Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Karmic Relief

Sadly, armies of YouTube fans have been unable to locate the channel, which seems likely to have been deleted.

"Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" is gonna be lit on Saturday with stories of hubris brought low.

For one thing, 53-year-old Italian Marc Feren Claude Biart, a made member of the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta, wanted in Italy for cocaine smuggling to the Netherlands, was living his best life in retirement with a fake identity in the Dominican Republic, but done in, they say, by his "love for Italian cuisine", or really by the temptations of the Internet, where he and his wife started a YouTube channel for cooking videos. He didn't show his face in the videos, but failed to hide his tattoos, which cooking-video fan Interpol agents recognized, and they busted him, along with 354 other defendants in an enormous 'Ndrangheta sweep. (NPR, but I'd like the record to show I got the story from Frankfurter Allgemeine Twitter.)

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Reaganomics With a Human Face, Continued

Warren Mosler, godfather of MMT, at his St. Croix home, with Bloomberg's headline, "A Hedge Fund Guy Lefties Can Love". Really?

Commenter Iain Bason had some very useful issues with the Modern Monetary Theory post.

Caveat: I am not an economist, so don't take anything I say as authoritative! My impression is that the academic MMT people are upset at those who distort the theory that way, but I can't remember where I read about that. Maybe Naked Capitalism?

At any rate, I think you're mistaken (or maybe just glossing over the complexity) about budget deficits not causing inflation, as well as about printing money causing inflation. Even without the Fed simply buying Treasury bonds and then essentially burning them, which I understand it can and does do, simply having the same quantity of dollars being used in more transactions looks very much like increasing the money supply; just as having the same quantity of dollars sitting in a vault and not being used at all looks very much like decreasing the money supply.

The key insight that I gleaned from dipping into MMT articles is that financial constraints are a matter of accounting, which means that we can change them by changing the rules. (Not that that's necessarily easy; and changing rules tends to cause problems; but it isn't absolutely impossible.) Physical constraints, on the other hand, cannot be avoided. If I'm elected ruler of the universe on the promise to give everyone a pony, I may find it difficult to come up with the money to fulfill that promise, but I will find it impossible to breed enough ponies. (That is not an original example, but again I can't remember where I read it.)

My idea was you didn't need to be an economist to understand where the pop-MMT argument was going wrong, that it was chiefly a matter of rhetoric, and I may have been wrong about that, in the sense that the good-economics is as odd, intuitively, as the bad-economics, and may take more preparation than I thought. The post itself could have been a lot better written, as a matter of fact, and I think some of these issues arise because of problems in the writing, so I'd like to do some clarification, though it may mean sounding a lot more like an economist (which I'm not) than I wanted to.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

If the Creek Do Rise, What Else Will? Protect Yourself!


Central, South Carolina (pop. ca. 5,385), home of Senator Lindsey Woolsey Graham, isn't in central South Carolina, but up in Pickens County in the state's far northwest, and not exactly in a hurricane zone, or prone to earthquakes or volcanoes

Pickens County, SC, via Wikipedia.

but that doesn't mean it's without its perils, as people learned last year in nearby Easley, and and all along the Calhoun Memorial Highway (Route 93) pretty much every year, when the spring rains come and the creeks rise.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Literary Corner: His Subjects Are Water

David Hockney, "Stage Set, Abstract", fax machine print, November 1988, National Gallery of Australia.

Where's Durham?
By Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States of America

Where's Durham?
Is he a living,
breathing human
being? Will there ever
be a Durham Report?
Short answer to this plaintive text, issued by the Retired Emperor from his Florida redoubt/resort is, not one that will do you any good, pal.

Having retired from his day job as Connecticut US attorney, special counsel John Durham seems to be clinging to this gig, hiding his budget (as Emptywheel notes) and exploring who knows what angle of how to show that it's a crime to suspect Donald Trump of a crime if you do it in an official capacity. Equally-retired imperial consigliere William Barr had promised the boss he'd jail some of the FBI guys who tried to catch him but virtually nothing has happened since Kevin Clinesmith, the lawyer who actually did commit a sort of crime in preparing the application for the third or fourth surveillance order on Carter Page, got away with 12 months' probation and 400 hours of community service, and it looks like nothing ever will. Trump is probably agitating for a cut of whatever Durham's getting paid.

But just pause to enjoy the lapidary concision of the piece—the pain and wistfulness expressed in its 15 words, almost Japanese.

Emperor Takakura, who ascended the throne in 1168 at the age of 7, a prisoner of the wiles of his father and future father-in-law, and and retired in favor of an infant son at 19, in 1180, dying some 10 months later. Via Wikpedia.
The Emperor is a ship.
His subjects are water. 
The water enables a ship
to float well, but sometimes
the vessel is capsized by it.
His subjects can sustain an 
Emperor well, but sometimes 
they overthrow him

—Emperor Takakura (attibuted)

Friday, March 26, 2021

Reaganomics With a Human Face


Free lunch, photo by Bob Pennell, the Medford Mail Tribune, via USA Today.

I think I need to say something about "Modern Monetary Theory", in particular in its vulgar form, as the idea that, caricaturing a bit,

  • since we now know that deficit spending does not necessarily cause hyperinflation (at least since the gold standard for the US dollar was somewhat inadvertently dumped in decisions of the Nixon administration in 1971-73),
  • therefore, there is no reason to think about deficits at all, in planning increased social spending for the purposes of doing economic justice, and—oh, also, cutting, or not raising, taxes on the very well-to-do, no reason to worry about that either.

It's that last bit that got my attention, because I'm not an economist, like most of you, but an amateur human with some training in social science in general, who sometimes thinks about political economy and political morality, and my fondest dream has long been to work toward equalizing our situation, through the tax system, by getting the very rich to pay more. Lots more. Ever so much more, since the appearance of Thomas Piketty's Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century in English in 2014 gave me the courage. I told some relatively liberal online advocates of MMT about it, over the Twitter, some time ago: if there's no good economic reason for raising their taxes, how am I going to get it done? And they said, Don't worry about it! There are other reasons for taxing the rich! But they didn't offer me any reasons that would have any political weight.

That is—in other words—I started feeling as if the idea was being pitched as a justification for unlimited government spending on the poor, but was in fact a justification for not taxing the rich, a kind of Reaganomics with a smiling, liberal face, and I didn't want the economics to work out. And I really didn't like the thought that progressives like Senator Sanders and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez were looking warmly at it.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

For the Record: Twitter Wars


Bearers of Trophies and Bullion. From Andrea Mantegna, Triumphs of Caesar (1482-94, now Royal Collection, Hampton Court Palace), via Wikipedia.

So much winning. Well, that's what I think.

Re Republican voting restrictions:

Re filibuster:

Party Animals

Ultra-Orthodox Jews argue with Israeli border police officers during a protest over the coronavirus lockdown restrictions in Ashdod, Israel, last week. Photo by Oded Balilty/AP via NBC News.

Yesterday's vote in Israel, the fourth in two years, as the indicted bribe-taker prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu fails to form a government or reneges on the partners with whom he formed the previous one, so that the only way he can stay in office and out of prison is to keep calling for another general election every six months, seems to have had a hilarious result: as usual, Netanyahu's coalition doesn't have a majority, but this time the only party that seems to be ready to save him is the Arab Islamist one, the Israeli version of Hamas as it were, the Ra'am party, which won five Knesset seats (the more or less leftwing Arab Joint List won six).

Ra'am is "socially conservative" (its leader, Mansour Abbas, has advocated LGTBQ "conversion therapy"), but belonged to the Joint List until this election, breaking off in order to pursue a possible deal with Netanyahu, for reasons that seem to me more cynical than evil

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Reconciliation II, continued


Red-Green, by Eskemar.

Now he's re-upped it, or the link to it, at his SubStack venue: that Vox interview, which I remembered quite well though I don't seem to have written about it at the time, about how old "Rubin Democrats" like himself need to give up and pass the baton to the democratic socialists, because his own way would never have another chance to succeed:

The core reason, DeLong argues, is political. The policies he supports depend on a responsible center-right partner to succeed. They’re premised on the understanding that at least a faction of the Republican Party would be willing to support market-friendly ideas like Obamacare or a cap-and-trade system for climate change. This is no longer the case, if it ever were. 

“Barack Obama rolls into office with Mitt Romney’s health care policy, with John McCain’s climate policy, with Bill Clinton’s tax policy, and George H.W. Bush’s foreign policy,” DeLong notes. “And did George H.W. Bush, did Mitt Romney, did John McCain say a single good word about anything Barack Obama ever did over the course of eight solid years? No, they fucking did not.”

Monday, March 22, 2021

Turn Down the Silencing, I Can't Hear Myself Think


It really struck me, on this one, where the Dumbest Senator, Ron Johnson (United Russia–Wisconsin) complains about the treatment he's been getting for his amazing trick of explaining how he wasn't scared of the 6 January Capitol insurgents because he knew they were all good people who would never break the law (as they were flagrantly breaking a large number of laws and threatening to murder the vice president and Speaker of the House and whatnot), in contrast to those awful people from the Black Lives Matter, bad people presumably who break the law whenever they get the chance (though I don't know of a single example except Bree Newsome climbing that flagpole, and I'd offer to punch anybody who criticizes her for it but she could probably do it more effectively).  When he said, you know,

Literary Corner: In So Many Different Ways


Lee Krasner, Polar Stampede, 1960.

Destroying It With Woke

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

I want to do
what’s right and they are
destroying our country!
They're destroying it
with woke. When China
looks at woke, and they see
the biggest problem we have
is Dr Seuss.
In the meantime they're
building factories and trying
to kill us in so many different
ways. They laugh at us, frankly.
They think our country
is stupid!

Sunday, March 21, 2021

System of Imbecility

That's perfect, I thought, but of course the filibuster hadn't been invented yet—what was Hamilton actually talking about? So I asked Dr. Google, and what I got was the single most useful comment on the Federalist Papers I've ever read, from The New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg, July 2013:

The Federalist Papers—so often quoted to rationalize governmental stasis and congressional gridlock—are almost always treated as secular scripture. They’re not. They’re newspaper op-ed pieces, written in haste to sell a particular set of compromises, some of which their authors had adamantly opposed and accepted only with the greatest reluctance.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Joe Did What? Ecumenism Edition


Never heard of this 2020 movie at all. Times seems to have hated it, is that a recommendation these days?

Speaking of theological politics, Faith-Basedness is in the news from the Biden administration, and it's not bad...

The W. Bush administration invented the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in 2001 as an organ of "compassionate conservatism", encouraging ways of funneling congressionally appropriated money for social services through religious organizations, kind of like the equivalent of a charter school movement for anti-poverty programs, sometimes in ways that looked an awful lot like violations of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, and dominated, as you might expect, by white Christian denominations. 

Under the former community organizer Barack Obama, it was renamed, Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and given a council of religious and secular leaders from a very wide variety of ethnicities and traditions, and goals were retooled from a kind of market-oriented idea of competition in the 2001 formulation

Friday, March 19, 2021

Social Justice Noncombatant


Song sheet, 1915, via ww1online.

It's world famous moral philosopher David F. Brooks, in his just-the-tip wokeness phase, looking for a morally more satisfying alternative to being a Social Justice Warrior, which just ends up hurting people's feelings ("A Christian Vision of Social Justice"):

Like a lot of people, I’ve tried to envision a way to promote social change that doesn’t involve destroying people’s careers over a bad tweet, that doesn’t reduce people to simplistic labels, that is more about a positive agenda to redistribute power to the marginalized than it is about simply blotting out the unworthy. I’m groping for a social justice movement, in other words, that would be anti-oppression and without the dehumanizing cruelty we’ve seen of late.

Some kind of political equivalent of Modern Monetary Theory that claims you could issue significant quantities of power to one group of people without making anybody else feel their power is threatened.

And he's actually found something interesting, in the work of a New Testament theology professor from evangelical Wheaton College and occasional Times contributor, Esau McCaulley (who is also African American, as Brooks characteristically doesn't say but shows us by including a picture, uncaptioned, that you can identify as him by comparing it with the portrait on his Times page), but of course he doesn't get it right.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Saint Patrick's Day

A Saint Patrick's Day Post: What Three Millennial YouTubers May Tell Us About Their Ireland, Compared to Ancient Memories of Mine (Warning: Long)

I say "may" because I may be wrong. The perceptions of a septuagenarian Irish-American regarding societal change in Ireland -- based on recollections of a six-week sojourn there in the Summer of 1968 -- may not be the best basis for social or psychological assessments of the work of these three "lads" and what they have to say about the Ireland of today. But of course, I'll press on regardless! Judge for yourself how "off" I am.  If you want to skip all the stuff about me, go straight to the subheading "Sgt. Ducky!"


Let me speak about my starting point in 1968. I was living in Rome with my Air Force pilot family while slowly recovering from what we thought had been a near-fatal case of Hepatitis B the previous year.  My parents decided to reward me for surviving by sending me for six weeks to Ireland, where they had recently visited.  I was to spend time with my grandfather, Richard "Dick" Sweeney, my mom's dad, and also a great-uncle on my mother's side, James "Uncle Jim" Hynes. I had met both before in America.  

It Was All True


Photos via Radio Free Europe,  February 2019; one of the US government–run news organizations Trump started attacking around October 2019 and taking measures to destroy after his first impeachment.

Well, well, well. I do believe the National Intelligence Council's unclassified report on Foreign Threats to the 2020 US Federal Elections just confirmed it for me:

Rudolph Giuliani and the rest of the rightwing Hunter Biden industry last year were working under the direction of the Kremlin.

In an extension of the same long-term project as the one that contributed to electing Donald Trump in 2016, with the same elfin figure at the center, Kostya Kilimnik, Paul Manafort's Ukraine amanuensis who was actually his Russian handler. The document doesn't actually tell us what Kilimnik personally did in 2020, but it does name him:

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Right Behind You. II

Viceroy (left) vs. monarch, a famous case of adaptive evolution; the monarch, with its diet of milkweed, tastes horrible to birds; the viceroy has evolved to mimic the monarch look so the birds assume, wrongly, that it tastes bad too. In much the same way as David Brooks has learned to mimic the style of socially conscious, compassionate humanism, so that inattentive liberals will swallow his Tory authoritarianism, which they'd spit out if it was coming from Russell Kirk. Photos via Treehugger

(continuing from yesterday)

Indeed, the pandemic didn't even come from China, really, as New Yorkers ought to know:

What few people realize is that, yes, the virus originated in China, but the true focus of the epidemic that spread to the world was actually in northern Italy,” says [epidemiologist François] Balloux, who has observed the pandemic from London. “We think it happened in Asia first. But the countries that were seeded most massively, the countries that were hardest hit, were not the countries that had the most contact with China. Many of the countries that were hardest hit were the countries that had contact with northern Italy.”

Orientalism was one of the things that made it happen—the idea that it's the sort of thing that happens in countries where people eat bats, not in places like rich, clean Lombardy, and the idea that there was something hysterically authoritarian in the reactions in China itself, with the sudden massive total lockdown of Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, and also in Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore (which shut down before the virus had even been detected there), and South Korea. 

Right Behind You. I

The right brain is where all the left things are happening. 

I've been reading this long and very well-made piece by David Wallace-Wells for New York Magazine ("How the West Lost Covid"), which begins with some pretty uncomfortable truth: that pretty much every government in Europe and North America, left or right, democratic or authoritarian, globalist or isolationist, pro-science or anti-science, screwed up in the pandemic fatally, in pretty much the same way; while the governments that handled it especially well come from an equally mixed bag, in East Asia and Australasia with just a tiny number of European outliers, Norway, Finland, and Iceland.

I remember starting to get an unpleasant sense of this in the fall and winter, when I was spending a lot of time looking at the statistics of the second wave of infections. You could predict certain outcomes from this or that lockdown or loosening, but you couldn't get a sense that one of your favorite countries in the first group, Canada or Germany, was doing an adequate job. The Trump and Johnson governments were as ignorant and vicious as you thought, but smart politicians in Italy, France, and Sweden—Sweden!—were doing just as badly as the US, or even considerably worse. And the same pattern was going on inside the US, with the better-equipped states, New Jersey and New York and California, doing just as badly as the incompetent and irresponsible leaderships of Florida and Texas. What was that about?

Wallace-Wells has a non-ideological kind of hypothesis for starters, about national cultures rather than politics, which is that the governments that dealt successfully with Covid were the ones that decided to kill the virus—to eradicate it—rather than learn to live with it, or mitigate it until the pharmacologists came up with something. "Basically," he quotes the Edinburgh public health professor Devi Sridhar,

Monday, March 15, 2021

For the Record: Why It's Complicated With The New York Times


Drawing by Jack Ohman, April 2020.

Got into a Twitter dustup with Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman, not exactly a dustup from the technical standpoint, and I still yield to no one in my perverse fondness for Maggie, but this concern for whether Biden is holding press conferences or not is bogus. Baker and Haberman don't even perform for press conferences—no camera around when they're doing their questioning...

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Immigration: The Wreck of No. 944

The Wreck of the C P & V Train – Scioto County Ohio

Well, the subject being Immigration, I speak metaphorically, in the dictionary sense.


The "944" I refer to is Immigration Form I-944, Declaration of Self-Sufficiency, which received the following death notice on March 9, 2021, at the website for USCIS  (the so-called benefits bureau of the Dept. of Homeland Security, DHS):
On or after March 9, 2021, applicants and petitioners should not provide information required solely by the Public Charge Final Rule. That means that applicants for adjustment of status should not provide the Form I-944, Declaration of Self-Sufficiency, or any evidence or documentation required on that form with their Form I-485.  * * * * 

Saturday, March 13, 2021


Visualization of the SARS virus by 3D4MEDICAL, via NPR.

I forgot to mention that I got my first Impfung on Thursday, at a drug store in the valley east of University Heights. Moderna. A pretty long wait, though it was not a big crowd. The person ahead of me, an older Black lady chatting intensely with her husband. They were a sweet couple, but when her turn came up he looked up at the counter guy and said, "Jab her! Jab her good!" 

Afterwards I took a long walk through Central Park and out to Broadway. It was a glorious day, weatherwise. I signed three nominating petitions, one for Maya Wiley running for mayor, one for Liz Crotty of the Buffalo Crottys (her grandfather was Democratic boss of Buffalo before I lived there) who is the criminal lawyer who wants to be district attorney, an appealing concept, and one for a city council candidate I'm very unlikely to vote for (Maria Danzilo, who bills herself as "the moderate" and says she's all about the private sector, and allowed herself to get associated with the NIMBY mob who successfully hounded out the homeless guys parked in the Lucerne Hotel when de Blasio was moving people out of shelters to hotels to reduce the Covid danger, though she now claims to have a different and more conciliatory position than the mob did—the current member, Helen Rosenthal, a brave crusader for integration getting term-limited out, demonstrated in favor of the homeless guys, as did her predecessor, borough president Gale Brewer, who is also term-limited out and running to get her old job back). The vaccine is here and politics is coming back to the borough!

Zero thanks to The Former Guy for my injection, by the way, and not just because this idea that he ought to be thanked for the sake of comity or to get Democrats votes, to which our amiable but dim media have suddenly become so attached, is dumb politics, but especially since as far as I'm concerned he had nothing to do with it. In fact...

Friday, March 12, 2021

Look for the Union Libel, Continued


Via redditor Honest_Horky.

Little Marco takes a stand on the Amazon workers in Alabama, in USA Today:

Here’s my standard: When the conflict is between working Americans and a company whose leadership has decided to wage culture war against working-class values, the choice is easy — I support the workers. And that’s why I stand with those at Amazon’s Bessemer warehouse today.

Right. He'll support unionization at a company he thinks is too liberal, because they deserve to be punished. If he likes a company's "culture", like the Little Sisters of the Poor and their unrelenting efforts to stop their employees from getting affordable birth control, he'll side with the company.

Because the Little Sisters are on the side of "working-class values" and the workers are against them. Sure thing.

How does Amazon fight against "working-class values"? It

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Rectification Central Adds a Voice: Welcome Redhand

After years of commenting (I've lost count of the number, but it precedes the big comment crash fairly early in the blog's history) I've finally decided to accept Yas's kind invitation to post on a regular basis. Before I do so, I figured I'd "out" myself by letting you know who I am and what I do and give you a sense of the kind of content I plan to offer here.

Like Yas, I'm very much "A grizzled Boomer," perplexed and disturbed by the direction our Country has taken under Republican rule, and compelled to comment on it. I'm proud to say I was born in the Bronx in 1949, into a totally ethnic Irish immigrant family. (My Russian wife insisted I take a DNA test, and it showed a genetic strain traced literally 99.9% to Ireland: no surprise really given my grandparents' names on both sides of the family.)  I'm an O'Neill, which explains the handle "Redhand."  The angry centurion avatar I use is a hat tip to the time my family spent in Rome in the late Sixties where my Air Force pilot father was assigned after spending a year in Vietnam.

I spent three years in the Navy after college in the early Seventies, went to law school, and became a lawyer in 1977. I worked twenty years as in-house counsel for a defense contractor in New Jersey, ultimately becoming the General Counsel until I "left corporate life" in 2001 when it was clear that I was incompatible with the Company's new CEO.

Going back to my family's immigrant roots, I decided to reinvent myself as an immigration lawyer after 9/11, and haven't looked back since. I've practiced in Morristown, NJ for many years, and have no plans to retire.

As you might imagine, the Trump years were a nightmare. I think it's best summed up by incoming DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorka's press conference on March 1, 2021, when he stated:

"I think it is important to understand what we have inherited, because it defines the situation as it currently stands. Entire systems are not rebuilt in a day or in a few weeks. To put it succinctly, the prior administration dismantled our nation’s immigration system in its entirety." [My emphasis.]

Most of my content will be immigration-related; it remains a cutting-edge issue in American society and politics, but I'll also occasionally comment on cultural issues, both here and abroad.  I'll continue to comment, and look forward to further fascinating discussions at this remarkable place.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

There's Some Magic


This Axios rubbish interview with Lindsey Graham 

What they're saying: "Donald Trump was my friend before the riot. And I'm trying to keep a relationship with him after the riot. I still consider him a friend. What happened was a dark day in American history, and we're going to move forward."

  • "I want us to continue the policies that I think will make America strong. I believe the best way for the Republican Party to do that is with Trump, not without Trump."
  • Mitt Romney didn't do it. John McCain didn't do it. There's something about Trump. There's a dark side and there's some magic there."

Flashback: When Swan noted Trump is not showing remorse for his election challenge and still arguing he won in a landslide, Graham invoked McCain.

  • "I tell (Trump) every day that he wants to listen that I think the main reason he probably lost in Arizona is beatin' on the dead guy called John McCain," the senator said.

gave me a weird feeling of understanding suddenly what Graham is actually up to. Because I've always resisted the blackmail explanation, which just seems stupid to me (if he's gay, everybody in South Carolina knows it and doesn't care, and I just don't see him as involved in anything actually perverted like Gaetz or somebody). 

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Up Next: Reconciliation II

Drawing via TaxmanComix.

While everybody's talking about Manchin and the filibuster, I'd like to note that there should be more good news for Democrats and other Americans working its way through the pipeline, in the form of a sequel to today's $1.9-trillion BFD: because the current bill is actually last year's budget reconciliation (fiscal year 2021), the thing Mnuchin and McConnell and the Speaker weren't able to do; there's still FY 2022 to go, and it is likely to be a fairly BFD in its own right.

Not that it will include a minimum wage hike or paid family leave or the election reforms we need so badly—these aren't eligible for reconciliation because they're regarded as "extraneous" to the budget. But you know what isn't? 



Nine-Dragon Wall, Beihai Park, Beijing, via Wikimedia Commons.

This is a very fraught time in the history of Chinese-American relations, as I hardly need to point out, with everybody needing to recover from the distortions of the Trumpery, when the US was ruled by an ignorant emperor whose mind was entirely focused on the irrelevant—nice playdates with their emperor, fighting over the balance of trade, and blaming them for the coronavirus—leaving them a more or less free hand in stealing intellectual property, militarizing the South China Sea, competing with the US for allies in the Asia-Pacific, Africa, and Latin America, and violating human rights around the country's perimeter. While their rulers must be relieved at the prospect of a period of predictable stability, they know they will be coming in for harsher trade conditions

“Despite Trump’s claim that “trade wars are good, and easy to win,” the ultimate results of the phase one trade deal between China and the United States — and the trade war that preceded it — have significantly hurt the American economy without solving the underlying economic concerns that the trade war was meant to resolve. The effects of the trade war go beyond economics, though. Trump’s prioritization on the trade deal and de-prioritization of all other dimensions of the relationship produced a more permissive environment for China to advance its interests abroad and oppress its own people at home, secure in the knowledge that American responses would be muted by a president who was reluctant to risk losing the deal.” 

and heavy criticism from the Biden administration, as in reaction to this week's news stories from culturocide in Xinjiang, where they are breaking up families of Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minority groups by shipping young people to jobs thousands of miles away where they won't be able to speak their languages or practice their religion, to killing democracy in Honk Kong.

Friday, March 5, 2021


Unforgivably late in getting to this, but blogfriend Andrew Johnston has put out a documentary film on Chinese attitudes toward the USA—not the Chinese government or the Party, but the ordinary people he interacts with on a daily basis in his life in Hefei, Anhui. It's full of great insights, cool location shots, and richly merited aspersions on vile Mike Pompeo and the Former Guy he worked for. Watch on YouTube from below or his website.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

On Senator Cruz Referencing Dr. Seuss During his Filibusterino Performance Against the Affordable Care Act

Re-upping this 2013 post, for no particular reason:

I am Bam.
Bam I am. 

Tangled Web

"Marquee columnist"

"Marquee columnist" was a phrase used by Matt Yglesias in reference to the ongoing Brooks brouhaha, which you may not have heard about: Somebody finally figured out the the New York Times "marquee columnist" David Brooks is getting paid for the Aspen gig, chairing "Weave: The Social Fabric Project", probably in six figures, and BuzzFeed has been exploring the thought that he might have a bit of a conflict of interest there, since he's composed a substantial number of columns praising himself for his involvement in the thing without warning us that he has a financial interest in it.

Which I thought initially looked like a bit of a stretch, because what kind of idiot imagined he wasn't getting paid? But wait, there's more!

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Joe Did What? Ideology Edition

Via Unwanted.

Let me try from a different direction:

There is something better happening at the moment than in the Clinton (certainly) or Obama (probably) presidencies. Though Biden is officially to the "right" of Obama (certainly) or Clinton (possibly—way to the right of Hillary Clinton, anyhow), he seems to find himself leaping into things that are "left". Why would that be?

One possibility is that there's some kind of disconnect between the "left"-ness of the president's personal identity and the "left"-ness of the things she or he does. Is that possible?

Monday, March 1, 2021

Joe Did What? Labor Edition

In "Joe Did What?" news, President Biden posted a video reaction to the upcoming vote of the 6,000 workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama as to whether they should become the first workers in Amazon history to be represented by a union (the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union):

“Workers in Alabama, and all across America, are voting on whether to organize a union in their workplace,” Mr. Biden said in a direct-to-camera address posted on the White House Twitter page, after a recent pressure campaign by pro-union groups pushing him to weigh in on the drive.

“Let me be really clear: It’s not up to me to decide whether anyone should join a union,” he said. “But let me be even more clear: It’s not up to an employer to decide that either.”

Yes, sir, the second sentence was more clear than the first. Thank you.

Amazon's inveterate opposition to unions is well known (that's what torpedoed their plan for a Long Island City headquarters, more than anything else, making it impossible for Mayor de Blasio to keep supporting the deal), and the company has been willing to descend to a near–Roger Stone level of dirty trickery to stop them, as in this Alabama case, as Sarah Jones reports at New York: