Celebrate the Facts!
9/26/2021 1 Comment
When the Supreme Court soon issues its finding on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Christian right-to-life movement will have accomplished its crusade against free access to abortion across much of the United States. The following steps for Christian busybody coalitions will be to restrict access to pornography and birth control for many reasons, none of them good.
Abortion rights, as affirmed in the 1972 ruling in Roe v. Wade, is a walking dead law of the land. The United States Supreme Court will hear the Mississippi abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in December 2021 and later will uphold the Christian-led effort to make constitutional pre-viability prohibitions. Individual states will then define abortion rights, leading to an access map similar to the 2020 Presidential election map, with red states implementing restrictions that essentially eliminate access to abortion.
The loosely aligned Christian coalition, if not principled, is intelligent and adaptable. Understanding a home run of overturning Roe v. Wade was fruitless; they undermined practical access by persistent and widespread political actions in states with large, conservative, old, white Evangelical Christian populations. The pro-life movement has some understandable moral arguments about the termination of pregnancy before birth, but no woman who ever entered an abortion clinic certainly did it with a light and happy heart.
Oddly, those who ascribe to the pro-life movement’s goals undoubtedly also fall into the same political umbrella as anti-government Libertarians, Tea Party members, anti-vaxxers, and conservative Republicans, but the hypocrisy of holding such juxtaposed views about personal choice seems lost on them. When Roe v. Wade is no longer ‘the law of the land,’ it will be time to move on to the following moral crusade, which appears to be pornography and birth control. Christian-run and funded organizations aim to dictate what one looks at, when, how, and with whom one has sex, procreates, and builds a family.
The face of the antipornography movement is the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE). A group of extremist clergymen founded The Morality in Media organization in 1962, formed to combat a wide variety of scourges such as sex toy shops, naughty magazines, and pornography dens. They later rebranded it as the more innocuous-sounding NCOSE, and the organization carries a Nonprofit Tax Code Designation as a 501(c)(3).
The NCOSE has also attempted to enlist a feminist audience by advertising efforts against sex trafficking. To what extent such efforts have helped attract an otherwise feminist supporter cohort are unknown.
The NCOSE is getting momentum, and its contributions are accelerating:
Due to legislation to mitigate clarity in dark money contributions to ostensibly charitable organizations, the funding sources for the NCOSE is challenging to discover. The Coors family, noted right-wing extremist oligarchs, provided funding to the organization. Morality in Media organized a Boston forum in 1985 at which one speaker advocated the use of an old leper colony in Boston Harbor for the quarantine of people with AIDS. Joseph Coors Sr. served on Morality in Media's board of directors at the time of the conference.
NCOSE established a Law Center in 2015 to serve as the legal arm and counsel of the movement opposing sexual activities. Among the cases listed on their website:
NCOSE also sponsors a ‘Research Institute’ to provide ostensible ‘research’ to support its talking points against the sins of pornography. As documented in a previous investigation there is no credible evidence of a causal link between pornography consumption and antisocial behavior or criminal sexual behavior, and there is evidence to the contrary. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5) does not list sex addiction or pornography addiction as disorders. When there is no evidence, NCOSE’s solution appears to be to manufacture it.
Among recent titles of press releases on the NCSOE website:
The modern war on birth control has its roots in Christian thought that ‘life begins at conception.’ The theological reasoning is straightforward – God plans everything, children are his blessing, and interfering with God’s will is a sin. When conception is at the literal union of sperm and egg, any method that mitigates that implantation of the egg into the uterus – abortifacient drugs and intrauterine birth control – are also sins. However, the Christian reasoning against birth control often goes far beyond these restrictions. The Catholic Church says any interference against God’s will, even condoms, and diaphragm birth control, or the more rustic withdrawal of the penis from the vagina before ejaculation are sins. While the Catholic Church also views masturbation as a sin, as it ‘wastes the seed upon the ground’, they have no similar aim to prohibit it, at least legally.
QAnon congressperson and liberal punching bag Marjorie Taylor Greene believes that the Department of Veteran’s affairs should not cover Plan B, the over-the-counter pill that prevents women from becoming pregnant within 72-hours of having intercourse. Greene tweeted videos of herself saying, ‘The Plan B pill kills a baby in the womb once a woman is already pregnant.’ Like birth control pills, Plan B works by temporarily delaying the release of an egg from the ovary, so there’s no egg to meet the sperm.
A liberal interpretation of this gobbledygook is that a post-menopausal Greene has jumbled Plan B with the abortion pills misoprostol and mifepristone. More likely, Greene is attempting to become a leader of an organized assault on birth control. One wonders if Greene would have used such moralistic judgments to inform her actions if an unintended pregnancy had occurred during her alleged extramarital affairs.
Because of the Hyde Amendment, which keeps Medicaid and other government insurance plans from covering abortion., federally funded health care providers cannot, except in rare circumstances, offer abortion coverage. However, Christian zealots understand that if they tie birth control to abortion, then publicly funded insurance might not have to pay for birth control, helping achieve their dreams of restricting the sins of sex.
The 2014 United States Supreme Court Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision allowed some employers to refuse to pay for birth control insurance coverage for their employees due to religious reasons. However, the effort was due more to Republican efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Regardless it pandered to a moralizing Evangelical Christian base and motivated other corrosive actions against birth control.
The evangelical Christian stance on the ACA birth control mandate reflects a broader issue: the increased convergence of Catholics and evangelical Protestants, who were never historical allies, on social issues in the past few decades, as issues like the same-sex marriage debate and abortion have united the two socially conservative groups.
The likely outcome of these cultural divides will be a red-state zone of the United States with forbidden sex and sexual behavior governed, in large part, by their old, white, Christian establishment and a blue state culture with more progressive attitudes. The attendant sociological and population migration effects of such are beyond the scope of this investigation but undoubtedly profound.
The foundation of modern American gladiator sports is the National Football League (NFL), creator of a virtual national holiday, Super Bowl Sunday, and provider of content for 16 other weeks. During the morphing and development of the sport, it has embraced industrial beer, solicited women to join the fan base, and found multiple branding revenue streams. The NFL juggernaut has raised the value of the franchises substantially, as they are great investments and glamorous to boot. The Chicago Bears are next up on the auction block, and they will attract a tremendous amount of interest from the American oligarch class.
Sports journalists make a living off magnifying catastrophe, and in this case, the numbers and the media hype, of course, do not match. Overall, the Bears rank 5th in the NFL in regular-season winning percentage, an impressive history, and not out of line with their media market size. However, their playoff record is less impressive at 20th, perhaps adding kindling to media outrage. Regardless, journalists routinely excoriate their franchise ownership, leadership, coaches, and players, so some of that comes with the turf.
Quick financial facts about the Chicago Bears:
The nominal owner of the team is 98-year-old Virginia Halas McCaskey, who is the daughter of Bears founder George Halas. Halas ran the team until his death in 1983 and bequeathed the team to his daughter. The Bears’ eight-person board of directors includes five members of the McCaskey family.
A legal filing provides hints about the legal structure of the Chicago Bears. George Halas, Sr., was the founder of the Chicago Bears and the club's president until his death on October 31, 1983. Halas incorporated the Bears in Illinois in 1922. George Halas, Sr.'s children, George Halas, Jr., and Virginia McCaskey acquired stock in the team through prior gifts and sales. George Halas, Jr., also assisted his father in managing the team until his death on December 16, 1979. At his son's death, George Halas, Sr., was 82 years old and owned a 49.35% interest in the Bears. The estate of George Halas, Jr., owned a 19.68% interest in the Bears. Virginia McCaskey, James E. Finks, Charles A. Brizzolara, Robert and Carol Brizzolara in joint tenancy, and Nancy B. Lorenz owned the remaining outstanding shares.
In 1981, the shareholders ‘merged’ the Bears with a newly formed Delaware-incorporated organization, now known as the Chicago Bears Football Club, Inc., for tax advantages and legal liability reasons.
Virginia McCaskey votes the stock for her 11 children and other relatives, which amounts to an 80-percent ownership share, allowing her to control the team. The team’s board consists of Virginia McCaskey and five of her sons: George, Brian, Edward, Michael, Patrick, and minority owners Pat Ryan and Andrew McKenna.
The Chicago Bears are a cash machine in terms of annual revenue plus the incredible leaps in franchise value. The American lust for gladiator sports drives inflation, and the big money guys understand that owning a franchise is not only fun; it is an excellent investment. At the same time, the McCaskey family holds the keys to the kingdom, and it is possible, maybe even likely, they will hold onto the money machine. Will the heirs succumb to the inevitable quick, big money offers or hold onto the cash machine?
The sale of the Bears has been a hot topic in the press for decades, and the discussion has accelerated as Virginia McCaskey approaches the century mark in age. Sports media has thrown about three possibilities to purchase the team: Pat Ryan, Jeff Bezos, and Neil Bluhm, all rolling in dough and counting among the American oligarch class.
Ryan is the frontrunner as he's already a minority owner and has the right of first refusal to buy any part of the team that the McCaskey's might sell. In addition, Ryan, the founder of AON Corporation, purchased the naming rights to the football field and basketball arena at Northwestern University. Like many of the American super-rich, Ryan is also a big-money contributor to conservative political causes. Ryan obtained his stake in the Bears in 1990 along with Andrew McKenna when the family was struggling with estate tax issues and now holds about a 20% interest. Ryan, however, is 84 years old, leading to speculation about any genuine interest other than self-aggrandizement.
