Feb 1, 2017 – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 167

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.

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Topics: Reactions to the first week of the Trump Administration and the emerging protests. People: Bill and Jonathan. Produced: Feb 1st, 2017.

Episode 167 (55 min):
AFD 167

Discussion Points:

– Who’s calling the shots inside the White House?
– What are the opportunities in the emerging street protests against the Trump Administration’s overreaches?

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Music by friend of the show @StuntBirdArmy.

Jan 4, 2017 – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 164

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.

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Topics: What Democratic cities can do and why Republican legislatures want to stop them; progressive state federalism. People: Bill, Rachel, and Jonathan. Produced: Jan 2nd, 2017.

Episode 164 (58 min):
AFD 164

Discussion Points:

– How Republican state legislatures are trying to ban economic and social reforms by Democratic cities
– How Democratic activists in cities and states might be able to keep making progress despite Trump and Congress

Related reading:

International Committee of @bcnencomu “America needs a network of rebel cities to stand up to Trump”
American Prospect: “Blue Cities, Red States: As cities have moved left and states have moved right, the conflicts between them have escalated.”
The Nation: “Why Are Rhode Island Democrats Blocking Minimum-Wage Increases?”
The Globalist: “Spain Urgently Needs Consolidation”

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iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

Music by friend of the show @StuntBirdArmy.

Op-Ed | Trump’s Foreign Soulmates

Alexei Bayer and Bill Humphrey for The Globalist: “Look at commodities-export strongmen like Chavez and Putin if you want to understand Trump.”

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Foreigners see Donald Trump as one of those outlandish characters the New World periodically produces and then thrusts upon the international stage.

It is, however, far more than a bewildering one-man show. The rise of Trump underscores that we are witnessing a split of the United States of America into two distinct nations.

It is, perhaps, a return to form for a country that has often split politically (and once militarily) between its economically developed regions and its farm- or mineral-driven regions.

One of those two nations remains closer to the image that America has projected toward the outside world for nearly two centuries – an industrialized, highly innovative nation and a modern society that is open, liberal, tolerant and democratic.

The other America is once again displaying the characteristics of a commodity-exporting nation, as it did for much of U.S. history.

Poor role models worldwide

It is therefore only logical that — in order to understand Trump and above all the folks who cast their votes for him – it is fitting to look at other modern commodity-export-dependent nations, such as oil-rich Russia, Venezuela and so on.

Commodity exporting nations are a mess everywhere – from Algeria and Azerbaijan to Zambia and Zimbabwe.

They live off the distribution of free-flowing revenues which require a strong state. Friends and family of those who control the distribution obviously get a lot more. These nations tend to be ruled by charismatic strongmen who safeguard the interests of their cronies while feeding nationalist rhetoric to the masses.

Naturally, the masses hate immigrants and outsiders, because they represent additional mouths to be fed by crumbs from the strongman’s table. They are full of disdain for neighbors who aren’t fortunate enough to have natural resources in their soil.

Commodity exporters don’t need representative democracy, appointing their leaders by popular acclaim and very often for life. Read more

A 2015 advance: Tribal prosecution of non-native abusers

This story is from March 2015, but it just came across my radar today:

Two years after Congress reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, Native American tribes can finally take advantage of one of the law’s most significant updates: a provision that allows tribal courts to investigate and prosecute non-Native men who abuse Native women on reservations.

Starting Saturday, tribes can claim jurisdiction over non-Native men who commit crimes of domestic violence, dating violence or who violate a protection order against a victim who lives on tribal land. Until now, that jurisdiction has fallen to federal or state law enforcement, who are often hours away from reservations and lack the resources to respond. The result has effectively allowed non-Native abusers immunity from punishment.

 
During the preceding two years, several tribal governments worked through a pilot program with the Federal government to develop the rules and guidelines necessary to handle the complexity of sovereign arrest and prosecution of U.S. citizens by non-U.S. tribal governments and non-U.S. tribal law enforcement.

This new power will be critical to halting rampant non-native abuse and assaults of native women.

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What if the threat of debt is political, not fiscal?

Arsenal Bolt: Quick updates on the news stories we’re following.

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“The Effort to Divert Class War Into Generational War: Lessons On Economics You Won’t Get from Jeff Bezos” – Center for Economic and Policy Research, Dean Baker on Friday:

Lesson Three: Our Children Will Only be Hurt by the Debt Because the Washington Post and Other Elite Types Will Use it As An Excuse to Cut Necessary Spending

Okay twenty somethings, how do you know about our massive debt? Yeah, it’s more than $18 trillion, can you feel it?

You surely can’t feel it from its economic impact. Interest rates in the economy are at their lowest level in more than half a century. Thirty year mortgage rates are hovering near four percent. They were generally in the six percent range back at the end of the 1990s when we were running budget surpluses and making plans to pay off the debt. Interest rates on car loans, student loan debt, and credit card debt are correspondingly lower today.

How about the raging inflation caused by the debt? Well, the Federal Reserve Board has been working hard to raise the inflation rate back towards its 2.0 percent target.

What about the enormous amount of money that has to be diverted from other spending to meet the interest burden? Current interest costs, net of payments from the Federal Reserve Board, come to less than one percent of GDP. By comparison, the interest burden was more than three percent of GDP in the early 1990s. (That’s what lower interest rates will do.) If a twenty something claims that they can feel the economic impact of the debt, it is time for some serious drug testing.

Now there is clearly a political impact. The Washington Post, and other Very Serious People, has hyped the debt endlessly. They have raised fears over the debt to prevent spending that would both help boost the economy back to full employment and meet our needs in areas like education, infrastructure, research and development, and addressing global warming. The damage done by the Very Serious People’s scare stories about the deficit is in fact a very big deal. But it is a bit over the top to blame this one on the older generation as an age group, even if most of the Very Serious People gang is older.

 

120.8 million American adults

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“The Middle Class Is No Longer America’s Economic Majority” – HuffPost Business:

There are now more low-income and high-income Americans combined than there are people in the middle class, a study released Wednesday found.

According to a Pew Research Center report, there were 120.8 million adults living in middle-income households and 121.3 million in lower- and upper-income households combined in early 2015, marking the first time in the center’s four decades of tracking this data that the size of the latter groups has transcended that of the first.

The study defines middle income as adults earning two-thirds to double the national median, which translates today to somewhere between $42,000 and $126,000 a year for a three-person household.

 
One caveat to the narrative is that while the low-income grew 4 points since 1971, the high income share grew by 7. So off the 11 points lost from the middle class, a majority actually exited the top (oddly enough), rather than sinking below:

Since 1971, the percentage of adults living in the low income bracket has increased from 25 percent to 29 percent, and the percentage of adults living in the highest income bracket has shot up from 14 percent to 21 percent. The middle class, meanwhile, has shrunk from 61 percent to about 50.

 
Of course, mostly the story is that the existing rich just got way richer, very fast.

Who grows the most Thanksgiving foods these days?

Turkey, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, cranberries, apples, potatoes, green beans, and corn: Where did they originate and which countries grow ’em now? Gobble, gobble.

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The United States is the world’s largest producer and exporter of turkey. Turkeys are an indigenous animal to North America (specifically forested regions of Mexico and the United States). These U.S. states are the top five producers within the country today:

  1. Minnesota
  2. North Carolina
  3. Arkansas
  4. Missouri
  5. Virginia

Pumpkins, squash, and gourds are a collective category covering a wide range of cultivated items. Gourds tend to be Old World in origin — even the pre-Columbian American varieties either migrated across the Bering Strait land bridge from Asian origins or floated across the Atlantic from Africa. “Pumpkins” (the British colonial-era name for a bright orange type of squash) and squash in general are all indigenous to North America. Pumpkins have been found in Mexico for millennia. Today, however, most of the world gets their pumpkins, squash, and gourds from major emerging market producers of the Old World. Notably, though, no African country cracks the top 5 list, despite the inclusion of gourds, but gourds are also very common across Asia:

  1. China
  2. India
  3. Russia
  4. Iran
  5. United States

Sweet potatoes (or yams) are sometimes substituted for pumpkin/squash at the Thanksgiving table or are sometimes included alongside them. Like ordinary potatoes, sweet potatoes were domesticated in South America. Remarkably, however, sweet potatoes made the jump to Polynesian islands in the Pacific well before the Western arrival in the New World, indicating strongly that Polynesian explorers landed in pre-Columbian South America and returned home with the crop. This early start in Polynesia helped sweet potato later become a major crop in nearby southeast Asia, including Indonesia. While China again tops the present-day producer list, this category is Africa’s moment to shine, as several African countries have incorporated yams firmly into their cuisine.

  1. China
  2. Tanzania
  3. Nigeria
  4. Uganda
  5. Indonesia

Cranberries remain strongly associated, in terms of production, with their natural homes in the United States and Canada. The early United States saw the conversion of the wild marsh crop (previously gathered by Native Americans and First Nations peoples) into a farmable wetland production, which began exporting cranberries all over the world, where they caught on. The Russian Empire, in particular, tried its own hand at cranberry production and that legacy can still be seen in the runners-up.

  1. United States
  2. Canada
  3. Belarus
  4. Azerbaijan
  5. Latvia

Apples are one of the few food items commonly associated with modern Thanksgiving that did not originate in the Americas at all, with the exception of crabapples (which are generally not consumed). Wild apples come from Central Asia (including what is now western China) and a wide number of wild species have been domesticated and bred down into various edible selections. China is far and away the largest producer of apples in the world. Distant second-place United States — “as American as apple pie” — has had edible, domesticated apples for less than four hundred years, unlike most of the rest of the modern Thanksgiving selection foods. In fact, apples were not grown in New England until several years after the first Thanksgiving.

  1. China
  2. United States
  3. Turkey
  4. Poland
  5. Italy

Potatoes have become a global staple over the past several hundred years, but they originated in South America. Today, wild species can be found from Chile to the United States, but they all came from a single strain in Peru or Bolivia, which is also where they were domesticated many thousands of years ago.

  1. China
  2. India
  3. Russia
  4. Ukraine
  5. United States

Green beans (known elsewhere as string beans or snap beans) are from Central and South America (domesticated in two separate locations) and were introduced to the rest of the world by Christopher Columbus on his second trip back from the Americas. Today the top producers are:

  1. United States
  2. France
  3. Morocco
  4. Philippines
  5. Mexico

The United States is also, unsurprisingly, the world’s largest producer and exporter of corn (maize), but 97% of U.S. corn production is not for direct human consumption. There are various animal or industrial uses for all that U.S. corn production not going to people. Mexico is a big producer of White Corn, particularly for use in tortillas and other Mexican cuisine. Maize was domesticated over several centuries of careful breeding in Mexico many thousands of years ago, with several varieties from a single strain, and became important to regional trade between indigenous groups. It remains North America’s largest grain crop, and human genetic modification is still a major influence to present day.

Statistical Data Sources: FAOSTAT (2013 top 5 producers data for each crop), AgMRC (Turkey and Corn)