Saturday, September 30, 2017

What the emperor did for Puerto Rico

Bankruptcy photo, via CNN Money.
It is totally unfair, as the Washington Post fact checkers say ("Three Pinocchios", though PolitiFact gives it a less dismissive "Half-True"), to suggest that Donald Trump is in any way responsible for the $33 million added to Puerto Rico's debt by the failure of the Trump International Golf Club Puerto Rico (formerly known as the Coco Beach Golf and Country Club).

The worst you can say is that he took something north of $600,000 ($600K for the first five years of the deal), or "many millions" according to Eric Trump,  to rescue Puerto Rico from the debt, without doing a goddamned thing, in spite of his promises that he would be "very actively involved" and substantially invested financially.
“Puerto Rico is a fantastic place and deserves the best, which is what we will deliver,” Trump said at a 2008 news conference on the island. “Every detail will be important to me.”
Eric Trump, appearing at the same news conference, said that the Trumps would be “very actively involved in this development at all levels” and that they had “a very substantial equity contribution” in the project.
But public records filed as part of the bankruptcy show that the Trumps had no equity in the property.

The emperor is displeased

Downtown San Juan at night, a week after the hurricane, photo by Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/Getty via CNBC.
On Wednesday September 20, Hurricane Maria, the tenth most intense Atlantic storm in history, the strongest to hit the US possession of Puerto Rico since 1928 and the second wettest, dumping almost 38 inches of water on the eastern mountain city of Caguas, began wiping out 100% of the power grid on the island, leaving 3.4 millions American citizens without electricity, and with no access to food and safe drinking water beyond what they'd managed to lay in getting ready for the storm, or gas.

On Thursday the 21st, President Trump headed off for a long weekend at his Bedminster golf club, interrupted only by a visit to Alabama (campaigning for Senator Luther Strange, who lost his primary on the 26th).

Friday, September 29, 2017

There's always something multilayered

Taylor Swift in "Look What You Made Me Do". As Lionel Trilling writes, "Society requires of us that we present ourselves as being sincere, and the most efficacious way of satisfying this demand is to see to it that we really are sincere, that we actually are what we want our community to know we are. In short, we play the role of being ourselves, we sincerely act the part of the sincere person, with the result that a judgement may be passed upon our sincerity that it is not authentic."

It's world-famous music critic David F. Brooks with an exciting new discovery ("What Sincerity Looks Like"): Chance the Rapper. He is sincere, whereas Taylor Swift is merely authentic.

In Lionel Trilling’s old distinction, sincerity is what you shoot for in a trusting society. You try to live honestly and straightforwardly into your social roles and relationships. Authenticity is what you shoot for in a distrustful society. You try to liberate your own personality by rebelling against the world around you, by aggressively fighting against the society you find so vicious and corrupt.
No, really. Swift's recent "This is What You Made Me Do" is "a song for a society without social trust." It "contains a string of references to Swift’s various public beefs — with Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Katy Perry, and so on. If Donald Trump or his political enemies made a video about their Twitter wars, it would look like this." Its crucial lyric is 'I don’t trust nobody and nobody trusts me.' The world is full of snakes. The only way to survive is through combat."

In this Taylor Swift "has lost touch with herself and seems to have been swallowed by the ethos of the Trump era." She resembles Johnny Cash in his work of the 1950s:

Thursday, September 28, 2017

For the Record. III: Big Switch

Fanny Lou Hamer of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Via Ujima Magazine.

For the Record. II: God Bless America

Irving Berlin in 1906 (18 years old), already unable to play in any key other than F#, via Wikipedia.

For the Record. I: Socialist Hitler

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The travel ban, whatever it is

Wabash River, via Indiana Policy Review.

Why Sudanese Are No Longer Banned from Traveling in the United States but North Koreans Are, Even Though Their Goverment Doesn't Allow Them to Try to Get In
A Poem
by Donald J. Trump
Well, the people —
yeah, the people allowed —
certain countries — but
we can add countries very easily
and we can take countries away.
And as far as the travel ban
is concerned, whatever it is,
I want the toughest
travel ban you can have.
So I’ll see you in Indiana.
We’re going to go over
some more points that
have not been talked about.
Text from Think Progress.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Ill-educated But Well-off White Sexagenarians are the Real Hippies

Mungo Thomson, "Levitating Pentagon", colored pencil on paper, 2004, via Kenneth Pobo.

But before I get to David F. Brooks, in breaking news, the Senate just did something: confirmed Trump's second nominee to the National Labor Relations Board, corporate lawyer William Emanuel, giving it a Republican majority which is expected to take away some of the gains achieved by workers during the past three or so years (for most of Obama's two terms, Senate Republicans wouldn't allow him to have a functioning National Labor Relations Board at all). Or at least that's what Senators Warren and Murray are worried about (I'm quoting from Fortune):
that he would favor industry over workers on a board they view as tasked with protecting fair working conditions and the right to collective bargaining.
However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) said the board should act as a neutral party in the resolution of labor disputes, rather than explicitly protecting workers as his Democratic colleagues suggested. He said the board had become too activist under Obama and expressed hope that Emanuel could return it to impartiality.
For their part, industry groups said they welcomed the addition and hoped Emanuel would soon lead the board to undo Obama-era policies, including allowing employees to organize in “micro-unions” and holding franchisors responsible for franchisees’ violations of labor law.
Love how McConnell objects to fairness because that's not neutral and feels the Board needs to be more passive (its official mission is to enforce the 1935 National Labor Relations Act protecting the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively, not to beam equally on the parties to a dispute and ask them to get along).

Anyway I guess that must be what Brooks is getting at with his lede this morning:

Monday, September 25, 2017

Left narrowly wins German election!

Not exactly, but:

Seat apportionment after Sunday's election, via Frankfurter Allgemeine.
If you added up all the seats won by the right—the "Union" parties of the Christian Democrats and their "Christian Social" Bavarian branch (down from 41.5% of the vote four years ago to not quite 33% this year, in their worst showing in the history of the Federal Republic) plus the Nazioid Alternativ für Deutschland which will be in parliament for the first time, with a frightening 96 seats—they'd be six representatives short of a majority; and if you added up all those of the non-right, including the miserable Social Democrats (also in their worst showing in the history of the Federal Republic, down from 25.7 to 20.8%), the resurgent Federal Democrats ("liberals" in the old free-trader sense like the old British Liberal Democrats or the new French "République en Marche") who were shut out four years ago and are now back, the Greens and the solidly anti-capitalist Left, you'd have enough to form a government.

Not that that's going to happen. It looks like there's going to be what they're calling a "Jamaica coalition"—black, gold, and green, meaning conservatives, "liberals", and Greens, and I have no idea how that's supposed to work (somebody on BBC was saying that the Greens and the Bavarian conservatives hate each other with a keenness that goes beyond the bounds of German normal).

The Sozis will be leaving the coalition to serve as the Official Opposition, which is a thing in Germany, and there's apparently something more to that than just trying to prove they're different from Merkel's conservatives; if they had stayed in the coalition, the Nazioid AfD would be the Official Opposition, with little constitutional power, but an extended right to committee seats and a front rank in questioning and criticizing the government, and it looks as if everybody else has agreed that they need to avoid that.

The AfD's 13% of the vote, and the 96 seats in the Bundestag it gets them, feel very shocking, but it could be worse. Remember Marine Le Pen got 21.3% in the first round of the French presidential, and 33-something in the second round. I wish the Sozis could think of something to get votes with, but in the meantime nobody in German politics is quite like a Republican, and they've got an incredible health care system.

Jamaican flag via.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Monsignor thinks it would be better to change the subject

Concerned cat. Uncredited photo from Washington Post.
Well, we've got a request from Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, which is ("The Health Care Cul-de-Sac") would everybody please stop talking about health care?

sometimes, when a party has spent most of a year producing health care bills that excite almost nobody and that even the senators voting for them can’t effectively defend, it’s worth stepping back and thinking about our national priorities.
This goes for both parties: not only the stepping-on-rakes Republicans, but the suddenly single-payer-dreaming Democrats.
I wouldn't say those Republican health care bills excite almost nobody: somebody must be excited over the thought of getting rid of the Obamacare brand, or the employer mandate, or above all the concept of eliminating Medicaid as a federal program, or these things wouldn't keep coming back again and again from their zombie graves.

On the other hand, it's still less accurate to say the Democrats have spent most of a year producing unexciting health care bills that the Senators voting for them haven't been able to defend. Democrats have spent some time working on drafts of bills nobody's had a chance to vote on, inspiring various degrees of excitement, including the Sanders "Medicare for All" proposal launched on September 13 with endorsements from a really startling number of Democratic Senators including Tammy Baldwin, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Al Franken, Patrick Leahy, Jeanne Shaheen, Mazie Hirono, Brian Schatz (though he's offering a bill of his own as well), Kamala Harris, and Cory Booker, and more, as well as 60% of the Democratic caucus in the House, and a public that may have gone back to its longstanding desire for government-guaranteed universal health care after giving up on it while we were waiting for the PPACA to come into effect—

Saturday, September 23, 2017


 Image from Steve D at Bits and Pieces.
There was an old fellow from Nambia
Who traded in pepper and gambier.
     When he asked, "Am I tough?"
     They said, "Hardly enough—
You're just getting Nambia-pambier!"

Friday, September 22, 2017

Exorcising the history of conservatism, Part 1,727

Sam Francis, untitled painting 1962, Jacobson Gallery, via WideWalls.

David Brooks discusses the reactionary, anti-immigrant and (at least theologically) pro-slavery, Machiavellian writer Samuel T. Francis (1947-2005) , not to be confused with Sam Francis (1923-94), the wonderful abstract expressionist colorist ("The Coming War on Business"):
The only time I saw Sam Francis face-to-face — in the Washington Times cafeteria sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s — I thought he was a crank, but it’s clear now that he was at that moment becoming one of the most prescient writers of the past 50 years. There’s very little Donald Trump has done or said that Francis didn’t champion a quarter century ago.
OK, I'm going to stick my neck out and say it was probably 1986, the year David Brooks left his first adult job, at the Moonie Times as we call it, to move on to the more respectable Wall Street Journal, and Samuel T. Francis, then 39, joined the Times as a columnist. It seems easier to imagine them being in the paper's cafeteria at the same time during however many months it was both of them worked there than at any other time. "Prescient" is a really peculiar word choice: Francis wasn't foreseeing the advent of Trumpery on the basis of interesting theoretical labors, or a prophetic gift, he was actively working for it, in the form of what Pat Buchanan called "paleoconservatism".

This is going to be one of those efforts to show how completely unexpected and foreign Trumpery is to the Republican Party and the conservative movement, waltzing into the Washington Times cafeteria one day out of nowhere. The thesis is that it was Francis, "wickedly brilliant" but sadly "infected with racism"—

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


Nancy: "He can't use chopsticks, can he?" Chuck: "He can't use judgment." Via New York Daily News.
I can't really stand to write about the congressional health care agita unless I can see a glimmer of hope somewhere, and it's obviously been looking very bleak for the last week or two over there and getting bleaker, reaching a kind of climax of awfulness yesterday, when Lamar Alexander of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee announced he was giving up on the bipartisan bill he and Patty Murray had been working on to keep the Obamacare marketplace going through another year, just as it had started to sound like a negotiating breakthrough, and the project of saving the PPACA that had seemed so hopeful a week or two ago was dead.

Then there was something weird about that: according to the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin (yes, in this brave new world I can be reduced from time to time to quoting Jennifer Rubin, and retweeting David Frum too), it wasn't an inability to bridge that partisan divide that had killed the Alexander-Murray bill, it was Majority Leader McConnell:

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Your debutante just knows what you need

Shanghai speciality, Four Happiness braised pork, one of those idiotically simple and unbearably delicious Chinese ways of slow-cooking pork, via The Spruce.
David Brooks starts off aspirationally ("When Life Asks for Everything"):

I’d like to offer you two models of human development.
Heh. He'd like to, but unfortunately he didn't bring any with him. He's only got these Great Chain of Being hierarchies of—well, of two different things, one of which is sometimes applied to development:

