“Justice ought to be a synonym for mercy, not an alternative
Catton, Eleanor. The Luminaries (Man Booker Prize) (p. 215). Little, Brown and Company.
Happy Birthdays to Bill Yeates, my daughter Jessica and my mom (Nona Teresa).
Remember July 15 is National Be a Dork Day.
Hold the Door, Hodor. R.I.P.
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN El DORADO HILLS:
Hot weather has struck the Golden Hills this week. The green grass has begun to show off its flaxen locks. The trees seem to bend beneath the weight of the sullen sun.
The Indomitable Oak Haiku
Of all the trees here,
the indomitable oak
Is my favorite.
A few weeks ago at my pre-travel medical checkup, they found urine in my kidneys and so I now carry around a catheter and bag. It is uncomfortable in the heat but, thankfully, will be removed well before I depart.
As far as my summer travels are concerned, it appears that instead of visiting Sicily after my sojourn through Milan, Sacile, Rome, and Sabina, I will be spending a week or so in Copenhagen and Malmo Sweden before departing for Thailand. The entire trip to Europe seems a bit too hectic for my tastes.
HRM, Dick and I spend our evenings agonizing over the Warriors’ playoff games. After the game, Dick and I would watch episodes of the Alec Gluiness’, Smiley Series. It really is time for me to begin traveling again and get a life .
The temperature has soared to over 100 degrees now for several days — close to boiling the piss in my urine bag. I had not checked the temperature at the beginning of the heat wave. Thinking it was only about 80 degrees, I persuaded myself that I was suffering heat flashes and exhaustion prior to my imminent demise. It was a relief discovering that I was expiring from simple heat stroke instead of some disgusting malady buried deep within my body.
One day, I went to a bar in Town Center named “The Relish Bar.” It specializes in serving hotdogs and hamburgers along with its drinks. I sat at the bar instead of one of the tables and ordered a hotdog with mustard and relish and a craft beer they had on tap. Next to me sat a woman with long straight brown hair. She was young, probably in her early twenties. In front of he was a half eaten hotdog smothered in ketchup, relish and sauerkraut and a whiskey of some sort on the rocks. I am highly prejudiced against people who put ketchup on their hotdogs so I decided to ignore her.
My order arrived and as I lifted my hotdog to my mouth I heard a sob. I glanced at the woman and noticed she seemed to be crying. “Mixing sauerkraut with ketchup will do that to you,” I thought. Nevertheless, I turned toward her and asked, “Is something wrong miss?” She turned towards me, a few strands of hair falling in front of her face, eyes fear wide with tears and said, “I don’t want to have to move to Canada.”
The catheter did not remedy the problem. So, I now have to submit to a series of tests and examinations. As a result, I had to cancel my trip to Italy and Sweden. I am disappointed to miss visiting friends and family in Italy and my trip to Sweden and Denmark. On the other hand, I was quite happy to avoid traveling with SWAC. So I hugged HRM and bid them both goodbye and left for Mendocino and the film festival.
Sadness at leaving
The ones who brighten our days
Makes journeys longer.
B. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN MENDOCINO:
Equipped with a new more comfortable urine bag, I hit the road to Mendocino stopping for a few hours in Petaluma to visit with Neal Fishman and his wife Maxine. Both Maxine and Neal worked with me at the Coastal Conservancy. He became the highly effective legislative liaison for the Conservancy.
We often forget that the real heroes omf a movement or an organization are those who labor at moving them ahead at critical points. Following my agreement with the Speaker to place 300 million in the first of a series of bond acts, Neal was instrumental in securing an additional billion dollars more in several park and open space bond acts that enabled the Conservancy to save much of the open space and develop many of the restoration projects that have preserved and enhanced coastal resources for all of us. His intelligence, openness, and understanding of legislators concerns helped make the Conservancy trusted on both sides of the political divide.
After leaving them, I drove on to my sister’s house, dropped off my things and walked to the theater to see the first film, “Jaco” about the great and tragic bass guitarist Jaco Pistorius. The next day I saw a film entitled “Trash Dance,” a documentary about dancing garbage men and women exposing their equipment. Both movies were entertaining despite the annoying tendency of most documentaries to interrupt the story line with interminable interviews.
Later, we attended a birthday party at the house of the Llama people (they breed llamas) next door to my sister where we ate magnificent paella made by the paella lady.
Llamas always remind me of the Ogden Nash Poem:
The one-l lama,
He’s a priest.
The two-l llama,
He’s a beast.
And I will bet
A silk pajama
There isn’t any
— Ogden Nash
Two days later, I left for San Francisco and my mom’s birthday party. My sister and I disagree about her age. She maintains mom was born in 1918 and I believe it was 1917. In either case Happy Birthday mom.
Birthdays for the old
Like flowers in the springtime
Vibrant but too brief.
Then back to the Golden Hills and my medical tests.
* to which Nash appended the footnote,
“The author’s attention has been called to a type of conflagration known as a three-alarmer. Pooh.”
In previous posts, I explored the Federal Government debt-deficit definitions and history. (https://trenzpruca.wordpress.com/2016/04/27/national-debt-and-deficit/ and http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/02/14/1485087/-National-Debt-and-Budget-Deficits).
This post examines the historical size of interest payments on the Federal Debt and their impact on the Government’s ability to manage its budget. I hope it is easy to understand and possibly corrects some of the hysteria and misstatements on all sides about the Country’s ability to service its debt and its impact on governmental programs and national security.
Perhaps the most significant concept to keep in mind is how the interest on this debt relates to income. One of the easiest ways to understand this is to think about it in reference to a person’s household debt. Basically, it is not how much debt you have but whether your income is sufficient to meet the periodic payments to pay off your debt and allow you to retain enough money live a good and decent life and you expect that income not to change dramatically for the worse all of a sudden.
Now, some recent history:
1. Interest payments on the Federal Debt as a percentage of total federal outlays:
According to a White House report on the budget released in 2014 (https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2016/assets/ap_4_borrowing.pdf) the following are Interest payments on the National Debt as a percentage of total federal outlays at the beginning of each decade since 1950:
1950 (About end of Truman Administration) interest payment on Federal Debt amounted to 11.4 percent of all Federal Government spending.
By 1960 at the end of Eisenhower’s reign it had dropped to 8.5 percent.
1970, despite costs of the Vietnam War during this decade (through the Kennedy, Johnson, and half of Nixon’s administration), it had decreased to 7.9 percent .
By 1980, when Reagan assumed office, the ratio of interest payments to debt had increased to 10.6 percent largely because the inflation crisis of the 1970s increased borrowing costs.
Despite the end of the inflation crisis, by 1985, about half way through the Reagan administration, it had ballooned to 16.2 percent of Federal outlays where it remained until Clinton took office.
In 2000, when Clinton left office, it had fallen to 13 percent.
By 2014, it had further decreased to 7.4 percent where it has more or less hovered since.
So, today the ratio of interest payments on the Federal Debt to total federal outlays is among lowest it has been since 1950 (except for the early years of the Bush II administration as they used up the Clinton budget surplus).
2. Interest Rates as a percentage of Gross National Product (GNP)
Perhaps more significant is the ratio of interest payments to GNP.
Interest payments on the Federal Debt as a percentage of GNP stood at 1.7 percent in 1950 and held relatively steady until 1980 when Reagan assumed the presidency. In 5 years it ballooned to 3.6 percent. Beginning with the Clinton Administration, It has steadily fallen until reaching 1.4 percent just before the Great Recession after which it grew to 1.8 percent by 2015. In great part, the recent growth was held in check by historically low-interest rates.
To conclude, it appears the ability of the Federal Government to pay our debts remains more or less equivalent to its ability to pay its debts at any time in the last 65 years or so and substantially better than during the Reagan years. So, the sky is not falling.
If there is something to be worried about, it is the explosive growth of private debt especially household debt. Government debt has not grown much over the years and when it has it has usually been to bail out overextended private Financial and Corporate interests of to fund a war.
So what about the future?
There are estimates that, if we do nothing, by 2020 Federal Debt interest payments as a percentage of total Federal outlays will rise to 12.4 percent and to 2.7 percent of GNP. High but still lower than during the Reagan years when it was “Morning in America.”
Nevertheless, perhaps, something should be done to moderate that potential rise. Cutting Federal Spending seems unlikely. As the following chart indicates, Defense spending, Medicare and Social Security seem to make up an outsized portion of Federal spending. Cutting Food Stamps may please some people and assist others in their re-election but they have no significant effect on either the deficit or the debt. Democrats will riot in the streets to prevent tampering with Medicare and Social Security while Republicans, the Military Industrial Complex and a few Democrats will fight to the death to prevent the cutting of a favored military system.
So what to do?
Well, modestly raising taxes on non-productive income and wealth such as capital gains could probably do wonders.
MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:
I regret that in my last T&T I did not notify everyone that several years back, I had declared May 8 PUN DAY. A quick check of the internet turned up May 15 as Pun Day based on an algorithm that measured how many times Pun Day was mentioned on social media. In the UK, it falls on February 8. Other days also have been proposed. Austin Texas held an O’Henry Pun-Off World Championship on May 16.
Anyway, I wrote the following:
During my travels, like many who go on vacation, I like to send to close and not too close friends emails (today’s postcards) regaling them of my good fortune in traveling the world and their ill-luck at being forced, for whatever reason, to remain at home. Not too long ago, I settled for a while in Jomtien Beach, Thailand and began to send out an incessant stream or emails regarding my new life. During a particularly frustrating period of trying to adjust to life there, I received a few emails from some of my correspondents commenting that my recent emails dwelled too much on the difficulties of my ex-pat life and were becoming a bit of a downer.
Although I thought I was just providing a humorous take on the foibles of my current situation, I took the criticism seriously and I realize that perhaps I may have fallen into a rut. So one morning when I awoke I decided to do something different and declared that day May 8, Pun Day.
I got the idea for this, as I usually get most of my ideas, from one of my favorite authors William Kotzwinkle. As with Henry David Thoreau, he is a favorite of mine — not necessarily because of his literary output (Although he did write the screenplay for “ET the Extraterrestrial” and the stories for the “Walter the Farting Dog” series) but for the audacity of attempting a literary career with a name like Kotzwinkle.
Anyway, in his novel “The Fan Man,” about an archetypical New Yorker who, during the hot sticky days of the New York City summer, travelled about the City holding in front of him one of those little battery operated fans to cool himself off (Hence “The Fan Man” in case you have not already guessed). In one of the chapters of the book our Fan Man wakes up and declares that day to be “Dorky Day” in which he would only speak the word Dorky throughout the day [By the way for those with interest is such things Dork is a common and respected name for boys in Armenia]. The remainder of the chapter, for about 10 to 12 pages, consists exclusively of the word Dorky repeated endlessly (Dorky,Dorky, Dorky… for those who may need help visualizing) broken only by the variously perplexed or angry responses of the other citizens of the City whose paths may have crossed that of our hero on that day.
Shakespeare must have eaten his heart out. Can you imagine what the world of the theater would have been had Hamlet instead of “The play’s the thing, in which we’ll catch the conscience of the King,” announced, “today is Dorky Day?”
Anyway, Pun Day comes also from one of my other literary mentors, Cuzin Irwin (to whom I beg forgiveness) who sent me the following:
it’s Snow White’s birthday.
The dwarves buy her a camera as a present.
She is ecstatic and takes pictures of everything she sees.
She takes the film in to be developed.
She goes back the next day to pick the pictures up.
The man behind the counter shakes his head as if to say, “No”.
Snow White cries.
The man behind the counter says
“Don’t worry Snow White, someday your prints will come.”
And for all you Snow Whites out there, may you prints come soon, but please always use protection or you may end up with a Kotzwinkle.
Alas, with the coming of the smartphone, poor Snow White’s prints never did arrive. So, she went home with an Android.
A. The politics of race and age:
The Tea Party is overwhelmingly white (89 percent, in fact). 75 percent of Tea Partiers are 45 years old or older, moreover, roughly 60 percent are men. It is a movement of and for old white men.
B. Blame the immigrant is as old as America:
“The first known outbreak of yellow fever had occurred in 1703, before its malignancy even had a name. It was simply called “the great sickness.” The blame that first summer fell on a ship from St. Thomas that arrived in Manhattan peculiarly close to the beginning of the outbreak. Ever since, suspicion attached itself to these “vessels from one of the sickly ports of the West Indies.”
Collins, Paul. Duel with the Devil: The True Story of How Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr Teamed Up to Take on America’s First Sensational Murder Mystery. Crown/Archetype.
A. A Story about the First Moon Landing:
“On 20 July 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the surface of the moon. In the months leading up to their expedition, the Apollo II astronauts trained in a remote moon-like desert in the western the western United States. The area is home to several Native American communities, and there is a story – or legend – describing an encounter between the astronauts and one of the locals.
One day as they were training, the astronauts came across an old Native American. The man asked them what they were doing there. They replied that they were part of a research expedition that would shortly travel to explore the moon. When the old man heard that, he fell silent for a few moments, and then asked the astronauts if they could do him a favor.
‘What do you want?’ they asked?
‘Well,’ said the old man, ‘the people of my tribe believe that holy spirits live on the moon. I was wondering if you could pass an important message to them from my people.’
‘What’s the message?’ asked the astronauts?
The man uttered something in his tribal language, and then asked the astronauts to repeat it again and again until they had memorized it correctly.
‘What does it mean?’ asked the astronauts?
‘Oh, I cannot tell you. It’s a secret that only our tribe and the moon spirits are allowed to know.’
When they returned to their base, the astronauts searched and searched until they found someone who could speak the tribal language, and asked him to translate the secret message. When they repeated what they had memorized, the translator started to laugh uproariously. When he calmed down, the astronauts asked him what it meant. The man explained that the sentence they had memorized so carefully said, ‘Don’t believe a single word these people are telling you. They have come to steal your lands.’
Harari, Yuval Noah. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (p. 287). HarperCollins.
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
1. I think it was Darwin who pointed out that one’s chances of surviving to breed are greatly diminished by disparaging the size of someone’s junk when that other person is carrying a machete.
2. Alas, the purpose of electoral politics in a democracy, such as ours, often seems to be to instill fear into the ignorant, ill-informed, naive and hopeless and to persuade them that they can become part of a great movement to find and eradicate whatever causes that fear.
It also seems that whenever the politics of fear overflows, it would be an appropriate remedy to choose as a leader of government someone chary of simple solutions with unknown consequences and repulsed by the cascading wall of emotions directed at punishing those whom the fearful have been led to believe are responsible for their problems.
C. Today’s Poem:
Jumping Off a Rock — “Haiku”
I jump off a rock.
The wind rushes by my face.
A splash of water.
D. Today’s Psychobabble:
The four stages of competence:
1. Unconscious incompetence:
The individual does not understand or know how to do something and does not necessarily recognize the deficit. They may deny the usefulness of the skill. The individual must recognize their own incompetence, and the value of the new skill, before moving on to the next stage. The length of time an individual spends in this stage depends on the strength of the stimulus to learn.
2. Conscious incompetence:
Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize the deficit, as well as the value of a new skill in addressing the deficit. The making of mistakes can be integral to the learning process at this stage.
3. Conscious competence:
The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires concentration. It may be broken down into steps, and there is heavy conscious involvement in executing the new skill.
4. Unconscious competence:
The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become “second nature” and can be performed easily. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task. The individual may be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned.
I have always preferred to settle my life into Unconscious Incompetence and leave consciousness to those believing there is a benefit in competence.