Friday, September 18, 2020

For the Record: Stupid Economist Tricks

Nice example of what Bos called a "Marshall McLuhan moment" ("You know nothing of my work," said the Canadian sage, appearing out of nowhere in the ticket line):

Fairly clear what happened here: Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute (where he edits Downsizing Government) is testifying before the Congressional Oversight Commission, a new body set up in April to monitor the workings of the CARES act, of which Bharat Ramamurti, just off his service as one of the top economic aides to Elizabeth Warren's presidential campaign is the only so far appointed commissioner, and he is explaining that according to this extremely authoritative paper by Valerie Ramey, government spending does not grow the economy very much, and Ramamurti says well, how about this spot in the paper where it says it does, and Edwards says, approximately, "Homina homina homina—uncertainty!—homina homina," and Ramumurti, says, approximately, "Because I called her up the other night and she said, yeah, that's exactly what she meant."

But that's not how the economics frat boys saw it: they saw Ramamurti as having sprung some kind of dishonorable trap on the witness:

Thursday, September 17, 2020

It's the Bribery, Stupid

In 2018, according to Dan Alexander at Vanity Fair, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), 70% owned by the Chinese government, or, as the Republicans have taken to (inaccurately) calling it, THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF CHINA, which had been renting some 20,000 square feet on and around the 20th floor of Trump Tower for its US headquarters for some years, certainly well before Trump got into politics, took out a lease on 99,000 square feet a few blocks away in Paramount Plaza, on Broadway at 51st Street, leaving the market to assume they'd be moving out of Trump Tower, but they didn't:

“They are keeping a couple of floors,” Eric Trump conceded onstage at a business conference weeks before the original lease was scheduled to expire [in 2019]. According to the Trump Organization’s own marking materials, the floors inside Trump Tower contain roughly 15,000 square feet. So by keeping “a couple of floors,” the Chinese bank was apparently staying in most—if not all—of its previously occupied 20,000 square feet. These days, it’s unclear exactly how much the China-owned bank is paying the president. If the rent is the same as it was before, then Trump will collect $7.8 million from the bank by the end of his first term in office. 

Alexander calculates that this represents about $1.2 million in profits for the Trump Organization for the first two years (2017-18), when Trump donated $343,000 to the Treasury as his "total profits from foreign governments" for those two years, with no specifications as to where the number came from. Since his profits from one single foreign-government tenant were nearly three times that, you can get a feeling for how dishonest this plan always was.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

My Vote Is a Precious Thing


Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute, in the Washington Post:

In 2016, I never considered voting for Donald Trump. The Johnny-come-lately Republican and his nasty schoolyard jibes seemed to me the worst degradation of American politics.

Well, yes, though she didn't do anything to stop him from getting elected in 2016,

"[W]hile I will never vote for a Democrat in wolf’s clothing like Trump, I will also never vote for a candidate as dishonest, as rapacious, as Hillary Clinton," Pletka told Politico's Michael Crowley in an email. "My vote is a precious thing."

and started softening on him the weekend before Election Day, wriggling toward Just-the-Tip-Trumper status,

Donald Trump is probably going to lose the election Tuesday. For many Republicans and conservatives, that will be a blessed release from an annus horribilis. But we will make a fatal error going forward if we do not acknowledge what Trump got right and attempt to fix the problems that enabled his hostile takeover of the GOP.

Consider the Trump themes that resonated deeply with tens of millions of Americans: We don’t win anymore. We have no strategy to fight our enemies. Our allies aren’t paying enough freight. Defense cuts and feckless leadership are projecting American weakness. Trade deals help only some Americans. Washington doesn’t work. Separate the bill of particulars from Trump the person, and the reality is, these complaints make sense.

Funny, they hadn't made that much sense to her in June 2016, on the allies paying freight:

Monday, September 14, 2020

Stiffing the Social Contractors

Image via National Compass.

Steve M
has brought up this Atlantic essay by Shadi Hamid ("The Democrats May Not Be Able to Concede: If Trump wins, especially after losing the popular vote, the left may draw the wrong conclusions"), which offers a curious kind of funhouse mirror image of what some of us fear might follow Biden's likely victory in November, a "populist" rejection of the results by some of Trump's fanatical armed white followers, Proud Boys and Bikers For Trump, Three Percenters and Patriot Prayer, the Minnesota Patriot Alliance and the Michigan Militia, while Trump himself dithers in the White House and refuses to accept that he's lost the election denouncing its imaginary "rigging" by an army of millions of ballot forgers stealing people's ballots out of their mailboxes, a possibility of real violence. 

To Hamid, bothsiderist compulsion suggests a comparable rising of fanatical Bidenites:

A loss by Joe Biden under these circumstances [combined with a popular vote victory, because it's clear Trump won't obtain that] is the worst case not because Trump will destroy America (he can’t), but because it is the outcome most likely to undermine faith in democracy, resulting in more of the social unrest and street battles that cities including Portland, Oregon, and Seattle have seen in recent months. For this reason, strictly law-and-order Republicans who have responded in dismay to scenes of rioting and looting have an interest in Biden winning—even if they could never bring themselves to vote for him.

