Thanksgiving and Dia de la Raza

October is a good month for holidays in North America.  At the end of the month we have the collision of the Celtic Samhain with the Aztec / Spanish Dia de los Muertos which swirled into Halloween.  But in the middle is the difficult holiday, the one where we celebrate the connection of this continent with the rest of the world.  And the three brother nations of this continent have their own ways of marking it.  This is a repeat from 2011, updated.

To our North, in Canada, the first Monday after October 12th is  Thanksgiving, this year on the 13th.  To our South, in Mexico, the 12th is  Dia de la Raza.  Our brother nations here in North America have found things to celebrate in the early days of Autumn, but here in the USofA we have nothing but the pseudo-holiday Columbus Day – something we’ve tossed over our shoulders and given up on.

This may be a measure of our ability to get anything together.

Continue reading

The Secret Goldman Tapes

It’s the kind of bombshell that, once it goes off, surprises no one at all. The American public is used to reports of bad behavior from banks and a complete lack of apparent regulation to stop abusive behavior. It was all supposed to change, yes, but no one believed it did.

Now, there are tapes. On “The American Life” the segment on the tapes of Carmen Segarra, former New York Fed lawyer assigned to Goldman Sachs, are the kind of explosion that may be something new. For one thing, they are raw and go deep into the heart of why the Federal Reserve isn’t regulating banks the way it should be. For another, they are the centerpiece of an investigation by the Senate Banking Committee headed by Sen. Warren (D-MA).

This could go somewhere. And it should.

Continue reading

HeForShe

What is “feminism”? According to the dictionary, it is “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities,” a definition cited in Emma Watson’s inspiring “HeForShespeech at the UN. Yet even as she spoke it, she noted that it is often not applied in this way in public discussion. If that isn’t he definition, what is? The only sensible argument is that those who support feminism get to decide.

I am a feminist. I support the work that Emma Watson and so many others are doing to guarantee equal rights and opportunities for women all around the world, and I embrace that definition. Yet it remains obvious that there is so much left to be done and so much to consider we can’t let it go at something this simple.

Watson, speaking for HeForShe, was speaking directly to me, as a man, to garner my support for women. I’d like to echo this, but also to refine and elaborate on what it means to me as a man.

Continue reading

Hindsight Conspiracies

As US bombing runs extend across Iraq, and now into Syria, many people in the US have started to worry about our open-ended commitment to be the policeman of the world. The powerful counter argument is that ISIL is so dangerous it must be wiped out. Where did this threat come from?

If you believe one conspiracy theory popular in the Middle East, it’s a creation of the US – for the purpose of doing just what we’re doing now.

While this comes from a region of many conspiracy theories, hatched by governments like Iran with strong propaganda needs, it’s actually a common type of conspiracy theory. It comes from looking at the result of a world event and then working backwards to determine that the outcome must have been planned by nefarious forces. Such “Hindsight Conspiracies” are part of the news cycle these days – despite almost always being pathetically wrong.

Continue reading

What is a “Nation”?

Much to the dismay of many people of Scottish ancestry around the world, a new nation was not created last Thursday. The people of Scotland, which is to say those who would have to live with the consequences of any action, narrowly decided to stay with the UK. In the lead-up to the election, when it looked like it might go the other way, the leaders of all the parties of the UK promised that Scotland would have more power to decide its own fate and that seemed to be good enough.

But a not-independent Scotland is just one of the many complications found within the UK and in many nations around the world. Simultaneously, an agreement was made in Ukraine to give more autonomy to the Russian speaking regions in an as yet undescribed power sharing arrangement if only everyone would stop shooting. And in Iraq that central government appears powerless as the autonomous Kurdish region uses its own army, the Peshmerga, to battle ISIL with help from many nations.

What, indeed, is a nation? The short answer is: whatever it needs to be.

Continue reading

Industrial Capacity is Back

When looking for economic data that tells us all how we’re all doin’, sometimes you just can’t beat the classics.

Long ago, the US was a nation that made stuff. Economic expansions or contractions could be measured by industrial output with a rather high degree of precision. Lower output meant that people were losing their jobs and the nation was slowing down.

The industrial capacity figure hasn’t been used much lately because we don’t rely on manufacturing for the bulk of the jobs anymore. At about 12M jobs, it’s just over 10% of all employment. But it still means a lot, and the results are encouraging.

Continue reading