Tuesday, November 24, 2020

"The news" in America can only be understood as "been there, done that" in the backdrop of history

Since January 2019 Susan Zirinsky, as the first woman CBS News President and Senior Executive Producer, has been responsible for CBS News broadcasts and the division's news presentation across all platforms including television, CBS News Radio, CBSNews.com and CBSN. Since her promotion she has offered what one can only assume is her hopes for the news.

“The next two years as journalists are the most important two years. It’s time for us to reveal America to itself. The hunger for real, straight news is desperate.” - CBS News President Susan Zirinsky quoted in the New York Times June 17, 2019.

"The nation is divided. More than 73 million people voted for the candidate not elected. In order to heal that divide, we as journalists have to report on fairly in order to understand what separates us as people, we have to understand what they’re going through. Their beliefs, their guiding principles. We have to understand. We have to have empathy. To serve the American people, you have to ask the questions that get answers for all Americans. The most important thing we can do right now is get it right." - CBS News President Susan Zirinsky accepting the National Press Club's 2020 Fourth Estate Award on November 18, 2020.

It is hard to imagine, to visualize, how "journalists" report "fairly" the "news" in a context reflecting the time period of 2016-2020 in America. It was not a particularly unique period in American history but one would never know that from the "news" reporting on CBS or elsewhere.

We need only consider the time period surrounding the elections of 1884, 1888, and 1892:

  • In 1884 Democrat Grover Cleveland received 48.9% of the nationwide popular vote and 219 Electoral Votes winning the Presidency, while Republican James Blaine received 48.3% of the popular vote and 182 Electoral Votes.
  • In 1888 Democrat Grover Cleveland received 48.6% of the nationwide popular vote. but received only 168 Electoral Votes. thereby losing to Republican Benjamin Harrison who while receiving only 47.8% of the popular vote (5,443,892) won receiving 233 Electoral Votes.
  • In 1892 Democrat Grover Cleveland received 46.0% of the nationwide popular vote and 277 electoral votes becoming the on President to serve split terms while Republican Benjamin Harrison received only 43.0% of the popular vote and 145 Electoral Votes and Populist James Weaver received 8.5% of the popular vote and 22 Electoral Votes.

Just as Cleveland's second term began, the Panic of 1893 struck the stock market and the nation experienced an economic depression (not a recession) that didn't end until 1897. At the end of his second term he had become one of the most unpopular U.S. presidents despite the fact that he won the popular vote in three elections.

If you read the Wikipedia entries on Cleveland and Harrison, what you can't help but notice is that the nature of the issues at the time created intensity. It is not a random happening that a Populist was on the the ballot in 1892. And as one might expect, the news media, albeit print only, was divided and not kind.

The issues were as real to people then as they are now. And they are the same issues. Racism separated "us as people" in that time. In the 1880's there were civil rights and immigration issues (the latter involving Chinese immigration). Cleveland couldn't get his Supreme Court nominee confirmed. In his second term there was the Pullman Strike during which he sent federal troops in to break the strike because the railroads carried the mail.

Donald Trump is unique as a person, of course. But the Electoral College selecting a President who did not get the majority of the vote is a longstanding tradition in our Republic which is not now, nor ever has been, a democracy. We need to get over it. But don't expect us to "heal that divide" which has been with us as long as George Washington's first term as explained in a previous post:

The Whiskey Rebellion, also known as the Whiskey Insurrection, was a tax protest by dissidents in the United States beginning in 1791, during the presidency of George Washington. Throughout counties in Western Pennsylvania, protesters used violence and intimidation to prevent federal officials from collecting the tax.

It ended when President Washington rode at the head of an army of 12,950 militiamen provided by the governors of Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania effectively suppressing the insurgency. Because relatively few men volunteered for militia service, a draft was used to fill out the ranks. Draft protests were widespread, and conscription efforts resulted in protests and riots, even in eastern areas. That was handled in a clearly authoritarian, violent manner.

For example, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, two civilians were killed by the federalized militia, an unarmed boy was shot by an officer whose pistol accidentally fired and a man was stabbed to death by a soldier while resisting arrest. Eventually, a federal grand jury indicted 24 men for high treason, ten men stood trial for treason in federal court, only two were convicted and sentenced to death by hanging, but were pardoned by President Washington. Pennsylvania state courts were more successful in prosecuting lawbreakers, securing numerous convictions for assault and rioting.

Carlisle, Pennsylvania, mentioned above is located in Cumberland County. Folks there today don't resent government like they did back in 1791, when the states had just become "united." 

...United? Yeah right....

The table to the right shows Trump's wins in Cumberland County in the last two Presidential elections. We seem to think that our own generation's experiences and attitudes are not part of a continuous human existence.

Zirinsky's idea is that we need to to become informed regarding: "Their beliefs, their guiding principles. We have to understand. We have to have empathy."

The problem is this writer has always understood, as have others.

Simply, "empathy" does not resolve differences in political beliefs. What happened in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in 1791 resulting in the deaths of two civilians happens today all over this nation. It happens because "dissidents" protesting, sometimes violently, stir an authoritarian response whether its in the republic of the United States or the Democratic Republic of China.

Zirinsky tell us: "To serve the American people, you have to ask the questions that get answers for all Americans." But the real answer is we don't agree.

Whether it is a tax protest in 1791 or the 1880's Chinese Exclusion Act and Scott Act (the first legislation in American history to place broad restrictions on immigration) or a 2010's withdrawal from participation in environmental protection and world trade, the American people are going to be divided. That is because the "answers" tell some, but not others, that we should tax booze to pay for changes.

Over the years this writer has always disagreed in varying degrees with the compromise solutions dreamed up by Congress, by the Lyndon Johnson/Bill Clinton traditional Democrats working with traditional Republicans ... you know, the solutions that forced black fathers to not live with the mothers of their children because of idiotic policies that only allowed assistance in single mother households or the solutions that imprisoned black men in huge numbers.

