Monday, February 27, 2017

Modest Proposal

Dr. E.W. Prichard, an ex-naval surgeon who settled in Scotland as a G.P., convicted of murdering his wife and mother-in-law by poison, the last person to be publicly executed in Glasgow, in 1865. He may have killed a servant-girl as well.

Now that we're going to get rid of the Dodd-Frank fiduciary rule requiring investment advisors to act in their customers' best interests—I actually heard some Republican hack on the radio saying that the rule was a limitation on consumer freedom of choice ("But I might want to choose an investment adviser who will use me to push up the the price of a stock that's going to collapse so he can make more for the firm, or himself, by shorting it!")—

Now, I say, maybe we should think about applying this in some other places. I notice that was a big part of the Republican opposition to the Affordable Care Act too. When Obama said "If you like it you can keep it," he wasn't thinking about all the ordinary Americans who prefer their insurance to suck up their premiums and never give them any payback unless a motorcycle accident turns them into paraplegics. Obama thought we'd like to get rid of those in favor of plans that give you preventive care without a copay. And worried about poor people who couldn't afford any insurance instead of Silicon Valley libertarians who don't need insurance because they know they're immune to cancer. (Nobody's immune to cancer.)

Anyway, why don't we start licensing physicians who decline to take the Hippocratic Oath? What about my right to choose a doctor who doesn't mind doing a little harm? Harmful physicians could probably cut costs a lot, which is so important in health care for poor people, in line with the Ryan proposals.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Annals of Derp: A point of parliamentary privilege

Illustration by Ken Priebe for his poem "The Parliament of Owls", a very nice lyrical treatment of collective animal nouns.
A little fake news from Jazz Shaw of the aptly named Hot Air website:
This is a story which would never take place in the United States, at least not yet and not with the official permission of the government. The European Union has obviously become increasingly alarmed over trends in popular sentiment rippling through their member countries. This started with Brexit, but has more recently cropped up with the candidacies of Marie Le Pen and Geert Wilders. Clearly such rabble rousing is not to be tolerated in the largely socialist paradise so something had to be done. The solution? The EU has passed new rules which will allow them to cut the broadcast of any “hate speech or offensive material” and then purge such speech from the official record. (Associated Press)
One of the reasons this sounds so alarming is the unclarity of the writing (and Le Pen's name is "Marine".) The official record of what, Mr. Jazz?

That's the key: It's the official record of debates in the European Parliament, the elected body that governs the EU, which, like other parliaments, has an absolute and unquestioned right to set the standards of acceptable speech inside the body and to suppress unacceptable language—including, obviously, the houses of Congress in the United States, where we're all familiar with the idea of representatives' remarks being "stricken from the record" or having their "words taken down".

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Chair and chair alike

I'm so old (as we say on the Twitter) I remember when the self-denominated progressive faction was looking on Labor Secretary Tom Perez as a kind of savior against those terrible corporate Democrats, maybe ten months ago—when somebody was talking him up as a vice presidential candidate for Hillary Clinton. Didn't work out, but that's another story. But Perez did have a very progressive reputation: "The most radical cabinet secretary since Henry Wallace headed agriculture," howled Breitbart before he'd even been confirmed. Bankers hated him for fighting racial discrimination in housing mortgages at the Department of Justice, and the representatives of capital (such as Sam Batman writing for The Hill) for his work at Labor:

The Lake of Labor

The Allen River enters Lake Chauekuktuli in Southwest Alaska. Photo by Robert Glenn Ketchum, via Bristol Bay Land Trust.

Verbatim David Brooks, "The National Death Wish", February 25 2017, offering a novel version of the "lump of labor" fallacy, to explain why immigration does not lower wages:

Cotton and Perdue’s position, which is now the mainstream Republican position, is based on the unconscious supposition that American society is like a lake, with a relatively fixed boundary. If you cut the supply of fish coming from outside, there will be more food for the ones born here.
The problem is that American society is actually more like a river. Sometimes the river is running high, with a lot of volume and flow, with lots of good stuff for everybody, and sometimes it’s running low.
This has to be one of the worst analogies in literary history, especially insofar as the point he'd like to be making, if only he knew how, is a valid one.