Bluhm, a real estate developer, is a Northwestern University graduate and owner of marquee Chicago properties 900 North Michigan and the Ritz Carlton. Bluhm is a contemporary of Ryan’s at 83 years of age, and similarly, it is difficult to foresee much aggression.
Bezos, the founder of Amazon, has money to burn, as shown by his recent $500 million yacht purchase. The press throws Bezos’ name about in virtually every big money proposition, and there is no credible account of contacts or interest in the Bears. He was interested in buying stock in the Washington Football Team and has the deep pockets required to build a first-class franchise.
One might expect aggressive businesspeople like Ryan and Bluhm would manage for profitability, so under that scenario, the Bears would continue to be a second-tier performing franchise. However, Bezos used unconventional business practices to build Amazon, and his approach might be more aggressive and could result in the Bears becoming a performing organization.
During the Virginia McCaskey reign, the Bears have been known for payroll stinginess, and the results on the field have been indifferent. The small stadium size ensures sellouts, so poor results do not impact the bottom-line profit of the organization. Other revenue streams are likely only marginally affected by sodden results. As a result, there is no financial incentive to spend more money.
One way to increase that revenue is a giant stadium. NFL teams have a well-worn and successful playbook of extorting new stadiums with lucrative skyboxes from municipalities, and the Bears are following the plan. The club has offered to buy Arlington International Racecourse, a failing horse racing facility in an indifferent suburb in far-west Chicago, but with a suitable footprint for a new stadium and plausible transportation access. The first step in the NFL new-stadium playbook is to threaten relocation, in this case to a regional facility, as leverage to get the municipality to pay the cash to build a newer, more extensive facility.
It is unlikely the pugnacious mayor of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot, will fall for the gambit, but mayors come and go, and the Chicago Bears, like the sun, the moon, and the stars above, seem to last forever, along with the siren song of the NFL.
The Chicago Bears will likely remain in a transitional state for the foreseeable future, with the predecessor to any real change being Virginia McCaskey’s demise. A tremendous amount of private equity is looking for a home, and an NFL franchise is a premier investment.
Corporate media, also known as Hate, Inc., values shareholder value primarily, not fidelity to facts, and as such panders to their specific tribal audience, and the narrative is never starker than in the discussion of manufacturing in the United States. However, the facts are murkier than either side presents. They present a future landscape of more of the same, however, this time with some hope for worker wage increases and benefits, if only because of labor shortages. The crucial value is productivity, and that will determine the future.
The purpose of this series of investigations is to provide an unbiased review of areas of interest, presenting primary data, not tribal political views or political candidate ‘talking points.’ For this edition, the data source is the United States Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, and the currency values are 2012 dollars, inflation-adjusted. The future is murky and dependent a great deal on good government policy.
Gross output is a measure of an industry's sales or receipts, including sales to final users in the economy (GDP) or sales to other industries (intermediate inputs). Gross output decreased during the pandemic but was on an upward trend; however, there are reasons to suspect that upward trend may not continue over the long term, primarily due to productivity issues.
Manufacturing workers' average hourly wages were about $18.60 in 2010 and approximately $22.80 in 2020, a significant increase. It is impossible to argue, however, that those values make manufacturing a destination for a career.
Productivity is the efficiency at which labor hours produce goods and services, measured as output per hour of labor. However, since 2011 there have only been two years of productivity growth in the manufacturing sector, suggesting endemic issues in the manufacturing sector’s approach to labor management, automation, training, compensation, or, more likely, a combination of all the above.
This aspect is of genuine concern for the maintenance and growth of American manufacturing and should be at the core of discussion for government and private industry. Absent improvement in productivity and arguably dramatic improvement rates, the country's welfare, workers, and shareholders are in jeopardy.
The manufacturing unemployment rate is lower than the general unemployment rate. The August 2021 prevailing unemployment rate declined to 5.2%, and the trendline is down, indicating rates will soon approach pre-pandemic values. The August 2021 unemployment rate for manufacturing was 3.6%, already approaching the theoretical lower efficiency limit at a 3.5% unemployment rate.
There is likely to be upward pressure on wages at these lower unemployment rates, perhaps providing some much-needed relief for workers. However, this data also suggests that giving benefits such as subsidized child care might be a requirement to bring more labor into the workforce.
Manufacturing as a percentage of GDP has declined but not as precipitously as the standard media representation. For example, in 2010, manufacturing was 11.9% of GDP at the end of the Great Recession, and in 2021, emerging from the pandemic recession, it was 11.1% of GDP.
The pandemic revealed specific problems with a free market economy with the shortages of strategic manufactured items such as computer chips, medical supplies, and medical equipment; however, whether the lessons learned from such can break partisan political logjams in Washington and result in long-term strategic policy change is doubtful.
The total number of workers in manufacturing was about 11.5 million in January 2010 and was about 12.4 million in August of 2021, about an 8% increase.
Investment in manufacturing has been declining since 2015, with a slight increase in 2019, possibly attributable to the corporate tax cuts in the 2017 tax bill, although the amount of investment has decreased by annual average calculations. The 2017 tax bill channeled money into shareholders’ accounts and did not increase investment as promoted by the proponents of the policy. Corporate welfare programs, like social entitlements, are most difficult to reverse.
The future of American manufacturing lies in productivity increases. Perhaps impending labor shortages will result in higher wages for workers, more benefits, better job training, and improved productivity. However, stagnant corporate investment rates in new plants and automation hinder the process.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), established in 1958, is an agency within the Department of Defense (DoD) responsible for researching and developing technologies to advance the capabilities of the United States military. Each year DARPA publishes a detailed line-item budget of the unclassified projects within its realm, and analysis of that document provides intriguing details of the United States government’s concerns and ambitions about national security.
President Dwight Eisenhower created DARPA in 1958, shortly after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first satellite to reach space, sparking hysteria in the United States. Concern that the Soviets were on the road to technological superiority led to the formation of the agency. Its founding mission was simple: ‘to prevent and create strategic surprise.’
DARPA funding has remained relatively steady over time and hovers around $3.5 billion (inflation-adjusted). DARPA employs 220 people in six technical offices. Nearly 100 program managers oversee about 250 research and development programs.
The ‘DARPA model’ has some unique aspects management approach, and DARPA has achieved some impressive results. For example, each program has a program manager who works for defined and relatively short periods. In addition, Congress granted DARPA flexible acquisition and personnel hiring powers unknown in standard federal programs. DARPA can hire people and organizations out of the normal federal contracting milieu as a result.
Although the United States military was the original customer for DARPA’s research, the agency’s advances have spawned multibillion-dollar industries. Arguably it has the highest record of accomplishment of any organization in radical invention in history. Its innovations include:
DARPA fails too. For example, in 2011, the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 could not meet expectations, exploding 9 minutes into a 30-minute planned test flight when the weapon’s outer shell peeled away. In 2020, DARPA ended its Launch Challenge without awarding a winner. Of the three teams qualifying for the final event, Astra was the only team to compete, and the company ended up scrubbing the launch because of technical issues.
The United States spends more on national defense than China, India, Russia, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Germany, France, Japan, South Korea, Italy, and Australia combined. DARPA’s budget at about $3.5 billion is a tiny share of that amount but has proved outsized results. Likely the government directs emerging areas of most significant concern to DARPA for help, so the results of a detailed analysis give some insight into the government’s perceptions of the highest future risk.
An analysis of the active unclassified research provides clues about what the United States government views as potential future issues of concern for national defense. Aside from the standard conventional weaponry and support research, DARPA is funding research into pandemic mitigation, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence (AI), and hypersonic weapons. The classified projects they’re working on are unknowable absent a government security clearance but provide unlimited avenues of conjecture.
The COVID pandemic provides graphic evidence of the vulnerability of the world to a pandemic, and DARPA’s research efforts in biological security show concern about future pandemics and biological weapons:
The cyber ransom attack on of Colonial Pipeline Co. demonstrated how vulnerable the United States is to foreign actors working for profit, let alone sovereign governments. As malevolent has been adversarial election interference by numerous foreign governments, often using social media platforms as tools to sew division and disinformation. Protection from the effects of cyberwarfare is the focus of another group of DARPA projects:
AI is an area of computer science that gives machines the ability to seem like they have human intelligence. Machine learning is the process by which a computer can improve its performance (as in analyzing image files) by continuously incorporating new data into an existing statistical model. While both are important in the highly technical United States military, they are critical to future strategic economic vigor.
Not surprisingly, DARPA is funding research on AI and machine learning:
Given the reputation of DARPA, the results of these projects could provide solutions or help inform the selection of additional measures. The AI and Machine Learning projects could be foundational to future industries and economic welfare. Cybersecurity is a demonstrable risk, and detecting and removing election interference protects American democratic institutions. The horror of the recent COVID pandemic shows the vulnerability of populations to infectious disease, and there will be similar future events. Time will tell if DARPA can provide solutions.
Michael Donnelly investigates societal concerns with an untribal approach - to limit the discussion to the facts derived from primary sources so the reader can make more informed decisions.