Wednesday, January 17, 2018

What's the World Economic Forum And Why Are World Leaders, Including the US President, Going To Their Meeting in Davos?

Here are some basics:

What It Purports To be (From Wikipedia:)
"The World Economic Forum (WEF) is a Swiss nonprofit foundation, based in Cologny, Geneva, Switzerland. Recognized by the Swiss authorities as an international body,[1] its mission is cited as "committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas".
The Forum is best known for its annual meeting at the end of January in Davos, a mountain resort in Graubünden, in the eastern Alps region of Switzerland. The meeting brings together some 2,500 top business leaders, international political leaders, economists, and journalists for up to four days to discuss the most pressing issues facing the world. "

Who Is Attending?
This year’s opening address will be delivered by Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India. Donald Trump, President of the United States of America, will deliver a keynote address before the close of the meeting. This year a record number of leaders from G7 economies will participate, including Paolo Gentiloni, Prime Minister of Italy; Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission; Emmanuel Macron, President of France; Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; and Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, in addition to President Trump. As well as Prime Minister Modi, other leaders from the G20 include Liu He, Member, Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee; General Office Director, Central Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs, People's Republic of China; Mauricio Macri, President of Argentina, Cyril Ramaphosa, Deputy President of South Africa; and Michel Temer, President of Brazil. From the host country, Alain Berset, President of the Swiss Confederation, will also participate.
Overall, the Annual Meeting will feature over 340 top political leaders with 10 heads of state and government from Africa, nine from the Middle East and North Africa and six from Latin America. These include; Hailemariam Dessalegn, Prime Minister of Ethiopia; Emmerson Mnangagwa, President of Zimbabwe; Yemi Osinbajo, Vice-President of Nigeria; Saad Al Hariri, President of the Council of Ministers, Lebanon; His Majesty King Abdullah II Ibn Al Hussein, King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan; Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel; and Juan Manuel Santos, President of Colombia.
That list is just the heads of state or other governmental bodies.  You can see, at the link, the business leaders, civil society leaders (that seems to mean NGOs (non-governmental organizations), academics.  They also say they are focused on the younger generation.  And the media.

Below is a video of a pre-meeting press conference.  It's an easy way to get a sense of what this meeting is about - at least on the surface.  I dare say most people have no idea, even if the recognize the word "Davos."

It begins with Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, who gives a bit of an overview.

He begins:

Why is Davos so attractive?  

Just because it brings interesting people together, or is there more?
The World Economic Forum is the international organization for public/private cooperation and the annual meeting of all our communities responds to a true need for a multi-polar, multi-stakeholder, multi-conceptual, interdependent, complex, and fast-moving world.

Seven Reasons Why  Such A Response to A New World Is Appropriate

1.   World Complexity:  Governments, Business, Civil Society cannot address alone the multiple challenges.  We need collaborative efforts and Davos has become the annual, most representative,  high-level, multi-stakeholder summit.

Six different stakeholder groups:
  1. Governments
  2. Business
  3. Civil Society
  4. Best Expertise - University Experts, Academia
  5. Young Generation
  6. The Media

2.  Everyting interrelated  -  Need Systemic Approach, Ecosystem.  He says they identify 14 systems.- Theme - Creating a Shared Future

It took a bit for me to figure out the difference between #1 and #2.  The #1 is about who can solve the problems - no person or group or sector can deal with the problems alone.  They have to work with others.  #2 is about the problems themselves being complex.