A healthy lake actually provides an analogy for how a society prospers with a steady flow of immigration; lakes are fed by rivers bringing them oxygen, nutrients, and, yes, more fish, some of which are food for fish that live there. Ecologically rivers and lakes form integrated systems; a lake that isn't getting fed is the aptly named Dead Sea.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Wretched Access

I. F. Stone not deciding what to wear to the White House Correspondents' Dinner, via
Just a note on the CPAC massacre of the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Guardian, Politico, CNN, and whoever else was barred from Sean Spicer's press gaggle, presumably because they are the outlets developing the most damaging stories on the new administration, to punish them, and outside the issue of whether this development represents the coming of fascism, not to say that it doesn't—
—to say that what this is a blow to in particular is access journalism, the (obviously false) idea that you can get the information your readers need by huddling in a room with all your competitors hearing what the press secretary wants you to hear.

Showing up for the gaggle, being in the reception line for the soup Sean Spicer is dishing out, because it you might get your question noticed is playing their game. I can't understand complaining, as people like David Sanger always did, that Obama was closed to the press because he didn't like to do gaggles and because he preferred his own photographer to 300 photographers watching him play with the dog, when in fact Obama was available to give really detailed interviews on policy, even to relatively stupid people like Chuck Todd and enemies like Jeffrey Goldberg, which provided a far more precise and elaborated view of his views than any herd conference could possibly have obtained.

The most pernicious habit in Washington political journalism is the addiction to access, which leads the papers to pull punches on stories for fear they might not get invited to the next party. This is not how effective journalism is done. As everybody knows, No More Mister Nice Blog's titulary grandfather deity, and literal grandfather to our own beloved blogfriend Aimai, I.F. Stone, hardly ever met any powerful people but mostly sat in his office reading and making the occasional phone call, and his work was more important than that of a thousand Chris Cillizzas and Mike Allens.

I'd like to express the hope that today's disinvitation signals some kind of moment in which access journalism begins to decline, and serious journalism of the kind that got the Timeses and Guardian into trouble begins to come back into its own. That's good trouble. If you know you're not getting invited to the next party, why not let it all hang out and tell us what you know, not from spokesman cocktail parties but from traditional legwork and the Google?

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Eve of Deconstruction

Image by Todd McLellan.
Philip Rucker's Bannon interview, in the Washington Post:
Atop Trump’s agenda, Bannon said, was the “deconstruction of the administrative state” — meaning a system of taxes, regulations and trade pacts that the president and his advisers believe stymie economic growth and infringe upon one’s sovereignty.
“If you look at these Cabinet nominees, they were selected for a reason, and that is deconstruction,” Bannon said.
So it's easy to laugh—obviously my first instinct. As in, too bad Jacques Derrida is dead, he would have made such a great Secretary of State. Or maybe Commerce, or the head of Faith-Based Programs.

It won't go away that easy

Obamacare won't be riding into the sunset, Republicans will. Image via EvilSpeculator.
I've long been convinced Republicans would not be able to repeal the Affordable Care Act because they don't have any ideas for that promised replacement—they can't come up with any ideas virtually by definition, because the parts their constituents want to keep are dependent on the parts they're committed to getting rid of—but I haven't been smart enough to see how it works out in a practical sense, in the sausage-making process. This is now coming clear, in a series of Tweets by the genial young Matthew Chapman, a Texas video game designer who's turned out since the election to be one of the great Twitter ranters.

It starts with the Congressional Budget Office, which must review the budgetary consequences of the repeal. Apparently they've done this with a Ryan-sponsored proposal:

(Topher Spiro runs health policy analysis at the Center for American Progress.)

It's going to cost hundreds of billions to get rid of it, as you probably knew already. Which doesn't mean much on its own, since as you also already knew, Republicans only care about deficits when a Democrat is president.

But in an almost evenly divided Senate there are no ways of passing it.

Since no Democrat will vote for repeal, they can't use the normal procedure, in which the Democrats would kill it with a so-called filibuster (refusing to close debate and move to a vote). Instead, they must use the budget reconciliation process, for which (according to the Byrd Rule) the bill either has to be budget-neutral, or contain a sunset provision, where the new law expires after some fixed period and the older law comes back into effect, and the deficits are pushed out by mathematical manipulation into the fictional time after the law expires (this is what happened with the Bush tax cuts that led to the famous Fiscal Cliff massacre of 2013). So it's back to the drawing board.

Meanwhile insurance companies have to know by April whether the ACA is going to continue to exist or not so they can start devising their policy offerings for 2018. Since Congress isn't going to be able to manage repeal by then no matter what, they'll have to put it off for at least a year while Ryan attempts to whip up a Plan B. And Republican congresspersons continue getting more and more spooked by constituents' unexpected affection for the law. And the problem of how you get rid of the thing in a budget-neutral way or a way you can successfully pretend is budget-neutral (that's what the sunset provision really is) remains as insoluble as ever.

