Friday, October 22, 2021

The Soul of Moderation

Drawing by Hugh Lofting of Dr, Dolittle and his creatures, with the Pushmi-Pullyu at left.

Another day, another confusing story on the mysterious views of Senator Sinema. Yesterday, a leaker speaking to Politico asserted that she had agreed to accept some kind of tax program to fund somewhere around $2 trillion for the reconciliation bill—

"Senator Sinema has agreed to provisions in each of President Biden's four proposed revenue categories — international, domestic corporate, high net worth individuals, and tax enforcement — providing sufficient revenue to fully pay for a budget reconciliation package in the range currently being discussed."

— A source familiar with the discussions

—but then House Ways and Means chair Richard Neal came away from a 40-minute conversation with her on the subject unsure whether she had anything specific in mind at all, though he was convinced she was ready to make a deal:

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Stop Trying to Make Fetch Happen


Former U.S. president Donald Trump launches 'TRUTH' social media platform

Says some of the more measured coverage, from Reuters. Well, not exactly. Actually, it's that he will launch it, as soon as the company that's going to create it exists, after the finalization of a merger between the Trump Media and Technology Group (TMTG) and a company called Digital World Acquisition Corp, a "special acquisition company", the singular purpose of which is to buy TMTG for $293 million and list it on NASDAQ. Unless some shareholder in the acquisition company, run by former investment banker Patrick Orlando decides to take their shares back, and Orlando's track record in setting up special acquisition companies or SPACS is not a long or hope-inspiring one:

Orlando, who has worked at Deutsche Bank and BT Capital Markets, has launched at least four SPACs and has plans for two more, according to his firm's website and regulatory filings.

But none of the SPACs have completed a deal yet. A China-based SPAC that Orlando led failed last month to complete a merger with Giga Energy Inc that would have valued the transportation solutions provider at $7.3 billion, because it could not deliver the cash required, according to regulatory filings.

My bold. Also, TMTG, or as Trump Jr. called it yesterday in a Fox News interview,

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The End of Economics



I've been having a hard time thinking any thoughts about anything relevant other than what's happening in Congress, which is far too noisy at this point for me to think I understand anything, and my "ideas" about money, which nobody likes, too intangible and abstract for most regular readers but raw and downright backwoodsy from the standpoint of more refined visitors, and I meant my promise that the previous post would be the last one.

But I did bump into a kind of back door, which I'll get to below, to a part of the discussion that's more or less concrete and interesting, the ancient history part where, as you may or may not remember, the theory of the origin of money I hammered together out of old bits of scrap metal out in the shed turned out to be awfully similar to the brilliant and highly controversial theory developed by the anarchist anthropologist David Graeber in his 2014 Debt: The First 5,000 Years, except his had vast amounts of exemplification, archaeological and documentary (some of it reputedly wrong), backing it up.  

Friday, October 15, 2021

Hi, It's Stupid: The Last Post on Modern Monetary Theory


Statue from 2009 by the late William Fawke, in the Garden of Heroes and Villains, Warwickshire, via Ellen Herold's Pinterest.

Hi, it's Stupid to say Modern Monetary Theory is all wrong, but I just can't help myself.

George Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne, the great Irish philosopher midway between Locke and Hume, argued brilliantly that things don't exist—I mean things, material objects, the out-there stuff we see and touch, in that you can have a perfectly coherent picture of the universe without them: all you need are minds, full of perceptions, and that's enough. Things corresponding to the perceptions don't have to be there. "Berkeley's system," says the Stanford Encyclopedia mildly,

while it strikes many as counter-intuitive, is strong and flexible enough to counter most objections.

Which made Dr. Samuel Johnson, the irascible lexicographer whose portrait serves as my avi, pretty mad. Because obviously the theory was revolting to his stolid English soul, but he didn't even know how to participate in the discussion. One day as he was leaving a church with his future biographer, James Boswell, they started chatting about it, Boswell observing that "though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it." As they spoke, they passed a big stone along the path and Johnson turned to give it a powerful kick, no doubt hurting his foot: "Thus I refute it!" 

Meaning, more or less, GTFOOH, are you telling me this doesn't exist? Deze nutz!

This is my problem with so-called Modern Monetary Theory. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

For the Record: Quarrelsome

Monday got a text from the dentist reminding me of an appointment on Wednesday. Which seemed vaguely odd because the last visit wasn't very long ago, I didn't think. Woke up this morning in some anxiety about getting there in time, looked back at my phone, and the appointment was for Wednesday, February 16. What is the possible use of a reminder for an appointment four months away? Who does that??? 

Anyway if I seem unusually quarrelsome today, maybe you can chalk it up to that and forgive me.

My dentist is actually a very gentle and conversible Iranian, not this kind of dentist.

Scarcity mentality

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Literary Corner: Party of Contempt


Facial expression of contempt. Via Wikipedia.

Smart Enough

by Charles Ernest Grassley

I was born at night,
but not last night. So if
I didn’t accept the endorsement
of a person that’s got ninety-one percent
of the Republican voters in Iowa,
I wouldn’t be too smart.
I’m smart enough to
accept that endorsement.
(Via Des Moines Register, 10 October, reporting Trump's rally Saturday, in which he generously endorsed Senator Grassley's bid for re-election, from Grassley's grateful response.) 

That's remarkably candid. The 88-year-old candidate wants to make sure everybody knows he's only got one reason for sharing the stage with the monster. 

He doesn't mind showing his contempt for his voters ("I'm only doing this because you're idiots") and he doesn't mind showing his contempt for Trump ("I'm only doing this because my voters are idiots"), which is surely mutual ("You're only doing this because I'm stronger than you"). Then there's Jeff Kaufman, chair of the state Republican party, suggesting Grassley has only done one thing of any importance in his 45 years in Congress, though he did it three times in the last four years, a job you could easily program a computer to do: "It’s pretty easy to introduce Chuck Grassley. All I need is three words, folks. Three words: Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Barrett. Let’s say it together. Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Barrett."

So much contempt. Contempt for poor people, contempt for college graduates, contempt for city dwellers, contempt for immigrants, but such open contempt for each other.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Goodbye, Columbus

Happy Indigenous Peoples' AND Italian-American Heritage and Culture Day! I thought I'd reposted my own favorite Columbus Day post, from 2017, but I never have, so here it is:

No rapist, Amerigo Vespucci, in yellow tights, chastely declines a proffer of women in Honduras, 1497. Illustration by Theodor de Bry, ca. 1592, via Wikipedia.

An interesting wrinkle in this year's pro–Columbus Day noise is the suggestion that if you don't like Columbus Day you must be allied with the Ku Klux Klan. Why? Is the Klan supporting a national holiday honoring our indigenous peoples?

Sadly, no. It's all about identity politics, and the Klan's denial of the Italians' ethnic pride. As we read from Jarrett Stepman at Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal:
Much of the modern rhetoric about Columbus mirrors attacks lobbed at him in the 19th century by anti-Catholic and anti-Italian groups like the Ku Klux Klan.
In fact, Columbus Day became a nationally celebrated holiday following a mass lynching of Italians in New Orleans—the largest incident of lynching in American history....
As the pro-Columbus website The Truth About Columbus points out, the Ku Klux Klan worked to stop Columbus Day celebrations, smash statues, and reverse his growing influence on American culture.
According to The Truth About Columbus, in the 1920s, the Klan “attempted to remove Columbus Day as a state holiday in Oregon,” burned a cross “to disturb a Columbus Day celebration in Pennsylvania,” and successfully “opposed the erection of a statue of Columbus in Richmond, Virginia, only to see the decision to reject the statue reversed.”
Attempts to quash Columbus failed, but they have re-emerged in our own time through the actions of far-left groups who want to see his legacy buried and diminished forever.

Question to Radio Yerevan: Is it true that the lynching of 11 Italian immigrants in New Orleans in 1891 was the worst lynching in American history?