Labor Day

Today is the beginning of fall and the campaigns. Read an interesting piece at Business Insider (here) about the general health of the economy and how it’s making slow/steady progress. What’s interesting about this piece is the drilldown and some attention paid to instant data and some clues. Also, there are a lot of acronyms/indicators that are mysteries to me.

Several recent themes remain dominant. While global shipping rates suggest weakness, the US data remains generally positive. The long leading indicators of bond rates and housing are slightly to signficantly positive. Consumers have rebounded from their early summer slump, despite higher gasoline prices. But those same higher gasoline prices may be impacting new staffing and initial jobless claims for the worse, and gasoline usage is slightly down.

Read more:

The other matter pertains to the emotional temperatures of RNC participants. This piece from The Atlantic by Richard Lawson recounts his adventures in Tampa. He relates that he began with the best of intentions: resolving to be open-minded and tolerant. By Wednesday evening, his best instincts had fled in the face of the ‘undertoad’ (thank you, John Irving).

You realize, watching this seething mass of people, that the secret, the economics stage show, is for us, on the outside. All the fiscal talk is for our benefit. Everyone in that room really knows what’s being spoken about: Getting lazy poor people off their teat, sticking it to those gays, making sure we don’t have to pay for some slut’s sinful abortion. For all the cheer and cowboy hats and smiles and Christian blessings, this is an angry, aggressive group. And they are, or at least have been chosen to represent, nominally half of us. Half of us here in this country.

So, neutrality be damned, that’s what I saw last night. A churning sea of something truly scary. The shapeless leader at the top of the pyramid may be a wishy-washy cipher, but those that make up the rest of the structure are yawing rightward to a truly frightening degree. And what’s most terrifying about them is the way they mute their own indecency, wrapping it up and tucking it into the middle of platitudes and generalities, for the purposes of these televised events. Sure all the coded stuff is pretty easy to decipher, but it’s still coded, it’s still deliberately obscured. As if even they are, at root, scared of their own darkness.

It comes down to fear and loathing, rooted in ignorance that goes right to the core. I’m a big scaredy-cat and I own it. I know it’s off-putting. Lately I’ve been thinking that’s your problem, not mine. It’s what you do after your wits have left you. There are two choices: retreat into magical thinking or deal. I do both and it depends, really, on the day and what I had for breakfast. So it’s one step forward, two steps back.

This push to exalt individualism and American exceptionalism is a prime example of magical thinking and the accelerant is fear. No joke, we’ve had our wits scared right out of us. The final phrase of our national anthem holds a dark contradiction for me: home of the brave. (an aside: I have to mute the seventh inning stretch now; Kate Smith/God Bless America just seems like the anthem of a theocracy.)

I think I will make something today. It helps counterbalance a steady diet of alarmism.

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