressives have adopted is that this is a fiscal issue, not a monetary issue. The progressives have truly made a deal with the devil – never ending free money to the 1% in exchange for social spending. Everything the progressives claim they are against they actually enable – but the fictional narrative is that this is not so. The narrative is that it is anyone else’s fault but theirs.

The Trump people are not exempt from fictional narratives. They have created their own false narratives where monetary policy is not driving the overwhelming majority into poverty while enriching the top tier. One of the more interesting exclusions from the Dalio post is the effect of government debt and obligations on net wealth – so if you include your share of government debt then deduct another two million dollars or so from your net wealth. That the GOP congress and Trump appear perfectly willing to continue that game of selective statistics and expanding debt just feeds the false narrative.

Selective statistics in order to convince the public that things are going more swimmingly than they actually are is the one thing our government is genuinely good at. Take unemployment, where the current U3 number is 4.2%. The Clinton administration switched to the U3 measurement in order to exclude people who had historically been defined as ‘unemployed.’ During the Reagan administration for example, U6 was the measurement. If we still measured unemployment using U6 as we did during the Reagan years and a couple of decades before that the current unemployment rate would be 8.9%. Not exactly something to brag about – in fact U6 never dipped below 9% for the entire Obama administration. But wait – it gets worse! The Kennedy administration adopted U6 in order to exclude others from being counted as ‘unemployed’ for political gain – if we measured unemployment in the same manner as we did in the Eisenhower years the unemployment rate would be 22% at the moment – Great Depression level. No one gets re-elected with a 22% unemployment rate – so they repeatedly change how that number is measured in order that they may get re-elected and brag about how effective they are.

Still think the Obama years were great with an apples-to-apples unemployment rate of 22%? Well, to the point Dalio made – they were great years for those at the top.

This government data manipulation goes on and on and on – if we measured inflation today by the same method we measured it in 1990 the current inflation rate would be about 6%, not sub-2%. If we still measured GDP by the same method we measured it until 1993 then the United States has not had a single year of positive economic growth since 2004. No one gets re-elected on those numbers either – so the measurements have to be changed for the politicians to have a re-election narrative.

All of the data manipulation by the government is fodder for the endless false narratives – and at the end of the day the false narratives inevitably are simply story telling to explain why policy is not really reducing your net wealth and increasing your debt load while enriching the few. As a people we no longer have any comprehension of what happened, how we got here and how we get hoodwinked daily and is to Paglia’s point – “They have no sense whatever of the destruction, of the great civilizations that rose and fell, and so on – and how arrogant people get when they’re in a comfortable civilization.”

Even more to the point was Thomas Sowell – “When the people want the impossible, only liars can satisfy.”

Our comfortable civilization is predicated on debt and wealth transfers to the 1% – we continue to demand the impossible and willingly accept the lies because they allow us to maintain our arrogance and comfort.

“We’re willing participants in our own demise” – Eric Peters

Future historians will speculate on how we collectively went insane.

Trump the Barking Guard Dog, Wilson the Ghoulish Clown, Kelly the Warrior–Remembering Sergeant La David Johnson

In the sadly contentious matter of remembering Sergeant La David Johnson, the villain turns out to be Congresswoman Fredericka Wilson, more of a ghoulish clown, really. President Trump plays the role of a loyal guard dog who doth bark too much, and General John Kelly comes off as a brave knight with a scratch in his armor.  The sudden frenzy already is old news and much picked over, but maybe insufficiently considered.

The flurry happened fast. President Trump called Myeshia Johnson, the widow of a soldier fallen in a raid in Niger to express his condolences. The next day, news reported that Congresswoman Wilson claimed Trump told the bereaved woman: “He knew what he signed up for.” Trump denied that was his message. The family said “Yeah, that’s about what he said.”  Suddenly, the national food fight commenced over the president remembering a fallen soldier. Partisans of different stripes variously condemned Trump’s crassness, defended  his intent and the fair meaning of the contested phrase, or, condemned Trump for bullying and debating a Gold Star family. Trump’s Chief of Staff, former Marine General John Kelly, a Gold Star parent himself, held a press conference and offered a magisterial and moving account of the way America treats its fallen soldiers, the debt we owe such men and women, and his own experience in the loss of a son.

He described his discussion with the president about how to speak to the families. He recalled the words of comfort his own best friend gave him: “He said, Kel, he was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into by joining that 1 percent. He knew what the possibilities were because we’re at war.”

As a relevant digression, the phrases are not unlike the tone and framing of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who, in testimony before Congress, described the service of Ambassador Chris Stevens, killed in Libya:

“Chris Stevens understood that diplomats must operate in many places where our soldiers do not, where there are no other boots on the ground, and safety is far from guaranteed. In fact, he volunteered for just those assignments.

He also understood we will never prevent every act of terrorism or achieve perfect security, and that we inevitably must accept a level of risk to protect our country and advance our interests and values.

. . .

Nobody knew the dangers of Libya better — a weak government, extremist groups, rampant instability. But Chris chose to go to Benghazi because he understood America had to be represented there at that pivotal time.”

Apparently, admiring a person’s willing acceptance of the risk of service can be respectful, except when critics want to inject cheap politics into the moment.

At the press conference, General Kelly concluded his remarks by expressing regret bordering on lamentation that anyone like Congresswoman Wilson would degrade the solemnity of the president’s call by “listening in” and politicizing it. (Rep. Wilson later protested she “hadn’t listened in” at all. She was in a car and listened to the conversation on a speaker phone. Well. That clarifies things.)

Kelly described an earlier event, the dedication of a federal building in Florida, named for three fallen FBI agents. He said FBI Director James Comey had given a magnificent memorial, and then Wilson delivered a hyped political speech, bragging about how she secured the money to pay for the federal building. Kelly expressed his disappointment in the empty barrel making loud and inappropriate noise.

It was a bravura performance that brought tears to many eyes and a temporary halt to partisan sniping. But, in America today, all such halts are very temporary. Critics returned to the theme that Trump should not have contradicted a bereaved family. Shortly, video of the Congresswoman’s speech at the dedication surfaced. It turns out she had not bragged about bringing home the appropriations bacon, rather, she had bragged about pushing through the administrative process to name a federal building in record time.

This is a distinction without a difference. Wilson had given a political rah rah speech at a solemn occasion. But, the opportunity was there for partisan media to pounce on Kelly. “Video proves John Kelly lied about Rep. Wilson” brayed MSNBC. Other outlets piled on.

And so, not many days after the death of a brave man in a far away place the brawl continues over whether the president disrespected him in paying condolences. Another Gold Star widow, Natasha De Alencar, distraught by the politicization released the recording of the president’s respectful and “heartfelt” call to her after her husband was killed in Afghanistan.

It is worth summing up the roles of the major players here. President Trump wanted to comfort Myeshia Johnson on the loss of her husband. He sought counsel from his Chief of Staff, a man better positioned to give that counsel than anyone. He made the call.

Someone, it is a safe bet not the grieving widow, invited Fredericka Wilson to listen into the call and the next day, she was slamming the president to the media, politicizing a family’s tragedy. There is no benign explanation for Wilson listening in. If she was included because she was close to the family, she should have been there with them. Her participation was an obvious set up. She played her role and rained ugly controversy all over the suffering of Myeshia Johnson.

Trump took the bait, and escalated the rhetoric with a tweet that the Congresswoman had “fabricated” her account. More likely she had distorted and maligned his sincere respect. Truly he doth bark too much.

General Kelly did a masterful and gracious job putting things in context and directing the nation’s attention where it belongs, on the heroism and sacrifice of America’s fighting men and women. But, he botched an insignificant detail which invited the partisan jackals to keep barking.

And tonight, in far away places, thousands America’s finest young people stand guard, protecting the peace and security of a nation that may or may not deserve them.

Harvey Weinstein: The Left’s Sacrificial Proxy for Donald Trump.

I have a theory Harvey Weinstein is in part a sacrificial proxy for the Left’s unrequited rage against President Trump. Scandal and disgrace come and go, but the acceleration and fury against Weinstein has felt unique and animated by different spirits.
 
It’s not clear why the New York Times, which for years had retreated before the producer’s menacing charms, decided to expose him to light. But once exposed, the fire seemed to have an accelerant. Maybe this: Liberals could turn and rend one of their wounded own, for reasons consistent with their professed values. (Set aside the revealed hypocrisy of all those who protected Weinstein over the years). These are the sins they believe should have, indeed in normal times would have, taken down Trump. But they couldn’t lay a hand on him. His deplorables protected him. Reliable Republicans protected him. Economically distressed middle America protected him.
 
These times aren’t normal. The same tribalism that long protected Bill Clinton (he’s one of us, he’ll keep abortion legal, and he drives Republicans crazy) and Weinstein (he’s one of us, he’s cool, he gives millions to Democrats) now shelters Donald Trump (he fights for us; if not for him, Soros, the networks, and the New York Times would rule the world). But, the deflector shield somehow slipped off of Weinstein, and exposed him to a cultural and psychological inferno of rage, guilty hypocrisy, and self-virtuous condemnation.
 
The right is happy to blast him for lechery, hypocrisy, and opulent liberal decadence. The left, since he is of no further use to them, is happy to join in, for the righteousness of the cause, and also hoping to purge their long hypocrisy on the matter, and, though they might not realize it, because every kick and knife thrust is one they believe they should be able to deliver to Trump. Harvey will have to do…and die.

Why The Football Players Will Fail

Here is why the NFL kneeling and Kaepernicke and all that will not go where its’ advocates want it to go –

There are tens of millions of people in this country who have worked all their lives and will never have enough money to retire. The pleasures they can afford are Budweiser, fishing and sports on TV. They are oppressing nobody and in fact they are the chief victims of the financialization of the economy and Obama allowing Wall Street and insurance companies to run the White House.

This is just what it is – not even political just the truth.

For decades now – going back to Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton – these people have been stereotyped and made a political punching bag. These people overwhelming voted for Trump – these people are the reason that Trump is in the White House – because Trump told them you are not the bad guys here and you are not the oppressors. And you know what – they are not. They don’t particularly care what Trump does – they care that Trump stated the obvious that other politicians didn’t have the courage to state – that they are not the cause of the misery in this country.

Obama said derogatory things about these people, Hillary said derogatory things about these people, Trump said I am on your side. I get it. You all know I think Trump is an ass and won’t get us to where we need to be – but I get it. If you don’t get this I simply don’t see how you will understand what is going on in this country.

Now you have NFL millionaires telling people who will never be able to retire that they are the oppressors.

It just does not fly. Does not pass the smell test – and I think the shelf life of this argument has expired.

No matter how sincere some of the football players may be – blaming the guy who can’t ever retire and who has an entertainment budget that extends out to nightcrawlers and Budweiser for ills that he has nothing to do with is a disaster of an idea.

Just is – yet that is the gist of the argument the football players are making.

Denver DA Stretches Logic with No Charges in Cheerleader Stretching Incident.

Something about the Denver DA’s decision not to file charges in the case of Denver East High cheerleaders being forced into the splits stretches credulity. Last summer, a disturbing phone video hit social media and then news channels showing a high school coach, helped by team members, forcing young women in obvious pain down into a split position. One athlete, 13-year old Ally Wakefield was in obvious agony, and cried out “please stop” nine times. The forced stretching tore ligaments and muscle tissue. She required medical treatment and months of physical therapy. This disturbing 30-second video shows her ordeal.

 

 

A parent’s letter of complaint to Denver Public Schools took months to prompt DPS to investigate. Only after news stations got involved did officials take action against several involved parties. Five East High and DPS employees, including one of the district’s lawyers, were placed on leave. Ultimately, the coach was fired, and East High’s principal and athletic director resigned. Three ousters and administrative disciple of a district lawyer raise obvious and still unanswered questions about the chain of events and the far reaching ripple effects.

The Denver Police Department and DA’s office opened an investigation last August. On Saturday, October 14, the DA’s office released a statement on its website that no charges would be filed.  If Friday night is the traditional dumping ground for releasing embarrassing political stories, Saturday must really be the hoped for graveyard of bad news. DA Beth McCann’s full statement announced:

The video of the incident involving the injured student that has been widely disseminated is painful to watch. However, after a very thorough and careful review of all of the evidence gathered in the investigation and the statements of many members of the cheerleading squad, I have concluded that the evidence does not support the filing of criminal charges. In order to prove a charge of criminal behavior, the case must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

 

There are differing opinions regarding the use of this technique of cheerleading training. While I believe the technique should not be used, that is not the standard of proof for a criminal case. Most of the cheerleading squad participated in the technique that day, and there are differing accounts of the circumstances.

 

The individual involved should not be a coach in high school sports and he no longer is. The principal and athletic director of the school have retired and resigned. The message should be clear that this type of technique has no place in high school cheerleading coaching. The bad judgment of the coach, however, does not constitute a prosecutable crime.

Several things are remarkable about the statement. First, it asserts that use of the technique in the video is subject to opinion and debate. However, she asserts, the man who committed the acts should not be a coach, and now, she reassures, he’s not. Two other jobs also were ended for good measure. These sound like dire consequences for something that ostensibly is debatable.

DA McCann allows in her own view the stretching technique was inappropriate, but then asserts that that is not the legal standard, which is, that evidence must prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. That is an illogical connection. First, despite McCann’s reference to “differing accounts, the evidence of what happened is irrefutable. It was witnessed by millions. Second, the patent unreasonableness of what happened in the gym that day is evidenced by public outrage and three terminations. Further, it’s unclear what differing opinions McCann might have received, but if prosecutors want expert opinion on the reasonableness of the actions, they can consult NFL cheerleader Bria Petty who says this is awful and in all her years in the sport, she has never seen anything close to it. Or they can consult Dr. David Jewison, a team physician for several Division I college sport teams, who says it is absolutely wrong and inappropriate.

Finally, if the DA’s office wants to trifle with something as technical and irrelevant as the applicable law, they should peruse Colorado’s statutory definition of assault, which occurs when “a person knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another person.”

This disturbing case raises several questions that need answers from DPS and the the Denver DA. Why were the athletic director and the principal implicated in the supposedly isolated bad judgment of a coach? How did a district lawyer fall under suspicion and scrutiny? Why is the video evidence of what happened and an athlete’s documented injury insufficient to charge a case and take it to a jury?

 

Taxes And Regulations Generate Poverty

Taxes and regulations generate poverty.

The road out of poverty is the ability to sell a product or service – including your own labor. Anything that makes it more difficult to sell a product or service creates additional poverty. Taxes and regulations make it more difficult to sell a product or service.

The government – at all levels – put into place taxes and regulations that make it more difficult to sell a product or service. Often these taxes and regulations are sold to the public as being for their benefit when the truth is that the taxes and regulations are for the benefit of incumbent businesses – because the taxes and regulations reduce or eliminate potential competition. Cities that regulate Uber and Lyft in such a manner that the people participating in those business models cannot offer their services in those cities is an example of taxes and regulations protecting the existing taxi businesses at the expense of the many.

The United States has 95 million people of working age that are not working – yet we have cities, counties, states and the Federal government with taxes and regulations that protect the few at the expense of the many. They protect the few by using taxes and regulations to create an artificially high bar to engage in business. Services as simple as braiding or cutting hair are typically highly regulated – when they should be among the easiest and least expensive businesses for someone to enter into.

The minimum wage is one of the most pervasive and destructive ways that government creates poverty. In effect the minimum wage is nothing more than government telling people that if their skills are insufficient to generate a government-determined level of productivity then they are not allowed to work. If someone is willing to work for $5 an hour in order to acquire a skill it is illegal. Let that sink in.

Our absurdity is people arguing for more taxes, more regulations, more minimum wage – then complaining about poverty.

What you tax you get less of, what you subsidize you get more of. If you tax growing apples but subsidize people to grow peaches you will get fewer apples and more peaches. No rational person disputes the obviousness of that. We tax and regulate the means of reducing poverty and then subsidize creating poverty – then moan that we have more poverty. This whole thing is so consumed with obtuseness that people actually assume – and argue violently – the government should be paying businesses (whom they already protect with taxes and regulations) in order to subsidize more poverty. See healthcare as a prime example of that obtuseness and we will not even delve into monetary policy today.

The end result of this tax-and-regulate regime is the few businesses – usually political connected – get gifted with wealth while the many get a few crumbs to keep them from breaking out the guillotines. Somehow this has evolved to the many demanding more and bigger crumbs and not to them demanding an end to the system that prohibits them from engaging on equal terms. Many people clamor for politicians that promise bigger and better crumbs rather than demanding the equality of laissez-faire. In fact, the historically illiterate will continually argue against the wealth disparity of laissez-faire while utterly ignoring that the current system has produced wealth inequality that would make the Tsar blush – unparalleled in history.

Sometimes societies just collectively go insane.

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