And to all a good night

Happy holidays to you.  I may not have sent you a text or an email or a card, but I if you’re reading this, I truly hope you have a lovely holiday and a peaceful end to 2017.  I sincerely hope it’s filled with good food, good friends and loving family.  I hope that the ham is juicy, the meatballs are round and plentiful and that you discover a super-secret, thrid-tier to your Aladdin chocolate box. 

People need to be with other people and especially during the holidays so everybody find your Del Griffith–or if you’re the Del, find your Neil.  Find someone to keep you warm in a way that matters to you and matters to them.    Be a little less angry.  Be a little less frustrated.  Be a little less jaded.  Love a bit more if you can.  Help a bit more if you can.  

Tis the season after all and if there ever was a point in history where we needed to be genuinely good, loving human beings, it’s right now.     

Hail to the Chief

I’ve been sick and upset and not in the mood to post here or on Insta.  I haven’t even really been in the mood to be a citizen of the United States or even a human of earth lately.  I have a sinus infection and inflamed lungs due to inhaling all of that particulate matter from the so-cal fires, but that’s ok.  You may have heard that the “apple” that is climate change is actually a “banana” if you live in the conservative bubble, so it’s a one off right?  There were only four fires burning at once a couple weekends back, one of which, the Thomas fire, is the only the second largest in state history. I woke up to a house covered in ash, but climate change is a banana, banana, banana.  It’s turns out climate denial is also the perfect double-date to my current battle against geo-political PTSD.  My hands are shaking as I type this (not really) and every time I see the color orange I throw myself to the ground and climb under the sofa, which is no small feat given that I’ve gained a Trump 20.     

So I’m a Five star, Series-A, pac-northwest Amtrak of a wreck.  Then this week of crazy unfolded.

If you hadn’t already guessed I’m not the biggest fan of capitalism.  I’m not sure I’m a capitalist at all and if I am then I’m the severely watered-down type.  You know, sort of like a happy-hour, gin-and-tonic at airport motel in Vegas, the gin bottle of capitalism has only been waived in a circle over my two-dollar-social-framework cocktail (omg, is that trickle-down-bartending?  Must extrapolate the metaphor later).  So as I watched these so called fiscal conservatives (read as “not-so-fiscal conservatives” given the 1.5 trillion dollars they are about to add to the deficit†) bend over backwards to enact a solid fuck you to the middle-class all the while while squandering their once in a lifetime tax-reform opportunity by rewarding corporations and the wealthy with bullshit policies ripped from of a ratty and torn, supply-side economics playbook from the Reagan era.

Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan have sure been busy.  They were able to pass this tax-reform while further dismantling Obama-care by eliminating the individual mandate, lying to members of their own party with promises they never intended to keep in exchange for votes they needed, AND most egregiously, straight-up lying to the middle-class, saying they will experience financial relief and prosperity the likes of which they have never known now that Reaganomics has both fat-sweaty fists at ten and two.  This was one of the most unpopular pieces of legislation to ever pass (it still needs to be signed into law of course) but still the republicans did it.  

While I was thinking about writing this entry earlier today, I decided to do a little research into the research and formulate an argument as to why the whole concept is a ridiculous idea, but I realized that writing that little dilly would be pissing into the ocean.  If you’re reading this, dear purveyor of street photography, self deprecation, and mild mania then you most likely don’t need convincing.  Your silent presence, dots the “i’s” and crosses the “t’s” in “intelligent,” dear reader… all 3 of you.  So instead, I started reading-up a bit more on the history “trickle-down’ economics and I found something rather interesting little did bits I would love to get across your desk.

Let’s start with some basic concepts, shall we?  From Wikipedia… Trickle-down economics, also known as trickle-down theory, is an economic theory that advocates reducing taxes on businesses and the wealthy in society as a means to stimulate business investment in the short term and benefit society at large in the long term.  This is the central theory of the the 2017 Republican tax-reform bill.  It is a form of laissez-faire capitalism–more specifically supply-side economics. Whereas general supply-side theory favors lowering taxes overall, trickle-down theory more specifically targets taxes on the upper end of the economic spectrum.   In the Regan era, David Stockman, who as Reagan’s budget director championed Reagan’s tax cuts at first, but then became critical of them, told journalist William Greider that the “supply-side economics” is the trickle-down idea:

It’s kind of hard to sell ‘trickle down,’ so the supply-side formula was the only way to get a tax policy that was really ‘trickle down.’ Supply-side is ‘trickle-down’ theory.

— David Stockman, The Atlantic     

So “supply-side” and “trickle down” are the same, but “supply-side” sounds less like you just guzzled a huge load and a few stringy-drops are oozing down your chin, which, ironically enough makes it easier to swallow [as a concept].  It’s also ironic that Regan’s own budget director later understood that the cuts were not the way to go, but it’s an interesting historical lesson that this approach failed ultimately in the 80s:

“The Reagan economy was a one-hit wonder. Yes, there was a boom in the mid-1980s, as the economy recovered from a severe recession. But while the rich got much richer, there was little sustained economic improvement for most Americans. By the late 1980s, middle-class incomes were barely higher than they had been a decade before — and the poverty rate had actually risen.

When the inevitable recession arrived, people felt betrayed — a sense of betrayal that Mr. Clinton was able to ride into the White House.”

—Paul Krugmen, New York Times

Incidentally, Clinton road that wave after Bush the first, Mr.”Read my lips, no new taxes, tried the same policies and epically failed.  I always thought that Regan represented the inauguration of these policies into the US economic-policy sphere but turns out I was wrong.   After leaving the Presidency, Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democrat, alleged:

“Republicans simply don’t know how to manage the economy. They’re so busy operating the trickle-down theory, giving the richest corporations the biggest break, that the whole thing goes to hell in a handbasket.”

So post-Camelot America was already doing battle with laissez-faire economics in the 1960’s.  But then I found this.  Will Rogers (WILL FUCKING ROGERS!) jokingly advised in a column in 1932:

“This election was lost four and six years ago, not this year. They [Republicans] didn’t start thinking of the old common fellow till just as they started out on the election tour. The money was all appropriated for the top in the hopes that it would trickle down to the needy. Mr. Hoover was an engineer. He knew that water trickles down. Put it uphill and let it go and it will reach the driest little spot. But he didn’t know that money trickled up. Give it to the people at the bottom and the people at the top will have it before night, anyhow. But it will at least have passed through the poor fellows hands. They saved the big banks, but the little ones went up the flue.”

I’m sure you’ve all seen Annie and in case you’re unclear, it’s fiction. Daddy Warbucks was not a real person, but if he had existed he never would have adopted a fucking read-headed orphan.  We’d like to thank you Mr. Hoover and we’d like to thank you Mr. Rogers for the coining of the term “Trickle down.”  But wait, there were references to this failed voodoo policy going back even further.  The aforementioned economist John Kenneth Galbraith mentioned how “trickle-down economics” had been tried and failed in the 1890s under the name “horse and sparrow theory.” He wrote,

“Mr. David Stockman has said that supply-side economics was merely a cover for the trickle-down approach to economic policy—what an older and less elegant generation called the horse-and-sparrow theory: ‘If you feed the horse enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrows.’”

Galbraith claimed that the horse and sparrow theory was partly to blame for the Panic of 1896.  Back in the modern day it turns out a bunch of economists, Labor’s MP in New Zealand and even the pope stand on the right side of this issue:  

Damien O’Connor has, in the Labour Party campaign launch video for the 2011 general election, called trickle-down economics “the rich pissing on the poor”. 

A 2012 study by the Tax Justice Network indicates that wealth of the super-rich does not trickle down to improve the economy, but tends to be amassed and sheltered in tax havens with a negative effect on the tax bases of the home economy.

In 2013, Pope Francis referred to trickle-down theories (plural) in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium with the statement (No.54)

“Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”

A 2015 paper by researchers for the International Monetary Fund argues that there is no trickle-down effect as the rich get richer:

[I]f the income share of the top 20 percent (the rich) increases, then GDP growth actually declines over the medium term, suggesting that the benefits do not trickle down. In contrast, an increase in the income share of the bottom 20 percent (the poor) is associated with higher GDP growth

…And finally, a 2015 report on policy by economist Pavlina R. Tcherneva described the failings of increasing economic gains of the rich without commensurate participation by the working and middle classes, referring to the problematic policies as, “Reagan-style trickle-down economics,” and “a trickle-down, financial-sector-driven policy regime.”

If I can read about every aspect of every incarnation of this economic-theory from multiple vantage-points with the high-powered flashlight of history illuminating all of it’s dark corners–a blinding, blue-white LED beam of truth debunking over a 100 years of it’s bullshit–then sadly, the only dock a thinking person ties his boat to is that a large portion of the electorate must be either ignorant or willfully blind.  Why do the people who need the most help insist on clinging to the very beliefs that instigated their pain and suffering in the first place and pray, balls to bones, that those same failed-idealogical-manacles-of-four will next time set them free?  Can I get an “Amen?”  Can I get a “Hallelujah?” Instead all I hear is the sound of Republicans humming “Hail the Chief” and swallowing like Deep Throat.  

Not Watergate, but Linda Lovelace in case there was ever any question.  

Leica M7 with my 35mm Cron onKodak Tri-X 400 +1 by the lovely folks at the Icon.  

Light and easy

Last night Ester needed help on a paper she’s working on for english.  The assignment was to argue for or against the statement “AI will become Frankenstein’s monster.”  There were and handful articles and videos she could use to support her position and she was required to have at least three paragraphs, each using three quotes for the sources to prove her argument.  BLAH.  No pun intended but it was a monster of an assignment and now, here we were, on the evening of the eve of delivery and it wasn’t complete.   Full disclosure, she had asked me for help earlier in the week and I did put it off for absolutely no good reason.  Gun to the head I procrastinated because I didn’t feel like spending my evening editing a middle school english paper on AI.  

So rewind back to last night, 9pm, when she reminds me (again) that the first draft is due tomorrow (today) and I haven’t helped her to edit and she’s “asked me so many times” and I feel a familiar sense of failure creeping-in around the edges.  A wave of shame pushes up from my belly and breaks over my chest.  I can see on Ester how stressed she is, how worried this paper has her.  The weight of her life pushes on my middle girl more than is fair.  She’s only thirteen but the stress has made her shoulders rise and her head and neck slightly fall.  I look at her and she is crumpling in front of me and it’s not right.  She was my baby girl yesterday.  She  was 51cm long liked to nuzzle into my neck when peaking over my shoulder.  She was warm against my chest when we would fall asleep together.  Her eyes were alive and curious and frenetic, even when we would argue.  Especially when we would argue. 

And we’re arguing now.  Not loudly or forcefully, but arguing all the same about how I can’t write the paper for her.  About how, if she was in such a bad position, all she needed to do was to explain so I could get involved earlier.  I hear all of these words coming out of my mouth about responsibility and planning and I know that they’re hollow–she did try to come to me.  She maybe didn’t tell me the whole story but she did come to me and I just brushed it off, treating it with null importance.  I’m the one who gave the slide handle another turn.  Not her.  I realize I’m looking down and look up to see her face.     

Her eyes are scared and sad and defeated and I can’t tell where the stress with the assignment ends and her disappointment with me begins.  Deep breath.  I pull up a chair next to her, determined to fix things.  Over the course of the next two hours I explain, we discuss, she questions, we formulate and reformulate and take turns typing and it’s done.  The draft of course but my baby girl is back too.  There were a few small tears shed earlier that are gone now leaving pink stained eyes staring back at me.  She’s thankful but more than anything I can feel her relief.  I wonder how much of that relief is because the assignment’s complete and how much of it is because I was there for her.  She packs her bag quickly and I send her off to bed.  When she walks away her steps are light and easy.  Maybe some of the weight is gone now and it makes me think of this time we were at the beach after she got her new hat.  

She was happy that day…  

LeicaM7, 35mm Cron, Kodak Tri-X +1 at the Icon.  

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