Wednesday, March 20, 2019

FLASH POST: Are Results of the Economy Under Trump Pretty Much Happening by the Book?

Trump talks like he's some amazing economic savior for the country, but everything that has happened to stimulate the economy seems completely predictable. . .while also sounding like some running on a caffeine high every day. . .in that the economy will eventually grown tolerant to the caffeine and eventually lose the high.

Conservatives had their own book of assumptions, though, that doesn't seem to go according to reality (even though the By The Book of predictable economics could see it coming a mile away). The conservatives made the assumption that employers would make capital investments and increase wages. But lo, employers engaged in stock buybacks and mostly just gave bonuses, not as many wage increases as expected (and even where they did, the results ended up screwing workers).

And what bonuses and wage increase occured, it doesn't amount to much because inflation largely tracked with the wage increases in 2018. Apparently CPI has stayed low so far in 2019, but that's mostly from gas and energy, mostly from outside of the country that I don't think conservatives have as much control of. . .unless maybe through some crony deals with Saudi Arabia to keep down gas prices. . .and is that worth the moral cost and the lives lost to support the Saudi Arabian war in Yemen?

But here are the couple of articles that I found that support my argument that most of the economic gains since 2016 in the US have pretty much been by the book and not necessarily anything expected to be sustainable:

How Trump’s tax cuts are boosting GDP, and why that might not last - PBS

Opinion: Everybody predicted the surge in GDP that Trump says nobody predicted - MarketWatch

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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

SPECULATIVE FLASH POST: Did the Great Recession End the Post-War Period?

This episode of American Shadows starts by looking at Samuel Adams as a conspiracist. The episode pushed me into a deep dive into Euro-American history since the American Revolution and earlier to understand Parliament of England, the French Estates General & various other legislative bodies in France, and the Habsburg Monarchy/Holy Roman Empire/Central Europe to WWII. This is a bit of history I tend to focus on from different angles.

But this time, I've reached a hypothesis: I believe future historians will consider The Great Recession as the point in history in which the Postwar Period ended and a new era started. . .

  • Ukraine
  • Putin
  • Brexit
  • Greece
  • Arab Spring
  • Libya
  • Syria
  • Trump
  • Viktor Orb├ín in Hungary
  • The Rise of illiberalism again
Frankly, I feel kinda bad for Obama since he won the 2008 POTUS Election just as people started realizing how really bad things were and would be getting because of the Great Recession. So many firsts, including watching the fall of Euro-American stability after many years of rising pluralism.

(I also received a shock today when I heard The Moment discuss the Doctor Who episode "Turn Left" and demonstrate that the episode has renewed resonance today when back in the day, the episode might have felt over the top.)

The beginning of a future holds much promise and a lot of negative possibilities. I hope the human race survives long enough for it to become a historical period since we could destroy human civilization by just not addressing issues of climate change, let alone our relations with each other. Hopefully we just have to push through an initial dark time to reach a time of maturity, prosperity, and peace rather than continued despair. But we can only reach that better future if we work together to create good will and the desire to solve problems before we destroy civilization.

So how about it? Thoughts? Ideas? Innovations? Can we avoid destruction?

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Sunday, March 10, 2019

STATEMENT: Aiming to get Paid for My Writing by Marketing to Publications; Plan to Use Lextopia for Other Things, Unsure What Presently

I fractured my heel in a bike accident back in October when a delivery driver rear ended me. The impact sent me flying off my bike. Looking back, I'm amazed that I landed square on my foot with enough bullet time to figure out how to avoid a wall or fence before falling on a shoulder, somersaulting, or whatever I did to avoid any further damage to my body (not even any additional scratches!).

I used crutches starting that night until sometime from the beginning to the middle of January. My foot still hurts and will likely continue to hurt for awhile. I've been doing physical therapy twice a week since December and, at minimum, will likely continue to the end of March. Even after I finish PT, the pain will likely continue and stretches will likely need to continue for awhile.

I relate this story to explain why my time management sucks lately with two nights of PT a week and stretches that I need to do at night on other days. The past week ended up a doozie. I went out both Thursday and Friday, so that left only Tuesday open and free to do my stretches. By this weekend, the soft tissue in my leg and foot has gotten damn sore again, reminding me of the importance of making sure I stretch.

In addition to having free time reduced from injury, I've also made some progress in my book/bachelor project writing and novel. Paying attention to and mulling over current social tensions and how they affect how people relate and reading a lot into general social science topics that touch upon the project (but not the actual historical events or the utopian theory) have both yielded some useful material to work with. Today I wrote about two pages of outline that address topics wells and did so in a succinct and concise fashion, both of which I aim for.

If you've paid attention to my social media, you'll have seen that I've started writing in the novel again. A couple weeks ago, I wrote a little more than five pages within a few days, after not having written for about three months since I had broken my heel. I would have thought that being bedridden and people having more understanding about me not being able to leave home, I would have had more output. Apparently such results don't happen when one's brain gets all muddled, one's body doesn't want to do anything, and when moving from one side of the apartment to the other has become such a hassle because using crutches requires a lot of energy and don't forget the planning that it takes to move efficiently with a bag to carry things then maneuver around things. On the bright side: I caught up a lot on TiVo watching.

I've also reached the point that I want to get paid for my essay writing. The wife insists on encouraging other people to get paid for their writing. When they're about to post a thread on Twitter or post an esssay on a blog, she encourages them to market it to publications out there. The topics of those threads or essays tend more toward cultural criticism of science fiction, fantasy, and around alternative viewpoints don't come from a straight white cis-guy, so I can appreciate why she doesn't insist on me marketing my essays as much as other people. Besides, this insistence of her's rubs off on me passively, anyway, so she doesn't need to direct her efforts toward me.

Once many years ago, someone once tried to urge me to try writing movie reviews for publications, too. I didn't really have the confidence then, nor did I think that I had the time to spare. Apparently my confidence level has increased since those many years have passed.

Straight up, readership, I haven't received enough Ko-Fi contributions to continue posting my essays here on the Lextopia when I might be able to find venues for my writing elsewhere. I don't plan to completely abandon The Lextopia. For one, researching markets provides a whole new venture that could prove interesting and worthwhile to comment about. For instance, I just checked out In Our Times, a radical democratic leftist labor-focused publication that has some worthwhile viewpoints to keep eyes on. It doesn't provide a great venue for the current essay I want to market, but maybe someday. Maybe I'll post about that research here and there.

When I do publish essays, I plan to post links here to them. I might occasionally come up with something that doesn't feel appropriate for publication in some other venue. Maybe I'll have other matters that I want to advocate about quickly or just has a more personal angle to them. I don't know, but I'd like to continue using the Lextopia as a way to keep up communication with the public in one way or another about stuff that just has a better place on a blog than a publication.

If you have any idea of publications that I should look at to consider marketing my work to, though, please don't hesitate to reach out to me in the comments, through social media, or through an e-mail. I think the e-mail link/fields on the right side of the screen should still be functional. . ..

Thank you for reading up to this point.

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Monday, March 04, 2019

FLASH POST: Inactivity Enables Bad Politicians; Rising and Activeness Will Get Us Good Politicians

Bad, corrupt politicians have every incentive to continue being bad, corrupt. The worse they are, the more people feel that the politicians are out of touch, the more people feel their votes don't matter, & the more people feel alienated by their government. WAKE UP, PEOPLE!

If you can register and vote, REGISTER AND VOTE! And also do what you can inspire other people too disillusioned to vote & to help disenfranchised people get registered & able to vote. By being inactive, we enable bad, corrupt politicians. Only by rising & getting active can we get good politicians into office that will be answerable to us. The more we vote, the more our votes matter. Only by acting can WE, THE PEOPLE form a government of the people, by the people, for the people.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Chicago Voters: Before and On 2/26/2019, Get Out There to Vote (and a couple final thoughts)

If you want to do some preliminary research, find your sample ballot at Chicago Board of Election Commissioners webpage.

You know who I support for mayor, and Lightfoot seems like she has a good chance of winning at this point. Other top runnners and Alderman are going after after her pretty aggressively.

If it matters, votes for City Clerk challenger won't be counted to see who gets into office. In my opinion, though, no vote "counts" for getting someone into or out of office. A vote against incumbent Valencia can provide a message of what kind of City Clerk you want to see in office for the future, especially more votes go against Valencia. I don't know how much attention anyone will pay to those votes, but if anyone does, they might get a message.

Chicago Voters, do your research and get out your vote before and on Tuesday, February 26, 2019.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Well-to-Do Neighborhoods Should Share Their School Fundraising with Not So Well-to-Do Schools

The other day I heard a pretty good interview of Robert Reich by DeRay Mckesson on the Pod Save the People podcast. Based on context, Reich's new book, Just Giving: Why Philanthropy Is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better prompted the interview session.

Reich presented an interesting scenario that I believe he, himself, experienced. After moving into a neighborhood, he enrolled his children into a local public school. Important point: I recall Reich making a dinstinction about the school being a "normal" public school, not a charter school or anything other than a public school. Another vital thing to keep in mind: Reich likely lived in a well to do part of town/city. For the sake of argument, I'm willing to assume that he could have moved into a middle class part of town/city and had a similar experience.

Either which way, Reich soon received a letter from the school that stated the school had "expected, but didn't require" a donation of a certain amount. I can't recall if Reich clarified how much the school expected him to donate. Reich then used that experience of his to explain how well-to-do neighborhoods use this process to improve their own local school where their children go. By doing so, however, they create further divides from other stratas of society, as that neighborhood becomes more desirable because parents want their kids to attend the school.
From there, the following cycle happens:
  1. Housing values increase because of the good school
  2. Even more well-to-do people move into the neighborhood
  3. Not so well-to-do people get pushed out of the neighborhood because they can't afford the neighborhood anymore
  4. School quality gets better because more money comes into the neighborhood that can be channeled towards the school
  5. Goto step 1
In a way, this seems like a good idea. Why burden the rest of the city for a better school when the neighborhood (and the businesses and organizations in that neighborhood) can fund it themselves? Pay for what you use/get, and use/get what you can pay for. Don't force other people to pay for the benefit of someone else's neighborhood, someone else's child.

It kind of makes me think of what people often say about health insurance, complaining about premiums increasing because of the actions of other people. The person complaining hasn't had a claim in their life! (I'm talking about ideal setting of insurance rates, not CEO pay, paying a workforce, etc. etc. . .because people have to get paid).

The problem of this system: Inequality and divides increase and people grow further apart. As the well-to-do compound the characteristics and actions that improve their lot, the not as well-to-do only get neglected. The not well-to-do don't receive resources, so they can't learn to understand and get the characteristics to know how to do the actions to improve their lot and get the resources to invest themselves and their neighborhood. Even if they have the said characteristics and knowledge, they probably don't have the bone fides to put on a resume or the connections or mentors to get resources or to provide references for them.