3.  Not a stand alone meeting - all sessions embedded in ongoing follow up activities.  Discusses other summits they hold during the year.  For example:

  • Mideast Summit
  • Sustainable Development Impact Summit

Three initiatives
Global Network of  Centers for the Fourth Industrial Revolution
Global Center for Cyber Security
Up-Link - world's foremost impact accelerator

4.  Not sure.  He didn't say "fourth reason"  maybe it was the three initiatives.

5.  Timing at beginning of each year - important to help focus the issues for each year - 2018 Decisive Year For Europe  -

  • The future of global corporations will be a big issue.  
  • Future of economic growth, at the end of an upswing cycle.  
  • Policies of central banks next year will be a big issue.  
  • G20 and G7 agendas prepared at Davos.  
  • Publication of Global Risk Report.  For us a directive of the key issues in 2018.
  • Mirror of multi-cultural world, 1/3 of participants come from emerging nations

He never numerates the fourth, sixth or seventh reasons, but maybe they were part of the discussion of the other ones.

Conclude:  Davos should provide:

1.  Collaborative Approach - no one alone can solve issues
2.  Integrative Approach - no issue solved in isolated way
3.  Constructive Approach - great opportunities, but also great perils.  Real danger of collapse of our global systems.  It isn't just happening, but it's in our hands to shape the future of the world

Schwab is the first 14 minutes of the video.  Beyond that it tends to get tedious. (Some might well argue the first 14 minutes are tedious, I know.)  It's old school talking heads.  It's video of a live press conference.
One could argue that Davos is (or thinks it is) so important that it doesn't have to glitz up the video with graphics and animation.  They are offering the information to the world, but don't really care if you watch or not.  Or they just represent the older generation of entitled power elite who do things they way they always have.
In any case, the rest is there to watch.  Listen while you lift weights or do other exercises or mindless tasks.

We should at least be pleased to be able to peek into meetings like this that do have the attention of world leaders and do influence the world.

And if you're wondering who Klaus Schwab is and how he founded the World Economic Forum and gets people to come, Here's a brief 2009 Vanity Fair bio.

It's hard in today's world to sort out those seriously doing (not just saying they are doing) good in the world from those with personal agendas or biases that minimize their impacts or do actual harm.  Clearly Schwab has a rationalist approach that puts business in the forefront.  At this point I don't have enough knowledge to evaluate, but I present this as important to at least know about.

Check their Global Risk Assessment chart.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Travel Day - LA To Seattle, Karenka Gets Her Name Tag

Airport Shuttle

Growing up and until just about a year ago, my mom's house was about a mile from the nearest bus in any direction.  But when they opened the last link - Santa Monica to Culver City - of the Metro line to downtown LA, they added a bus line to  just a few minutes walk from my mom's house.  In one direction it goes to the Metro station.  In the other direction it catches the bus to the airport.   So getting to the airport by bus is even easier than it was.  From the airport bus station, there's a shuttle the rest of the way to the airport.

When we were checking in, another agent gave our agent her name tags.  She said she'd been working for Alaska Airlines for a month - so I insisted she put one on, and we toasted her with imaginary glasses.
Kalenka Gets Her Name Badge
Then from SEATAC by train to downtown, a quick walk to the ferry and over to Bainbridge Island.  Here's sunny, and relatively warm (56˚F) downtown Seattle from the ferry.

(It's a little distorted since I put to photos together here.)  The best part was picking up our granddaughter from day care as we walked from the ferry.  She ran up and gave me a really big hug.  Then she helped pull the suitcase the rest of the way.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Comedy And Role Reversal Often Work Best

When you can't convince someone using logic, tapping into the emotion sometimes can work.

If you are afraid of heights and your friend wants you to climb on the roof to see the view, she will never feel your fear of heights directly.  She just tell you not to worry.  But maybe you can appeal to one of her own fears - say snakes - to get her to understand how you feel.  OK, I'll climb on the roof, but you hold these snakes first.  She'll viscerally understand why you won't go on the roof, even if she isn't afraid of heights.

This video does just that, and with humor.

OK, men might look at this and say it isn't the same.  I'd say it's pretty close to how many women are treated when they report assaults.  They aren't taken seriously, they're somehow responsible for what happened to them.  And without doubt, there are examples of that, but they are relatively few, and the many serious complaints shouldn't be treated poorly because of the exceptions.

So think about this approach - turning the tables and using the same language to get someone to see how ridiculous they're being.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Living In A Construction Zone

Furniture out, workers' tools in
My mom's house isn't big - about 1200 square feet, three bedrooms, one full bathroom and one with a sink and toilet.  But when my parent's bought it back in 1956, they did a great job with the location.  Since my mom died in 2015, we've spent a fair amount of time cleaning things out, giving things away, selling a few things, donating lots.  It seemed like however much we pulled out, the closets didn't seem to get emptier.  Then there were drawers and cabinets and, drum roll, the garage.

I'm not complaining.  My mom knew where things were and she always had something to use for whatever situation, whether it was gift to take when visiting someone, a bag to hold something in, the old waffle iron, and on and on.  She didn't want us moving things around because then she wouldn't be able to find them.  She did say, repeatedly, "When I'm gone, you can do what you want."

So the last two and half years, our trips here were focused on cleaning things out.  People have been telling us to to rent it out while we're not here - most of the time - and so we are required to get it
more up-to-date - like getting rid of the popcorn ceiling and painting pretty much everything.  There's now a dishwasher and dryer after all these years of washing by hand and hanging the laundry out to dry in the sun.  We've go a new deck in the backyard - which was getting bedraggled because of various droughts.  The gardener keeps things from getting overgrown, but not from dying.  So what long ago used to be a lawn in the back had become a patch of dirt.  The deck takes away that eyesore and adds an outdoor room.  All this has happened in the last two weeks and we've been living in the middle of it.

When we head out this week, the carpet will come off the living room floor and the old hardwood floors will be sanded and polished.

That means we've been getting everything into the garage so the floors will be cleared.  We still have a little table in the kitchen (no hardwood there so that's ok) and an air mattress bed that we can move out ourselves before we leave.  Bathrooms have been in and out of service as they get various upgrades - new grout, paint, and fixtures.  One bathroom got a whole new vanity.

I'm still finding things I didn't know were here.  An old cream and sugar set was wrapped in old
newspaper.  Not sure why they had the Chicago Sun Times from June 6, 1989 - two days after the Tiananmen massacre.

I couldn't remember Li Peng being shot back then and when I googled Li Peng assassination most everything - including bios of Li Peng - omit mention of an assassination attempt.  There was one book - Confessions: An Innocent Life in Communist China -  I found where a Chinese student talks about his participation in Tiananmen protests and he writes,
"After we had hung up our poster, we heard news that Deng Xiaoping had suddenly died and that Premier Li Peng had been wounded in an assassination attempt.  That afternoon firecrackers were popping all over campus to celebrate Deng's death.  But we soon discovered that these "news reports" were baseless rumors.  In fact students from Jaotong University had not been run over by tanks, Deng Xiaoping was alive and well, and Li Peng had not been wounded."
Publishing unsubstantiated rumors, as this headline shows, isn't new.  But neither is attempting to fool the public with false stories.  Yellow journalism was taught in the American history classes I took in high school.  But there's a new sophistication in the creation and spreading of the new brand of fake news we see today.

We try to drive as little as possible - J walks and I ride the bike all I can.  But if you need to go far or fast or carry a lot, you need to take the car and traffic can be frustrating.  Public transit is ok for a few destinations, like the airport.

Some of my old bedroom furniture was snapped up by a young man with a square beard and tight jeans who was excited about picking up 'mid-century' stuff for a token price.  I was happy it was going to an appreciative home.  Various people have been leaning on me to get rid of, or do, this and that.  I think they are mostly right, but I don't want a generic house in the end so I'm holding my ground on some things.  And listening to reason on others.

And we are in LA, where the weather has gone from nice to rainy to very nice.  And we've eaten lots of good food.  As we were coming home from house-related errands we stopped on a block of Venice that had a Brazilian cafe, a Caribbean place, a Thai place, and a Himalyan place.  We ate at Tara's in part because of the garden like setting on a busy street.
Domo Plate at Tara's

And yesterday when it got into the eighties (F) even at the beach, we decided we needed a break.  J walked and I biked the two miles to Venice Beach.

After playing in the surf with my granddaughter when she was here in December, I was seriously thinking about catching some waves.  I watched the few would-be body surfers not catch anything and I remembered our bathtub was out of commission while the resurfacing dried.  But I did go into the water part way and it felt great to have the surf rushing between my legs.  The water didn't feel terribly cold (about 60˚F).

There's still work to do when we're gone - the floors, and when that messy job is over, new blinds will be put into most of the windows.  We're headed to see our Seattle granddaughter before touching base again in Anchorage and then more Seattle time before coming back here to see what we still have left to do.

... was out getting garbage and recycling into our cans and two neighbors' cans.  Neighbors up the hill have moved into their house about a year after we moved into this one.  The neighbors to the south moved in much more recently and became very good friends with my mom.  And the LA sanitation department picks up bulky items like carpet and sinks if you call a day ahead - and they were open Sunday to take my call.

Friday, January 12, 2018

NPR, In Order To Report Trump's Statements, Joins George Carlin In Saying "Shit" On Air

Here's a tweet from an NPR news-story:

I might remind readers that 'shit' was on the top of George Carlin's list of seven dirty words.
The seven dirty words are seven English-language words that American comedian George Carlin first listed in 1972 in his monologue "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television".[1] The words are: shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits.[2][1]
At the time, the words were considered highly inappropriate and unsuitable for broadcast on the public airwaves in the United States, whether radio or television. As such, they were avoided in scripted material, and bleep censored in the rare cases in which they were used; broadcast standards differ in different parts of the world, then and now, although most of the words on Carlin's original list remain taboo on American broadcast television. The list was not an official enumeration of forbidden words, but rather was compiled by Carlin. Nonetheless, a radio broadcast featuring these words led to a U.S. Supreme Court decision in FCC v. Pacifica Foundation that helped define the extent to which the federal government could regulate speech on broadcast television and radio in the United States.
It's time to thank President Trump for making it possible for broadcast media personnel to now use the word 'shit' on air without interference from the FCC.  Hopefully, the other six will soon become useable when appropriate too.

Write your representatives in Washington that you applaud this boost for free speech from Trump and their lack of opposition.

However, what's allowable on broadcast tv and radio is not necessarily what should be allowable by a sitting president of the United States.  And it's not the word 'shit' that I object to, but the racism  of excluding people of color while inviting Norwegians.

If your members of Congress haven't stood up in protest, you might want to remind them that the president is a sick, dishonest, depraved human being who is not fit for office.  And the checks and balances written in the Constitution mean it's their responsibility to act.

That they shouldn't wait until November when the people of the United States will act for them.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Graham v Municipality of Anchorage #6 - Test Makers Lack Certification

We're starting to get into the details.  Some might think "This seems minor" for some of these posts, but I hope to explain why they aren't minor.  But if you don't agree with me,  I'd also point out that a pattern of minor issues can collectively become a much more serious issue.

In this post I'm reporting the point that Jeff Graham's attorney made in court:  that the people who designed the training, the tests, and the grading procedures didn't have the training or the certification to do it right.

In court, Jeff Graham's attorney, Jeff Jarvi, gave Chad Richardson, the person in charge of the engineer academy (engineer is the step above a basic fire fighter and the academy is the training and testing program to promote to an engineer) a copy of his Fire Service Instructor Certificate and asked him to read off what level the certification was.  Chad Richardson read it:  Level I.  He was then asked what the difference between Level I and Level II was.  He didn't know.  He was then asked to read the above version of how the state certifying board distinguishes them.  Here's what Richardson read in court: 

From the State of Alaska Department of Public Safety (p. 3 of 16)
 AFSC Fire Service Instructor Certification Levels: 
Instructor I: (NFPA 1041 2012 ed., An individual who has demonstrated the knowledge and ability to deliver instruction effectively from a prepared lesson plan, including instructional aids and evaluation instruments; adapt lesson plans to the unique requirements of the students and authority having jurisdiction; organize the learning environment so that learning is maximized; and meet the record-keeping requirements of authority having jurisdiction.  
Instructor II: (NFPA 1041 2012 ed., An individual who has met the requirements for FSI Level I qualifications, and has demonstrated the knowledge and ability to develop individual lesson plans for a specific topic including learning objectives, instructional aids, and evaluation instruments; schedule training sessions based on overall training plan of authority having jurisdiction; and supervise and coordinate the activities of other instructors.  

If you missed the bold above, Level I is qualified to give training and tests someone else has designed.  You need Level II to create the training and the testing (including how the tests are graded.)

Jarvi did the same with Casey Johnson who prepared the exam.    And current Deputy Chief Jodie Hettrick who was then the new head of all training at the AFD.  They all only had Level I certification.  While I can understand the difficulty of coming into a new situation when the academy had already been planned, one thing Jodie Hettrick could have done in her initiation period was to check the certifications of the two in charge of the academy.  She had, after all, been in  charge of the state certification program  just before taking the job in Anchorage.  

Why does this matter?

First and foremost, the people in charge of testing didn't have the knowledge needed to create a valid and reliable exam and exam process necessary for a system based on merit principles, as required by  the MOA Charter at Section 5.06(c). 

Second, it undermines the credibility of the AFD's claims in court about how professional the fire department is.  The people preparing the exam didn't have the training or certification to do their jobs right.  There are also certifications for what different levels of paramedics can and cannot do.  Several people testified to not being able to perform certain functions because you needed a higher certification to perform it.  Are people ignoring those certifications too?  I suspect not, simply because they see that as their primary function, while they might see testing as 'merely' administrative.  I don't know for sure.  

Third, it raises questions about integrity, the area that Jeff Graham was marked down on, just enough in his oral exam, for him to fail to qualify for promotion.  I'll get into that matter later, but I want people to remember this as one of number of questions about integrity that make the judgment of Graham's integrity seem hypocritical and which I'm sure the jury didn't miss.  

On August 4, at the end of the MOA's defense, Deputy Chief Hettrick was called back to the stand by the MOA attorney and asked questions about the lack of proper certification.  
It was unfortunate, she told the court.  That State of Alaska didn't offer training in Anchorage for a number of years.  But it turns out there were people at AFD who had been certified at Level II when there still was training available in Anchorage.  

Jeff Jarvi, Graham's attorney, asked why people didn't go to Juneau or Outside for training, and Hettrick said it depended on available travel funds.  He then pointed out that Casey Johnson (who  created the exams)  had been allowed to testify at the trial out of sequence so he could attend a non-critical conference in North Carolina. That's four years since the exam and they still haven't gotten training.  

Below are some of my typed notes in the courtroom, so they aren't verbatim but close. 

MOA Attorney Monica Elkinton  "Are you saying that between 1996 and 2012 courses weren't offered?"
Hettrick:  Two small groups and no one from Anchorage took it.  There are no state statutes that require certification.  Local government makes that decision.  For police they have statutes.  There are recommendations, but without the instructor program, state couldn't do that. 
Elkinton:  Sounds like the authority having jurisdiction can prescribe what to do.  
Hettrick:  Yes

So, she's saying without a Municipal statue requiring training people to proper certification, it's ok if unqualified people make up the exams and grading procedures.

When it was Jeff Jarvi's turn to cross examine.

Jarvi:  Chief Dennis was a certified Level 2 right?  
Hettrick:  Yes
Jarvi:  Were there others?
Hettrick:  We have, I believe, less than 10.  
Jarvi:  There are others [with Level II Certification]?
Hettrick:  Yes
Jarvi:  Did they travel Outside to take the exam?
Hettrick:  No, they got it before 1996, but they can have them renewed.  The other half of that group attended the course we did in 2016.  . . . 
Jarvi:   We heard that Dennis did his in Juneau and Casey Johnson [Who created the test but was only certified at Level I] was accommodated in this trial to go to a conference in North Carolina?
Hettrick:  Yes.  

I would also note here - it's difficult to find the perfect place to put everything because some facts relate to more than one point, such as Casey Johnson's descriptions of how he himself had prepared for his own promotion exam.  MOA attorney Elkinton made one of her key arguments in the case that Graham didn't pass the test because he didn't study hard enough.*  To prove that point she asked various other people how hard they studied. 

Casey Johnson, in answering Elkinton's questions, said he studied many hours every day for months and months.  It was important for him to know everything.  I'd note that there was no real way to verify how much time he actually spent other than his word.  There were logs of people attending academy sessions or working with others in their stations, but not independent reading and studying.  

I raise this because Casey Johnson also said that training had become his passion.  Yet, if he was so dedicated to studying and memorizing as much as possible so he could pass the exams and do his job well, how is it that he didn't make sure he got the Level II Fire Safety Instructor training?  How is it that he didn't know about validity which was discussed in some detail in the national Fire Safety Instructor Training manual?  

*I do have to mention that Jeff Graham passed the written test and the practical test comfortably. So apparently he studied enough for those exams.  It was the highly subjective oral exam that he didn't pass. By one point.  I'll got into much more detail about what was wrong with that exam in future posts.  

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Two Movies Two Nights, One About Love, One About Anger - Naming and Billboards (Updated)

Monday night we saw Call Me By Your Name, a movie as devoid of violence as you can get.  There was blood - Elia got a nose bleed while eating dinner.  Oscar scraped his stomach in a bike accident.  If there was more than that, I don't remember.  The movie was about love in many different forms from love among family members, friends, and sexual love.  It's about intelligent, well educated, multilingual people interacting not just with civility, but with affection.  It all takes place in a lushly sensual summer in Northern Italy.

The movie has gotten a lot of praise.  The New Yorker has one gushing review and one thoroughly nasty review.  It wasn't merely critical, but relentlessly churlish.  The first paragraph ends with:
"Elio affirms that his parents were aware of the relationship and offered their approval, to which Oliver responds, “You’re so lucky; my father would have carted me off to a correctional facility.” And that’s the premise of the film: in order to have anything like a happy adolescence and avoid the sexual repression and frustration that seem to be the common lot, it’s essential to pick the right parents. The movie is about, to put it plainly, being raised right."
I had thought about how loving Elio and his parents were with each other, and as well as I got along with my parents, this family really had a great rapport.  But to say that the movie was all about being raised by the right parents, hints that perhaps something about the warmth of the family irritated Brody, the reviewer, enough to color his whole view of the movie.  There were things he said that had  merit.  He basically said it was all a tourist promotion scheme for Northern Italy, and I did think, when I saw the waterfall, about all the people who will add it to their itineraries when the go to Italy.  And I thought about his criticism of the camera shots.  There were no point of view shots - and I realized I couldn't remember seeing what was happening from the eyes of the main characters. (I'd have to see it again to be sure.  I'm not sure it's true.  We do see Oscar's arrival from the upstairs window where Elio is, for example.)  That criticism also made me feel sorry for someone so steeped in film making that he sees the film making instead of the film.

I did raise the question to my wife about Armie Hammer's name.  I joked that he was the grandson of the oil man Armand Hammer.  It turns out, according to The Times of Israel that he's the great grandson of Armand Hammer.  The review focuses on the Jewish themes of the movie.

Tuesday night we saw Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, a movie full of violence, foul language, and anger.  The film erases the idea of good guys and bad guys - everyone is flawed, and there's anger deep in all of them.  With one exception.  It doesn't paint a pretty picture of the United States, but it does force anyone watching it to think about our uncivil society and the troubled lives of people who never experienced dependable, unconditioned love.  This is, for me, a movie about anger and how it causes us to do stupid things, to hurt other people as a way of trying to lessen our own pain.

All that said, Three Billboards got a slew of Golden Globe awards Sunday night and Call Me By Your Name got shut out, though it did have a lot of nominations.

This post is for Casey, but he's probably already asleep.

[UPDATE Jan 10, 2017:  I've had a night to sleep on this second film.  What hadn't quite formed itself into words last night:  This is a fairy tale, constructed to make a point about the destructiveness of anger and the importance of forgiveness.  The characters and the town are less real people than constructs to teach a lesson, a parable perhaps.  That's the unease I walked away from the theater with.  Will it work?  I don't know.  This town is in the same state as Ferguson and racism in the police station isn't below the surface.  While partisan politics aren't mentioned, this town clearly voted for Trump and Mildred is probably one of the few who didn't.  The town is divided between troubled whites and others - blacks, a gay guy, and a dwarf.  I suspect the obviousness of that will have many Trump voters immune to the message about the destructiveness of anger and hate.  It will come across like Clinton's deplorable comment did.  With the exception of one (very cool) white resident of Ebbing, the only people who supported Mildred were the outsiders - blacks, a gay, a midget.   But perhaps people who originally side with Mildred will recognize their own obsessiveness.

In a SlashFilm interview, director McDonagh says the screenplay was written eight years ago, so it's not about Trump and current politics, but it doesn't say how much time he spent in small town Missouri.  (Sam Rockwell, in a Vanity Fair interview says the movie was filmed in Asheville, North Carolina, but he spent time in Missouri doing ride-alongs with police.) So I simply don't know how well this reflects the people in a town like this.

All that said, each film maker, each author should make the story they have in them.  Short of intentionally manipulative propaganda, it's not their responsibility how people react.   Riling people up is not a bad thing.  so long as they think about the issues raised and their own positions.]

Video Economics Primer Offers Four Ways To Reduce Long Term Deficit

Someone sent me a link to this video that explains the economy. I'm always skeptical about people explaining the economy. Why? Because economists tell us the economy is doing well, all signs are positive. But we hear

  • about the people struggling to get by, (and probably know some of them too.)   
  • that US income inequality hasn't been so high for a century. 
  • (and see) a lot of homeless folks all over.  
  • that to keep the economy growing we have to destroy the environment. (Well they don't word it quite like that.)  

My reaction is that if these things are happening in a 'good' economy,  then the economists aren't measuring the economy right.

But this video is a great start to learn how economist think about the economy,  some of  the jargon, and our options for debt reduction beyond the Republican mantras of no new taxes and spending cuts.

In fact, near the end of the video, Dalio explains why spending cuts alone exacerbate the debt problems.

And who is Ray Dialo?  Wikipedia tells us:
"Raymond Dalio (born August 1, 1949) is an American investor, hedge fund manager, and philanthropist.[3] Dalio is the founder of investment firm Bridgewater Associates, one of the world's largest hedge funds.[4] He is one of the world’s 100 wealthiest people, according to Bloomberg.[5]"
So, when he says at the end, that this 'template' has helped him, I'm assuming it means it has helped him to time and direct his investments.

Crib Sheet

This video is content rich.  He has reduced his presentation to the essentials.  Every word is important.  I couldn't listen to this while doing something else.  In fact, I had to stop it repeatedly so I could take notes.  But by doing that, I understood his conclusion.

Basically, he's saying:

The economy works in a simple, mechanical way.
  • A few simple parts
  • A lot of simple transactions, that are repeated over and over again.
    • These transactions are driven by human nature and create 3 main forces that drive the economy
      • productivity growth
      • the short term debt cycle
      • the long term debt cycle
He explains these three forces and uses the three visually superimposed on each other - productivity growth, short term debt cycle, and the long term debt cycle - to explain what people have to do to keep the cycles going in our favor.  

He starts by talking about transactions (people exchanging goods and services for money and credit) and shows how these can lead to cycles of increasing and decreasing productivity and debt.  
He puts CREDIT in the center of this model - as a critical means to increasing productivity and living standards  (He points out there is $50 trillion in credit in the US, but only about $3 trillion in cash.)

You can agree or disagree with his presentation (I have a few questions and quibbles) but it does a great job of spelling out the basics of mainstream economics.  

He tells us at the end that the short term debt cycles can be fixed by the central bank (The Fed in the US) decreasing interest rates.  But each time it does this and restimulates the economy and productivity growth, it increases the long term debt until the long term debt cycle gets us to a depression.

He offers four solutions at that point. (Lowering interest doesn't work because it is already at 0% at this point):
  1. Cut spending
  2. Restructure the debt
  3. Income redistribution
  4. Print more money

He argues that cutting spending increases the problem, and the ultimate solution is a combination of all four, which, if done well (balancing inflationary and deflationary ways to deleverage) it is 'beautiful' and gets us balanced again with the least disruption.  

I promise if you watch this carefully and take some notes, all this will make perfect sense.  

This is useful to gather jargon and understanding for when you talk to your Republican congress members who only want to cut spending and taxes.  

And, of course, economists don't agree amongst themselves, so take this all with a grain of salt.  Consider it a starting point for finding out more.

[UPDATE 5:45pm:  I've added the word 'video' into the title after seeing how relatively few people have looked at this post so far today.  LA Rain got more hits faster.  People apparently don't want to deal with the hard topics.  The video is really well done, and maybe by adding video to the title more people will stake a look.  Just musing here on blogging and people's interests.  I do recognize that I too get overloaded and skip things I should read.]

Monday, January 08, 2018

A Little Rain Makes Me Think About Life After Humans

It rained overnight in LA.

Looking at the drops left on the leaf reminds me that nature follows set patterns.  We talk about human caused global warming harming the earth.  But 'harm' is in the eye of the beholder.

The earth will change, but it will survive.  How humans and other living things will survive is another story.  Some argue that without humans,  the non-human living things will thrive.  The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement calls for people to stop procreating.  There's even two seasons of Life After People on  (A quick look suggests that all the pollutants we've already created and have sitting around will cause massive harm.)

UPDATE 8:45pm:  The rain got more serious later in the day:

Sunday, January 07, 2018

How We Remember Our Presidents

Given recent tweets, I can't help but think about presidential legacies and monikers.  Here are a few:

  • Washington - Father of His Country
  • Jackson - Old Hickory
  • Lincoln - The Great Emancipator, Honest Abe
  • Roosevelt - The Trust Buster
  • Coolidge - Silent Cal
  • Roosevelt - FDR
  • Truman - Give ‘em Hell Harry
  • Eisenhower - Ike
  • Kennedy - JFK
  • Johnson - LBJ
  • Reagan - The Great Communicator
  • Nixon - Tricky Dick and “I am not a crook.”
  • Carter - The Peanut Farmer
  • Bush (Jr) -  Dubya

And I can't imagine anything other than:

  • Trump - A Very Stable Genius

As you might be able to detect, I'm frustrated that the American media's spotlight is focused on Trump's twitter account.  It's like the slowing of traffic as people view a car wreck.  We're caught in ajam-up  of cars and can't get on with what we need to do.  Hopefully, we're absorbing the reminder to drive more safely individually and planning how to get public officials to collectively fund safer infrastructure, even alternatives to driving.

So keep calling your congress members.  Keep working with groups gearing up for the next election. Read funny books and watch funny movies to clear off the numbing effect of our president.

Meanwhile I'm thinking far ahead when it's possible the irony that Trump's nickname will carry could actually wear off and people take it at face value.  So Orwellian.  Push that thought away and pick your battles well.