It has always been true that those who struggle within the passage of time and those who thrive within the passage of time are in totally different worlds. It is the impact of change that matters, and in this context "change" means "diversify, transform, adapt" which has not been easily embraced in the history of descendants of "traditionalists" among European migrants to the Americas. Nor by other such peoples elsewhere, for that matter.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

“POTUS is doing APEC!” Somehow we have fallen back into 20th Century foreign policy attitudes.

Tomorrow, Friday, at a virtual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) annual forum hosted by Malaysia, Donald Trump plans to represent the United States, his first attendance since 2017.

This year's APEC forum follows the signing on Sunday of  the world’s biggest free-trade pact, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), sealing an agreement that excludes the United States.

RCEP was going to be the subject of this post.

The signing of the RCEP after eight years of negotiations ties together one-third of the world’s population and global economy, and is projected to add US$186 billion to the world economy through improved regional trade among Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The RCEP is the second agreement excluding the United States affecting Pacific Nation trade.

The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), signed in 2018 by Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Soon after taking office in 2017 President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the predecessor to the CPTPP and effective isolated the United States.

Note that Australia, Brunei, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam are signatories to both agreements which gives us a map:

Trump, of course, just lost reelection. In that context, along with the signing of the RCEP and CPTPP which between them include all the members nations of APEC except Papua New Guinea, Russia, Taiwan, and the United States, it seems problematic that he would attend the annual APEC meeting even if it is only virtual.

But it shouldn't be a surprise. As Trump is about to leave office, the Republicans of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Idaho Senator Jim Risch issued a lengthy report Wednesday stating that the best strategy for the US to counter China with its “shifting” challenges is to partner with allies in Europe.

At the beginning of its conclusion, the report states: “The United States and Europe on the one hand, and China on the other, have very different visions of what the world should look like." Note that the map above is Pacific-centric, that Europe and the Atlantic are not included. Here's the cover of the report (click on it to download the full report):

The map on the cover effectively says it all, but just in case it offers the word "Transatlantic."

The November 9, 2020, post here is titled It is dangerous for Americans to ignore the emotional depth of 20,000 continuous years of Chinese history and 2,250 years of government. In that post it is noted: "It has become clear in the past few years that leadership in the U.S. government, including the military, has a twisted view of the Chinese brought about by an ideological adherence to the term 'democracy' despite the fact that even Wikipedia acknowledges that 'no consensus exists on how to define democracy.'"

In an August 5, 2019 post here titled They literally think differently from us. And their patience with Trump's economics just ran out. it is noted: "If you didn't already know it, the Chinese think differently from us. And by that, I don't mean they have different opinions about the acting in 'Spiderman: Far from Home', I mean the way their brains process interactions with the world around them and the people in their lives is different because of 20,000 years of continuous linguistic and cultural evolution."

The danger confronting America reflected in the Committee's report is that Joe Biden is old, he was born in Pennsylvania which is within the area on the report cover map, he represented Delaware which is within the area on the report cover map, and he served a national government which is within the area on the report cover map. He literally has no feel for a Pacific-centric view of the world. During the second presidential debate in October Biden said “we need to be having the rest of our friends with us saying to China, ‘These are the rules. You play by them, or you’re going to pay the price for not playing by them economically’.”

To further aggravate all of this, on Tuesday Axios reported in Scoop: State Department to release Kennan-style paper on China that the U.S. State Department's Office of Policy Planning was set to release a blueprint for America’s response to China’s rise as an authoritarian superpower. Follow its release, the official Chinese Foreign Ministry's response was: "The document is another anti-China lie concocted by Cold War fossils from the US State Department. It fully exposes the deep-rooted Cold War thinking and ideological prejudice of some people in the US, and also exposes their fear, anxiety and unhealthy mentality about China’s continuous development."

The difficulty in formulating a policy on China is perhaps best reflected in Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China founded by well-meaning members of national legislatures on June 4, 2020, the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. They see a need to assert a defense of the values of Western Democracy against the Chinese Communist Party. And in their minds the best defense is a good offense.

The problem is "offense" becomes "offensive" in the minds of many Chinese whose 2,250 years of autocratic government seem just fine. Care has to be taken to present the benefits of a more open society in a persuasive manner. Most importantly, having an Atlantic-centric arrogance is simply a loser approach.

That Donald Trump of New York/Florida is going to participate in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation annual forum tomorrow should be of some concern for those of us who are Pacific-centric.

Monday, November 16, 2020

No, this election did not reaffirm Climate Change policy - it emphasized how far apart Americans are

“Joe Biden’s win ratifies what’s been clear all along: despite Trump’s best efforts, the American people have remained committed to the Paris agreement. Business, investors, cities, and states redoubled their efforts to solve the climate crisis, proving that the path to a sustainable economy is inevitable,” said former vice president Al Gore in a statement Saturday.

On Monday the The Washington Post notified us that Trump officials rush to auction off rights to Arctic National Wildlife Refuge before Biden can block it.

President-elect Joe Biden has indicated that he will be undoing the Trump Executive Orders that reversed many U.S. Climate Change policies, such as withdrawing from the Paris Agreement.

Of course, Climate Action Tracker, a research project, projects that current Paris Agreement policies and pledges will leave the planet “well above” the Paris accord’s “long-term temperature goal.” Even with the U.S. involved, academics were concerned that the world was headed for “extensive” species extinctions, serious crop damage and irreversible increases in sea levels.

Trump called the Paris Agreement “a total disaster for our country” that would hurt American competitiveness by enabling “a giant transfer of American wealth to foreign nations that are responsible for most of the word’s pollution.” He says rules and directives put in place by his predecessor, Barack Obama, to meet the U.S. targets for emissions hurt the U.S. economy by killing jobs related to fossil fuels, especially coal mining. And he’s dismantled Obama-era regulations meant to stifle greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, automobiles and oil wells.

