Sunday, July 25, 2021

It's Complicated, Ross


Monsignor Ross Douthat, apostolic nuncio to 42nd Street, has a new complaint, or meta-complaint, above and beyond the usual ones that liberals are too permissive about sex (1960s hippie edition) or not permissive enough (2010s feminism)—that we can't make up our minds between the two at all ("Can the Left Regulate Sex?"):

in its retreat from the Polanski era, its concession that sometimes it’s OK to forbid, cultural progressivism entered into a long internal struggle over what its goal ought to be — to maximize permissiveness with some minimalist taboos (no rape, no sex with children) or to devise a broader set of sexual regulations that would reflect egalitarian and feminist values rather than religious ones.

This tension is visible all over recent history. The mood in which liberals defended Bill Clinton’s philandering was an example of the more permissive option. The mood of the #MeToo era, which condemned cads as well as rapists, is an example of the more regulatory approach.

Taken for granted that "we" literally have to "regulate sex", because

Friday, July 23, 2021

Stupid Economist Tricks: Sex, Lies, and Deficit Terror

Tom Toles did not cite a source for that 97% figure. Then again, unlike Michael Strain, he is paid to be a cartoonist.

Actually, no, no sex, just Michael Strain of the American Enterprise Institute, warning readers of The New York Times that

Biden Is Asking for $4 Trillion. Congress Shouldn’t Give It to Him.

He seems to like this headline format. Last time I had reason to deal with him, in 2015, it was with reference to a WaPo piece recommending the repeal of the Affordable Care Act:

End Obamacare, and people could die. That's okay.

Spoiler: my commentary concluded that it was not okay. And the GOP Congress, failing to end Obamacare, sort of agreed! I mean not exactly, but we won.

Anyway, the reason Strain would like Congress to refuse Biden the money, or at least the $3.5 trillion of it to be appropriated through the budget reconciliation process without requiring any Republican votes, is ostensibly the raging inflation he (Michael Strain) sees and expects to see continuing through next year even without this extra spending, and which would surely be aggravated by the increased demand for stuff (where "demand" means, as it usually does in this style of economics, "ability to pay for things you really need that you couldn't afford before") that the spending on the expanded child tax credit in particular will bring on by yanking people out of their God-appointed poverty, while the Biden administration makes no plans for increasing the supply of stuff, other than by PROVIDING THE UNIVERSAL FREE PRE-K EDUCATION that recipients of the child tax credit are most likely to be spending it on, but you can't expect Strain to make that connection.

So in the course of his argument he gives a lot of attention to an analysis of the Biden program by Moody's, in which for some reason he doesn't offer a link to it:

Thursday, July 22, 2021

For the Record: Debt Ceiling

The original debt ceiling crisis of 2011, as captured by cartoonist Jen Sorensen.

Did you all realize that the US debt ceiling actually doesn't exist, and hasn't existed for the past eight years? Though it will return, like a zombie, at the end of the month if Congress doesn't manage to stop it.

I did know, without realizing I did until our friend Dr. Volts asked:


James Gillray, 1791, "The Hopes of the Party Before July 14", showing the Whig leader Charles James Fox as ready to chop off the head of George III, while Queen Charlotte and the Tory leader William Pitt the Younger, upper right, have already been executed. That's what I call partisanship! British Museum, via Nynorsk Wikiwand (they had the best resolution). 

Nice piece wondering about the way we fetishize "bipartisanship", by the historian Nicole Hemmer at CNN's website, localizes the moment we're nostalgic for, when bipartisanship was apparently good in its own right:

For much of US history, bipartisanship was not lionized. It was only in the mid-20th century that bipartisan compromise began to confer a golden sheen on legislation. That's in part because it was more attainable, and because at times, the results were profoundly beneficial. The two major parties had become a mishmash of ideologies: there were liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats, and on the major issues of the day, bipartisanship made life-changing legislation possible. The Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights ActMedicare, Medicaid — all bipartisan.
    In the 1940s and 1950s, with the threat of totalitarianism looming large in the American imagination, there was something particularly beneficial to politicians about championing bipartisanship. It showed voters (along with foreign leaders and allies abroad) that American lawmakers followed a standard higher than simple party interests. Compromise elevated them to the ranks of technocratic statesmen (they were nearly all men) who were unencumbered by devotion to party, who were instead dedicated to higher ideals and first principles.

    I think that may be understating how weird that time was historically, and not quite healthy, and how much the very tenuousness of some of those accomplishments is related to the peculiarity of the situation.

    Wednesday, July 21, 2021

    If Chris Ran the Circus


    The Spotted Atrocious.

