Arguing with a Christian? Use the Rational Approach.

The substance of most of the debate – between Religion believers and Atheists – is far too simplistic. Picture the abbreviated argument: The Atheist claims that there is no god; says that the proof is the lack of definitive proof that god has ever existed. The Believer rationally counters that the Atheist’s belief’ is not proof enough. Boom. You’re done.

That’s what a zero sum argument looks like. It’s like debating the description of a color or describing a fleeting glimpse. Nobody wins. Everyone goes away angry.

A better approach – sez I – is to engage Believers on a more rational level; attack points of proof rather than the basis of proof.

Case in point: Christians who lamely use science to prove that the universe is younger than what the data shows (e.g., 15+ billion year). I particularly enjoy so-called Christians who will go so far as to commit heresy by claiming that the bible ‘proves’ that the Earth is about 6,000 years old. I had one Christian (a pastor at a church) tell me that all those fossils and other evidence we use to estimate Earth’s real age was just placed there to fool us.

“Do tell?” I responded. “And what about the star light that’s over 15 billion years old from the furthest reaches of Hubble’s vision, is “he” fooling us about that too?”

“Yes, HE is!”

After a moment, I said, “So… from what you’re saying, your god is a liar? A cheater? A pretender? I mean, in all the vastness of this universe, your god has nothing better to do than to fuck with the evidence just to fool little ol’me into thinking something that isn’t?”

Before Mr Believer could answer, I asked: “Riddle me this, Pastor. What came first, the chicken or the egg?”

He gave it some thought. “The chicken came first because “god” created Adam as fully adult – thus every living creature was created and planted on an uncorrupted and unspoiled Earth.”

“Great answer. How do you know?” Says I.

“Because that’s what the bible says.” Says he.

“I believe the egg came first, because I also believe that from corruption comes life, because that’s how nature works now and how it has worked all over the universe for billions of years.”

I paused. “Do you know how do I know? We can I can see it with my own eyes.”

Sure… okay… it doesn’t bring down the house, but the point is made. An atheist’s “belief” is based on observable fact – a clear distinction is made. When we argue this way, we also strengthen the perception that Atheism is not merely a belief but a choice not to believe in tall tales from an ancient book written by men.

Lesson: use rational comparisons and explanations  to grapple with irrational (emotional) circular logic. I guarantee you’ll feel much better with the result.

Going forward, this debate proves one of the major precepts of the founding fathers: the separation of Church and State. They weren’t atheists. They were not agnostic about god either. But they respected my right NOT to believe.

The Year I Fell Awake: My Walk Across the Country; 1984 – 1985

I am a bigot of self-awareness. The year I fell awake, I was waking across the country: from Fort Lauderdale to LA. I lived with the homeless. I ate with the poor. I stood with people who had nowhere to stand. I appreciated a tarp as a thankful respite from the storm. I was grateful for the cardboard box that shielded me from the sun. Near the end of my journey, I was so very thankful for any kind word; anything just to keep my encouragement up and look for the next day.

At the apex of this self-imposed misery, some things started to make sense. I realized that we’re all miserable – we’re all suffering. Maybe not in the same way. Maybe not from the same things. But we suffer. It’s the one quality that brings humanity together – makes us so aware of what’s left undone, what’s keeping us from being whole. Before I started my journey, my disposition was to shun people who I thought were narrow-minded; souls who ignored the misery of others. But then, I said to myself, “Who am I not hear their suffering as well? Just because I don’t agree with them, doesn’t mean they are any less human.” Were I really a humanist, I would not shun anyone. Instead, I should open my arms and embrace every last one. But – alas – I’m a fraud.

I was really never homeless. I just took it upon myself to BE homeless for about a year because I had it in my mind that it’d be cool. But under that bullshit, late-teen idealism of mine, I had a home to go home to. Anytime I wanted, I could get a motel room, a shower, sleep on a nice bed, and – BAM – I’d be on a jet going home. Here’s another thing that I discovered about myself. I’ve never been a very forgiving person. I’m still ashamed to admit that through my life, I’ve been deeply envious, darkly vindictive. I hate the haters for hating me; and I hate myself for hating them. I guess the one silver lining to my self-discovery is that I know myself. I know my weaknesses enough that I may be better if the time comes that I must be better. All I need is more experience – fall awake even more.

I’ll need a big bong hit to figure all of this out – listen to some old Hendrix…

If you can just get your mind together
Then come on across to me
We’ll hold hands an’ then we’ll watch the sun rise from the bottom of the sea
But first
Are you experienced?
Have you ever been experienced?
Well, I have…

The more you change, the more you realize that you’re just the same. Only through true self-awareness can we control the animal in us that can make misery so fucking intolerable.

1984: I began my journey in Ft Lauderdale. Somewhere off Las Olas Blvd, I ran into “Terry” and “Patches.”

The photos in this post are of companions that I traveled with through Florida taken by a journalist who just happened to be doing a story about the homeless. In the top photo is Rick – the dude passed out on a cot. He was a professed “addict of everything” – and he lived up to that profession. He died about three days after that photo was taken. He said he was a Vietnam war vet, but he was too young to serve (he was about my age). I think he was just really messed up. In the bottom photo, Terry with the light hair was from New York. “Patches” said he was from Virginia, but his accent said he was from up north. These guys were very generous and patient with me. I could tell that they had a backstory that they didn’t want to talk about. I think “Patches” may have been a vet, but I never found out if he served in any war.

The Artful Blogger

Clayton Thomas Kelly is back in the news. In May 2014, Kelly was involved with a nefarious cabal of political thugs who wanted to replace Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran (R) with Tea Party favorite State Sen Chris McDaniel. June 14, 2015 he was sentenced for 2.5 years for a stunt that reveals much about the Tea Party and the Neocons who run it.

I say nefarious on account that what this little group pulled was not only socially unacceptable, it was illegal.

Court records and news outlets have reported that Clayton Kelly (28), who labored under the name “Constitutional Clayton”, was an ambitious blogger who wanted to get noticed. Kelly got the attention he dreampt about. He connected with a handful of McDaniel’s ardent supporters and was commissioned to break into a nursing home and shoot video of Thad Cochran’s ailing wife who was suffering from dementia – all in an effort to spin up a rumor that Cochran had a mistress.

Why, you ask, would anyone want pull a stupid stunt like this? Enter Richard Sager – school teacher, raging Tea Party boy – and John Bert (aka John Mary) – a former radio talk show host and local Tea Party leader. Apparently, John Bert was the main inspirator, along with cohorts Mark Mayfield (who committed suicide after his arrest in the case) and Elaine Vechorik, a died-in-the-wool fan of McDaniel’s. Richard Sager was the handler.

As of today, there are still some lingering questions about Chris McDaniel’s involvement. Apparently, McDaniel’s campaign manager, Melanie Sojourner, knew about Kelly’s arrest well before the story broke.

If you want details, check out the sources:

The Clarion-Ledger, Jun 16 ’15: Cochran Photo Case Messages: “Chris not happy. Delete everything” 

The Clarion-Ledger, Jun 16 ’15: Kelly gets 2.5 years in Cochran photo case

Talking Points Memo, May 21 ’14: Meet The Blogger Who Risked it all For A Mississippi Tea Party Candidate

Slate, May 18 ’14: Arrest of Blogger for Taking Pictures of Senator’s Ill Wife Rattles Republican Party

The Crime of the Election Year

The present electoral climate is like walking past a shadowy alley – it repulses us, but we can’t put a finger on why.

We sense that there’s a crime, everybody is suspect, but nobody agrees what happened. How does one begin an investigation? “Follow the money,” said Deep Throat. That, I did. And the startling thing is that the answers are right there in plain sight.

I’m talking about Obamacare, the Republicans, the Democrats, and all the rich guys paving the road to election day with their dollars. What I’ve concluded is that Obama is a sideshow. Being POTUS is one of the best-paying jobs Obama has ever had. His ideas are not all that original. The public policies he has pursued have been on EVERYBODY’s platform since FDR. He’s black. That’s the biggest difference, and it is a convenient distraction. But from what?

Consider the recently revealed bit of news that Koch brothers really don’t care much about Obamacare – well, maybe not as much as they care about Keystone XL. That’s the real strategy – they want the billions that they might earn from a big straw that’ll carry oil product from Canada to the Gulf. So… just like it was during Bush II, it’s all about oil. That’s all. Healthcare be damned.

Koch are the true boogeymen of America. Rich. Arrogant. Aloof. They run the John Birch Society. They run the Tea Party. They run Fox News. They run the propagandists who telegraph every lie about everyone they don’t like – smear campaigns against Democrats and Republicans alike. These are the guys I see when I have nightmares.

Most conservative supporters (and many liberals) are not listening to the real threat. If all politicians lie (I hope this isn’t a big surprise) then the real metric should be the personal gain of the actors. Consider the personal gain that Obama gets from Obamacare. Arguably, that’s a zero. Well, maybe a mark in history for being the president who successfully started meaningful health care reform, but there’s no factual evidence of him getting rich from the thing. 

Not so with Koch. Not only do they have an “invested” interest in oil – they have a HUGE invested interest. Billions of dollars in extracting, transporting and reselling oil. Question: what would you do if you want to get a controversial pipeline through the middle of the country? A nice feel good ad campaign? Or would spend big on ‘like-minded’ candidates whom you could later control and influence? Wouldn’t you like at least one or two political distractions? 

I’m convinced that Obamacare is the sideshow – and so is every last one of the other little distractions that the Tea Party has created. Anything with Obama’s name is like meat on a hook to the hyenas of superbole. That’s how publicity works. I should know. I write that kind of crap.

The really big show is going on in plain sight. And believe it or not, the Koch brothers themselves are just the vanguards. There’s a whole petrochemical industry out there just snapping its jaws for Keystone XL. And they’ll do anything to distract us from their business. Even ruin this country.

Time to wake up. The candle was lit long before the meal was cooked.

Beware: Debt Wrap Stock Promotion Dealers

Contemplating a stock promotion through what is euphemistically called a “debt wrap“? My advice – don’t do it. There are other ways to raise money.

Imagine that you are a CEO or CFO of a penny stock company. Revenues are not what you want them to be; short on cash, you look around for ways to raise a bit of dough to get you through the next payroll, to purchase equipment, or launch a marketing campaign. Your average volume may be about 300,000 shares and the price per share hovers between 50 cents to less than a penny a share (micropenny). Maybe you just issued a press release.

One day, probably not long after PR Newswire distributes your latest release, you get a call from an energetic guy who has a bright idea to help you raise your much dreamt about cash. He or she may even sound like a charitable group for wayward Pink Sheet companies. You listen intently.

Since you don’t have the cash to push your own stock promotion, you gotta give something up in value. What you may not realize is all that aged debt on the corporate books is like gold to the promoter. Debt aged 6 months if reporting, 12 months if non-reporting can be easily converted into tradeable shares. And this guy says he can get you a big piece of it. He’ll graciously take the debt off of your hands with debt purchase agreements for the original noteholder. Simultaneously, with help of an exemption known as Rule 144 under the Securities act of 1933, he’ll turn around and convert the debt into tradeable common shares. He’ll “put a list on it” and promote your stock to ready buyers. Names like BestDamnPennyStocks,, PennyStockRumble, et cetera will spin out of his mouth like an auctioneer. He’ll talk about the value of liquidity (i.e., share volume). He’ll tell you how easy it’ll be to get your company cash. He may even offer to toss you a few bucks for your own pocket.

As one broker said to me, “It’s like printing your own money.” But there’s a cost. What you don’t know is that depending on the way the deal is constructed, the whole promotion may run against SEC regulations (think fines, black listing, even jail time). And while creating tradeable common share IS allowed by law, too many shares deludes value.