Stay tuned, but I don't think it's ever going to happen.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

It's not the same

Washington, September 12 2009. via Fox News.
I'm seeing a lot of traffic on the Twitter, including from some distinguished journalists, drawing an equivalence between these town hall meetings where Republican legislators are getting screamed at and the Tea Party agitation of 2009-10, much of it with the optimistic view that this could augur one of those big waves in the 2018 elections:

Or even pessimistic, worrying that protesters are making themselves obnoxious, and nobody likes that:

And for counterpoint the breezy Cillizza dismizza:

And then there's this:

It struck me there's an enormous difference between these protests and those of seven or eight years ago, in that these are about reality.

The Tea Party was complaining about taxes going through the roof and masses of Mexicans invading our country when taxes had in fact been going down for years and Mexicans had started migrating in the opposite direction. Not that most of them were lying, I think they really didn't know. They hadn't gone to the trouble of putting two payslips together and figuring it out, and they didn't live in places where there were any Mexicans, and they didn't know what they were talking about, just what Rush and Sean were telling them, and our beloved mainstream media didn't seem to know either—the Chris Cillizzas and Adam Nagourneys who don't feel they're being paid to know anything about real life since how does that impact the horse race anyway?

This week's town hall protesters, in contrast, are talking about access to lifesaving medical care and Donald Trump's tax returns, and it carries a certain conviction. Anyway it feels a lot different to me.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Mom, the century's broken! I wasn't even TOUCHING it!

No idea what the source of this is. Via.

David F. Brooks, "This Century is Broken", February 21 2017:

Most of us came of age in the last half of the 20th century and had our perceptions of “normal” formed in that era. 
This turns out to be true, although it's extremely close. Due to a dwindling birth rate, the median age is 38 (it was 31 as recently as 1985), so about half of us turned 21 before 1999, and if we agree that the 21st century began in 2001 (and in fact I'm not putting up with any disagreement on this, so shut up), then it's clear that a majority are immigrants from the 20th. But it's a very narrow one, which will have vanished before the next presidential election.

I'm not finding any sources for this odd little fact, and it's possible Brooks just made it up; the fact that it's true would be just a coincidence.

It was, all things considered, an unusually happy period. No world wars, no Great Depressions, fewer civil wars, fewer plagues.
It might be more accurate to say that the previous half-century had been an unusually sad period, since it experienced most or all of the world wars (I think the French wars of 1792 through 1814 count as one, but the authorities don't seem to) and all of the Great Depressions in human history.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Annals of Derp: What's the Matter with Sean Hannity?

Thanks to some research conducted with friends on Twitter, I am now in a position to say what's wrong with Sean Hannity, which is that he is unfortunately locked in what the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget referred to as the preoperational stage of cognitive development, typical of children ages 2 to as late as 7.
As a fan, Mortal Wombat/Purveyor of Truth ("What is up with Media Pushing Popular Vote"), explains at the Hannity Forum, "this map shows to me that more of the country wanted a change. But the Libs really need to stop talking about the Popular vote. It keeps fueling the flames of the rioters."

Monday, February 20, 2017

Cheap shot: If at first you don't succeed


So I followed this guy under the impression that he must be a dadaist:

Apparently not, he's just another 4chan creep who does this kind of thing not because he has a sense of humor but because he doesn't have one.

Anyway later on, rushing to the defense of our president's opinion that something terrible involving Muslim migrants had happened in Sweden last night, or at any rate some time...



Sadly, no. A little research revealed that this video depicts a quaint native Malmö custom where the indigens get a little drunk on the evening of December 31. And some of the guys end up shooting fireworks at each other, which would be rowdy and crude and something you would not see in, say, Stockholm or Uppsala. But I don't think you'll find any immigrants in that video. They feel it's too dangerous.

The quid for the quo

Evromaidan, November 2013, via Wikipedia. Of course some people will still tell you this was arranged by George Soros and Victoria Nuland. But they're the same people that think Putin is a leftist.
So the stakes Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is playing for just clarified themselves, in a big way, in this Times story by Megan Twohey and Scott Shane: It's not just relief from sanctions imposed on the Russian Federation over its seizure of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine, though that's included; it's really the restoration of the Russian Empire (not the USSR, which aspired toward socialism, but the older, murkily religious and violently patriarchal thing, where Moscow used to refer to itself as the "Third Rome", the successor to Byzantium, the uniter of Europe and Asia under the banner of Christ and Orthodoxy).

Which has to go somewhat beyond the story Twohey and Shane (constricted by the rules of proper journalism) are telling, which is basically about palace intrigue in Washington, and a proposal for lifting sanctions that was working its way through the National Security Council at the time old Flynn got himself fired: