An Assortment of Odds and Ends This Week
A Couple of Economics Notes
Giving Tuesday – Holy Smokes! – I don’t know about you, but I was inundated with exhortations and pleas to donate to one cause or another on or around Giving Tuesday. I always thought Giving Tuesday was a fine idea, and I still do, but there needs to be some way to spread this out a bit. It was amazing how many came in, from every imaginable worthy (mostly) cause. I stopped counting the emails I got on this theme, but it was well over 100 in just a few days. Not counting those that came later in the week declaring Its not too late to give!
The Economy vs Perceptions – I have to admit that it is more than a bit frustrating to read that a lot of Americans think the economy is in trouble, that everything is too expensive, and a lot of people (amazingly) actually thing Trump and the Republicans could manage the economy better. This is proof that we need to expand national drug testing…. Krugman had an excellent article in the Times recently that helped explain all this. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/28/opinion/economy-voter-sentiment-inflation.html?searchResultPosition=1
The short version is that we had inevitable inflation when the recession was ended and the economy rolled back. Steps to control inflation have worked well, but the effect shows up slowly at the household level. Biden has done a marvelous job managing the economy as much as it can be managed and in making historic infrastructure commitments. Let’s hope the messaging picks up and voters get it. I keep reading that Biden is down in the polls with youth and minorities and I think “Really folks? Look around and measure the other side. One would have to be suicidal to give that side another run.”
The English Language, Used Wisely and Not So Wisely
Reader comments Say a Lot – I usually take a moment to at least scan the readers comments for online columns and articles. Often times, this does not take long; its obvious many write with preconceived notions, facts be damned. Many are mean- spirited and contribute nothing to the national dialogue. But there are exceptions for sure. Three come to mind: Take a few minutes to read the reader comments that accompany the blogs by Heather Cox Richardson (https://substack.com/@heathercoxrichardson) , Robert Hubbell (https://roberthubbell.substack.com), and Steven Beschloss (https://america.substack.com ). This is what good conversation can look like in the era of social media.
The Importance of Commas: We saw an interesting (amusing) example of how misplacing a simple bit of punctuation can carry major meaning. In one of his notes following a meeting with Trump, VP Pence wrote in his notes that he said ,“You know, I don’t think I have the authority to challenge the vote count.” Pence said the comma in that sentence was a typographical/grammatical error that should not be in that sentence. With the comma, the meaning is basically, “Hey, I am thinking maybe I cant do what you ask.” Without the comma, the meaning is the much stronger intent of “We have talked about this before, and you know I don’t believe I have that authority.” Big difference, that.
Sort of like those famous two commas in the 2nd Amendment to the US constitutions. The current supreme court decided that meant “a well-regulated militia” was a side thought, not a justifying principle. Pay attention, folks. Small stuff counts.
Observations That Don’t Fit Any Category
The Nose Knows – I am a bit amused at all the media attention given to the prosthetic nose Bradley Cooper wears in the new film about Leonard Bernstein and the long discussions about the make-up artist to created said nose. I expect it is a fine movie (Cooper acted and directed and that man is good at both) but I have seen less about the movie than the nose, so I suppose I shall have to see it myself to make that determination.
It sounds like an interesting movie. It is yet another movie over 2 hours long– we should talk sometimes about the nearly universal trend of taking a good 90 minute story and packaging it in a 2 -3 hour extravaganza. A little more discipline, you artists, please.
About This Time of Year and the Winter Solstice – Most of the folks who read this are pretty much in the Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Christmas mental framework. But this time of year goes way beyond that. I have read that of the world’s seven major religions there are 29 holidays from November through mid-January.
Something about this specific time on the calendar calls out community and reflection. My favorite by far is the Winter Solstice. It is the shortest day of the year. Celebrants mark it, saying now, from today, we restart – every day following will get longer and warmer until we reach Spring. Today we turn the corner and celebrate being together and moving toward the light. Nice thought.
Happy Solstice, everyone. See you next week.
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