Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Three (No, two, um, make that three again) Commentaries on 2017

Commentary 1.

I was bouncing around twitter and landed on the following tweet. It may be the best commentary on where we are that I have read.

(click to embiggen or to see the whole picture)

 

Obligatory comment: I know nothing about the individual who left the tweet. To the best of my knowledge I have never seen a tweet by that person before. I haven’t checked his (her? zir?) other tweets to know whether I should endorse or denounce him (her? zir?).  But I thought the tweet was clever.

 

Commentary 2.

From The Hill:

The Republican National Committee (RNC) expanded its massive fundraising lead over the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in July as the Democrats posted their worst July haul in a decade.

The DNC raised just $3.8 million in July, compared to the $10.2 million raised by the RNC in the same month. While the GOP has no debt, the DNC added slightly to its debt in July, which now sits at $3.4 million.

The Democrats haven’t raised that little money in a July since 2007, when the party raised $3.4 million.

The dynamics that have caused this are perfectly clear to me.

 

Commentary 3.

This weekend, for the third time in five weeks, I spent around four hours writing a post… and then I simply erased the final product. Each of the three posts dealt with the same topic: how to substantially reduce the homicide rate in the US, particularly in the most beleaguered communities. Each post was supported by a different analysis, which in turn was based on a different set of data. This is, after all, 2017 America.  I almost deleted this paragraph too.

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Free Trade, the Primrose Path, and the Blinkered Blindness of macroeconomists

by New Deal Democrat

Free Trade, the Primrose Path, and the Blinkered Blindness of macroeconomists

Here’s what I learned today: the origin of the phrase “being led down the primrose path.”

It turns out that in medieval times, one meaning of the word “primrose” was the “prime,” or first or loveliest, rose.  Thus taking the primrose path was a particularly lovely journey. At least by the time of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” where Ophelia speaks of the “primrose path” to Laertes, the connotation developed of the use of a lovely and seductive experience to lure a mark to their misfortune or doom.
The doctrine of free trade is macroeconomists’ primrose path.  Today’s example comes from Tim Haab’s blog “Environmental Economics,” in the below post entitled “Quote of the Day: Both sides win from free trade . . . sheesh,” which I am reproducing in full:

That moment you realize the Chinese administration understands economics better than the U.S. administration…

From the Steve Bannon interview story:

“In reality, China and the United States’ long term cooperation has brought about real benefits for both countries’ peoples, any unbiased person will clearly see this fact,” [Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying] told a daily news briefing in Beijing.

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Sure Abigail Hauslohner, Paul Duggan, Jack Gillum and Aaron C. Davis Sure

Lifted from Robert’s Stochastic Thoughts
Sure Abigail Hauslohner, Paul Duggan, Jack Gillum and Aaron C. Davis Sure

I have trusted The Washington Post, since I learned how to read. However, By Abigail Hauslohner, Paul Duggan, Jack Gillum and Aaron C. Davis are testing me. In this article they assert that an American Nazi went over to that very dark side in spite of the well meaning efforts of Weimar.

“Fields looked forward to soldiering in democracy’s most powerful military.

That’s how Derek Weimer, his favorite teacher in 2015, remembers it.”

Suuuuure. History doesn’t repeat itself but it can’t resist an ironic pun. No doubt about it.

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Trump and What Army?

by Peter Dorman (originally published at Econospeak)

Trump and What Army?

Donald Trump is no stranger to outrageous public poses and statements, but his refusal to condemn white supremacists post-Charlottesville has apparently struck a nerve. Has he crossed some sort of new line? Here are some dark, speculative thoughts about the events of the past few days.

I believe Trump’s impeachment is an option that political and financial elites are holding in reserve. They appreciate the vehicle that has brought the hard right to power, but they are ready to remove it if it no longer serves their purposes. It’s not clear whether there is evidence sufficient to impeach him today, but there almost certainly will be in the coming months, especially as his finances are exposed. I am not claiming that impeachment is a certainty, only that less hormonally imbalanced elites want it to be available should they need it.

The problem is that something like a third of the country supports Trump, most of them passionately. His base will regard an impeachment as a final, decisive battle for American freedom, the fulfillment of all their most paranoid suspicions about the evil forces arrayed against them. And quite a few of them are armed.

The nightmare scenario is an impeachment process setting off mass violence in the streets—a civil war. Trump can be forgiven climate denialism, nuclear sabre-rattling and various other sins, but he can’t be allowed to encourage the formation of loyal paramilitary band of supporters, a praetorian guard of street thugs. Hence the uproar over Charlottesville by plutocrats and Republicans who have swallowed equally contemptible posturings in the past.

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WWE?

“Mr. Trump’s advisers have privately said they are wrestling”

“I don’t believe the allegations against the president are accurate,” Mr. Mnuchin said of the denunciations of the president, “and I believe that having highly talented men and women in our country surrounding the president in his administration should be reassuring to you and all the American people.”

Mr. Mnuchin and Gary D. Cohn, the president’s top economic adviser, who is also Jewish and who was also at the news conference in Trump Tower, have come under public pressure to resign in the past few days.

Many of Mr. Trump’s advisers have privately said they are wrestling with whether to remain working for the president. But most say they believe they are fulfilling a duty by serving.