The first is what you might call The Four Kinds of Happiness. The lowest kind of happiness is material pleasure, having nice food and clothing and a nice house. Then there is achievement, the pleasure we get from earned and recognized success. Third, there is generativity, the pleasure we get from giving back to others. Finally, the highest kind of happiness is moral joy, the glowing satisfaction we get when we have surrendered ourselves to some noble cause or unconditional love.
The second model is Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs. In this conception, we start out trying to satisfy our physical needs, like hunger or thirst. Once those are satisfied we move up to safety needs, economic and physical security. Once those are satisfied we can move up to belonging and love. Then when those are satisfied we can move up to self-esteem. And when that is satisfied we can move up to the pinnacle of development, self-actualization, which is experiencing autonomy and living in a way that expresses our authentic self.
The first of these is is a philosophical paradigm, fundamentally the four different kinds of satisfaction different humans aim at, as defined by Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics—material gratification, money making, political action, and contemplation—with the theotropic interpretation, God-haunting at the fourth level, projected on it by centuries of Roman Catholic doctrinal development, dimmed in the fog of Brooks's suburbanity, which can imagine only kinds of happiness available to guys at a certain income level living in Montgomery or Westchester County. The second is Abraham Maslow's psychological paradigm aiming at characterizing the different kinds of need that are common to all people. It's not about how "we start out" but how the world starts out with us. A primary way in which they are completely unrelated is right there: Aristotle and successors are addressing you on what you can do for yourself ("What kinds of things can I want?") and Maslow, the therapist, is telling people how to help set goals for others ("What kinds of emotions does my child or patient need?").

Brooks thinks both hierarchies are moral scales, arranged from the lowest to the highest good, but this is completely wrong.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Spicey Meatball

Melissa McCarthy, via Death and Taxes.
You know what I'd like Sean Spicer to do? I'd like him to show up on national television to tell everybody in the world that taxpayers were paying him substantial sums of money to tell the American people lies so incredible he could hardly keep a straight face, and that rather than being ashamed of this abuse of the public trust he actually thought it was kind of funny.

Oh wait, that's what he did.

The narrative of what a terrible thing Colbert and the Emmy producers did in having Spicey on the show, participating in the mockery of his character, is being led by folks like Chris Cillizza

and Frank Bruni

Forgotten but not gone

Click to embiggen for the full effect.
Don't think everybody's heard about this yet: Utah-based fine artist Jon McNaughton's new oil, returning to the composition of his 2016 painting The Forgotten Man in a piece entitled You Are Not Forgotten, in which his clear allegorical style has given way to something more strange and fanciful, even surrealistic. Below the same park bench in front of the White House where the forgotten man sat in despair in the earlier work, the dirt has been paved over with little stones, between which a tiny plant has unexpectedly bloomed (like the pilgrim's staff in the opera), and the forgotten man is starting to dig it out with his trusty trowel, presumably planning to take this federal parks property home, while a woman and girl watch, solemnly—the woman holding a Kool-Aid pitcher of water ready to pour onto the back of his neck, or perhaps into his hood, in case he gets overheated. At his left, a very slender but slightly stooped President Trump in his characteristic red tie stands where President Obama trampled the Constitution underfoot in the first painting, hand outstretched in an Ecce Homo gesture pointing the formerly forgotten man out to his diverse audience of mostly veteran and serving members of the military (I can't recognize any of them by name, other than maybe Pence just behind his right shoulder), just in case they haven't remembered him yet. A serpent (the don't-tread-on-me snake of the Revolutionary War?) is biting him in the ankle, and his right hand has miraculously grown to twice the size of his left.

The original Forgotten Man.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Emperor's New Information

Illustration by Thórarinn Leifsson for H.C. Anderson's story, 2004.
Jordan was commenting the other day on Trump's knowledge, or lack thereof, of the health care system in the US, I mean the whole thing of how it's paid for, insurance and the PPACA:
I don't think he's ever dealt with it in his own life, and I don't think he pays any attention to his employees' plans or is even aware of how any of that works. Just give everyone health care, for cheap...and remove the taint of Obama...what's the problem? I literally think that there was no more to his thinking than this, until after he was elected and he vaguely understood that something "complicated" was being dealt with (the way a wealthy socialite listens impatiently to a mechanic's description of the problem with the Mercedes, only grasping that she a) can't drive it now and b) will have to pay a lot of money), but even those ideas (along with any chance of his grasping the filibuster, the budget reconciliation maneuver, or those people approaching Australia in boats) were gone the moment those people left the room.
It put me in mind of something Trump said back in October that I never managed to write about, that proves the point pretty effectively, at a staff event at his Doral golf resort in the Miami area:

For the Record: The Little Lies

I think I may have come to the end of this series on Gunga Dinesh and his Big Lie; I've managed to prove he's a liar twice in one thread, and I know he's listening, because he gave me a bit of a response.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

For the Record: Interpretive dance in Kentucky, and much ado about voting.

And in some possibly more serious news that almost got interesting for a few minutes,

Friday, September 15, 2017

Brooks says it ain't broke...

Margaret W. Tarrant (1888-1959), Fairy Market, via sprookjeswereld.
It's world-famous economics critic David F. Brooks—we haven't heard from that one in a while!—with some cheerful news ("The Economy Isn't Broken"): there are no structural flaws in the economy!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Foils! Cursed Again!

Via SevenDaysVT.

Is this the sound of thinking, in some respect? What does Trump think is going on here? How does he think things happen? What does he think might require him to use his veto power, that wouldn't have happened if the Republicans had succeeding in getting a something through the Senate? Is the single-payer proposal a kind of asteroid homing in on America, through Bernie's diabolical will, that the Senate Republicans could have deflected by quick action? But it's not really a problem because Trump can deal with it now?

Does he think the Republican failure to pass one of their stupid Repeal 'n' Replace bills means the Republican majority will now be forced to pass a single-payer plan against their own will? Does he think, a little less crazily, that because of their failure voters will ineluctably give us a Democratic Congress next year, which will ineluctably pass that Berniecare bill, forcing Trump to veto it, which he wouldn't but for the lucky fact that he loves our country?
Is it a real curse? Like, "I, Bernie, ask the powers of Evil, Hecate, Eris, and Dis, to inflict the horrors of single-payer upon the wicked Americans!" "No!" cries Trump, "Never, you hate-filled monster, not while I'm alive!" What universe does he come from, and how can we get him back there?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Fire Next Time. II

The important part about the David Brooks flood column that commentators seem to have missed is asking, if Noah had such terrible leadership qualities—
What does Noah do now? Once again, Noah is silent. He does nothing. He sits in the ark for another seven days twiddling his thumbs. He is waiting for God’s permission to disembark.
—why did old JHWH pick him for the gig in the first place? I'm sure there must have been some much more suitable candidate.

Look at ingenious Greeks Deucalion and Pyrrha, who figured out how to broaden the gene pool for repopulating the earth after their flood (the Titaness Themis gave them the oracular advice to "throw your mother's bones behind you", so they threw stones—the bones of Mother Earth—over their shoulders and these turned into new people). Did Noah think of anything like that?

Deucalion and Pyrrha casting stones, from relief in the Labirint d'Horta, Barcelona, via Encyclopedia Brittanica.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Fire Next Time

Abraham and Lot separate because their household servants and herdsmen won't stop fighting with each other, Genesis 13:7. Etching by Wenceslas Hollar (1607-77), via fandom.
Shorter David Brooks, "Harvey, Irma, Jose, and ... Noah", New York Times, September 12 2017:
In this fearful season of wind, storm, and flood, we naturally find ourselves asking whether humanity can learn anything from these events, in the form of questions like, Who was the best biblical patriarch, Noah, who had to deal with a worldwide flood, or Abraham, who didn't? Clearly, as many rabbis have said, Noah, who failed to argue with God and try to stop him from drowning all of humanity except for the Noah family, lacked the leadership qualities of Abraham, who protested against the destruction of Sodom. It is possible that Noah drank out of survivor guilt. Noah took an attitude of blind obedience, whereas Abraham had what Rabbi Sacks calls a "hearkening mentality". This is why Noah failed to recreate the world successfully, because he wasn't a strong individual willing to link himself to collective institutions. What, did I say that?
Bonus snuck-in climate change denial:
Today we live amid many floods. Some, like Harvey or Irma, are natural. Others are man-made.

Monday, September 11, 2017

For the Record: Funny, I just happen to have Eric Foner right here with me

Oh, Eric Foner, huh?

Of course I mean the 1960s in the Deep South. Elsewhere the Klan was an impotent force among Democrats well before that. I know in my hometown area in upstate New York near the Pennsylvania border there were Klan rallies as late as the 1950s, but they had nothing to do with the party—in fact those dairy farmers were Republicans already (not for race reasons but for milk price supports).

The general point is very well known; in 1924, the Ku Klux Klan was powerful enough in the Democratic party to prevent the presidential nomination of the Catholic governor of New York, Al Smith (people sometimes forget the Klan used to hate Catholics as much as they hate blacks and Jews—still do, maybe), and by 1928 they didn't any more, and Smith got the nomination, as well as that great "Happy Warrior" speech at the convention from Franklin Roosevelt (it was in the runup to that campaign, on Memorial Day 1927, that Protestant son of a German brothel keeper Fred Trump got arrested in a brawl following a Klan march in Jamaica, Queens, Fred's neighborhood, which happened to be turning strongly African American during the period, though nobody is telling me if that has something to do with the march and fight.

Hey, some of my best friends are lizard people

I really do live in a bubble—when I've seen references online to the shape-shifting lizards running the US government, I thought they were snarking, but it seems there is a guy who makes a living hustling this theory for real, and 12 million Americans who believe him. You still wondering why Trump got 63 million votes in November? I'm guessing he's a shape-shifting frog, and folks see him as their only defense against the reptilians.

A funny thing happened to the international Jewish conspiracy led by liberal financier George Soros, the shape-shifting lizards who constitute the world's elite, including the British royal family (who knew?), and the pallid, hook-nosed, grasping members of the Bavarian Illuminati and their Masonic associates: they started focusing their immense and evil power through former Israeli Labor prime minister Ehud Barak and attorney Eldad Yaniv, head of the anti-corruption Eretz Hadasha party,  on....

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Heiress Apparent?

Grand Duchess Ivanka Donaldovna in Harper's Bazaar, 2007, via Time.
I never really know how serious I am talking about Emperor Trump and Grand Duchess Ivanka and so on, or when I call Ross Douthat a monarchist for that matter, but here's the Monsignor calling for Her Grace to succeed His Imperial Highness, not exactly with great enthusiasm, but remarkable equanimity, as a logical next development ("The Ivanka Way"):
in a White House where everything is inappropriate, Ivanka has been considerably less embarrassing than most, and in an administration whose populist agenda keeps misfiring, she has stayed surprisingly on target.
Trumpism as an ideology is on life support, but its 2016 success means that at some point, Trump will have a would-be ideological heir. It could be some enterprising Republican senator, some as-yet-unknown governor, even a political neophyte. Or it could be yet another celebrity with an aspirational brand, critics to her left and right, and an instinct for heterodox-but-popular ideas.
In our increasingly imperial republic, sometimes the most likely heir is already in the line of succession.
The Grand Duchess's heterodox-but-popular ideas Ross cites because they "reminded me of Ivanka’s father’s 2016 approach to many questions—the Trumpian habit of ignoring the ideological assumptions around an issue, and groping toward views that more Americans might be likely to support" are

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Previously endorsed

There's a primary in New York City on Tuesday, for the mayoral and city council elections, and not much reason for most readers to get excited—Bill de Blasio will win the Democratic spot, and that's all you really need to know at a national level, to run in November against Staten Island assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, the Fox News candidate (she spends so much time on their air I think she may be auditioning for a full-time gig there after she loses). But there's a fun piece of rhetorical flimflam in a brochure from the council race in my district on the Upper West Side, pictured above.

In which "previously endorsed by The New York Times" means, in point of fact, not endorsed by The New York Times, which has come out for the incumbent, Helen Rosenthal. They endorsed Mel Wymore four years ago, when Rosenthal won, and Rosenthal this year.

Stupid Economist Tricks: Hurricane Pricing

Image via The Pediatric Insider.
On September 5 professional economist Tyler Cowen was explaining over at Bloomberg (via Edroso's Twitter feed) about how

Price Gouging Can Be a Type of Hurricane Aid

Higher prices can help resources get to the people who need them most.
And on September 6 we began hearing about airlines dealing with the advent of Irma by jacking prices up almost exactly 900%:

Because who needs a flight out of Miami most? The one who can afford to pay $3600 for the privilege. By Paul Ryan's famous definition of freedom—

Friday, September 8, 2017

Annals of Derp: Silliest Headline Award

Café La Pallaresa, Barcelona, via Yelp.

Raw Story, picked up from Good News Network:

Drinking coffee might make you live 64% longer than those who don’t: study

So, suppose coffee drinkers generally make it to 82 before they die, those who abstain would be dead at 50?

Happily, no. You can feel sorry for those poor souls who don't drink coffee, but not that sorry. In a very large sample of Spanish university graduates who were an average of 37.7 years old in 1999, those who drank four or more cups of coffee a day were 64% less likely to die of all causes from ischemic heart disease to bathtub accidents over the period of a ten-year study, though an overwhelming majority did not die at all during that time (mortality was 337 out of 19,896, or 1.6% of the total; if I've got the arithmetic right, approximately 205 non–coffee drinkers in the sample and 132 indulgers died in those ten years, which is absolutely a significant difference, but not a big number). It doesn't even mean that the abstainers died younger. But if they did, it was definitely less than 32 years. That news story is a totally false and scientifically illiterate account of what the study said.

Incidentally, drawing on my extensive knowledge of Mediterranean cultures based on several months spent in a small town in central Italy a long time ago, people in Spain don't drink coffee at home, and don't drink it in their cubicles or at their factory stations. People who drink four or more cups of coffee per day in Spain are people who stay in the pavement café or bar-cafeteria before work longer than the 20 or 30 seconds it takes to swallow your first café solo or cortado to drink another one and get a bite of something sweet, and come back for more before lunch. They hang out. I'll bet this peculiar little effect has as much to do with that extremely low-intensity, low-risk socializing as it does with the biochemistry of the beverage.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

P.M. Pelosi: Postscript

Trump on a somewhat idealized Fifth Avenue, coloring book, via Dwight Newman.
New detail coming out (and it doesn't take much detail) from Ryan Lizza, via Lemieux, seems to confirm my feelings about this:
The plan was perfect for the G.O.P. The House would pass a “clean” debt ceiling that most Republicans would probably support. In the Senate, Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader, would add the Harvey money and pass the two bills together with the help of Democrats. The plan was to raise the debt ceiling for eighteen months, which would kick the next difficult vote past the 2018 midterm elections. In the House, such a bill likely would have lost some votes from both parties, but, given the urgency of the hurricane aid, it was a decent bet to pass. Best of all, for G.O.P. leaders, the bill would have taken away the Democrats’ debt-ceiling leverage from the coming debates on immigration, government spending, and health care.
But, when conservative Republicans came out vocally against McConnell and Ryan’s plan, Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House, saw an opening. They called for the three-month debt-ceiling deal, which would kick the issue into mid-December, allowing them to maintain their leverage as Congress worked out agreements on other agenda items.
That is, it was the refusal of the "conservatives" to play along—the inability of congressional Republicans to work as a caucus—that aborted Ryan's and McConnell's plan. When they got to the White House they literally had nothing to offer Trump at all, and Pelosi and Schumer had something for which they could deliver the votes. The Republican party has stopped working—it's broken.

Lizza or his New Yorker editor, like Talking Points Memo, has a headline suggesting that "Trump got rolled", but I don't think that's really true at all: Trump got the only thing he seriously wanted, the sense that he'd accomplished something. (As ever, if you think he cares about the content of legislation, you're reading it wrong. He may care a good deal about how it's received, and he hates being accused of breaking promises, but he's not bothered one way or the other about what happens to a few million medical patients or a few hundred thousand involuntary immigrants.) And a big bonus in the particular case, that he's able to avenge himself on McConnell and leaks to the New York Times about how McConnell can't get along with and doesn't respect him. NBC News calls it "payback". (More on that from Jim in comments to previous post.)

We're told this Tweet was Pelosi's idea (h/t Roving Youth Pastor):

That was fairly prime ministerial advice on her part.

Prime Minister Pelosi

In the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun, received from Emperor Akihito in May 2015.
So Schumer is now Lord Chancellor of the Exchecquer, and Pelosi is Prime Minister, or something like that, presenting his imperial majesty with a fiscal program while Ryan and McConnell bite their lips in frustrated rage. Trump's decided to accept a deal in which the debt ceiling is raised (just enough to last three months) and current spending levels are maintained, and there's $8 billion for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, just a few hours after Ryan announced that that deal couldn't be done (he and McConnell want something much longer-term so that Democrats won't have any leverage with them until after the 2018 elections).

All right on schedule, and foreseeable from the day the Senate Republicans couldn't pass that stupid last-ditch health bill, if not earlier. The Republicans are really broken as a parliamentary party now, and getting anything real done in Congress is going to require not just Democratic votes, as we've started understanding, but Democratic leadership.

BooMan is seeing it this way too, at least in part: we shouldn't be seeing Schumer as some kind of genius negotiator, he emphasizes, and still less Trump, because this deal was inevitable from the moment Ryan and McConnell sold Trump the intrinsically doomed idea of beginning the term with the repeal of Obamacare followed by a big tax reform:

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Pretzel of Power

Image via Rudi's Organic Bakery.

Longer Donald J. Trump:
Those Dreamers—young people brought to America before they were six so that they've never known any other country, with stainless records of crime-free goodness, enterprise, and service, but without green cards—are the best thing ever, and nobody loves them more than I do, but unfortunately they are innocent collateral damage in a terrible attack on the Constitution by merciless ex-dictator Barack Obama.
At least that's what I learn from Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, Stephen Bannon, and other tyranny experts in or formerly in my administration. In working out this system allowing Dreamers to stay here longer than criminal aliens and other non-Dreaming types, instead of waiting for Congress to stop refusing to do it, has Violated the Separation of Powers, and this tyranny cannot stand!
Therefore I'm personally annihilating it and ordering Congress to recreate the situation I just destroyed immediately and if they don't I'm going to do it myself just like Obama did, maybe.
Because my respect for the Separation of Powers is so immense.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Dream a Lttle Dream

Charlie Chaplin and Edna Purviance in The Immigrant (1917), via

Call me a contrarian, but I'm convinced Trump's, or Sessions's, cancellation of Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is the best thing that could have happened with the issue, for the DACA recipients in particular, at the very least because if Trump were to have approved the program that lawsuit to stop it threatened by ten state attorneys general would surely have succeeded in the Supreme Court. Not that there are any constitutional flaws in Obama's order establishing the Dreamer category of unauthorized immigrants whose deportation is "deferred" or the argument that it's a function of normal prosecutorial discretion, but that the nine-member Court with Gorsuch is likely to be as relentlessly partisan as the old one with Scalia, and DACA survived in June 2016 only because the Court was tied, with the possible swing vote, Kennedy's against the Dreamers (I've lost track of the excellent Twitter thread that clarified this for me).

Whereas as things are, the six-month implementation delay really does give Congress a chance to act, as it should have done long ago, particularly in 2010-11, when the GOP minority filibustered it to death in line with the McConnell program of not permitting Obama a legislative victory no matter what the merits of the bill (which is why Obama ordered the DACA program in the first place; it was an emergency, and Congress was AWOL). I'm getting the impression the issue may have undergone one of those American sea changes, like marriage equality a short few years ago, and our fearless legislators can't help noticing how Dreamers are suddenly enjoying overwhelming public support—

Monday, September 4, 2017


The moth Darwin predicted must exist, Xanthopan morganii praedicta, using its preternaturally long proboscis on the orchid Angraecum sesquipedale, pollinating it, via Encyclopedia Brittanica.
This is in reaction, I'm not sure it qualifies as response, to comments from Thornton on yesterday's Douthat post, in which he suggests I should stop arguing with Douthat (admittedly not a very dignified position), mentioning Marx, or being "ideological". I think. And some other stuff.
I'm so sick of idiots tied to masts: the First Amendment Liberals obsessed with Antifa, the Socialists obsessed with single payer health care (now that the economy makes it harder to obsess about nationalizing the banks), and the Conservatives convinced that they have to come up with some deeply principled reason for everything they do. Because trying stuff and seeing what works is just so... unprincipled.
Well, there you go. "What works" at accomplishing what? What do you want to get done? That's a question of principles, which don't necessarily have to be based on a big philosophical system. I want cops to stop killing black people, and I want the government to make sure everybody in the US gets good medical care as is done without too much fuss in other countries, because duh, or because I'm a Rawlsian, or because I'm an unbelieving Jew, or whatever, or because I picked a goddamned side from my Democrat parents. But the other side won't let me, for reasons I consider specious and unprincipled indeed, and on the basis of arguments made in what I call "bad faith". That's my problem, Republicans, Not being tied to a mast, though I understand how one gets annoyed with the one-issue hobbyhorse who won't even allow you to agree with him if you don't use the magic words.
Reality that politics is about identity and that ideology is just identity for educated elites from the majority race.
So really, he's a Marxian thinker himself, this being the fundamental point of the manuscripts Marx and Engels assembled in 1845-46 but couldn't find a publisher for, that came out at last in 1932 under the title The German Ideology. Blindness to the identity origins of one's ideology is where bad faith comes from.