Productivity Down – Blame the Kids?

The decline in productivity, first noted 15 months ago, is starting to become a serious issue. It is true that an increase in GDP is most likely and most sustainable when the output for every worker constantly goes up. But over the last year, we’ve had a sustained drop of 0.4% annualized.

The message is starting to creep into popular media. A scapegoat now has to be found, lest our politics actually focus on something real and useful. The blame for this decline now falls on smartphones – especially in the hands of those slacker Millenials.

Those kids! They just won’t get off our lawn. Or put down their phones and start mowing it, something like that. We’re never sure. What we do know is that rather than discuss economic trends we now have someone to blame so we can divert our attention from reality. This is just in time for the problem to solve itself.

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Is Objectivity Dead?

Once you let the monster out of its cage, how do you get it back in?

This may well be the question haunting serious journalists through and after this election. The gold standard of a reliable news media, objectivity, is at the very least being seriously tested. It may even be completely gone – replaced with instant fact-checking and even personal animosity directly primarily at Donald Trump.

It’s not as though his combative and free-flowing BS style doesn’t deserve a hard-hitting dose of reality at every turn. Democrats, like me, practically demand reporting like this. But we have to ask ourselves, “Is journalism as we know it dead, or simply doing what it has to for us to get through this election?”

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Post-Capitalist, Pre-Whatever?

I’m going to repeat this one from a year ago with no changes because I think some things are going the way Mason predicted – manufactured goods are more commoditized than ever.

Are you ready for a Post Capitalist world? Paul Mason, an economist and columnist for the Guardian, has outlined what that might mean in his book Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future. The premise of this provocative subject is simply that information technology has a tendency to commoditize everything in our lives and ultimately push the value to zero, rendering concepts of money and markets as we understand them today utterly useless.

No one actually lives in a post-anything world, so the question becomes less about capitalism and more about what might come afterward. Financial writers, far from dismissal of the potential downfall of their trade, are actually quite excited by the concept of a new world where the old rules do not apply. The traditional left, steeped in a quasi-Marxist dialectic, are far more unsure.

That’s what makes this concept exciting.

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Defeating ISIS

In a crazy election year, it should come as no surprise that there is another turn waiting to be sprung on everyone. The biggest “October Surprise” in the works right now is the defeat of ISIS / Da’ish. This is quite likely to happen, and it would be a huge boost for Obama and Democrats everywhere.

The story, of course, isn’t about us – but we’ll make it that way. Our media will almost certainly portray the collapse as something the Obama administration gets all the credit for. Not only will that not be entirely true, it will also be reported very badly by the media leading up to the “final” event.

This is a complex story that requires a lot of context, which is exactly what the US media is terrible at. But even more than predicting tomorrow’s news today, Barataria is all about context. Here is what to look for if you wish to follow this story as it unfolds.

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Facts or Feelings?

Left or right? Democratic or Republican? Progressive or Conservative? These are the choices we supposedly make as we consider our political philosophy – our outlook on the nation and how we vote. It’s one end or the other, with a fair amount of room in the middle for those who see room for both.

But that doesn’t seem to be what divides us politically anymore. The sharpest division seems to run between something like optimism and pessimism, either staying the course with a few tweaks or smashing the system to give room for something totally new to come along. Yet even that doesn’t seem to describe it.

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Resetting the Middle East

Let’s imagine a foreign policy based on promoting freedom, stability, and peace. Let’s assume that our drive to energy independence makes this not only possible, but desirable. Let’s assume that we no longer use our military to “protect vital resources” or some other euphemism for imperialism as we come to respect and develop a truly free market globally.

With these assumptions our view of the Middle East, in particular, changes dramatically. Like many situations in this rapidly integrating and evolving world, it demands attention to fundamentals – both our principles and an examination of the real powers which shape the world.

In the Middle East there are really only three permanent powers which have survived the test of millenia – Egypt, Turkey, and Persia (Iran). No matter who or what has swept through the region, these three have always been there. They are the best place to start when considering how we promote what matters most to free people around the world.

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Energy Independence – and Beyond

Perhaps you’re hearing a lot of gloom and/or doom about the economy. Most of it is pretty easy to refute, as Barataria has shown. There is every reason to say that we are indeed turning a corner into next year and that Spring is Coming.

Could there be any more good news? Of course there is. Let’s talk about energy independence and the lingering trade deficits that have been plaguing this nation since about the mid 1970s. Could it be that we’re about to slay at least one of the 40 year old demons that has defined the United States for as long as nearly half of today’s voters have been alive?

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