During the Trump Administration coal company executives have successfully advocated for rollbacks of more than 15 different environmental rules and protections. These wide-ranging rollbacks include actions repealing and replacing the Clean Power Plan and slashing the EPA’s budget and staff numbers.

In case someone didn't notice, nearly half of Americans voted for Trump. And, unless by some miracle the Democrats win both Georgia Senate seats in January, current U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will continue to control the Senate as he was reelected for six years with 57.8% of the vote. 

He's from Kentucky, a coal state.

Also from coal states are Republicans  John Barrasso (Wyo.) and Shelley Moore Capito (WVa.) who probably will Chair the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works respectively.

Barrasso was not up for reelection but is acutely aware that conservative Republican Cynthia Marie Lummis Wiederspahn won Wyoming's other Senate seat with 73.1% of the vote. 

Capito was up for reelection and won with 70.4% of the vote. 

The two committees they probably will chair have say over whom Biden puts in top-level positions at the EPA and other agencies plus can make Biden's life difficult on achieving his goals to “transition” away from using oil and reduce or eliminate fossil fuel subsidies.

But we all know he will have strong support from a super-majority of Americans, right? I've seen headlines saying that. Of course even that isn't quite so simple. Consider this chart:

Half of Americans do recognize that moderating human induced Climate Change (Global Warming) will do good things. But do they recognize that it would require behavior modification, a fact not included in the survey? This "favorable" half of respondents includes:

  • those who have already made strides in modifying their behavior to benefit the future climate - we all know of at least one such person, though it may be the same such person;
  • those who are thinking about modifying their behavior to benefit the future climate, but have not yet accepted the truth that they must alter their standard of living; and
  • those who think it is the responsibility of only governments, corporations, non-profit organizations, etc., to change their organizational behaviors while continuing to meet the public's market demands, which will solve all the climate problems.

The other half appears to includes:

  • those who don't believe in the Climate Change concept;
  • those who believe that Climate Change either is the inevitable will of, or will be resolved by, a god;
  • those who see a potential profit to be derived from resulting economic shifts caused by continuing Climate Change;
  • those who see that any solutions needed must come from creative individual Americans acting on their own, not constrained by organizational prejudices and boundaries nor institutional rules nor finances.

As noted in a post here in June 2019 U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explains the conservative "old deal" to address Climate Change:

[U.S. Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo explained that we Americans will...
  • responsively reorganize our society,
  • relocate as needed, and
  • rely on future technological innovation
...instead of developing governmental policy as suggested in House Resolution 109 - Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal and creating the bureaucracy needed to implement it.

Is Pompeo correct in his assumptions?

About 68% of adults and 85% of Democrats surveyed in 2019, as indicated in the survey above, believe that policies designed to reduce the impacts of Climate Change would help or make no difference to the economy. But when you view the answers in another way, 65% of adults including 51% of democrats believe the policies would hurt or make no difference.

Make no difference. Really? When you dig down, you can't help but note that 38% of Democrats think the policies would make no difference. That's pretty much saying "I haven't given it any thought."

Perhaps we need to recognize context in which the Pew Survey was conducted. Americans have diddled around with electric cars while increasing manufacturing of gas guzzling vehicles. Californians have substantially increased solar and wind energy production while increasing consumption of electricity way beyond that production.

Interestingly, the Covid pandemic has reduced some consumption and a lot of driving. One could offer the idea that we could build on those gains as the pandemic effects decline. But that is a supposition offered in a severely stressed economy.

Perhaps we need to restate what Pompeo asserted. In response to Climate Change in the future individual Americans and their families will out of necessity...

  • responsively reorganize our society, 
  • relocate as needed, and 
  • rely on future technological innovation 

...without significantly modifying U.S. government policy or bureaucracy.

Will American families rely on future technological innovation to deal with the impacts of Climate Change? Most assuredly. They already are, though much of what is available is expensive forcing many to divert their income to keep their homes livable.

Will American families relocate to deal with the impacts of Climate Change? Many won't have any choice and indeed they already are, though not enthusiastically. After all they will be relocating from the coastlines. And because of increasing desert heat they will be relocating from where they just relocated to, the Southwest.

Will individual Americans responsively reorganize our society to deal with Climate Change impacts? Hmmm.... 

Al Gore tells us that business, investors, cities, and states have redoubled their efforts to solve the climate crisis. What he also tells us is that the path to a sustainable economy will be an inevitable outcome of the changes required to solve the climate crisis. So I guess he still believes that Americans will responsively reorganize our society to deal with Climate Change impacts, even though he has been advocating for significant changes since the mid-1970's.

In fact, except for excluding any significant change in governmental policy and bureaucracy, Gore and Pompeo agree.

I'm not sure what we can learn from the Saturday story Garbage, duck feces and continued water woes for flooded South Florida in which is the quote from a resident: “I’ve never seen anything like this before. My home got flooded with water, poop — it’s just horrible.”

The warnings have been made. In September 2019 Bloomberg reported:

    The Great Climate Retreat is beginning with tiny steps, like taxpayer buyouts for homeowners in flood-prone areas from Staten Island, New York, to Houston and New Orleans — and now Rittel’s Marathon Key. Florida, the state with the most people and real estate at risk, is just starting to buy homes, wrecked or not, and bulldoze them to clear a path for swelling seas before whole neighborhoods get wiped off the map.
    By the end of the century, 13 million Americans will need to move just because of rising sea levels, at a cost of $1 million each, according to Florida State University demographer Mathew Haeur, who studies climate migration.

If you read the article, you will learn that some government funding has been focused on homeowner relocation costs. But this does not address issues such as extreme heat in the Southwest or burning forests across the U.S.

The problem for Biden is that when you look at the election results and Climate Change surveys honestly, Americans are not ready for the inevitable Climate Change impacts. We're still struggling with the economic impacts of technology - no, not the presence of Alexa in many homes, rather the fact that a large number of Americans can't afford Alexa. Or even a high speed internet connection in many cases.

To put it another way, there are two Americas, as we learned in the last two Presidential elections. And they don't follow the same web sites. Nor do they hold the same opinions about Climate Change.


This post is a reflection of concerns that began in 2007 when it appeared the Gray Whale migration route was being explored for wind generation by "environmentalists".
                                                                                                               

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

With Covid-19, it's the behavoir of individual Californians that matters. We aren't doing as well.

California's success in limiting the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic - will we continue to behave? was title of a post here on October 6.

Looking at the graph above (click on it to see a larger version), apparently the answer to that question about continued behavior is "no". This is confirmed by news stories such as 11 California counties fall back to more restrictive tiers as COVID-19 surges and California counties return to restrictive Covid rules amid hospitalization surge.

The state instituted for counties a four-tier performance rating system based primarily upon the 7-day Covid-19 positivity rate (percentage of county residents who test positive for the virus of all individuals who are tested) for the week ending 7 days prior. 

Yesterday we learned that residents in Amador, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Modoc, Placer, Sacramento, San Diego, Santa Cruz, Siskiyou, Stanislaus, and Trinity counties failed to protect each other resulting in them falling into less favorable tiers. It appears that other counties will see this next week and that no county improved.

Over the last 14 days hospitalizations have increased 31.6% and the number of patients admitted to intensive care units with infections has increased 29.6%.

Indications are that a significant cause is gatherings of family and friends which not only result in spreading within the gathering participants but subsequently also to others. People say they haven't experienced symptoms nor have they tested positively "recently", but that offers little or no protection for getting together with people outside your well-established pod.

How Californians will behave over the holidays - from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day - will determine how many counties will find themselves in the purple at the beginning of the year:


All businesses and schools can do is hope that people will behave. While you might look at the tiers and say the objective is to limit cases, the deeper objective is to limit hospitalizations...and deaths. That is the outcome of bad behavior.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The Covid-19 timeline: a one-year anniversary, our first "Holiday Season", and sharing with a mink


This month we will observe the one year anniversary of the earliest confirmed Covid-19 infection which hospitalized a man on November 17, 2019, though no one knew what was going on. It wasn't until December 27, Zhang Jixian, a doctor from Hubei Provincial Hospital of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine, told China’s health authorities that the disease was caused by a new coronavirus. That is how it began...

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During a two-week period beginning December 31, 2019, numerous news articles and research papers were published by the Chinese and others regarding the new virus. On January 8, 2020, the U.S. Center for Diseas Control (CDC) established a COVID-19 Incident Management System.

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Two months later the first confirmed case occurred in Sonhomish County, Washington which was soon followed by cases in Illinois and California. And so it continued....

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During the week prior to February 16, 2020, the GSM Association canceled the Mobile World Congress 2020 which was to have been held in Barcelona between February 24th and the 27th. It was canceled because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The conference was focused on implementation of 5G. The cancellation was noted here in a post because most Americans were still not fully aware of the threat for another two weeks. (Posts are highlighted on timeline.)

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In order to prepare hospitals for a rush of patients, California becomes the first state to issue pandemic stay-at-home orders after San Francisco Bay Area counties and Los Angeles County take the lead.

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California methodically lifts some stay-at-home orders to permit a what will hopefully be a limited pandemic surge.

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California Covid-19 hospitalizations peaked at a low level and by mid-August new hospitalizations clearly were declining at a rapid pace.

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By the beginning of September, California's Covid-19 death rate also began declining at a significant pace.

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In early September California establishes a statewide four-tier system for counties to determine what stay-at-home/closure measures would apply within the county based upon pandemic case statistics.

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As we approach the passing of a year since the world's earliest confirmed Covid-19 infection, the response to the concern about California's relative response success expressed in the October 6 post - "will we continue to behave" - appears to be a "no":


As with all Americans, for the first time Californians are approaching the Thanksgiving through New Years Day traditional family and friends gathering dates. Will all our counties in late January be in the "Purple" Tier 1?

And last, but not least, we have recently been informed that mink get the virus from humans which are passed to other humans, but with evolved mutations. Indications are this will not make the vaccines totally ineffective, but over a longer period today's vaccine likely will require supplementation with variations, analogous to annual flu shots which each year include three or four different variants...and which sometimes don't include a newly evolved variant which becomes a pandemic. Keep in mind it's new. It's not the flu. This happens.

Monday, November 9, 2020

It is dangerous for Americans to ignore the emotional depth of 20,000 continuous years of Chinese history and 2,250 years of government

A recent article in Foreign Affairs was titled Xi Jinping Is Not Stalin: How a Lazy Historical Analogy Derailed Washington’s China Strategy discussed China in the context of recent history. As far as it goes, the article makes a strong argument supporting its title.

But what the article doesn't cover is how ignorant Americans and their officials are about the depth of Chinese history within China's culture as it is viewed by the Chinese people. And that is foolishly dangerous. American policy towards China flounders because of what amateurs running key Trump Administration foreign policy and economic positions don't understand.

That, of course, reflects what Trump voters won't accept - that a 17th Century immigrant European culture that began with enslaving Africans and killing indigenous peoples can somehow outperform a culture based on a continuous 20,000-year cultural evolution that in its most recent 2.250 years has clearly established a method of government that has effectively not changed except in appearance to outsiders.

It has become clear in the past few years that leadership in the U.S. government, including the military, has a twisted view of the Chinese brought about by an ideological adherence to the term "democracy" despite the fact that even Wikipedia acknowledges that "no consensus exists on how to define democracy." In a post here in August 2019 the following was explained:

    If you didn't already know it, the Chinese think differently from us. And by that, I don't mean they have different opinions about the acting in "Spiderman: Far from Home", I mean the way their brains process interactions with the world around them and the people in their lives is different because of 20,000 years of continuous linguistic and cultural evolution..

That does contrast with the 400 years of American "melting pot" history. So in this post, we'll begin by offering a look at Chinese history.


A Brief Overview of Chinese History

About 20,000+ years ago in what we know today as China, people were cooking rice in pottery.

Located in Dayuan Township, Wannian County in the Jiangxi province, China, is the Xianren Cave. In 2012 Science published an article reporting that the earliest pottery yet known anywhere in the world was found at this site, pottery fragments with scorch marks, suggesting that the pottery was used for cooking. These early pottery containers were made well before the known invention of agriculture (dated to 10,000 to 8,000 BC), by mobile foragers who hunted and gathered their food during the Late Glacial Maximum. Except evidence of early rice cultivation was discovered there.

The point here isn't to pique your interest in Chinese archeology. The point here is that the Chinese see their history as a people on their land in the context of 20,000 years, a history that looks something like this:

Notice that near the bottom of the chart at the beginning of the last Imperial Dynasty - the Qing Empire which began in 1636 - we have noted that European migration to the Americas began. At that time China was a nation of about 123 million people. The Americas did have a large indigenous population, but we don't know for certain how large and they weren't European. China has been the world's most populous nation for many centuries with a current population of 1.4 billion.

The problems of governing 1.4 billion Chinese people who share thousands of years of Chinese history requires some serious consideration by Americans who have less than 300 years of self-government.

Imperial China was a 2,133-year period that began with the Qin dynasty in 221 B.C and ended with the Qing dynasty in 1912 A.D. We need to understand some basics that set that long course.

The First Qin Emperor, Qin Shi Huang, may have lasted only 12 years, but he managed to subdue the core of the Han Chinese homeland, uniting them under a centralized legalist government which emphasized strict adherence to a legal code and the absolute power of the centralized empire. The unification and development of the legal code allowed the development of the written language, measurement, and currency of China. The economy was stimulated by establishing such things a uniform length of axles for carts to match ruts in the roads ensuring an empire-wide viable trading system.

The next 400 years of the Han dynasty evolved into a golden age in Chinese history. A long period of stability and prosperity consolidated the foundation of China as a unified state under a central imperial bureaucracy. During the Han dynasty, governed territory was extended to most of China proper and to areas far west. Art, culture and science all advanced to unprecedented heights.

After the initial laissez-faire policies of Emperors, Emperor Wu endorsed Confucianism emphasizing stability and order in a well-structured society became the guiding philosophical thoughts and moral principles of the empire. Imperial Universities were established to support its study.

In 1912 at the end of the decline of the Qing Dynasty some "modern" Chinese thinkers attempted to create a democratic republic in China which at that time had a population somewhat larger than today's United States and had been governed 2,133 years as an empire with reasonable success. (Keep in mind that in 1912 it had been only 47 years since the end of the U.S. Civil War, a period of time which doesn't really offer a recommendation for stability.)

The new Republic of China struggled for 15 years, entered a civil war period for 10 years, fought a Japanese invasion for 7 years, the returned to the civil war for 4 years. At the end of that period "a centralized legalist government which emphasized strict adherence to a legal code and the absolute power of the centralized" rule was restored, not as an empire but as The People's Republic of China.


A 21st Century Centralized Self-Government

After 37 years of turmoil - 1912 to 1949 - China returned to a centralized government exercising the same level of power that permitted China to grow and prosper over 2,000+ years.

Don't be confused. China is self-governed. In any nation the means of self-governance usually comprises some or all of the following:

  • A code of conduct that outlines acceptable behavior within the nation.
  • A means of ensuring external authority does not become involved.
  • A means of facilitating the intended functions of the nation.
  • A means of registering and resolving grievances with the nation.
  • A means of disciplinary procedure within the nation ranging from censure up to and including penalty of death.
  • A means of suppressing parties, factions, tendencies or other sub-groups that outside the code of conduct seek to secede or disrupt the national order.

Every one of those applies to the United States and to China. 

Yes, many Chinese grumble about their government. So do many (most?) Americans.

Yes, the People's Republic of China generally bans the practice of religion. And they are systematically attempting to eliminate Islam among 25± million Muslims in China. Americans are prone to attack this without giving much thought about it. The Muslim population in China is about the same as the total population in the 17 least populous U.S. states which make up 41% of the U.S. land area. If we relocated the 25± million Chinese Muslims to the United States, what policies would we put in place to deal with the 3%± - 750,000± - militant believer terrorists? Would they really be any less distasteful, less oppressive than China's.

And let's not pretend that the United States has always had, and continues to have, an undercurrent that would impose Christianity on its people.

Included in these posts is an extensive review of China and its government. The contents is the rock bottom minimum every U.S. official involved with China relations should understand:

The most important facts for Americans to know have to do with Chinese government goals as enunciated by its current leader, Xi Jinping.

On February 11, 2009, while visiting Mexico, then Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping spoke in front of a group of overseas Chinese noting that "it was the greatest contribution towards the whole of the human race made by China to prevent its 1.3 billion people from hunger."

Regarding the 2008 financial crisis affecting the Atlantic oriented world filled with complaints about Chinese foreign trade Xi bluntly stated: "There are some bored foreigners, with full stomachs, who have nothing better to do than point fingers at us. First, China doesn't export revolution; second, China doesn't export hunger and poverty; third, China doesn't come and cause you headaches. What more is there to be said?"

In a marked departure from the common practice of Chinese leaders, Xi's first speech as General Secretary was plainly worded and did not include any political slogans or mention of his predecessors. Xi instead offered the aspirations of the average person, remarking, "Our people ... expect better education, more stable jobs, better income, more reliable social security, medical care of a higher standard, more comfortable living conditions, and a more beautiful environment."

Americans don't understand what that means to the Chinese. Over the past decade we have been immersed in reports telling us that the Chinese economy is becoming as large as that of the U.S. Some 1.4 billion Chinese people whose 2020 average per capita income is $10,839 (based on nominal GDP) wish that were true. The U.S average per capita income in $63,051, which is 5.8 times China's.