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Boston

Yves Smith notes on the Boston rally this Saturday:

Thanks to a huge and well-organized police presence, as well as strict limits imposed on the participants, follow-up to the “Unite the Right” white supremacist event in Charlottesville, the “Boston Free Speech” rally on Saturday demonstrated that the community wasn’t about to cut extreme right wing agitators much slack:

“We probably had 40,000 people out here standing tall against hatred and bigotry in our city, and that’s a good feeling,” [Boston Police] Commissioner [William] Evans said.

The permit covered only 100 people. The city prohibited anyone carrying weapons, bats or other potential bludgeons, such as sticks to carry posters, glass containers and cans, sharp objects, and shields from coming to Boston Common. There were some small scale skirmishes and the police arrested 33, mainly for disorderly conduct.

The far right participants did not get to finish their agenda. The event broke up early as, per the Wall Street Journal, “a huge throng of counterprotesters approached Boston Common.”

Even though one of the six organizers, John Medlar, said he was a libertarian and denounced hate groups, at a minimum, scheduling this event as a follow-up to Charlottesville wasn’t consistent with that branding. Even the people planning protests on a clearly unrelated issue, the firing of Google’s James Damore, postponed demonstrations that were also originally set for this weekend to distance them from Charlottesville.

And it looks like the “Boston Free Speech” leaders, whether intentionally or not, were trying to have it both ways. From Boston.com last week:

John Medlar, who says he is an organizer for Boston Free Speech, the group behind the rally, told Boston.com that his group is not associated with the white supremacists who marched with tiki torches in Charlottesville last weekend. But the group has said in comments on a Facebook post that there would be “overlap” in attendance between the two rallies….

Boston Free Speech posted an updated list Friday of the rally’s speakers, which includes Joe Biggs, who worked until recently for Infowars, the website founded by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones; and Kyle Chapman, known on the internet as “Based Stickman” and founder of the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights, which is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “new Alt-Right group of street fighters.”…

Some speakers initially billed for the rally, such as Gavin McInnes, a former Vice Media co-founder and founder of the Proud Boys, a far-right group, dropped out following a Monday press conference by Boston officials condemning the event.

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Interactive timeline

Plan the time to take a deep breath and look at Steven Harper’s Interactive Timeline: Everything We Know About Russia and President Trump at Moyers and Company.

When it comes to Donald Trump, his campaign and their dealings with Russia past and present, sometimes it’s hard to keep track of all the players without a scorecard. We have one of sorts — a deeply comprehensive timeline detailing what actually happened and what’s still happening in the ever-changing story of the president, his inner circle and a web of Russian oligarchs, hackers and government officials.

Since first launched in February 2017, the timeline has grown to more than 400 entries — and we will continue to add updates each week.

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Evolution of the Trump Administration: An Op Ed

Donald Trump seems to be missing some sort of a regulator that prevents him from simply saying what temporarily happens to be on his mind. That made it inevitable that he would treat his audience to a regular stream of faux pas. However, I think both the degree and severity of the mess may be diminished going forward.

The reason has to do with how the Trump administration came into being. Simply put, unlike most candidates, he actually beat both major political parties in the US, not just the Democrats. He took the Republican nomination by beating the presumptive heir – Jeb Bush. Then he beat the back-ups who were viewed as acceptable to most establishment Republicans: Rubio and Cruz.

Now, when a new President takes office, he can usually stock his administration from think tanks and members of the political intelligentsia. Trump couldn’t. As the Republican nominee, he was never going to use left-leaning people. But he wasn’t about to bring in people from the Bush/Rubio/Cruz camps, nor were many of them willing to serve under him either. That pretty much ruled out the vast majority people with any experience in how Washington works.

So who was left? Well, there were disaffected members of the Republican establishment (those who had pissed off the neocons during the last Republican administration), some elements in the military, and people on the right who had been criticizing the Republican party for a long time. The latter group tend to be the most numerous. They also live on the fringes. And like most people on the fringes, they have no idea how the world works. Many are bombastic, like Trump himself.

So that was the well from which Trump could draw. A clown show was inevitable. And since many of the clowns were actually advising Trump himself, it was also predictable that Trump would be repeating some of their nonsense, sprinkled in with some that was homegrown.

But it seems that Trump can learn, after all. He may brag that he is the bestest Presidentiest President ever, but under it all, people he trusts remind him that he isn’t actually getting anything done. Somewhere along the way, it occurred to him to get rid of Priebus and replace him with Kelly. What Kelly himself believes – politically – isn’t entirely clear, but he is a four star general, and it seems clear he understands how organizations work. He quickly unloaded a couple of the more clown-ish actors, the Mooch and Steve Bannon, and perhaps his own predecessor.

Assuming Trump and Kelly remain in place, this should lead to something resembling professionalism in some of the corners of the administration that haven’t had such a thing in a while. That professionalism should even manifest itself in advice given to the President, reducing the amount of crazy-talk taking up valuable shelf-space in his head. That in turn might cut down on some of the more soap opera-ish activity coming from both Trump and the rest of the administration.

Is that a good thing? Well, there’s a yes and a no to that question. The yes piece is obvious, so I won’t elaborate. But as to the no… year to date, Trump was busy proposing ideas that had no support from anyone except the fringes and peddling them in ways that couldn’t possibly gain traction. As a result, those ideas went nowhere. But what happens if he starts running with garden-variety Republican tropes? Those tropes can gain the support they need to be enacted. They also didn’t generate positive outcomes the last few times we’ve seen them applied. Nor is there any real reason to expect that things will be turn out differently the next time the are tried.

I have to say, I was naive. I didn’t even think that Caligula might have an effective chief of staff.

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