Here’s another thing you should think about: odds are (and I mean worse than 50-50 odds), you’ll never see a cent come into your company and your original note holders may never see a nickel. Add insult to injury, you just released millions of shares to a crook who made out like a bandit.

Economic Hype and the Trickle Up Effect

Okay… I admit. I’m a serial commenter on various news sites (CNN, Huff, Washington Post). A recent segment that appeared on CNN bore this headline: Who’s winning the debt debate?

Need I summarize the topic? Essentially, the writer posits the question and out comes a gushing. One brilliant poster came up with this gem:

There will soon be no wealthy, no nothin’, brainiacs, if we don’t balance our budget. Take all the rich, hang them upside down, and shake all their money out of their pockets. That couldn’t cover the entitlement program at the rate it’s growing.

He couldn’t leave well enough alone, so he parroted yet another gem:

Quit spending more than you make! Can’t understand that?  Think the wealthy held a shotgun to our gov’t and told the gov’t to spend like more than we make?  QUIT SPENDING MORE THAN YOU MAKE. Right now the entitlements are the main drag on the economy, and taxing the rich ain’t going to stop the bleeding, wiseguy. Or don’t you read what the economists are saying?

Of course, the Tea Party ‘factoid’ parade is devoid of rational fact; no footnote that says personal debt and national debt are two completely different things. I doubt many of them ever heard Dick Cheney explain that  “Deficits don’t matter.” Nevertheless, I had to point out that trickle down (Reaganomics) never worked. Historical data proves that point. All low taxes ever did was let the greedy be more greedy.

Here’s Trickle UP Effect for you: support the masses and the masses will support all classes above them.

Fueling the future with fish tank residue: Yum!

Who knows, we may save fish tank scum as a biofuel.

Researchers have turned to algae as a promising new fuel source. The approach has the potential to significantly reduce the nation’s reliance on imported oil while contributing to rural economic development and lowering greenhouse emissions. As the nimrods of oil chant ‘drill baby drill’, the rest of the rational world may l be singing “suck baby suck” (or something to that effect).

Experts expect algae-based biofuels could displace large volumes of diesel and jet transportation fuels. One of the field’s leading experts, Ron Pate, a researcher from Sandia National Laboratories based in New Mexico, presented an overview of the research during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Diego on Feb. 19.

Pate, who is a principal member of technical staff at Sandia, has been in Washington, D.C. since November 2009 serving as a technical consultant to the emerging algae biofuels program within the Biomass Office of the Department of Energy’s Office of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (EERE).

The DOE program evolved out of an initiative started in 2008 to develop a National Algae Biofuels Technology Roadmap; researchers from Sandia, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and other national laboratories, universities and industry are teaming up with DOE to overcome some of the field’s biggest challenges.

“We’ve been heavily involved in supporting the Office of Biomass Program for the past year and a half on the Algae Biofuels Roadmap and a couple of specific projects that are algae biofuel-related,” Pate said.

Among those projects are two international collaborations: one with industrial partners in Israel and the U.S., and another with the National Research Council Canada.

“Using algae as a feedstock source for biofuels has a lot of potential benefits, but there are also some tremendous challenges. We’ve been working very hard to determine what the needs are, the current state of the technology and the areas that really need some focused investment and work,” Pate said.

Through recent American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (stimulus package) and other program investments in Integrated Biorefinery and Algae Consortia projects beginning in FY2010, DOE/EERE is providing about $180 million in near-term funding specifically focused on algae biofuels research and development.

Pate’s presentation, “The Promise and Challenges for Algae Biofuels: Overview of Approaches and Issues for Sustainable Production Scale-up,” will cover many of the current issues surrounding algae research and development. Algae is emerging as an attractive resource because it reproduces quickly, uses large quantities of carbon dioxide and can thrive in non-freshwater, including brackish and marine water, thus avoiding competition with traditional agriculture’s freshwater needs. In addition, algae can produce biomass and oils, and is attractive as feedstock for renewable fuels, with potentially greater productivity and significantly less land use requirements than with other commodity crop feedstocks such as corn, soy and canola.

Building on earlier work done under the DOE-funded Aquatic Species Program during the late-1970s through the early 1990s, Pate and others have been taking a new look at the nation’s potential for algae biofuels production capacity development and resource requirements. The U.S. has ample sunlight, lower value land and non-freshwater resources in the lower latitude coastal and inland states, including the Southwest region of New Mexico, Arizona and California, to potentially produce large volumes of biofuel feedstock, if high productivies can be reliably achieved.

With algal oil productivities that could potentially reach annual average levels in the range of 3,000 to 5,000 gallons per acre, the land footprint required for large volumes of renewable fuel production would be minimal when compared with other conventional oil crops, such as soy and canola, that produce between 50 and 120 gallons per acre per year.

“With algae, we’re talking about annual average productivities that could reach several thousand gallons per acre per year — with practical values that analysis has shown might be able to reach more than 6500 gallons per acre – so if you do the math, you can see the reasoning behind this research,” Pate said.

“Algae can produce oils, which are nature’s most effective energy storage medium. We already have the technologies coming online to be able to take that and affordably convert it into really useful fuels that are essentially drop-in equivalent to today’s petroleum-based ground and aviation transport fuels. And there is a lot of promise to create quite a bit of oil from algae, but nobody has really done that affordably on a large, routine scale yet so that you can rely on it day in and day out.”

Making the leap from the current preliminary analytical stage to full-scale muck production is challenged by a number of technical hurdles and unknowns. In the last decade, Pate and his colleagues have analyzed factors that are critical to the success of algal biofuels. Sunlight, carbon dioxide, usable, flat land and water are the key ingredients to algae growth, so the researchers looked for areas of the country where those factors were abundant and provided an optimal environment for growth.

The team determined that Southwestern states offer the most sun and large areas of available land, but are lacking in carbon dioxide and water. Although algae can thrive in the region’s brackish groundwater, uncertainties remain about how much water is actually available. The team also had to address concerns that biofuel production will encroach on the nation’s valuable land, water and fertilizer resources currently used for traditional agriculture.

To generate potential solutions, Pate and his colleagues contributed to a three-day workshop hosted by DOE’s Office of Biomass Program in December 2008 in Washington, D.C., to discuss the future of algal fuels research and industry. The event was attended by 200 technical experts and stakeholders from government and state agencies from around the nation, who provided valuable comments and insights.

Pate was part of the DOE-sponsored team that drafted a report based on comments received both at the workshop and from public, and the report, which will outline the nation’s strategy in algal biofuel research, is expected to be published in the next few months and will help drive the nation’s algal biofuels efforts.

Despite the challenges, Pate is confident that algae has a strong chance of becoming a viable source of transportation fuel in the long-term future. “People who are more realistic think this will take at least 10 years for research and investments to get it to the point where it has commercial viability,” Pate said. “I think the jury’s still out, but we’ll likely see an impact in the next decade.”

File under: Stupid Human Tricks

Gothic Hello KittyHolly Crawford, a dog groomer from Northern Pennsylvania, was found guilty for one count of animal cruelty. Her crime? Opportunism and supreme superbole!

She took kittens and pierced their ears, necks (according to MSNBC), and other body parts. Then she attempted to market the animals on eBay under the headline: “Gothic Kitties.”

A picture of the kittens on eBay, taken on a pet bed with ears weighed down by belly button rings, was noticed by a woman who contacted Crawford and subsequently authorities. Pennsylvania Humane Society officers and police removed four, three month old kittens and one cat from Crawford’s home.

The kittens had multiple piercings on their ears and necks. One kitten’s tail was docked and another’s banded.

The case grabbed attention from animal rights activists nationwide. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) condemned Crawford and describe the piercings as “barbaric”

No laws specifically state that docking cat’s tails or piercing cats is illegal.

Many Pennsylvanians are outraged by the case, citing it a waste of time and money. Supporters of Crawford claim that there is little difference between declawing a cat, spaying/neutering an animal, tagging wild game or wrapping a show dogs ears.

Carol Morrison, a Pennsylvania Humane Officer, testified the total expense to treat and rehabilitate the kittens was over $1,000.

Upon hearing the verdict, Crawford was distraught. Her defense attorney John Pike told reporters, “She really loves animals and is upset because in her heart she considers herself a true animal lover”

Crawford is to be sentenced March 31, 2010 and faces up to 5 years in prison. Reports say that the prosecutor is seeking a sentence of 12 to 18 months.

Ah, but this story only scratches the surface! Apparently there’s a real trade in “gothic” pets. According to the Times Leader in Wilkes-Barre, PA – Northern PA again, of all places – three kittens with ear, neck and tail piercings were removed from a home in Ross Township.

One of the officers from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Luzerne County said the pierced kittens were being sold as “gothic kittens” on an Internet auction site.

“This is a first,” said Officer Carol Morrison. “It’s unbelievable anybody would do this to kittens.” Yeah, well, surprize, surprize.

Once again, the investigation started when somebody noticed “gothic kittens” being sold on eBay. The animals were also being sold on a pet classified Web site with an attached picture of a pierced kitten.

“You’re not allowed to sell live animals on eBay,” Morrison said. Nor ones that have been tortured and mutilated, I’ll bet.

Aside from the cats, a dog was also found with various piercings. Here’s another big fat “guess what happened next.” The perp had a pet grooming business in the basement of the residence. Several signs advertising “Pawside Parlor” were adorned on the front of the home. Hmm… nothing about body mutilations?

Morrison said the kittens will be checked by a veterinarian before deciding if the kittens will be placed for adoption. Or have a wooden stake driven through their hears (yeah, okay – bad joke).

Apeshit Teabagging Nitwits

Cuss words. “The quality or state of being profane.” See also desecration or disrespect toward an object of religious veneration. One utterance can be a single word, a general expression or gesture. The Chinese tend to be more poetic than Americans or their European cousins, dashing insulting haiku in rude and vulgar strains. Blasphemy is handy for damning one person or his whole frakking family. And here’s a conundrum – why is it that profanity from a man is more acceptable than from a woman? Shit man… equality!

In polite cultures, profanity can involve taboo words. Over the course of time, some words that were originally considered profane have become much less offensive. Meanwhile, some formerly common words have worked their way into profanity. Still others, like racial or ethnic epithets, is considered hate speech generally not tolerated by society, unless you have a screw loose for purity.

Anyhow, there is poetry found profanity – even American. I think of it as folk poetry laced into American heritage like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  Common, but also very much a part of the cultural fabric. And its absence is pretentious and unnatural.

There is an etymological a pattern to cussing. Like my dad (and his father), anything and anybody can be a “sonovabitch.”  The poetry of cussing requires that the user know how to intensify his feeling with certain adjectives. If “sonuvabitch” is treated as a root, then you can plainly see the transformation:

A friend in an amusing situation may be called “that damn sonovabitch” or just “that sonovabitch” followed by a loud guffaw.  An acquaintance that you know nothing about except for an amusing situation may be labeled “that goddamn sonovabitch” or “that damn sonovabitch” depending upon the given situation.

A person with whom the community holds a general disregard may be “that stupid goddamn dumass sonovabitch” or simply “dumbass sonovabitch.” A person who has earned some measure of infamy may be labeled “that fucking goddamn stupid sonovabitch” or “fucking stupid sonovabitch” or “stupid fucking sonovabitch” depending on the user’s mood and object of notoriety.

The next level of language engenders levels of personal irritation especially when theses words are added to the mix: “socialist,” “democrat,” and (my favorite of late), “liberal.” which may or may not be combined with variations of “Shit for brains socialist,” “Shithead democrat,” or “dumbass liberal” depending upon the intended purpose and prose, and our all time favorite: the Libtard.

Of course, this socialist liberal may retort with his own poetry in uttering something along the lines of “most of these apeshit teabagging nitwits wouldn’t know a serious fucking issue if it came up and bit them in their goddamned stupid asses.”

By the way, the whole point of this exercise is to display my general disdain for all things TP. I have yet to meet one that grasps the mere comprehension of (a) true socialism nor (b) the meaning of liberalism.  And THEY think Obama is their problem?


Learning from history: How Hoover’s pro-labor stance helped cause Great Depression

According to a new study, the pro-labor policies of President Herbert Hoover triggered two-thirds of the drop in the nation’s gross domestic product over the two years that followed the stock market crash of 1929. The study, entitled “What — or Who — Started the Great Depression” by Lee E. Ohanian, a UCLA economist, finds that a series of seemingly “pro-labor” decisions were ultimately the worst things that anybody could have done to an economy that was already reeling from the effects of the crash.

“The recession was three times worse — at a minimum — than it would otherwise have been, because of [Hoover’s actions],” says Ohanian, who is also a professor of economics at UCLA.

The policies that Ohanian cites includes propping up wages, encouraging job-sharing, and urging major industries to hold off massive layoffs. These and other actions, as history shows, contributed significantly to the precipitous decline in productivity in the manufacturing sector and sent overall GDP skidding 18 percent of the 27 percent decline by the fourth quarter of 1931.

The report does not attempt to compare today’s economic situation and the Great Depression – attempts  to do so (as pundits on CNN and FOX frequently have done)  are roundly discredited by reputable economists. However, as Ohanian’s study reveals, Hoover’s actions clearly illustrates the perils of ill-conceived government policies in times of economic upheaval and confusion.

Ohanian, a macroeconomist who specializes in study of economic crises, speculates that Hoover’s response clearly “illustrates the danger of knee-jerk policy reactions in a time of crisis. Almost always when bad policies are adopted, it’s during a period of crisis. The real risk is picking a cure that turns out to be worse than the disease.”

While historians and economists have tried to pinpoint the underlying factors that made the Great Depression so “great,” Ohanian’s study is a refreshing new look that quantifies how Hoover’s policies lead to labor-market distortions that ultimately drove down a badly crippled economic system. The study also challenges Hoover’s reputation as pro-market president.

“This was a president who had served as secretary of commerce under his predecessor, yet many of the mistakes he made were remarkably similar to those later made by Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose reputation is much less market-based and more pro-labor,” says Ohanian.

Other economists have also implicated Roosevelt in prolonging the Great Depression and Hoover’s employment policies have been suspect in actually precipitating the epoch. Often-cited and often misunderstood causes of the Depression include banking failures and large contractions of the money supply. However, neither of these events really started taking effect until the 2nd quarter of 1931 — nearly two years after Hoover installed his fateful wage policies.

Moreover, unemployment did not plague the part of the labor force that was exempt from Hoover’s 1929 wage policy. Farm employment remained surprisingly strong and only fell due to changing climatic conditions of the “Dust Bowl” in 1935. But unlike in the manufacturing sector, agricultural wages fell dramatically, by 30 percent.

“Wages fell substantially, but farm employment rates held steady until the Dust Bowl,” Ohanian said.
Despite continued calls from industry for wage cuts in 1930 and 1931, Hoover held industry to their original promise. By late 1931, manufacturers requested that Hoover provide relief in the form of increasing their ability to collude for price-setting purposes. Hoover denied this request. In response, industry signaled they would no longer support the wage freeze.

“In late 1931, industry finally did cut wages, but it was too late,” Ohanian said. “By this point, the economy was in an unprecedented, full-blown depression.”

Read the study, “What — or Who — Started the Great Depression,” can also be found at

Findings of the study are scheduled to appear in the December issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of Economic Theory and were posted today on the website of the National Bureau of Economic Research as a working paper.