    The Most Chris Cillizza Thing Ever:

    If you ever held any hope that the House select committee on the January 6 US Capitol riot might produce a report that would help us understand what happened in the lead-up to that day and, in so doing, provide us avenues to keeping it from happening again, you should give up on those hopes now.

    The reason? Speaker Nancy Pelosi's decision Wednesday to reject two of the five nominees -- Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jim Banks of Indiana -- put forward by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to serve on the panel.

    Absolutely! How could be possibly come to understand what happened in the lead-up to January 6 without Gym Jordan flapping his arms, barking like a dog, and running back and forth on the tabletops? We completely depend on Gym Jordan and Jim Banks for our ability to understand virtually anything!

    Wait, who is Jim Banks? He's somebody who's gone from backing the Mueller investigation during his first term

    Monday, July 19, 2021

    Class War Comix


    Class War Comix 1, by Skip Williamson, ca. 1970

    Eric Levitz at New York informs us:

    In a 2019 report, the consulting firm Cerulli Associates projected that, over the next quarter century, roughly 45 million U.S. households will collectively bequeath $68.4 trillion to their heirs. This transfer will constitute the largest redistribution of wealth in human history. Generation X stands to inherit 57 percent of that $68.4 trillion; millennials will collect the bulk of the rest.

    Millennials, in other words, are one day going to be a lot richer (or at least, some millennials are). In the coming years, that reality is likely to heighten the generation’s class contradictions – and just might redraw the dividing lines in American politics.

    How many millennials, exactly? Not too many, apparently. Levitz calls it about 10% who will be getting all that money, while the other 90% will continue being "one of the the poorest generations ever", crippled by debt and largely unable to build wealth, unstable in employment, often deprived by employers (in the gig economy) of benefits, and delayed in starting families. The typical Millennial holds 41% less wealth than an adult of similar age did in 1989, according to one report in 2019, and these meager holdings are very unequally distributed, especially on ethnic-racial lines:

    Sunday, July 18, 2021

    Vaccine Skeptics

    Pyrrho of Elis, founder of the Skeptical School, holds rigorously to principle. Existential Comics.

    Predictably, it turns out that liberals are to blame for vaccine hesitancy—Murc's Law again—because we're "condescending" and that hurts the feelings of people who might otherwise go for it. We're treating them as mulish when they're in fact skeptical, Michael Brendan Dougherty opines at National Review:

    Proponents of the vaccine are unwilling or unable to understand the thinking of vaccine skeptics — or even admit that skeptics may be thinking at all. Their attempts to answer skepticism or understand it end up poisoned by condescension, and end up reinforcing it.

    Skeptics! So we should be persuading them with sweet reason, not treating them as idiots, as, according to Michael Brendan Doughterty, we are all doing, as when Senator Cornyn says the doubts are "based on conspiracy theories" or Senator Romney calls it "moronic":

    Friday, July 16, 2021

    American Identity Politics

    Can't find a decent credit for this photo, but I think it's Kabul in 1960s sometime.

    Shorter David F. Brooks, "The American Identity Crisis", New York Times, 16 July 2021:

    Why can't liberals be more neoconservative? Don't they have any moral consistency at all?

    Really, that's about the whole thing. He's regretting the withdrawal from Afghanistan, and while he recognizes that the Bush-era invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were a catastrophe causing the US to lose confidence in its ability to spread democracy and be a lamp unto the nations, he doesn't get why that should prompt us to quit. Just because our adventure in Afghanistan is a total failure, is that any reason to quit Afghanistan? 

    I guess what befuddles me most is the behavior of the American left. I get why Donald Trump and other American authoritarians would be ambivalent about America’s role in the world. They were always suspicious of the progressive package that America has helped to promote.

    But every day I see progressives defending women’s rights, L.G.B.T.Q. rights and racial justice at home and yet championing a foreign policy that cedes power to the Taliban, Hamas and other reactionary forces abroad.

    We told you not to invade in the first place! We've been telling you for 40 years! You can't liberate people by force! They need to liberate themselves!

    Literary Corner: Made of Garbage

    Via eBay (sold already).


    By Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States of America

    Nobody had ever heard
    of some of these people
    that worked for me in D.C.
    All of a sudden, the Fake
    News starts calling them.
    Some of them—by no means all—
    feel emboldened, brave, and
    for the first time in their lives,
    they feel like "something special,"
    not the losers that they are—
    and they talk, talk, talk!
    Many say I am the greatest
    star-maker of all time.
    But some of the stars I produced
    are actually made of garbage.