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

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.

Comments (0) | |

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.

Comments (7) | |

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.

Comments (4) | |

Two Monuments

The Colfax Massacre occurred during Reconstruction when Republicans, many of whom were black, won the election. The White League and kukluxklan joined forces to take back the Parish Court House. 300 armed white militia faced black and white defenders of the court house. When James Hadnot was shot by his own men, the attackers started to shoot the black defenders who had surrendered. 48 were killed that day and the white militia turned its anger on the black residents.

Villifying Black Republicans. Colfax Riot, 48 Black Americans massacred after surrendering and another 100 residents killed by the white mob.

Sign erected by the Colfax Chamber of Commerce in 1951 commemorating the Colfax Riot. The exact count of Black Americans shot to death after surrendering is uncertain. It ranges anywhere from 80 to 300. Three White Americans die.

Heroes Fighting for White Supremacy

Honoring White Supremacists. The greatest travesty was the SCOTUS decision by the Waite court.

Tags: Comments (37) | |

On the erection of Confederate memorials: in which I have to get this off my chest

(Update…Dan here…I erroneously posted this post under Barkley”s name but it is NDd.)
On the erection of Confederate memorials: in which I have to get this off my chest

Below is a photograph of the World War Two Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Keep it in the back of your mind. I’ll return to it.

I am a data nerd, and leaping to conclusions about data is a pet peeve of mine. I really hate it when anyone, and particularly my own side, falls for groupthink, jumping to instant conclusions which then become the only acceptable opinion. In the last 48 hours, without consideration of other possibilities, or looking for contrary vs. corroborating data, it seems that just about everyone on the center and left has become an instant expert on the fact that Confederate statues were erected because of Jim Crow.

In support of that, a number of graphics, such as this one, have been used:

So, has it occurred to nobody that there might be a more straightforward reason why there would be a huge spike in Memorials (cough, cough, hint, hint) ***50*** and ***100*** years after the Civil War?

Yes there were a number of racial incidents that occurred in the 1910s.  But before the last 48 hours, the general consensus was that there was a resurgence in violence associated with white supremacy in the 1920s, not the 1910s.

Comments (44) | |

Donald Trump’s White House

Newspaper Editorial Cartoonists are having a field day with Donald Trump’s comments condoning the Charlottesville’s supremacists rioting, killing one person, and injuring many more. Living his father’s legacy of racism and supporting ku klux klan. Trump 2015: “ My legacy has its roots in my father’s legacy.”

Trump’s staff is complaining Trump went rogue and David Duke kkk member is applauding. If Trump finds himself alone as more people abandon the White House, I doubt he will care and sink into another unintelligible bombastic rage.

Tags: Comments (2) | |

One tiny little ray of hope

One tiny little ray of hope

After the Charlottesville, VA white supremacy violence, and his failure to explicitly condemn it, Donald Trump’s Gallup approval rating has fallen to a new low of 34%, and his disapproval to a new high of 61%:

This puts him below the lowest ratings during their entire term of Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. Only Truman, Ford, Carter, and George W. Bush ever scored lower.

So far, alas Rasmussen has not followed suit.

Comments (2) | |

Woodie Guthrie, Racism, Trump, and Beach Haven

From an old sixties coffee house person, just a little history. In 1950, Woodie Guthrie signed a two year lease to reside in a Fred Trump’s Brooklyn development. Having wandered around the countryside for a number of years, he knew the North did not have any special claim to racial enlightenment. One event of a shooting at a bus terminal in Freeport, Long Island stuck in his mind. “Ferguson Brothers Killing” by Woody Guthrie.

“The town that we ride through is not Rankin, Mississippi,
Nor Bilbo’s Jim Crow town of Washington, D. C.
But it’s greater New York, our most fair-minded city
In all this big land here and streets of the brave.

Who’ll tell these three boys that their Daddy is gone?
(He helped whip the Fascists and Nazis to death)
Who’ll tell these three sons that Jim Crow coffee
Has killed several thousand the same as their dad?”

Fred Trump used federal funding to build what became known as Beach Haven and what Woody would call “Bitch Havens” in time and after discovering the racism of Fred Trump. Fred methodically blocked black Americans from taking resident in his development. Woody responded with a song called “Old Man Trump.”

“I suppose
Old Man Trump knows
Just how much
Racial Hate
he stirred up
In the bloodpot of human hearts
When he drawed
That color line
Here at his
Eighteen hundred family project ….”

Fred Trump was arrested in 1927 for participating in a Ku Klux Klan rally in Queens. The Beach Haven apartment complex was built afterwards and it was was intended to give returning WW II veterans affordable housing. With his words to the public about the Charlottesville riots by white supremacists, Donald could have changed what his father left as a legacy for him. Instead, he purposely chose not to do to placate them. As David Duke said publically. . . . “remember who put you in office.”

Trump 2015: “ My legacy has its roots in my father’s legacy.”

In the age of Trump, we need another Woodie Gunthrie to remind us of our history. Then too, Trump would probably tie him up in court.

Tags: Comments (13) | |

Rational Optimism?

by Peter Dorman (originally published at Econospeak)

“Rational” Optimism?

I just finished this long, rather convoluted meditation on “rational optimism”.  Must we admit the world is getting better, getting better all the time?

Really, there are two types of multidimensionality that need to be considered.  The first is that “better” is, if it’s anything, vector valued.  Many aspects of life go into its calculation, as well as the distribution of outcomes across places and peoples.  Typically some things will be getting better and others worse, so either we abandon blanket judgments or we propose weights.  Instead the discussion on both sides is a combination of hard (or hard-ish) numbers for particular indicators, like life expectancy and poverty, and vague aggregations like “most” or “in general”.

Second, the financial notions of alpha and beta are highly relevant to this discussion.  What matters is both the mean outcome of interest and the risk attached to it.  In a sense, the modern world has purchased yield (realized material benefits) at the cost of greater tail risk (catastrophic climate change, nuclear war).  This should be obvious, but the point is that reward cannot be evaluated apart from risk.

I’m not passing judgment on the bottom line (if there even is one), just saying that, if optimism/pessimism is a matter worth speculating on, we might as well do it in a disciplined way.

Comments (0) | |

The Buchanan-MacLean Controversy

The Buchanan-MacLean Controversy

The book, Democracy in Chains (with an even more lurid subtitle) by Nancy MacLean, a respected (until now) historian at Duke University makes a strong argument that the late James M. Buchanan of UVa, VaTech, and George Mason was the crucial link between the ancient states right racism of John C. Calhoun and the current Trump administration. From Calhoun, incredibly inaccurately labeled a “libertarian,” through the Agrarian Populist literary movement that was popular at Vanderbilt where Jim wanted to go but did not (he went to Middle Tennessee State, a poor boy claiming to be a “socialist,”), Buchanan becomes supposedly an effective supporter of racial segregation in Virginia in the 1950s, and then becomes the inspiration for all of later Austrian libertarianism, having attended the opening meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society in 1947 (where they chose to be called “neoliberals”), and then after founding the Thomas Jefferson Center for Political Economy at the University of Virginia, and then running to  VA Tech in the early 70s, and then to George Mason in the early 80s, well, then he had a connection with the Koch Brothers, although this fell apart in the late  90s, but nevertheless he is the main link proving that Trump is a racist enemy of democracy.

This account has brought forth a massive counterattack from many current libertarians, much of it looking to me to be justified, involving many  serious factual errors.  I am not going to list them but note these sources for discussions of such matters: Munger, Horwitz, which includes other sources.  I shall try to deal with matters not covered by them, noting that I largely agree with their critiques.  The hard bottom line is that this may be a left version of  rightist climate change denial: those reading this book need to be aware of how deeply flawed and erroneous it is, although it makes some valid points.

So what is valid?  There is a very hard point that was not a main point in the book and has largely not been discussed, with most of the attention being on the deeply flawed account of Buchanan and G. Warren Nutter’s role in the matter of 1950s Virginia school desegregation (more on that  later). The hard point is Buchanan’s role in Chile.  MacLean is right that while there has been much been more publicity about the roles of Hayek and Friedman in Pinochet’s regime in Chile, Buchanan’s role there, nailed in by a crucial visit in 1980, may have been far more influential in forming the eventual  constitution, although this happened well after the original coup by Pinochet in 1973.  He played a key role in developing their constitution, which MacLean claims has anti-democratic elements that have in place defenses for the rights of capitalists that can only be overcome by two rounds of legislative votes. Yes, does put  a pro-capitalist tilt in there, but two  rounds of the legislature to overturn it?  In fact it was accepted by a referendum and has been amended numerous times since and reestablished a parliamentary democracy. Does not exactly look like Stalin or Hitler or Mao or  Kim Il Sung or something deserving the label “democracy in chains.”.  But it is not  pretty, given all the blood Pinochet spilled, and just like Hayek and Friedman, Buchanan has this  matter on his late conscience, and it is notable that he never published anything on this, and aside from a meeting in Palo Alto right after he did it, he never publicly bragged about it or acknowledged it, although apparently he did so at that  meeting.  But maybe he realized that it was the stain on his career that it is, and he was  in the end embarrassed about it and wished to cover it up.

The second matter is the most controversial, and indeed is the centerpiece of MacLean’s book.  This is the matter of his role with Nutter in 1959 in the school desegregation issue in Virginia, the one point regarding which an actual professional economist has come out for MacLean, namely Brad DeLong.  This is a much murkier matter, and after looking at it I see it as unclear with MacLean leaving out crucial  details, quite aside from ignoring crucial exculpatory evidence, even as she has some case.  This has to do with a report Buchanan and Nutter wrote to a specially appointed commission to deal with the school desegregation issue in 1959, in the context of Prince Edward County going for massive resistance against the 1954 Brown vs Board of Education SCOTUS ruling that led to the racial integration of public schools.  I think Buchanan should have signed the petition of VA academics supporting that ruling, but he did  not.  His proposal with Nutter suggested allowing vouchers for private schools along with  public schools, and MacLean and DeLong claim that this supported the effort to close down public schools in Prince  Edward County.  MacLean is right that at the time this did  effectively support that movement, although the Buchanan-Nutter proposal did not call for ending public education, and Buchanan has been in many places on record supporting the existence of public education, if with private school competition in the form of vouchers.

This  is  the central part of the book’s argument, and it is the most heatedly debated, and I do not  have the bottom line on it, although it looks to me that MacLean has overstated her argument. A crucial issue has to do with race, obviously.  MacLean herself accepts that there is zero  evidence that Buchanan was himself a racist and that all of  this was just part  of his  supposedly libertarian/Koch/Trump view of the world. As it is, I think that whatever was really going on in 1959, the bottom line on Buchanan’s views is given on p. 56 of her book where she grants that he supported “voluntary” and “local” desegregation based on local conditions, which she then effectively dismisses with a remark that he did not know what was going on in Arkansas and elsewhere, a comment that looks to me to be seriously stupid, to be very blunt.  Bottom line here is that Buchanan and Nutter may have effectively played a role in supporting the pro-segregationists in Virginia in 1959, but that was not their  position.

What about major problems with MacLean’s arguments?  I shall note three, starting with one noted by others and effectively granted by MacLean herself.  This is the claim she makes in the final chapter that Tyler Cowen supports suppressing democracy.  This is based on a quote she supplies that was definitely taken out of context, a context where it was clear that the content of the isolated quote was contradicted by what immediately followed it.  Even those who have supported MacLean’s book on Facebook such as Gary Mongiovi have agreed that MacLean was simply out to lunch on this matter, although while she has recognized that the quote is problematic, she has not fully retracted her argument related to it.  This is almost certainly tied to Cowen being director of the largely Koch-funded Mercatus Center at George Mason, with this being sort of the final piece de resistance of her book and argument, supposedly from racist anti-democratic John C. Calhoun to supposedly anti-democratic and implicitly racist Koch-funded libertarians at George Mason and Donald Trump.

A second problem reflects that MacLean is not an economist and seems to seriously misunderstand public choice theory, with her views on rent seeking being a strong example.  In discussing rent seeking, a concept originated by Buchanan’s important coauthor, the  late Gordon Tullock, and labeled by the centrist liberal development economist, Anne Krueger, she consistently identifies the supposed rent seekers as politicians seeking voting support from activist liberal groups such a unions and civil rights groups, especially the latter, whom the the supposedly anti-democratic tendencies of Buchanan are directed against.   But in fact in public choice theory the rent seekers are priviate interest groups that use government to create artificial monopolies, which generate the rents these groups are seeking.  It is really a quasi-Marxist view that sees capitalists using the government to enhance their  corrupt  profits.  It is ironic that I have seen public choice economists show up at URPE social gatherings at meetings to discuss how they have this in common with the radical left URPE folks, opposition to corrupt use of the government by rent seeking private interests.  I am not sure the URPE  people were all that open when I saw this, but there is no doubt that MacLean simply is completely wrong here and totally misrepresents public choice theory on this point, although the strongly pro-free market stance of both Buchanan and Tullock can easily mislead people on this.

Comments (3) | |