Sure, the not well-to-do are not "burdened" by the demand of the well-to-do maintaining well-to-do characteristics to continue having a comfortable life and taking more actions to improve their well-to-do lives even more. Instead, the not well-to-do become burdened with neglect, alienation, and disconnection with society. We shouldn't have any problem empathizing with situations in which the not well-to-do become desperate enough to sell drugs, steal, and other anti-social or victimizing activities (themselves or other people) to simply fund their survival.

  • I had a child of my own
  • Lived in this neighborhood
  • Enrolled my child in the school at the end of the block
I probably would have received a letter similar to the one Robert Reich did. I haven't been in that school, even though I've patronized the farmers market there during the spring, summer, and the fall. I've also seen the nice playground the school has. The school also posts
  • Signs that thank the neighborhood families and businesses for the investment in the school
  • Imaginary thermometers that show how much money has been raised and still needs to be raised
  • Announcements of fundraisers and events to raise money
  • Nice pictures and announcements of accomplishments that students have had
This school does a good job raking in some money. I live in a pretty good neighborhood. Go one block over, and you see some nice homes. I've gone into a couple open houses, and my jaw has dropped at the size of the homes and the amenities in them. Michi and I can only really live in this neighborhood because we've found the best deal in one of the oldest apartment buildings. If we can help it, we don't plan on ever moving.

One mile north, property values drop drastically because the district for the school near to here ends right when you reach a particular road. The condition of homes don't get bad so much, but since people in those homes can't go to the well-to-do school, the market doesn't have much demand for those homes.

Candidates for mayor during the Chicago city elections have talked quite a bit about the school system. A lot of them highlight that the current mayor, Rahm Emanuel, closed 50 schools all at once. Emanuel, on the other hand, touts that he improved the school system by making the school year and school day longer. Emanuel probably has some right for feeling accomplishment as some schools had improved scores and some students have gone onto bigger and better things (I just heard Emanuel interview a couple STAR scholars on an old episode of the Chicago Stories podcast).

Nonetheless, Emanuel closed 50 schools and advocated for the opening of a lot of charter schools that seem to really skew the system (since charter schools can easily expel students if they bring down the grade/test curve). I remember hearing a lot of stories on the radio over the years about how students who didn't have to go far to get to a poor performing school in their neighborhood that didn't get the investment it needed. When their school closed, though, the children had to travel really far to go to another school that was just average or went down in quality since high performing students just went off to charter schools and other better quality schools.

Even more distressing, these students often had to go through dangerous parts of town in which they risked being attacked or possibly even getting hit by a stray bullet. All because of obvious inequality, segregated neighborhoods, and the list goes on to the factors involved. It also doesn't help that by closing schools and consolidating students, classroom sizes just grow larger while the number of teachers remains the same or decreases. The quality of school will likely go down for everyone, unless those with the means can get to better schools and/or those without means somehow get slipped out of the system. Manipulate the data set, and the results can be manipulated.

Before hearing the Reich interview on Pod Save the People, the whole well-to-do schools soliciting well-to-do people and businesses in their well-to-do neighborhood having such systemic impacts went right over my head. . .even as the practice occurred right before my eyes. I simply thought schools received funding from taxes, property and many times, as I'm learning these days, from states and sometimes from the Federal government. Obviously, I had the facts wrong.

So, in an attempt to remedy this issue, I have a policy proposal that I'm sharing with the world: What if these well-to-do schools that receive donations from well-to-do parents, neighborhood residents, and businesses have to share a portion of their fundraising with the rest of the school system? And depending on the situation and the state of schools in the county, state, etc. etc. that aren't in the same district, what if such abundant fundraising had to be shared with those schools, too?

I don't have any details beyond asking for more sharing of the fundraised wealth. I also understand that this kind of system won't save the world, but it can help. Maybe it can provide enough resources and funds to help pull up areas, neighborhoods, and people that often get neglected when these kids, when taken seriously, when given a chance, and when affirmed as worth the time and effort, can accomplish so much more, become so much more, and give back to society and the world so much more. By neglecting these kids, to compound the well-to-doness of the already well-to-do, the well-to-do neglect themselves. There's no telling how much the world could be better just by this sharing of wealth and helping helping to develop other human beings with different perspectives.

Why don't we do it, is my question, why don't we help fund the education of those currently neglected and help lift up our fellow humanity? Frankly, with all the money that goes into Go Fund Me's, Kickstarters, and Patreons, I'm sure we can make all the more difference in the world by funding our schools. Don't let me stop you. Get out there and make a difference! What's stopping you?

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Sunday, February 10, 2019

FLASH POST: Chicago Mayoral Election, Final Elections on 2/26/2019: My Stand on Lori Lightfoot vs Amara Enyia

I needed a week or so to read up on Lori LIghtfoot's positions and platforms provided on her campaign page. Lightfoot had well thought out position papers that meticulously laid out plans that feel

  • Realistic
  • Thought out
  • Acknowledged that Lightfoot will need to fight legislators and bureaucrats to make her goals happen
I feel like Lightfoot has realistic plans that will likely happen.

I was able to read up on Amara Enyia's positions in less than a half hour. Enyia's positions feel
  • High minded
  • Idealistic
  • Glib
  • Search Engine Optimizable
  • Ready to grab the emotions of people with justifiable axes to grind
Problem with that marketable approach: I wonder about the chances of the Enyia platform's success once she gets into office. Does Enyia have thought out plans other than let's give the electorate a great image, and we'll figure out how to realize that image once we get into office.

In my studies into a few Historical Utopian Communities, I've seen the latter approach, and it doesn't fare well. With that in mind, unless I'm provided with
  • More detailed light on Enyia's platform
  • That platform includes realistic measures I can get behind
  • That Enyia's platform has a good chance of success
I plan to vote Lightfoot.

Other points:

This endorsement at the Sun Times for Lightfoot also does a great job highlighting the experience and actions that Lightfoot has taken to increase justice in this city and the world, both instrumentally in a realistic fashion and symbolically to get the attention of people. The main thing I find amazing: I don't remember knowing anything about Lightfoot before this election!

While, on the flipside, most of my exposure regarding Enyia has come from
  • Grassroots activist friends
  • A text conversation I've been having with a text bank campaigner for Enyia
  • News stories like this one about Enyia
    • Not being on top of her taxes
    • Not being on top of reporting campaign contributions
    • Even abandoning a pet project that she led at a non-profit at the point of about being ready to launch because she wanted to run for office
I don't attribute any corrupt or negative motivations on the part of Enyia. The lack of attention to detail or having someone working with her to pay attention to those details makes me wonder just how accountable Enyia is. . .and I don't mean unaccountable as untrustworthy. Rather as in, does Enyia have the personal infrastructure to stay on top of things. I don't care if Enyia has that infrastructure in her own capacity or if she has someone by her side to help with those details, but I don't see it.

Keep in mind, this is this candidate that could only enter the race after Kanye West paid her fines for not staying on top of reporting campaign contributions for a past campaign. Chicago already has plenty of problems from previous politicians' shortsightedness at meeting political goals and approval. Can we continue to mortgage the future inhabitants of Chicago. . .if there are future inhabitants of Chicago, at the rate we're going now.

From everything I've seen right now, Lori Lightfoot has a better plan for making Chicago a better place to live now, and to live in for the future.

UPDATE (2/10/2019 2:22 PM): If Enyia ends up in a run up against anyone other than Lightfoot, I'll vote Enyia.

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Sunday, February 03, 2019

My Case for 70% Tax on Highest Income Tax Bracket Leading to Economic Stability, Prosperity, and Strong Social Fabric

Calling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's 70% tax on income higher than $10 million an Excess Profits Tax might have its benefits. For those who didn't click on the link, Excess Profits Tax was used during at least the First World War, the Second World War, and the Korean War to both

  • Help pay for the wars
  • Discouraging profiting too much from the wars (which might encourage corporations to thump the drums of war to increase profits)
A couple historical issues that might arise from labeling Ocasio-Cortez's tax rate proposal this way:
  • It might create the impression that this tax bracket only has a temporary life span
  • Excess Profits Taxes in the past mostly applied to corporations and businesses in the past, not individuals
Calling this 70% tax bracket an Excess Profits Tax could definitely have its place in the area of rhetoric. $10 million in a year is A LOT and generally a whole lot more than most people seen in their bank accounts during their lifetime. Even my own plan for becoming independently wealthy and living off interest, dividends, and capital gains generally depends on having at least $15 million in the bank (which would generate approximately $75,000/year or $6,250/month at a half percent interest rate).

I can't even imagine how to spend $10 million in a year, let alone make that much in a year or more. Making more than that intuitively feels excessive.

Compared to just over fifty years ago, however, the Ocasio-Cortez 70% marginal income tax proposal for over $10 million frankly comes off as charitable. Back then, The Federal government tax individuals and married couples for 70% on income higher than $100,000. Also keep in mind, the 70% tax rate at that time had been the law of the land for decades.

Ocasio-Cortez's proposal starts this tax rate at a point 100x higher than the Federal government started the 70% tax rate fifty years ago. Taking into account inflation, that $100,000 of 1968 dollars would be equal to about $704,367.82 in 2017 dollars, which is only about 7x more than about fifty years ago, much less than 100x than what Ocasio-Cortez has proposed.

From at least the First World War to Nixon's Presidency, the top income tax bracket was at 70%. In addition, the Federal government levied the Excess Profits Tax on corporations of up to 95% on large wartime profits that would not have been generated during peace time while the First and Second World Wars and the Korean Wars waged. Nixon lowered the top tax bracket to 50% and a whole bunch of other economic experiments (though his Alternative Minimum Tax has its place). When Reagan's reforms went through, the top income tax bracket rate lowered to 33% in 1987.

Internet research yielded this information today because of some discussions with a friend about the lengths that Paul Volcker went to defeat out of control inflation that was the trend through the '70s and lasted until the early '80s. Volcker put a lot of focus on raising interest rates to tame the economy (as contrasted with the Fed after the 2008 Great Recession lowering interest rates to let the economy loose and encourage it to grow). On the flipside, this article makes an interesting argument that increasing taxes on high income earners could have tamed the economy while also reducing the suffering of people in lower income brackets.

The tax higher income brackets while keeping interest rates low or moderated argument leads me to reconsider the argument I've made in my most popular Lextopia essay, "A Case for Increasing Interest Rates and Speeding Up Quantifiable Tightening Just a Little Faster". In that essay, I argued that increasing interest rates would work to decelerate the economy before it forms a bubble pop better than two other factors to help decelerate the economy: increasing taxes and the government reducing its borrowing.

Increasing interest rates would work best, according to my earlier argument, because it would generate real wealth for people who have money in savings while also decelerating the whirlwind borrowing and spending of frackers, other energy producers, and stock buybacks. Based on "The Silicon Bubble Edition" - Slate Money podcast, frackers and other energy producers haven't been making profits lately, mostly funding their business, including labor, by borrowing lots of money.

The same goes for corporations financing stock buybacks. Borrowing costs have been so low, that executing stock buybacks makes for the most profit for shareholders. These facts led me to believe that increasing borrowing costs would cut down on these practices that will eventually lead to over borrowing and cause another borrowing bubble from popping, while also helping savers generate wealth through increased interest rates.

Government borrowing, when done right can help to invest in the people of this country. For the purposes of the argument in my other essay, though, I had only entertained feasible actions done by a rational actor. At that time, Jerome Powell, the current head of the Fed, seems like the most rational actor who has control over these factors. I still believe he remains the most rational and able party to have an influence on these factors (which isn't necessarily a great thing).

I also agree that, at this time, Powell's decision to stay stable with interest rates has its place. Considering the
  • Recent government shutdown
  • Possibility of a near future shutdown (this time also possibly including a debt ceiling element)
  • Trade tensions with China
  • other factors around the world
keeping interest rates steady provides some stability for now and some amount of flexibility if the foot needs to be put onto the economic gas pedal.

Nonetheless, as we enter the 2020 Election season, discussing government borrowing and tax rates has become appropriate. I agree with some of government borrowing occurring now, especially if it increases social welfare, improves the environment, and invests in people (especially so they can become productive members of society later).

I'm guessing a lot of the present borrowing goes toward war efforts and homeland security. Homeland security exists in a gray area for me that I don't know enough about to comment on. I don't care for the war efforts, but I also don't agree with entering into an area, wrecking it, then exiting it less stable than when we went into it. My feeling has always been if we break an area, we need to leave it better than we left it. In the end, my issue with government borrowing focuses more on what it gets spent on, not on the fact that it happens. When borrowed money gets spent right, on the People, future profits can go back into paying back the borrowing and also create more capital and profits.

So barring the ability to
  • Raise interest rates more (because even though it might reduce borrowing by corporations and wealthy people while increasing real wealth of people with savings, a lot of lower income people who depend on borrowing can face interest rates that destroy their life when they just want to pay bills or
  • Reduce government spending
I have come to believe in the validity of taxing higher income people more. A higher tax on them will provide better bracket targeting in putting the brakes on the economy to avoid a bubble popping. At the same time, it will reduce the suffering of lower income and middle income people who depend on borrowing to pay their bills day to day.

History has also shown that higher tax rates on higher income people helps keep government debt under control and the economy stable. When the United States had a higher tax rate on higher incomes, the government had a lower deficit and the country had better control on inflation. The United States spent money and also brought in income to pay back borrowing or recover lost funds. Like in family finance, the United States had better control over debits and credits and the economy when it had higher tax rates on people with higher incomes.

Suffice to say: the government deficit has grown and gotten more compounded since the tax rate trended downward since the Vietnam War. I can come up with valid arguments that social changes have affected the job markets and purchasing markets causing labor issues. Nonetheless, in the end, lowering and keeping taxes low
  • At the end of the Vietnam War
  • After the Vietnam War
  • During neoliberal interventions in South America
  • The first and second Iraq Wars (though George H.W. Bush gets some credit for breaking his promise for "no new taxes"
  • The longest war in Afghanistan
  • The Cold War (the old and possible restarted one)
  • In all the fronts of the War on Terrorism
has done a lot for increasing the Federal deficit, benefiting war profiteers, and compounding the future debt that our descendents will have to pay. . .if civilization isn't destroyed by all this war or the Earth destroying us through the climate before we make necessary changes. And all the while,
  • The poorer are getting poorer
  • The economy has a bipolar existence of inflating and deflating like it has a mind of its own
  • Intolerance grows between peoples
  • Tensions grow between countries with peace treaties getting torn up, missile reduction treaties getting torn up, illiberal authoritarians take the reins of leadership, and the uber rich insulating themselves from the world, losing or never getting the ability to identify with regular people
  • Opioids seeming like a rational life decision as we feel increasing loneliness, alienation, depression, and dissaffection
And the list can go on and on and on, much of it because the rich don't want to give up their wealth. The rich don't want to contribute to a more stable, more supporting, more affirming social fabric. The rich disconnect because they fear the rest of the world, the rest of society, the loss of their wealth. Their wealth blinds them from a true connection with others in the world and a true sense of meaning of what it means to participate and identify with others.

Putting the above into perspective with the Left and Establishment Democrats pretty much being torn asunder at the end of the 1960's and the Right taking advantage of that rift to promote their conservative socio-economic agenda, the Right has done its job keeping the country's social fabric, domestically and in foreign affairs, in tatters, all for the benefit of the Wealthy Right, socially and economically.

The Right, if it truly wants a stable social fabric that helps provide stability and social connection, not just affirmation of their own virtue ethics that justifies
  • Selfishness
  • Privilege
  • Distrust
  • And for the rich, their wealth and income
then the Wealthy Right owe it to society to pay higher taxes on their excessive profits. A truly civic republicanism requires liberal values and investment in the People. If the People are to be motivated and involved in civic life, the People need their humanity affirmed, their identities affirmed as human, and to be motivated that this country gives us a worthwhile reason to use our time to engage in civic life. As JFK said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."

If we keep moving onward the way we are today, in aristocratic, oligarchic societies where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer and suffer more, especially with no concern for the climate,
  • The human race will eventually be the biggest contributor to its destruction
  • The economy will be out of control forever
  • Individual humans will likely be in a near constant state of insecure alienation, disaffection, loneliness, depression, and distrust until civilization falls apart, whether we're rich, poor, or in the middling wealth brackets
So with all that in mind, as someone without much influence, I support the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez push for a 70% tax rate on annual income higher than $10 million. Honestly, I see that more as a beginning than the end. For now, though, I think this proposal is a good start to get a better control of the economy and the Federal deficit. This higher tax rate can also help reduce the chance of economic bubbles bursting and, if the tax income is used to invest in the survival and development of peoples' education in liberal arts and marketable skills, I can only see the state of society developing in a positive direction.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

FLASH POST: The Left and Democratic Party Should Reconcile and Regroup After the Last 50 Years

I found this article, which does a good job indirectly explaining how history makes sense of today's Democratic party after World War II and Vietnam War anti-war movement. The party has finally reached a point where it can reconcile after recovering from the dismembering the party took in the late '60s, '70s, and '80s.

In other words: this article tracks the rise of Neoliberalism from World War II and Vietnam Party to today through the eyes of the Democratic Party. I did this deep delving because I've been getting confused by claims that the Democratic Party is "more to the right than it was compared to so many years ago." Sadly, I can't agree so much with this statement on the domestic social and cultural level. The Democratic Party only shed most of the Southern Democrats something like 10-20 years ago (which doesn't feel that long ago to me).

Yeah, Clinton and Obama went Right when it came to economic policy. Culturally and socially, though, I feel like the activist Left on the ground has generally outpaced the Establishment rather than the social Overton Window having gone Left a fair amount then moved Right again for the Democratic Party. The cultural and social issues generally got swept under the rug like before the post-War push for Civil Rights by the Establishment from Eisenhower to Johnson (race and ethnicity) while other cultural issues like same-sex relationships being accepted sped forward justifiably to demand affirmation of humanity. We still have a distance to go on a societal basis, but many Left Activists and even mainstream society, to some degree, have come to accept many cultural and social issues faster than the Democratic Establishment

Overall, the Activist Left and the Democratic Establishment needs to reconcile their ideas and approaches then get back on track for the progress of ideals it pushed for the '60s while shedding the bad ideas like using neoliberalism to spread liberal values. Arguably, the Democratic Establishment has done some work to shed the illiberal aspects, like moving away from a Southern Democratic stance which contributed to false senses of bipartisanship between parties, but that moving has taken years to accomplish.

Now, however, the Democratic Party has an opportunity to get a hold of things, come together, and look to stand up for liberal stances (as much as the Democratic Party understands them) and even opening itself to Progressively Economic stances. Trump has definitely provided a shock to the system to push the Democratic party in this direction.

But Left, let's try to figure out how to work within this opportunity for reconciliation, regroup, and Progress the US to Liberalness in ways that we never thought that we could. Maybe through such a reconciliation, we can find ways to advocate and encourage Liberal values in the rest of the world without neoliberalism and forced hegemony. Instead we can use affirmation of humanity and identification with each other as humanity to improve the world.

Who's with me?

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Sunday, January 27, 2019

A Dental Regimen that Works for Me; Maybe It will for You, Too

Now for something different from my usual cultural, social, psychological, and political criticism. Today I'll describe my morning and evening dental regimen.
A friend posting an article with the title "We may finally know what causes Alzheimer’s – and how to stop it" has inspired my sharing of this regimen. Suffice to say, the linked article remains tentative on its conclusion. Nonetheless, practicing good dental hygiene, no matter what, can only provide someone benefits.

My motivation for finding a good dental regimen started about ten years ago. I had gone to the dentist for the first time in many years because work finally provided dental insurance. At the end of that initial consult, the dentist said that I needed about $3,200 in dental work because my teeth had gotten so bad. That cost reduced down to about $2,100 after the dental insurance manipulated the cost and provided benefits.

I vowed that I would never face that kind of dental bill again for preventable problems. I also wanted to avoid heart problems that come with bad dental health and want to keep my teeth as long as I can. An implant before 2006 cost about $2,000, which I had to get for unavoidable genetic reasons. I have another unavoidable genetic space on the opposite side of my mouth that could use an implant, but $2,500 or so exceeds how much I can throw around these days. If I have to get another implant, I want a good one that will stay in my mouth for awhile, but I much rather avoid getting implants in the future.

Another factor: I learned to hate the build up of plaque on my teeth. Before I really learned about plaque, I thought that biofilm was unavoidable without the help of a dentist. Since I found out about my regimen and started getting into using it, my teeth feel like I've just gotten out of a dentist appointment every time I finish the regimen. Since I've gotten good with the regimen, my dentist has given me good grades on my dental hygiene every appointment. . .and that's generally as long as I've been OK with keeping to the regimen for the most part then get perfect with it for about two weeks before my routine cleaning.

You could easily do a search online for plaque to find out that it's a biofilm of saliva, bacteria, and other life forms that can exist in your mouth and glom onto your teeth. We can't avoid developing plaque throughout the day. It just happens. Sure, you can reduce the build up by cutting down on sugars and carbohydrates, but I like my sugars, carbohydrates, and acids in moderation. Second, you REALLY don't need to cut out eating sugars, carbohydrates, and acids on a reasonable basis for the sake of your mouth.

I've only encountered one food that I've decided to avoid regular eating on the basis of dental health: pineapple. I love pineapple and it provides some great dietary enzymes. The big problem with pineapple comes from those dietary enzymes. One of the enzymes has the chemical makeup of breaking down meat proteins. People use pineapple and that enyzme (forgetting the name of it) to tenderize meat before cooking the meat. That enzyme, whether ingested by biting into pineapple, drinking pineapple juice, or even drinking pineapple juice from a straw, attempting for it to go straight into your throat, that enzyme will break down your gums if ingested on a daily basis. I highly discourage eating or drinking pineapple on a regular basis.

Back to plaque, teeth, and gums and how these factors go into developing my regimen: Once again, plaque build up is inevitable. Fortunately, our body has a defense against that plaque build up. Our saliva should have a good concentration of the minerals that make up teeth: calcium, phosphorous, and some other minerals in smaller ratios such as carbon, magnesium, and others. This matrix of minerals that make up our teeth is called Hydroxyapatite.

Another factor about plaque build up: the bacteria in your plaque generates acids to break down your enamel and dentin for the bacteria to eat. The more acidic our mouths, the more our teeth break down, the more that our mouth becomes a friendly habitat to the bacteria that generate acid to break down, which then compound together onto your teeth until you have a $2,500 dental bill in a few years because of too many cavities and your gums receding.

Our body tries to create saliva, with the minerals that help build up our teeth and with a base pH balance. Seven is a neutral pH balance. Lower than seven is acidic and higher than seven is base. So it all comes down to a battle of pH balance and providing minerals to build up our teeth. Our teeth are continually demineralizing because of the acidic plaque biofilm and remineralizing from our hopefully base saliva along with any aid that our dental hygiene can provide (one interesting fact: apparently, tannins can aid in dental health and so can black tea). If plaque generates more of an acid environment in a day, our teeth breakdown in a net loss. If we generate a more base environment, our teeth build up as a net gain.

DISCLAIMER BEFORE GETTING INTO REGIMEN DETAILS: I'm not a dentist, a scientist, or any kind of guru. I'm just some guy with the ability to search the Internet, read, and perform analysis from multiple sources to evaluate claims made. This regimen works for me, and I don't know how well each step/ingredient of it works other than I have subjective negative experience when an aspect of the regimen is taken out for a period of time. While doing my research, my two main principles were:

  1. How well does the step or ingredient fit into the cohesive and coherent body of information that I've built up about teeth, gums, and oral ecology?
  2. Could this step or ingredient cause harm or how much harm could it cause if used wrong?
At this point, my regimen has remained cohesive, coherent, and pretty harmless except for maybe my wallet. This isn't an inexpensive dental hygiene approach. In the end, it may cost as much as getting a lot of restorative work done by the dentist. The regimen avoids a bit of trauma, avoids inconvenience, and avoids the degradation of the overall integrity of my teeth and gums, but it still costs money. This way of dealing with dental health probably helps the wallet because I can better predict and plan costs rather than suddenly end up with this huge bill from the dentist. Nonetheless, it costs money.

Also, I introduce product brand names and such, but I'm not giving them any official endorsement. No brands or companies are paying me for introducing these products. They work for me. Maybe you know of a better product.

EDIT at 5:12 PM 1/28/2019: Like building up your teeth, base materials like calcium and magnesium hydroxide might cause build up on the pipes after going down the drain. I periodically need to request that my building manager come to fix the clog. But there are other mitigating factors: old building from the 1930's and I have long hair. People in other units generally have to call the maintenance man to request declogging services and the shower drain clogs regularly, too.

All that said, let's start with the regimen:

  1. Rinse with a mixture of a tablespoon of food-grade 1.5% Hydrogren Peroxide (H2O2) and tap water to fill the rest of the small cup. When in short supply of 1.5% H2O2, I've used 3% and was fine. I advise against that, though. I have the feeling if you ingest enough of that, bad things can happen.

    Rinsing with H2O2 seems counter intuitive. It's an acid. Don't we want to fight the aggregate acid environment in our mouth with the opposite, base? H2O2 is antiseptic. It kills indiscriminately. But apparently it's weak enough to not cause lasting damage to your teeth. I read somewhere that some scientist or engineer compared washing plumbing pipes with H2O2 versus other acidic antiseptics, H2O2 caused the least damage to the structural integrity of the pipes. I picked my dentist because he advertised his H2O2 method for treating gums and whitening teeth. I haven't opted for that treatment yet because it's EXPENSIVE, but knowing that H2O2 can help dental health is useful.

    I like to think of using H2O2 as a first round of attack. It will kill off some amount of the bacteria in my mouth, which will give me more surface area to mount my attack and restorative properties. Fighting plaque is as much about disrupting the matrix it creates as it is about fighting the acid the plaque creates. Aim for both the cause and effect.

    Repeat rinsing with that cup until the mixture of H2O and H2O2 is gone.

    Make sure to switch out the rinsing cup every week to cut down on the build up of bacteria on the cup. If not disposed of correctly, you could acquire strep throat or something else.

  2. Make a new rinsing salve in the same cup using the following steps:
    1. Put enough baking soda (base) that covers the middle of the bottom of the cup but allows you to see the outer edges of the bottom of the cup
    2. Put a good sized spoonful of xylitol into the cup (unclear how it works, but a fair amount of studies have demonstrated that the more xylitol in your mouth, the less bacteria you have on your teeth)
    3. Fill up the rest of the cup with tap water
    4. Stir with spoon
    5. Put 3 drops of Eucalyptus essential oil into the cup (antibiotic)
    6. Put 2 drops of Clove essential oil into the cup (contains tannins and eugenol, another anti-septic and a minor topical painkiller -- good for when you have recessed gums) - I only put in two drops because clove tastes STRONG!
    7. Put 3 drops of Chamomille essential oil diluted myself by tapwater because of strong taste into cup (chamomille is an astringent, like tannins, anti-inflammatory, and might have some antibiotic characteristics - this one definitely fits into the "can't hurt" category)
    8. Put 10 drops of Calendula essential oil into cup (antiseptic and anti-inflammatory)
    9. Stir with spoon (experiment on your own with how much essential oils to put into the salve or how much to dilute the oils before putting into the salve; potency of essential oils can vary and you may have different tolerances to taste and such than me)
  3. Floss with dental tape, rinsing your mouth with salve after flossing both the top and after the bottom. Make sure to use dental tape, not floss, as dental tape has more surface area and won't inadvertently cause harm to your gums if you get rough.

    [insert graphic of dental tape]

  4. Poke through the gaps between your teeth with a plastic RotaPoint from the front and the back (you'd be surprised how the different angle gets new stuff out from the gaps between your teeth). Rinse your mouth with the salve after poking the gaps for both the top and after the bottom.

    Make sure to switch out RotaPoints every one or two weeks to cut down on bacteria and avoid getting sick.

  5. Poke through the gaps between your teeth with an interdental brush. Rinse your mouth with the salve after poking the gaps for both the top and after the bottom.

  6. Scrape your tongue with a tongue scraper. Rinse your mouth with the salve.

    I rinse my tongue scraper in 3% H2O2 for a day in the rinsing cup after all is said and done for a day once a week.

  7. Brush your teeth with a soft toothbrush and toothpaste. When brushing the chewing surface of your teeth, feel free to go side to side and be rough.

    Be VERY gentle on the back and front of your teeth. Your goal is just to disrupt the biofilm matrix on your teeth, not to polish your teeth. All the chemical and physical treatment of your teeth so far in the regimen will have weakened the grip of the biofilm on your teeth. If you're rough with your teeth, you can scrape away enamel AND also injure your gums. At all costs, avoid injuring your gums. Once your gums start receding, the biofilm can start causing REAL damage to your teeth.

    When brushing the fronts and backs of your teeth, place the brush on the top of a section of your top teeth and brush down. Do a section the size of your toothbrush at a time. Do not brush side to side. Do the opposite with your bottom teeth. Place the brush on the bottom of a section of your bottom teeth and brush up. Do a section the size of your toothbrush at a time.

    You'll be fine if your barely feel the bristles on your teeth. Gentle is key. You're just disrupting the biofilm, not polishing. I can't stress this enough.

    Start at the top and move to the bottom. Don't rinse with the salve until you're done brushing.

    For toothpaste, I use Epic Fluoride & Xylitol toothpaste. I know some people don't care for fluoride, but per both my dentist's insistence and my experience, fluoride does a good job on adult teeth and in children's teeth, in moderation (children have to be wary of getting fluorisis, but that's a problem of too much fluoride in drinking water than a moderate amount of fluoride). As I understand it, fluoride actually replaces degraded enamel with minerals stronger than the original enamel. Fluoride can play a vital part in keeping your teeth healthy and strong.

  8. Rinse for 60 seconds with Dessert Essence Tea Tree Oil Mouthwash. Tea tree oil is antibiotic, maybe antiseptic, too. This product also contains witch hazel, which purportedly has astringent properties along with some anti-infllammatory characteristics.

  9. Rinse for 60 seconds with Milk of Magnesia (I just buy the generic stuff off the shelf at Walgreens). That's right, this anti-constipation mixture can work great for building up teeth because it's a solution of base liquid. Honestly, if anyone ever looked at my shopping records for the last five years, I wonder what they would think about my eating habits and stomach issues that I don't have!

  10. Chew and rinse for 60 seconds with calcium carbonate chewables or TUMS. I just use generic TUMS from Walgreens. If you can, use sugar free chewables. Don't worry if you can only purchase chewables with sweeteners, though. I usually chew and rinse with two at a time. These are a combination of base solution and putting calcium into your saliva.

  11. Rinse for 60 seconds with the salve of baking soda, xylitol, and essential oils that you made earlier.

  12. Rinse for 60 seconds with a mouth rinse that has fluoride in it. I used to use Tom's Children's Rinse with Fluoride, but I haven't been able to find it lately. Nowadays I'm using their Fresh Mint with Fluoride.
This regiment works great for me. I swear by it for myself. As I said above, though, I'm not a dentist, scientist, or guru. I also am not being paid to endorse any of the products that I mention in this essay. It's just gotten time for me to share with the world something that's worked for keeping my teeth healthy, and maybe it can work for you. If it doesn't, that's fine, too. You know your teeth and body better than I do.

Maybe someday I'll team up with a dentist or scientist to figure out how effective all this is and market it to the world. As things stand for now, though, the effectiveness and veracity of all the above is up to us to figure out for ourselves.

Good luck!

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If you like what you see here and in the past and want to free me up for more, support my endeavors by Buying Me a Coffee!