Showing posts from February, 2017

Can Capitalism Save America?

It helps to remember that DJ T-Rump is not in charge.  He is a showman, not a true leader.  Things he says are contradicted with impunity by his direct reports in their public comments and their discussions with leaders outside the U.S. The people making the real decisions are those he has brought in as cabinet members and advisers.

His chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, is a particularly intriguing example since his worldview is strongly influenced by the same theory I have referenced several times in this blog - the secular cycle of history as explained in The Fourth Turning by William Strauss and Neil Howe. In a Washington Post article that points out Bannon's affinity to this construct, Howe includes a very succinct explanation of the book's main idea.

The Fourth Turning is geared to the cycle of changing generations as each couple of decades pass. The four cyclic turnings are all driven by the recurring generational archetypes that repeat in what Strauss and Howe claimed…

Escape from Trumpism

Aside from the devastating effect on liberal Californians of seeing Trump win the presidency, another big influence on the rise of their secession movement was the 'leave' vote in Great Britain that triggered Brexit. Some of the same elements of populism that drove the UK's decision are also at play in the YesCalifornia campaign. Perversely, it was Trump's populist appeal to the working class that vaulted him to power after they had been sorely neglected under recent neo-liberal administrations. In an article published last August, Marxist Martin Jacques described how neo-liberalism is in its death throes, with Trump as an example of how class inequality is now the main issue:
[Trump's] arguments mark a radical break with the neoliberal, hyper-globalisation ideology that has reigned since the early 1980s and with the foreign policy orthodoxy of most of the postwar period... But Trump is no man of the left. He is a populist of the right. He has launched a racist and …

Califoreignia Dreamin'

In order for America to emerge from the fourth turning as a federation of confederations, the transition will need to begin soon. Due to our crisis of presidential leadership, it is suddenly conceivable that the watershed event triggering a complete geopolitical realignment of these United States is now before us.

That event would be the passage of a ballot measure aiming for California to secede from the union. Once California passes their measure, the secessionist urge will snowball to include several more states. Depending on the popularity and success of the YesCalifornia movement, there are several other states with long-standing secessionist movements likely to follow suit. These include Hawaii, Texas, Vermont, and New Hampshire, all being spurred on by the election of DJ T-Rump. Washington, D.C. will not be able to prevent these departures because there is no component of the U.S. military that will agree to take up arms against any of the states, especially California. Especia…

Of Choke Points and Checkpoints

Of the 55,710 bridges in the U.S. that need structural reinforcement, only about 1,700 are on interstate highways. That is only 3% of the 56,448 interstate highway bridges. Another 10,000 or so (18% of all interstate bridges) are inadequate for the role they should be able to perform, e.g. they lack capacity. These typically result in traffic choke points.

The interstate highway system was built over several decades beginning in the mid-1950's. Back then, its bridges were built to last about 50 years, so the first refurbishment/replacement cycle began about a decade ago and will roll on for the majority of this century. If we were to keep pace with repairs of deficient bridges, deteriorating roads, and anticipated traffic growth on interstates, the maintenance cost would be about $1 trillion over a 30-year period.

DJ T-Rump wants to spend that amount over ten years to upgrade all vital U.S. infrastructure. If $33 billion per year of that $1 trillion is spent on interstates, then a …

Consequences of Tearing up the Social Contract

President Donald T Rump's fixation with turning our nation into America, Inc. will spell the end of our current Constitution and lead to a decentralized government more akin to a federation. Several indicators of the direction he is leading us are already popping up. By taking his time with staffing the White House, freezing hiring across most of the federal government, cutting federal regulations, keeping subordinates poorly informed, and hiring a kakistocracy of hatchet-men and -women as heads of departments, President T Rump is weakening the federal government's power both intentionally and inadvertently. During his reign, we can expect to see reductions in government provision of health care, education, food, and housing, all of which will mainly affect the poor. Environmental problems, which Rump largely plans to ignore, will also disproportionately affect poor communities. Little else will remain of the government under T Rump than a security state for conducting commerc…

Stepping on the Gas toward a Clean Energy Future

In a more regionalized economy, the distributed nature of renewable electrical power sources will be helpful to maintaining grid stability. That will be especially important if the country's current three grid system is broken up along regional lines. Base load generation, from thermal, hydro, and nuclear plants will be reduced within the smaller grids because of reductions in fossil fuel usage. The net effect will be less stable electrical grids, but owners of facility/building power sources will enjoy more reliable power than those who are grid-dependent.

The reason fossil fuel usage may decrease is that industry and society are waking up to the imperative of reducing carbon emissions. In a sign that the economics now favor a shift to renewable power, even influential Republicans are lobbying for measures to push for a clean energy economy. Meeting with the head of President Donald T Rump's National Economic Council Gary Cohn, former Secretary of State James Baker represented…

Making America Small Again

President tRump's intentions for improving the economy may actually include some useful preparation for the "high" of our first turning which is due to begin in about a decade. Assuming this next turning will entail a less complex, more fragmented society, rather than the Great America tRump is shooting for, the @RealGreatDivider may accidentally usher us into a transition to smallness.

Smallness, in this case, refers to the size of corporations. With trade wars and import taxes in the offing, U.S.-owned international manufacturers are going to suffer some setbacks. While these will cost jobs at home, especially in the South and Midwest, small domestic manufacturers will gain opportunities to fill the home market demand for various goods/substitutes at more competitive prices. The big company jobs lost in the process may shift to smaller companies, especially if layoffs provoke more entrepreneurship.

The Small Business Administration will have to play an outsized role in…

Coming Apart at the Seams

The financial system is commonly seen as the point of origin in scenarios that postulate societal breakdown. Its precarious condition is one of the big causes of our ongoing long emergency. If the wrong thread is pulled in the financial system, the whole fabric of civilization could come unraveled pretty quickly.

When one of those threads was pulled out in 2007, the U.S. and other governments went into crisis mode in order to patch up and reinforce damaged areas. One of the reinforcements was a 2,300-page law known as Dodd-Frank which bankers have wheedled and whined against for the past six years and now have a so-called President who is willing to accommodate them in reforming it. In doing so, tRump could loosen the binding behind the crazy quilt of the financial system. After eliminating safeguards, Congress will try to pass a watered-down version of Dodd-Frank or a new manifestation of Glass-Steagall, but as with the ACA, tRump appears to be mainly in demolition mode. The question…

The Greens are Batting Clean-up

If the political pendulum does loft the Green Party to prominence by 2024, it will not be all that glorious. We will have a big mess to clean up.

The ascent of the Green Party, though beautiful to lovers of nature and humanity, will mark a reversal from the myth of perpetual progress that took hold as the industrial and information ages rolled on. Not that the Green Party is terribly Luddite (their platform lauds high speed computing, advanced telecommunications, and the space program, but circumscribes nanotechnology due to several unknown risks). Yet, the Greens' ideology is nowhere near as sanguine over homo sapiens' capacity to evolve as, say, the Singularitarians'.

What the Green's are keen on is sustainability, which will be precious after we finish ravaging the land, sea, and sky in our final turning of this secular cycle. Our current trajectory will put us in poor stead for the start of the next one. As we wrap up the fourth turning, we are likely to undergo di…