Saturday, July 20, 2013

Trayvon Martin Was Not Responsible For His Own Death

Here's my opinion on the topic of the moment (and I will leave the issues of racial profiling and conceal-and-carry out of it):

If you call the authorities to report a "suspicious" person, and if the dispatcher specifically tells you not to further pursue that person, you need to do just that.  You need to let the authorities take over at that point.  This is obvious.

If you choose to ignore what you are told to do and instead decide unilaterally to continue to follow that person, the result of which is that the person you are following dies, to my mind you are morally responsible for that death.

George Zimmerman was not attacked before or during the point that he was told to stop pursuing Trayvon Martin, so the fact that Mr. Zimmerman used deadly force after that point is ultimately the result of one decision on his part:  ignoring what he was told to do.  Despite what Mr. Zimmerman's apologists insist, Trayvon Martin is dead because of Mr. Zimmerman's awful decision, not because of anything that Trayvon Martin did or did not do.

Mr. Zimmerman's actions have been interpreted as being legal in the state of Florida, but I believe that those actions were also morally reprehensible.  I think that most people of good will would have a tendency to view this horrible event along similar lines.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

We're Getting There....

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, which has tracked these numbers for decades, in the year between November 1, 2007 and October 31, 2008 (just prior to the last presidential election), the U.S. had a net jobs created number of -1,938,000. However, between November 1, 2011 and September 30, 2012, the U.S. has had a net jobs created number of +1,694,000. That latter time span is eleven months--it obviously does not yet include this October. We'll see what the October numbers are on November 2 or thereabouts. We lost a lot of jobs between autumn 2007 and autumn 2009, so we're not yet where we want to be...but we're getting there.  At least for now.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

What I Think President Obama Should Say About Deficits In His Forthcoming Debates With Governor Romney....

As a lifelong nerd, I have been interested in government deficits for decades.  Let's look at the present deficit situation for a moment, and let's do so in the context of the final two debates between President Obama and Governor Romney.  We know what Governor Romney will say--no taxes should be raised, and in fact taxes should be cut beyond their present levels for the wealthiest Americans in order to "stimulate" economic growth.  (This would most likely be accompanied by rather large spending cuts.)  So, what should President Obama say?


"The U.S. had budget surpluses in the final years of the Clinton presidency, and then ran up deficits again after the big tax cuts and accompanying tax loopholes that were first put in place between 2001 and 2003, and which are still in place.  Those deficits were compounded somewhat by foreign war spending.  They were compounded again by the recession--which began and worsened before my presidency--because fewer people had jobs and were able to pay into the system.  So, deficits started swelling quite a while ago, due in large part to decisions made even before they started to swell.

"If we are serious about lowering deficits, there are two ways of going about it during this recovery period:

"Option #1: We can make big cuts in government programs, such as future Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits, as well as to Pell grants, infrastructure spending, and the like.  This is likely to hit the middle class and those aspiring to get into the middle class far harder than it hits the wealthiest Americans.

"Option #2: We can make smaller but necessary cuts in government spending and raise revenue by raising the top-earner federal tax rate from where it is now (35%) to where it was during President Clinton's tenure (39.6%) and closing some tax loopholes.  This means raising taxes on only the top 2% of earners in the United States to put that rate in line with where it was from 1993 to 2001, when the economy was growing at a healthy rate.  It means allowing everyone else, including the entire middle class, to keep the tax cuts they have earned in my first term in office.

"Choosing either of the two methods I have outlined will lower the national deficit over time.

"Much of Europe has chosen something a lot like option #1 over the past two years.  Not coincidentally, the Eurozone has been mired in a double-dip recession for the last year or so.  We hope they are able to overcome it as quickly as possible.

"For our country, I choose option #2.  I think the majority of Americans would choose that option, as well."

That's what I'd suggest President Obama says--either all of it or most of it.  It takes-on the opposing viewpoint while still sounding presidential; it isn't overly aggressive, personal, or bumper-sticker in nature.  It's spirited without being mean-spirited.  I think people would appreciate hearing something like that.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The U.S. Private Sector Has Been In Recovery For A While Now. The U.S. Public Sector, However....

Finally, somebody got the analysis of the U.S. recovery right.  The Economist, which is actually a conservative publication, states that "...the public sector is still hobbling the recovery....  Government payrolls typically swell in economic recoveries, by 5.9% on average during the first 34 months after a recession has ended [but] not this time....  The 2.5 million overall rise in employment since the downturn's end corresponds to 3.1 million new private jobs, less 600,000 government jobs.  Local governments have cut over 500,000 jobs, most of them in education...."  Yes, this is a complicated scenario and people have differing views of it, but we can all at least agree that the private sector is in recovery, but things like education are in the toilet.  I know it.  I'm living it.  The Economist is hit or miss, but this is a good article:

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Sizzle And The Steak

Anyone who tells you that economics is a "simple" topic is selling you snake oil.  It's increasingly complicated in a rapidly industrializing, globalized world, which means it's both maddening and fascinating.  For instance, oil prices have slid on the world markets by nearly 10% since last week (yay!), due primarily to worries about the economic future of some of our European trading partners and the potential effect of their slowdowns on the world economy (no!).  For their part, some European countries are cutting their debts to save their credit ratings (good)...through some measures which are hurting their economic growth (bad), at least for now.  Hence, some American exports are beginning to struggle again (boo!), even as internal American consumer spending is beginning to grow again (hooray!).  Many corporations are posting huge profits (yes!), but the global uncertainty means that many of them are hiring slowly for now (blah!).

By the way, unlike more than a few other already-industrialized nations that feature mature economies, the U.S. is not presently either in a recession or at nearly zero growth (positive sigh), and is so far growing at a quicker pace (2.2%) than last year (1.7%) (another positive sigh).  However, the U.S. economy grew at a slower pace during the first quarter of this year (2.2%) than it did during the fourth quarter of last year (3.0%) (negative sigh), due in large part to the fact that government spending, which accounts for a sizable portion of GDP, is down over 5% in 2012 from the same period of the previous year.  This is a good thing because the government debt (due to unsustainable Bush-era tax policies, as well as wars and other programs that have been unpaid for for quite some time) does need to be lowered, but it is also somewhat of a bad thing because it comes at the price of growth in the national GDP, which means that hiring takes a hit, at least for a while.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg, folks.  Yep, anyone who says they have an "easy" solution to this is trying to fool everyone, including themselves.  Still, Mitt Romney now suggests that we should be creating a net +500,000 jobs per month in order to dramatically lower the American national unemployment rate.  That sounds great, but it's a ridiculous suggestion given both historical data and the global economy of the moment.  Historically, the U.S. has seen a grand total of FIVE MONTHS of net +500,000-or-more job growth since the end of the Eisenhower presidency, which occurred over fifty years ago.  Five months.  None of them occurred during the Kennedy administration, none of them occurred during the Johnson administration, none of them occurred during the Nixon administration, none of them occurred during the Ford administration, two of them occurred during the Carter administration (!), one of them occurred during the Reagan administration, none of them occurred during the Bush Sr. administration, one of them occurred during the Clinton administration, none of them occurred during the Bush Jr. administration, and one of them occurred during the Obama administration.  That's it, just five months total, despite the fact that several recessions have come and gone in the last fifty-plus years, some of them (such as the protracted recession during the early 1980s) quite severe in nature.

Either Mitt Romney is stupid or he is being intellectually disingenuous and hopes that the American people don't care to know the facts.  I do not think he's stupid.  Hence, he's trying to sell snake oil in order to become president.  Whether a flip-flopper or "severely" conservative or whatever, when it comes to policy substance he's following his increasingly hyperbolic party into cloud cuckoo-land by making outrageous claims (whether they be about President Obama's policies or about his own) with little or no substance to back them up.  I may be in the minority on this, but I prefer to hear that there are no easy answers to this scenario but that some legislative measures can help both the private sector hire more people and the public sector stop shedding jobs, as President Obama suggests, instead of Mr. Romney's bluster, which is often all sizzle and no steak.

By the way, so far in 2012, the U.S. is averaging monthly job growth of about net +200,000 or so.  In pre-recession economic times, that would be good news.  Right now, it doesn't seem so good.  Yet let's remember that when President Obama first stepped foot in office, we had for months under his predecessor in office averaged net job losses of -750,000 or so.  2%+ GDP growth isn't as robust as many people would at present prefer, but it's growth in the face of a downturn in much of the industrialized world, and it's not fake growth based in part on an overpriced housing bubble.  That's cold comfort for job seekers, but it's also more than what many other industrialized nations with mature economies can claim at the moment.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Hasslington On Hiatus

It's the summer, I'm back in school (as a student) after losing my teaching job, and I'm in the process of trying to figure out where I go from this point forward.  Obviously, attempting to find another job is high on my list of priorities.

I have also assured a friend of mine that I would read Robert Jordan's "Wheel Of Time" fantasy series during my free hours.  (There are something like a dozen books in that series, and they look quite substantive.)  I've read many novels, but other than the "Lord Of The Rings" books, I've never read a fantasy series before, so it should be a new and hopefully fun summer experience.

Mrs. Hasslington and I may or may not also squeeze in a trip to England in the coming weeks in order to visit her family.  We'll see.

So, I am going to take a few months off from this blog.  I am not abandoning it, however.  I plan to get back to it in September.  Hopefully, at least some of the uncertainty of the moment will be history by then.

Until then, if you wish to contact me, you are welcome to do so at:

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Back To School...Again, And Again, And Yet Again

A friend of mine once gave me a sweater featuring the line "The Truly Educated Never Graduate." Those who know me might think, "How right he was, and is." Since losing my job due to budget cuts, I have returned to school in order to at least start the process of acquiring another post-graduate degree.

Those who know me will laugh--or simply nod their heads and roll their eyes--when they read this, because I always seem to head back to school after being away from it for short periods of time. I tend to head back as a teacher, yes, but even more often, it seems, as a student.

I'm certified to teach English in Minnesota to grades 5 to 12 (ages 10 to 18, or thereabouts), and I've also taught English at the university level. My educational and work background allowed me to teach English and a few other subjects to high schoolers in England, as well. This time around, I'm hoping to eventually become certified to teach Literacy and Reading to both immigrant children and "struggling" readers whose native country is the U.S. I've done some of this type of work in the past, and found it rewarding.

We'll see how things go. Obviously, financial constraints and employment opportunities will play a big role with regards to how this process plays out. So, too, will the fact that Mrs. Hasslington and I may or may not stay in the U.S. over the long-term. But while I find that my collections of university and post-university degrees (along with my various certifications) continues to grow over time, and while I find that this fact often limits my job opportunities due to pay scale issues, I also enjoy the process of returning to a university setting somewhat regularly.

It's true that in some cases the "truly educated" (whatever that means) do not graduate from school, though it's equally true that many "truly educated" folks have long-since graduated. Hence, it's difficult to pigeonhole people in these regards. It was, however, my grandfather's firm belief that the more formal education you can get, the better, particularly if you "link" it with a mindset that considers informal education as equally important and complementary to formal education. So, here I go again.

Besides, yesterday I took part in a round-table talk that dealt with academic discussions and disagreements regarding what constitutes "multiculturalism" and "authentic multicultural literature," and the extent to which these discussions should "play out" across the disciplines and at all educational levels. Prior to that, I helped a kindergartener add six apples to four bananas. (We managed to get the final sum correct.)

I enjoyed both activities very much.