CSotD: Who’s Foolin’ Who?

Ran into a bit of a flashback this morning when I came upon Jeff Boyer‘s latest cartoon for the Albany Times-Union.

I was out of the newsroom but living in the area back when General Electric was forced to pay to clean up the PCBs in the bottom of the Hudson River, a legacy of their plant near Fort Edward.

They went all-out to try to avoid it, with the first yard-sign campaign I’d seen, by which I mean distributing semi-hostile yard signs to intimidate neighbors by letting them know how it would sour friendships to differ, and bumperstickers to spread that message.

Pete Seeger got involved on the other side, a clean Hudson being one of his main causes.

Their battle lasted long enough that I was a few years out of the area before they finally gave up and started shoveling the muck from the river bottom. (Timeline with cartoons here)

As Boyer’s cartoon tells it, it apparently didn’t work as well as had been hoped.

The question now being whether the EPA is going to go ahead and certify it anyway.

There have been times when your reaction would be “Thank god for the EPA” but of course this isn’t one of those times.

On the other hand, it’s not like the gummint  moved all that fast before the current crop of plutocrats took over.

The mines at home closed in 1978 and the site was later declared a Superfund site, but, while some sheets went out on the Little River to catch the oil, the rest of it sat for a quarter century pretty much untouched.

Meanwhile, up along the St. Lawrence, manufacturing along the river meant that Mohawk women at Akwesasne had the pollutants in their breast milk, at least until they stopped their tradition of consuming fish from the river.

The punchline being that today I also saw a cartoon in which a fellow covered with snow proclaimed that climate change is a myth.

A large part of that industrial pollution was unintentional, but the denial and resistance to remediation is hard to dismiss as anything but deliberate misinformation.

It’s hard enough to fix things when you’re trying.


Innocent misperceptions

But besides those who deliberately lie about things, there are honestly innocent misperceptions, among which I would count hysteria over the current dip in the stock market.

Having been a business reporter, and being an Old Guy, gives me a perspective others apparently don’t share, because there are suddenly a lot of cartoons noting the fall in stock prices and blaming Trump.

They’re not wrong, but they’re also not right. I like Stuart Carlson‘s take because he focuses on the claims rather than the causes.

That is, Trump won’t likely back off on justifying his thimblerigging by pointing out the economic benefits, since he’s also willing to repeatedly lie about steel plants opening and about his tax cut having been the biggest in history.

It’s hard to sort deliberate lies from random foolishness, since he obviously doesn’t understand macroeconomics or foreign trade, but it’s all a distinction without a difference.

It doesn’t matter what he believes but what the public believes.

Point here being that the Dow is down, but it’s so swollen that a little correction shouldn’t be all that frightening. We can argue all night about why it’s up so far since Trump took office, but it started around 16,000 and so falling off to 24,400 ain’t all that bad.

(UPDATE: I had Trump coming in a year early. He started at $20,000 in Jan 2017, as shown on updated chart.)

Tracking the Dow to specific administrations being mostly a fool’s game anyway.

The other part of this is that it shouldn’t matter to most people.

If you’re constantly playing around with stocks, you might as well be taking your paycheck to the casino. You could win a bunch or you could lose it all, but you can’t complain because you chose to risk it.

About the only folks who can complain are those who have a 401k at work which is required to be invested in company stock, at which point the bonehead decisions of their employer become an issue.

And then only if they’re matching your contributions. Otherwise, you might do better to set up your own IRA and put the money someplace better managed.

The sensible path is to stash your retirement fund somewhere sensible and leave it the hell alone. Unless you need it today, it doesn’t matter what it’s worth today.

Don’t even look; it’ll just make you nervous.

An Instructive Story: When I used to run a Stock Market Game for schools, I had one team that invested heavily in a very low-priced electronics stock — I think Atari — that promptly doubled, whereupon they sold it, stashed their holdings in some utilities or other no-change type stock and then sat back and waited to win.

The point being that this class was in a juvenile facility and they were a tough bunch of little cons who knew how to spot, and then game, a system.

I subsequently heard from other educators around the country that, yes, the juvie facilities often won the game.

So that’s instructive.


(My own IRA is in a fund that became steadily less speculative as I moved towards retirement; I think at this point it’s mostly in rocks and stars.)


Invest in yourself

If you are a young cartoonist in college and think you might have the right stuff, the Jay Kennedy Scholarship offers a nice bit of tuition aid and a chance to rub elbows with people who can help you make the next step.

Not a sure thing, but you’d be a damn fool not to give it a shot.


Arcs to be watching:

Retail is doing an arc on “Hottest Toys of 2018” which began here. Today’s was particularly funny and depressing and a nice break from the fart jokes elsewhere on the page.


Knight Life is pursuing darker humor, and this is the starting piece that ran yesterday.


And, finally

Stephen Collins explains the annual Christmas miracle. Read the rest here.


Maybe next year, Pete