Looking at a total GDP is irrelevant to the average Chinese citizen. That number is virtually no threat to the world because there are 58 countries in which the average per capita income is higher. Even with income distribution issues the average American earnings are relatively high. That is why Xi's focus on income related issues is meaningful to the average Chinese citizen.

In the last week of October, President Xi delivered a work report, a draft 14th five-year plan and a document outlining China’s long-term objectives up to the year 2035 to the 200 members of the Communist Party Central Committee, the top decision-making body of the ruling party. A final draft setting out key five-year economic and political goals and the long-term objectives will be submitted to the National People’s Congress – China’s top lawmaking body – in March next year.

Xi has stressed that China must become more self-reliant, invest more in domestic technological innovation, improve the environment and focus on what he calls a “dual circulation” strategy – a concept that aims to increase the focus on domestic consumption to boost the economy while balancing it with foreign trade and investment. It is expected that the adopted plan’s targets would include the quality of economic growth, technology and innovation, institutional reforms, the building of high-end industrial supply chains, measures to develop a low carbon economy and goals for the reduction of energy consumption.

Xi intends to shield China from swings in the world economy which, in terms of governments, is perceived to be out of control. This is uncomfortable when viewed from a 2,250 year tradition of "a centralized legalist government which emphasized strict adherence to a legal code and the absolute power of the centralized" rule.

Americans don't really get a chance to evaluate the competitive benefits derived from that centralized rule. Consider the Covid-19 situation. Clear evidence exists that the Chinese government in fact either did not know or chose to not to share the actual impact of Covid-19 on its population. Using crematory data, it is clear deaths in February and March were as much as 10 times official reports. 

The problem is we know that the weakness of a centralized government which depends of the equivalent of state and local governments would lead to deliberate underreporting. That's not to say that the U.S. did better in the early months in reporting accurate data, or even today.

But once the central government gave the pandemic full priority, these stories give a clear picture of what is and is not acceptable behavior - Kashgar set to complete tests on over 4 million residents as it battles to contain latest outbreakBeijing municipal government orders partial lockdown for city and elevates emergency response amid latest outbreakChina Tests Millions in Xinjiang After Asymptomatic Cases Found.

If nothing else, what one learns from those stories is that Chinese residents don't get the option of not being tested even if as one official explained, "we don’t have a great deal of experience in prevention and control in rural areas so we should expect to face some challenges in curbing the spread in rural villages, especially in areas where the majority of the population is ethnic minority."

Two things appear to be true. First, the Chinese did not, and do not, focus on providing to the rest of the world information, though it was far more available through news media than the Trump Administration acknowledges. Second, the Chinese don't accept the idea that individual rights prevail over keeping the general population of 1.4 billion people safe and healthy including old people. 

This latter fact in this writer's opinion is one of those competitive benefits derived from that centralized rule. China has about four times the population of the U.S. Yet the U.S. has the most cases and deaths from Covid-19 in the world simply because our population just can't let go of the Constitutional right to be stupid long enough to not kill grandma. Someday we need to look at that.


Competing with 21st Century China

As noted at the beginning of this post, in the United States officials, particularly those in the Trump Administration and many in deep state positions, are clearly paranoid about China. Why?

Let me again point out what Xi said over a decade ago: "There are some bored foreigners, with full stomachs, who have nothing better to do than point fingers at us. First, China doesn't export revolution; second, China doesn't export hunger and poverty; third, China doesn't come and cause you headaches. What more is there to be said?"

Surely those officials don't think China is going to invade the United States. They do not need the problems our culture would bring. 

And it is simply true that the United States could never successfully launch an assault on and occupy China. Despite the wishes of some in the American news media, there is substantial support for the Chinese system of government within the 1.4 billion population. Remember, China is 90%+ Han Chinese. They are an East Asian ethnic group historically native to the Yellow River Basin, the world's largest ethnic group, making up about 18% of the global population.

Yes we can be staunch allies of those nations which are potential targets of Chinese aggressive behavior.

But our use of "trade war" policies simply doesn't work as noted by the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times article Trump’s Tariffs? Coronavirus? China’s Exports Are Surging Anyway which explained:

    This was supposed to be the year that China’s export machine began to stall. President Trump had imposed broad tariffs on Chinese goods. Countries like Japan and France pushed companies to shift production from China. The pandemic had crippled China’s factories by the end of January.
    Instead, China Inc. has come roaring back.
    After reopening in late February and early March, China’s factories began an export blitz that is still gaining steam. Exports soared in July to their second-highest level ever, nearly matching the record-setting Christmas rush last December. The country has grabbed a much larger share of global markets this summer from other manufacturing nations, entrenching a dominance in trade that could last long after the world begins to recover from the pandemic.
    China is showing its export machine cannot be stopped — not by the coronavirus and not by the Trump administration. Its resilience lies not only in the country’s low-cost, skilled labor and efficient infrastructure but also in a state-controlled banking system that has been offering small and large businesses extra loans to cope with the pandemic.
    The pandemic has also found China better placed than other exporting nations. It is making what the world’s hospitals and housebound families need right now: personal protection gear, home improvement products and lots of consumer electronics.

The United States needs to continue to lead in technology to succeed. It's that simple. And that hard. Interestingly, a number of our tech leaders have expanded into space programs at the very time entertainment media has offered numerous space exploration shows.

At the beginning of the 1960's the moon landing goal pushed the development of all kinds of technology. Then we used government money. Today perhaps the private sector will make it happen this time around. That and biotechnology gambles are how we seem to make our economy work today in our ancient 400-year-old culture.

But when we do it, let's not ignore the emotional depth of Chinese history and government.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

The Extended Economic Distortion appears to be settling in as the pandemic continues unabated

The Extended Economic Distortion has settled in nine months after the Covid-19 pandemic became a reality in the United States.

As indicated in the chart above, the official unemployment rate (U-3) is at 6.9% which is a 92% increase over the October 2019 rate. On top of that, 12.1% of all Americans who have been identified in some way previously attached to the labor force are out of a job, which is a 75.4% increase over the October 2019 rate.

Those numbers are just indicators that the economy is ill. It's no surprise. As explained here in a post on May 7:

The only goal of the Great Economic Lockdown of 2020 was to slow the spread of Covid-19 cases during the first months of the Coronavirus Crisis. That allowed time to organize enough hospital beds to handle both Covid-19 cases and the normal flow of cases due to other illnesses (you know, cancer, strokes, heart attacks, auto accidents, etc.).

As the Lockdown restrictions are lifted, Covid-19 will continue to spread.The underlying reality for the next "x" number of months (or forever) is that while we struggle to create a new economic and social normal, each day hundreds of people from infants to centenarians will die or become disabled from a Covid-19 infection.

Prognostications from some sources indicate that an economic recovery will begin by the second half of the year. More likely the Coronavirus Crisis will lead to an Extended Economic Distortion.

As with any newly evolved disease, what we know about Covid-19 is limited through what science is learning. We do know it makes folks sick, killing some, worse for older folks.

Wearing a mask reduces your likely impact on others as does social distancing. Logically then, you want to be around people who do those things to protect yourself...if you must be around other people. If you can avoid others you can reduce your chance of infection.

Some of what science has learned to date is well described in How the Coronavirus Hacks the Immune System in this week's New Yorker. (You can download a PDF here.) It isn't straightforward yet, but it is clearly a remarkable advance in the disease world from the diseases' point of view. That used to happen more frequently. But since the 1950's in the U.S. we last confronted such a thing in the HIV pandemic. So far we've essentially contained Ebola outside our country.

It's new. It's not the flu. This happens. Seeking to place blame is a foolish waste of time.

The number of new cases is rising again with all the attendant impacts and choices regarding socializing and business closures.

The headlines in the past two weeks typical for this fall include From Exxon to Charles Schwab, white-collar job cuts are mounting, Mass layoffs in the US as states face unprecedented budget crisis, Nike to layoff 700 people at HQ by January. As businesses realize that mounting cases meaning mounting unemployment, the layoffs will expand as we are a consumer economy.

And as it appears, Joe Biden will take office with news media having told him that "in the month before the election China’s trade surplus with the United States was 46.5 per cent higher than the day Donald Trump took office."

Fasten your seatbelts America, it's going to be a rough couple of years.

Friday, November 6, 2020

And yet another election won by the Koch Machine, this time locking up redistricting and climate policy



Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, one should not let this election go by without noting its impact - or lack thereof - on the Koch Bros control of the government entities that count, the state legislatures. In 2018 the Democrats picked up some control mostly in legislatures in which the control of the houses were split, as you can see in the graphic above. The Dems did pick up control of both houses of the New Hampshire legislature.

So long as votes are being counted, one could say there's a chance for a different outcome in 2020. But it appears that the Dems returned control of both houses in New Hampshire to the Republicans. And it appears the Dems have a chance to pick either or both houses in the Arizona legislature.

Of course this means that in all those red colored states, the Republicans will control the decennial redistricting of the U.S. House of Representatives and the legislatures.

But it appears Joe Biden might move into the White House in January and presumably over the next four years will reverse all those Executive Orders and other administrative and regulatory changes the Trump Administration put in place.

But most public policy in the United States will be limited. Many posts noting the Koch political machine are offered in this blog. Perhaps it is easiest to revisit the one regarding former Kansas Congressman and current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to see what the implications of continued Koch policy will be in the case of Climate Change:

[U.S. Secretary of State Mike]  Pompeo explained that we Americans will...
  • responsively reorganize our society, 
  • relocate as needed, and
  • rely on future technological innovation 
...instead of developing governmental policy as suggested in House Resolution 109 - Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal and creating the bureaucracy needed to implement it.
...The core conservative Climate Change view is addressed in the following policy statement:
  1. Yes, the climate is changing;
  2. Yes, a the changing climate likely will have impacts, perhaps some significant ones;
  3. No, we do not have an accurate prediction of what those impacts will be in the years 2025, 2050, 2100 or 2200;
  4. Individuals and businesses should recognize that over the next decades a need to adapt to changing climate conditions may arise requiring geographical relocation;
  5. Nations should recognize that over the next decades a need to adapt to changing climate conditions may arise requiring a responsive, evolutionary reorganization of society;
  6. Individuals, mostly through businesses as facilitated by free nations, will create technological advances which will allow for adaptation to and reductions in impacts from Climate Change;
  7. The United States Government in response to Climate Change at this time should not create complex economic and social policies, and the bureaucracies to implement them as suggested by the Democrats in H.R. 109, instead continue to rely upon the private sector and the states to address problems as they arise.

Since it is unlikely that the Democrats can get control of the U.S. Senate in the foreseeable future, it would appear that Pompeo's conservative policy will prevail into the next decade.

Yes, Biden could the U.S. rejoin The Paris Agreement. But as explained in a September 30, 2019, post, American participation will depend upon the efforts of the U.S. Climate Alliance depending upon state pollicy plus the efforts of the America’s Pledge organization bringing together private and public sector leaders to ensure the United States remains a global leader in reducing emissions and delivers the country’s ambitious climate goals of the Paris Agreement.

That is simply the product of Democrats not being able to gain control of the state governments. It can be seen in multiple policy arenas. And nothing the Sanders and AOC's of the world do address the problem. They are too enamored with the Presidency and the federal government to divert efforts to where they are needed. And they aren't going to move to Kansas.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Will the dogma "that lives loudly within" Amy Coney Barrett enshrine Koch Brothers Economics?

In her use of the term dogma, Senator Diane Feinstein was discussing Catholic religious dogma with now U.S. Supreme Court nominee and apparent Catholic religious dogma adherent Amy Coney Barrett. Indeed, it is some concern relative to state laws on abortion rights, physician-assisted suicide, and gay marriage.

But what if none of this matters relative to what is important to American national economic and societal structure? What if, as expressed in The New York Times by Kochland author Christopher Leonard "Judge Barrett’s nomination is the latest battleground in [Charles Koch's] decades-long war to reshape American society in a way that ensures that corporations can operate with untrammeled freedom."

What if, indeed!

In a blog post here we have explored in great detail the Koch-funded Neoliberal political organization. In 1958, the father of the Koch Brothers and the Koch Network, Fred C. Koch, became a founding member of the John Birch Society, an American political advocacy group supporting limited government. Over the next 60 years, the Koch wealth has been used particularly by Charles Koch to achieve control of American government. The truth is that with Barrett's nomination Trump has cemented a Neoliberal majority view on the Court.

As noted in the blog post referenced above, the map below indicates which among the 50 U.S. states at the beginning of 2016 had

  1. a Democratic Governor and 
  2. Democrats in control of its legislature. 



In fact, the shift from 1976 to 2016 within the important governments of the United States, the state legislatures, the Koch Network worked hard to bring about the following changes (the Nebraska unicameral legislature is supposedly non-partisan):

After gaining control of most state governments over a period of six decades, in 2016 Neoliberalism gained ideological dominance in the White House with the election of Mike Pence as Vice-President.

 In 1991, Pence became the president of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, a self-described free-market think tank and a member of the Neoliberal State Policy Network, a position he held until 1993.

More than half of SPN funding comes from DonorsTrust and its sister donor conduit Donors Capital Fund, the preferred funding vehicles of the Koch network of right-wing millionaires, billionaires, and foundations created to funnel money anonymously to network partners.

In 1992, Pence began hosting a Neoliberal ideology daily talk show on WRCR, The Mike Pence Show, in addition to a Saturday show on WNDE in Indianapolis. Beginning on April 11, 1994, Network Indiana syndicated The Mike Pence Show statewide.  From 1995 to 1999, Pence hosted a weekend public affairs TV show also titled The Mike Pence Show on Indianapolis TV station WNDY.

Pence won election to Congress then was elected as Governor. While Governor, in a televised interview appearance with Chris Matthews, Pence advocated eroding the teaching of science in public schools by putting religious dogma on a par with established science, accepting "creationist beliefs" as factual, and thus "teaching the controversy" over evolution and natural selection, and regarding the age of the earth, and letting children decide for themselves what to believe.

This, of course, brings us back to the issue of dogma in politics. In 1980 Charles Koch's brother, the late David Koch, credited the 1976 presidential campaign of Libertarian Roger MacBride as his inspiration for getting involved in politics: "Here was a great guy, advocating all the things I believed in. He wanted less government and taxes, and was talking about repealing all these victimless crime laws that accumulated on the books. I have friends who smoke pot. I know many homosexuals. It's ridiculous to treat them as criminals — and here was someone running for president, saying just that."

In other words, the Koch's are not conservative when it comes social issues. They simply want government totally out of business regulation and funding

Nonetheless, the Koch's have had to accept the dogmatic orthodoxy of Catholic fundamentalists and Christian evangelicals in order to advance their dogma in "these" United States (see maps above). If they must risk state laws on abortion rights, physician-assisted suicide, and gay marriage to "restore" unrestricted capitalism, so be it. In reality none of those laws would ever interfere with the activities of wealthy capitalists anyway.

Religion has a peculiar role in American history and politics. For instance, the Third Clause of Article VI of the Constitution states in part: "No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." Further, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

As perhaps half of 13 percent of Americans who know the year the U.S. Constitution was ratified are aware, the establishment of religion is a legal arrangement. It exists in Great Britain, Norway and other countries and existed in varying forms in many more countries in 1789, and in 10 of the original 13 colonies. One religion is designated as the official religion of the government. It is given preferential financial support by the government, which normally has a voice in the appointment of church officials. Frequently, the head of state must be an adherent of that religion.

The exclusion of non-Protestants from public office was practiced well into the 19th century. Disestablishment was not completed in Connecticut until 1818, in Massachusetts until 1833 and in New Hampshire until 1877. Keep that year in focus.

The Constitution forbids Congress to establish a national religion or even permit a religious requirement for someone to hold office. It also forbids congressional interference with religious practices. Or does it?

The year after 1877, in 1878, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Reynolds v. United States, ruled that a law against bigamy was not considered to be religiously discriminatory against members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), who were practicing polygamy up until 1890. The Court investigated the history of religious freedom in the United States and quoted a letter from Thomas Jefferson in which he wrote that there was a distinction between religious belief and action that flowed from religious belief. The former "lies solely between man and his God," therefore "the legislative powers of the government reach actions only, and not opinions." The Court determined that the First Amendment forbade Congress from legislating against opinion, but allowed it to legislate against action. Therefore, religious duty was not a suitable defense to a criminal indictment, religious actions could be regulated by law.

So ""Congress shall make no law...prohibiting the free exercise" of religion was interpreted to mean that the term "free exercise" was limited to holding an opinion.

In no way does the Constitution prohibit states from recognizing religions or religious practices nor from prohibiting religions or religious practices. Right? Well, not exactly.

Apparently in 1878 it was determined that Congress could regulate marriage practices. You see, the 14th Amendment only guaranteed religious civil rights by securing "the equal protection of the laws" for every person effectively prohibiting discrimination on the basis of religion.

But marriage laws, for instance, ostensibly don't discriminate on the basis of religion but rather on the "moral" preferences of the legislature. That puts gay marriage potentially back before the courts, as would the "right to life" put abortion and assisted suicide before the court.

If you find this confusing, you are not alone. It will be interesting to see what the Supreme Court will have to say about it all now that we've turned the Judicial Branch over to the American Catholic Church.

On the other hand, the Koch Network hopes it will result in enshrining their economic dogma.