This may be meant as a sort of arch, amused way of urging proper, non-fanatical conservatives to vote for Biden (unnecessary; all 14 of them, writing for The Bulwark and appearing nightly on CNN and MSNBC, are backing Biden already), but it's pretty offensive, to both parts of the Venn diagram covering Biden-supporting Democrats-as-Democrats and protesters under the general Black Lives Matter umbrella, which is not engaged as such in electoral politics. Nobody who's been smashing shopwindows and setting fires in Minneapolis or Kenosha or the Bronx or anywhere else is either voting for Biden or accepting BLM nonviolent discipline, let alone both. The most politically conscious troublemakers, the guys who get into fistfights with white nationalists and regard themselves as "antifa", are neither, and they don't tend to do anything so counterrevolutionary as voting.

Sunday, September 13, 2020



Web of Deceit: Deadly Sands, by Big Fish Games.

Sometimes with Trump it's really fish in a barrel:

Not to mention that the contributions in question were given only to Jill McCabe's campaign, not to "him and his wife" (way to acknowledge that you do regard campaign contributions as personal income, to be spent any way you choose, Donald, which is what young Duncan Hunter got 11 months for doing, and I do hope laundering campaign money into your wallet through your businesses is one of the things you get charged with), nor in any sense illegal, and had nothing to do with Hillary Clinton but were from Terry McAuliffe, the incumbent governor of Virginia. It's at least mildly amusing that he doesn't remember he's the one who gave McCabe the job.

I'm pretty much running out of what passed for a sense of humor since what is to my mind the most sinister of Trump's confessions to Woodward, on the order of Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman to a team of his thugs to murder the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, spiriting away the remains after dismembering them with a bone saw, in October 2018:

Friday, September 11, 2020

Hi It's Stupid: Rudy

Painting by Burhan Dogancay,1998, via WikiArt.

Hi, it's Stupid to say Rodolfo Giuliani really had no idea Andrij Derkach was a Russian agent. No, hear me out!

Giuliani had been hanging out last December with Derkach, a Ukrainian MP formerly from the Russia-backed Party of Regions and supporter of the corrupt president Viktor Yanukovych, now in exile in Russia, and Ph.D. graduate of the KGB's Higher School in Moscow (his dissertation was on the "Organization and Conduct of Meetings With Secret Agents"), and Derkach had supplied him with edited audio of phone conversations between Ukraine's former president Petro Poroshenko and then–Vice President Joe Biden, which Giuliani believes, or claims to believe, are evidence of some kind of corruption on Biden's part, though The Washington Post was not convinced in May:

The recordings played at the news conference Tuesday [19May] shed relatively little new light on Biden’s actions in Ukraine, which were at the center of President Trump’s impeachment last year. They show that Biden, as he has previously said publicly, linked loan guarantees for Ukraine to the ouster of the country’s prosecutor general in 2015. But Derkach used the new clips to make an array of accusations not proven by the tapes...

The tapes released in Kyiv offered no evidence to back Giuliani’s long-standing accusation that Biden pushed for the prosecutor general’s ouster to help his son. At the time, Hunter Biden was earning between $50,000 and $100,000 a month on the board of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma, whose owner, a former government minister, was under investigation in Ukraine. Still, the tapes gave Trump’s allies a chance to recycle that allegation closer to the 2020 election.

Derkach did not say he had gotten the tapes from the FSB, but rather than he got them from unnamed "investigative journalists" who had in turned obtained them from recordings made by President Poroshenko himself, which is not quite easy to believe .

But in a startling twist yesterday, it turned out that Derkach is a Russian agent! According to the US Treasury Department, which has slapped him with sanctions: 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Literary Corner: Crisis of Con- Con- Confidence


Dorothea Tanning, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (1943), via Artsy.

Leadership Is All About Confidence

by Donald J. Trump

Well, I mean, you didn’t — you didn’t really
think it was going to be to the point where
it was. All of a sudden, the world was infected.

The entire world was infected. Everyone was
scrambling around, looking where to buy facemasks
and all of the other things. We’ve opened up factories.
We’ve had tremendous success with facemasks
and with shields and with the ventilators.

We’re now supplying the rest of the world.
We have all the ventilators we can use.
And remember this: The ventilators were
very important. Not one person that needed
a ventilator didn’t get it. And these are
very complex, expensive machines to make.

We opened up something like hadn’t been
done since the Second World War. We —
honestly, we’ve done a — an incredible job.
But we don’t want to run around, screaming, shouting,
“Oh, look at this. Look at this.” We have to show
leadership. And leadership is all about confidence.
And confidence is confidence in our country.

The $3-billion project to ramp up the production of ventilators, the breathing machines that keep intubated patients alive, is actually one of the most farcical episodes in the whole history of the Trump response to Covid-19, because it took too long to get going, while the favored treatments for the disease evolved and changed, and doctors stopped doing so many intubations, and by the time General Motors and Ford, General Electric and Philips had finished establishing supply chains, engineering models, and training workers, and were making all the ventilators needed, they weren't in fact needed any more: