Color photos of the Depression

Go here for a treasure trove of rare color photos of Depression-era America: Rare Library of Congress colour photographs of the Great Depression | Mail Online.

They are of astonishing vividness.  These here folks are my people:

Where you fit politically

The Liberal/Conservative dichotomy does not really explain where people are on the political spectrum.  There are different kinds of conservatives and different kinds of liberals.  This has been a theme of a number of our blog posts.  But now the Pew Research Center has formulated a “political typology” that consists of nine different positions:

Staunch Conservatives take extremely conservative positions on nearly all issues – on the size and role of government, on economics, foreign policy, social issues and moral concerns. Most agree with the Tea Party and even more very strongly disapprove of Barack Obama’s job performance. A second core group of Republicans – Main Street Republicans – also is conservative, but less consistently so.

On the left, Solid Liberals express diametrically opposing views from the Staunch Conservatives on virtually every issue. While Solid Liberals are predominantly white, minorities make up greater shares of New Coalition Democrats – who include nearly equal numbers 0f whites, African Americans and Hispanics – and Hard-Pressed Democrats, who are about a third African American. Unlike Solid Liberals, both of these last two groups are highly religious and socially conservative. New Coalition Democrats are distinguished by their upbeat attitudes in the face of economic struggles.

Independents have played a determinative role in the last three national elections. But the three groups in the center of the political typology have very little in common, aside from their avoidance of partisan labels. Libertarians and Post-Moderns are largely white, well-educated and affluent. They also share a relatively secular outlook on some social issues, including homosexuality and abortion. But Republican-oriented Libertarians are far more critical of government, less supportive of environmental regulations, and more supportive of business than are Post-Moderns, most of whom lean Democratic.

Disaffecteds, the other main group of independents, are financially stressed and cynical about politics. Most lean to the Republican Party, though they differ from the core Republican groups in their support for increased government aid to the poor. Another group in the center, Bystanders, largely consign themselves to the political sidelines and for the most part are not included in this analysis.

via Beyond Red vs. Blue: The Political Typology | Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

You can even take a quiz to see which one of these you are.  This is not one of those Facebook quizzes, like seeing which Star Trek character you are.  This is sophisticated social science research!

And yet, it still seems to leave a lot of political ideologies out:  Where are the Burkean conservatives?  The neo-conservatives?  The paleo-conservatives?  The crunchy conservatives?  The Wendell Berry conservatives?  The localists?  The Reconstructionists?  Where are the socialists?  The Greens?  The Anarchists?  The Jihadists?  The Marxists?

I think the true political spectrum is even more complicated than this typology shows.

Take the quiz.  Does it peg you?  Or are there other issues that this study doesn’t even raise that are more definitive, as far as you are concerned?

HT:  Jackie

Strong dollar vs. weak dollar

“Strong” usually means good, and “weak” usually means bad.  Ezra Klein says that those positive or negative connotations shouldn’t necessarily apply to the dollar:

Sometimes, of course, a strong dollar is in our best interest. And over the long run, a strong economy will produce a strong dollar. But there are moments when stronger isn’t better. Moments like, well, this one.

The dollar’s “strength” or “weakness” is relative. “A strong dollar means that when you exchange it for another currency, you get a lot of that other currency for a single dollar,” says Josh Bivens, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute. A weak dollar, of course, implies the reverse.

That’s . . . it. In practice, a strong dollar makes foreign goods cheaper and domestically produced goods more expensive. That’s a boon for American consumers, American travelers and countries that export to America. In fact, when you hear that China is manipulating its currency, that’s a reference to its efforts to keep the dollar strong and the yuan weak. As far as China is concerned, a strong dollar means a strong China.

A weak dollar, meanwhile, makes American-made goods cheaper on the world market and foreign-produced goods — including commodities, like oil — more expensive. That’s a boon for American manufacturers and people in other countries who want to buy American goods or come visit the country. The very crude way to put it is that, in the short term, a stronger dollar is good for buying stuff and a weaker dollar is good for making stuff.

What a temporarily weak dollar is particularly good for, however, is recovering from a deep recession. “If domestic demand is weak,” says Barry Eichengreen, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley, “the normal way an economy reacts to that is by substituting export demand, and a more competitive dollar is the way that happens.”

The same goes for deficit reduction, Eichengreen says. That’s because cutting government spending reduces domestic demand, and so you need to find new sources of demand to avoid a recession. The way countries customarily do that is to weaken their currencies to make their exports more competitive.

You can probably see where I’m going with this. We happen to be simultaneously trying to recover from a recession and reduce the deficit. But the value of the dollar, though low historically, is higher than you might expect: It shot up after the financial crisis, as anxious investors loaded up on Treasury bonds, and returned to its pre-crisis level only recently. But the economy is much weaker now than it was then, and America much more in need of an export boom.

The irony is that although in the long run, a healthy, productive economy will lead to a stronger dollar, getting there probably requires a temporarily weaker dollar.

via ‘Strong dollar’ doesn’t make sense – The Washington Post.

Do you think this is a correct analysis?

The wealthy politician as rapist

The head of the International Monetary Fund, a likely Socialist candidate for the presidency of France, was yanked out of his first class cabin on a plane just before it was set to take off and was arrested for sexual assault.

Haggard and unshaven after a weekend in jail, the chief of the International Monetary Fund was denied release on bail Monday on charges of trying to rape a hotel maid as allegations of other, similar attacks by Dominique Strauss-Kahn began to emerge.

In France, a lawyer for a novelist said the writer is likely to file a criminal complaint accusing Strauss-Kahn of sexually assaulting her nine years ago. A French lawmaker accused him of attacking other maids in previous stays at the same luxury hotel. And in New York, prosecutors said they are working to verify reports of at least one other case, which they suggested was overseas.

Strauss-Kahn’s weekend arrest rocked the financial world as the IMF grapples with the European debt crisis, and upended French presidential politics. Strauss-Kahn, a member of France’s Socialist party, was widely considered the strongest potential challenger next year to President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Making his first appearance on the sex charges, a grim-looking Strauss-Kahn stood slumped before a judge in a dark raincoat and open-collared shirt. The 62-year-old, silver-haired Strauss-Kahn said nothing as a lawyer professed his innocence and strove in vain to get him released on bail.

The judge ruled against him after prosecutors warned that the wealthy banker might flee to France and put himself beyond the reach of U.S. law like the filmmaker Roman Polanski.

via IMF chief jailed without bail in NYC attempted-rape case; more allegations emerge – The Washington Post.

The story goes on to give the sordid details of the attack on the maid, an African immigrant, who went in to clean the $3000-per-night room and was attacked by the naked Strauss-Kahn.  This was no sexual harassment charge by “puritanical” Americans, as some Frenchmen are saying.  Rather, it was a brutal, violent attempted rape.

The new radical ideology for our time

I had an epiphany while reading reports of protests in Europe against the various austerity measures being imposed due to the different government’s economic woes:  The radical ideology for our postmodern times is anarchism, the rejection of all authority.

Let me explain, but first read what is happening in Europe:

Already struggling to avoid a debt default that could seal Greece’s fate as a financial pariah, this Mediterranean nation is also scrambling to contain another threat — a breakdown in the rule of law.

Thousands have joined an “I Won’t Pay” movement, refusing to cover highway tolls, bus fares, even fees at public hospitals. To block a landfill project, an entire town south of Athens has risen up against the government, burning earth-moving equipment and destroying part of a main access road.

The protests are an emblem of social discontent spreading across Europe in response to a new age of austerity. At a time when the United States is just beginning to consider deep spending cuts, countries such as Greece are coping with a fallout that has extended well beyond ordinary civil disobedience.

Perhaps most alarming, analysts here say, has been the resurgence of an anarchist movement, one with a long history in Europe. While militants have been disrupting life in Greece for years, authorities say that anger against the government has now given rise to dozens of new “amateur anarchist” groups, whose tactics include planting of gas canisters in mailboxes and destroying bank ATMs.

Some attacks have gone further, heightening concerns about a return to the kind of left-wing violence that plagued parts of Europe during the 1970s and 1980s. After urban guerrillas mailed explosive parcels to European leaders and detonated a powerful bomb last year in front of an Athens courthouse, authorities here have staged a series of raids, arresting dozens and yielding caches of machine guns, grenades and bomb-making materials.

The anarchist movement in Europe has a long, storied past, embracing an anti-establishment universe influenced by a broad range of thinkers from French politician and philosopher Pierre-Joseph Proudhon to Karl Marx to Oscar Wilde. Defined narrowly, the movement includes groups of urban guerillas, radical youths and militant unionists. More broadly, it encompasses everything from punk rock to WikiLeaks. . . .

A radical minority is energizing the anarchist movement, a loose network of anti-establishment groups that sprung up in force in the 1970s in opposition to Greece’s former military junta. Over the next two decades, anarchists would assassinate Richard Welch, a CIA station chief in Athens, as well as Greek politicians and a British military attache.

Greek authorities seemed to cut the head off the movement after the leaders of November 17th, the largest group, were arrested in the early 2000s before Greece hosted the 2004 Olympics. But it has been gaining new life. The December 2008 killing of a 15-year anarchist by a police officer in the Exarchia neighborhood of Athens sparked days of riots and became the impetus for a series of fresh attacks.

Since then, experts say, the economic crisis has helped the movement thrive, with anarchists positioning themselves as society’s new avengers. Long a den of anarchists, the graffiti-blanketed Exarchia neighborhood is alive anew with dissent. Nihilist youths are patrolling the local park, preventing police from entering and blocking authorities from building a parking lot on the site. On one evening at a local cafe, an anarchist group was broadcasting anti-government messages via a clandestine radio station using a laptop and a few young recruits.

In the most recent attacks, only one person has been injured, a courier who handled a letter bomb, but over the past two years, anarchist attacks have claimed four lives in Greece, including a journalist and a minister’s top aide. Left-wing radicals also appear responsible for the deaths of three civilians — including a pregnant woman — after a bank was firebombed during an anti-government protest last year.

Still, there is a line to be drawn between the far larger group of young anarchists hurling Molotov cocktails at street demonstrations and the smaller, more dangerous cells of urban guerrillas. But experts are increasingly concerned about growing militancy on the streets and the emergence of dozens of new anarchist groups on the Internet.

via In Greece, austerity kindles deep discontent – The Washington Post.

We have anarchist protesters here in the USA too.  They are the ones who wear masks and break windows during the protests at the various global economics conclaves.

Now of course in Europe it is beyond absurd to protest cut-backs in government services by advocating the elimination of government altogether!  But anarchists reject the authority of reason also.  I think their strategy is exploit people’s anger at their governments to turn them against government in general.  But I’m thinking that the fundamental ideology needs to be taken seriously because, to one degree or another, it has become pervasive.

There are many paths to anarchy, coming from both the left and the right.  Read the extensive Wikipedia article on anarchism:

There are many types and traditions of anarchism, not all of which are mutually exclusive.[5]Anarchist schools of thought can differ fundamentally, supporting anything from extreme individualism to complete collectivism.[2] Strains of anarchism have been divided into the categories of social and individualist anarchism or similar dual classifications.[6][7] Anarchism is often considered to be a radical left-wing ideology,[8][9] and much of anarchist economics and anarchist legal philosophy reflect anti-statist interpretations of communism, collectivism, syndicalism or participatory economics. However, anarchism has always included an individualist strain supporting a market economy and private property, or morally unrestrained egoism.[10][11][12] Some individualist anarchists are also socialists[13][14] while some anarcho-communists are also individualists.[15][16] The position known as anarchism without adjectives insists on “recognising the right of other tendencies to the name ‘anarchist’ while, obviously, having their own preferences for specific types of anarchist theory and their own arguments why other types are flawed.”[17]

The central tendency of anarchism as a mass social movement has been represented by anarcho-communism and anarcho-syndicalism, with individualist anarchism being primarily a literary phenomenon[18] which nevertheless did have an impact on the bigger currents[19] and individualists also participated in large anarchist organizations.[20][21] Some anarchists oppose all forms of aggression, supporting self-defense or non-violence (anarcho-pacifism),[22][23] while others have supported the use of some coercive measures, including violent revolution and propaganda of the deed, on the path to an anarchist society.

The links show how many aspects of anarchism there are.  But briefly, left-wing anarchism opposes all established power systems, as well as private property.  Right-wing anarchism is an extreme libertarianism that believes the “invisible hand” of free market economics can also regulate all human interactions, making central governments unnecessary.

Anarchism accords well with postmodernism, which rejects  objective truth and objective morality, and which considers all cultural institutions to be ultimately grounded in social oppression and the imposition of power.  Anarchism also accords well with contemporary culture, which tends to reject all moral authority, including that of the family and religious institutions.

And isn’t  contemporary conservatism with its libertarianism, the Tea Party, and the overall antipathy to  government part of this climate?  That there may be good reasons for a certain reaction does not always justify everything that reaction turns into.  The horrible working conditions of the 19th century industrial revolution made Communism seem like a good idea at the time, even though that ideology turned into an even more horrible monster.  Bad government can make us want to limit it without going so far as anarchism.  Still, it seems to me that conservatives need to work out clearly what they think government should do and not do, as opposed to surrendering to the anarchist impulse.

Maxed out

As of yesterday, the federal government is officially maxed out on the  great national credit card.  We reached our credit limit of $14.294 trillion.   Government accountants think they can keep the bills paid using accounting tricks until August 2.   In the meantime, Congress needs to raise the debt ceiling.  Otherwise, the government could go into default.

Usually, raising the debt ceiling was more or less automatic, like passing resolutions celebrating Flag Day, but this time fiscal conservatives in Congress are threatening to keep that from happening unless the current administration agrees to major expenditure cuts.

Should Congress up the limit?  If it doesn’t, a default would surely be devastating for the economy, sending the dollar, government bonds, and foreign investment into a nosedive.  Would it be worth that to make a statement about out-of-control budget deficits?


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