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

Messing Up Badly In Korea

by Barkley Rosser

Messing Up Badly In Korea

In many areas where many were worried that President Trump would do this that or the other crazy thing he has held back for one reason or another.  But one very serious location where he has recently made a total botch of things has been in Korea, a series of unforced errors.  Of course before he got into it in Korea it looked like he might get in a shooting war with China, but then he decided that Xi Jinping is a great guy after the Chinese paid his family gobs of money and Trump realized that he needed to make nicey nice with Xi in order to deal with unquestionably serious problem of the North Korean nuclear weapons program, possibly the most dangerous situation in the world right now.

So then he proceeded to talk tough on North Korea, making noises about starting a war with them if they tested a nuclear weapon (which they did not, making a failed rocket test instead) with this supposedly being backed up by him supposedly sending the USS Carl Vinson to back up his threats, only to have it come out a few days later that the Vinson was sailing off into the Indian Ocean.  I gather it has finally shown up in the neighborhood, but now Trump has messed up with longtime US  ally South Korea, the only party involved in this arguably more important than China even.

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Social media and document dumps

Via NYT comes this follow up to the document dump story last night in France:

Yet within hours after the hacked documents were made public, the hashtag #MacronLeaks began trending worldwide, aided by far-right activists in the United States who have been trying to sway the French vote in favor of Ms. Le Pen.

Jack Posobiec, a journalist with the far-right news outlet The Rebel, was the first to use the hashtag with a link to the hacked documents online, which was then shared more widely by WikiLeaks. Mr. Posobiec remains the second-most mentioned individual on Twitter in connection with the hashtag behind WikiLeaks, according to a review of the past 100,000 Twitter posts published since late Friday.

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Totally twitty Chait hate

by Robert Waldmann

Totally twitty Chait hate

I admire Jonathan Chait. In particular, I admire his denunciation of those (e.g. Barack Obama) who criticize “some in my party” without naming names. His rule is that if one criticizes an argument, position or view, one should name and quote someone. Otherwise the temptation to debate straw men is irresistable. This fits Chait’s general (confessed) inclination to be mean — he doesn’t mind criticizing people by name.

I often think of Chait’s rule and, when attemting to enforce it use the phrase “two minutes Chait” (rhymes with “two minutes hate”).

His recent post “This Won’t end Well for House Republicans” caused me to advocate (in comments) a much more extreme rule. I argue that commentators should never paraphrase or quote indirectly. I think a good rule would be that all references to anything written or said by anyone must be of the form of a direct quotation followed (if necessary) by an argument that the person really means something other that what they apparently just said.

I think that allowing paraphrases and indirect quotations makes the temptation to, say, claim that Al Gore said he invented the internet, irresistable.

My example is Chait himself. He wrote

Nancy Pelosi once said that Congress had to pass the Affordable Care Act in order to find out what was in it. Republican demagogues pretended Pelosi was confessing to having hidden the details of her bill until its passage, but, as anybody who read the context of her remarks could see, that is not what she meant. Pelosi was dismissing the bill’s bad polling as an artifact of public ignorance. The law’s individual provisions were highly popular, and she believed the law, once functioning, would gain public support, because it would help far more people than it harmed.

I commented:

Often I bore myself. Here by grinding a very old ax. You are right to criticize Republican demagogues for misleading people about what Pelosi meant. But you misquoted her. According to Matt Yglesias (who I trust because he presents a direct quote with, you know, quotation marks) she said ““We have to pass the bill, so that you can find out what is in it — away from the fog of the controversy.” She was not confessing that she belonged to a group which didn’t know what was in it. She was saying that other people (who were attending the ” National Association of Counties’ 2010 legislative conference” didn’t know what was in it.

Your paraphrase “Congress had to pass the Affordable Care Act in order to find out what was in it.” is materially false. You assert that she asserted that Congress didn’t know what was in it. She did no such thing. I am honestly disappointed that, when your point is that her meaning was distorted, you used a false indirect quotation which is consistent with the misleading interpretation (and not with your interpretation).

You have a rule that, when you criticize, you name names (and quote quotes). This is a very good rule. I think you should have another rule. When you claim someone said “that” something is true, you should rewrite — use a direct quotation. The case of Nancy Pelosi who didn’t say that Congress had to pass the bill to know what was in it (like the case of Al Gore who didn’t claim to have invented the internet) demonstrates to me that indirect quotations and paraphrases have no legitimate useful role in the political debate.

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Censorship and money?

Via the NYT comes this major dilemma as a next step in the “money is speech” campaign:

The head of President Trump’s re-election campaign accused CNN of “censorship” on Tuesday afternoon after the broadcast network refused to run the group’s latest advertisement.

CNN said it would run the 30-second television spot, a celebration of Mr. Trump’s first 100 days in office, only if the campaign removed a section that featured the words “fake news” superimposed over several TV journalists, including Wolf Blitzer of CNN, and others from MSNBC, PBS, ABC and CBS.

CNN defended the decision in a statement on Twitter.

“The mainstream media is not fake news, and therefore the ad is false,” the network said. “Per our policy, it will be accepted only if that graphic is deleted.”

In response, Michael Glassner, the executive director of Mr. Trump’s campaign committee, called the decision “censorship pure and simple.”

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Climate of Complete Incomprehension

by Peter Dorman   (originally published at Econospeak)

Climate of Complete Incomprehension

I finally got around to reading the NY Times new “responsible conservative”, Bret Stephens’, call for skepticism and moderation on climate change.  He adopts an attitude that exudes reasonableness and rejection of hubris.  Complicated modeling is an uncertain business and often fails; just look at Hilary Clinton’s Big Data campaign gurus.  Climate change is such a difficult, uncertain business, so why don’t liberals just back off and stop invoking a “scientific consensus” to bludgeon common people who don’t think decarbonization is the be-all and end-all?
If this is the outer limit of right-wing sanity, we’ve really got our work cut out for us.
First off, the guy seems to live in a binary, pre-probability universe.  At least, that’s the only sense I can make of a paragraph like

Anyone who has read the 2014 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change knows that, while the modest (0.85 degrees Celsius, or about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit) warming of the earth since 1880 is indisputable, as is the human influence on that warming, much else that passes as accepted fact is really a matter of probabilities. That’s especially true of the sophisticated but fallible models and simulations by which scientists attempt to peer into the climate future. To say this isn’t to deny science. It’s to acknowledge it honestly.

Well, yes.  I’ve read the latest assessment reports and the ones that preceded it, and it’s true that each claim is assigned a rough probability.

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I haven’t read the Bret Stephens Column on Climate Change

and I’m not afraid to admit it.

I have read more than 700 words of tweets about it.

I have two thoughts on the meta discussion.

First Jonathan FBD Weisman is a remarkably unpleasant person.

In this twitter comment thread he repeatedly typed “you didn’t read the column” in response to criticisms of his criticism of critics of the column. He accused people he didn’t know of intellectual dishonesty based on his reading of their tweets.

He is a reporter. His claims of fact are supposed to be based on evidence. I think his certainty based on nothing demonstrates that he can’t do his job. This aside from the fact that he is being very very rude to customers.

Oddly, I have found Weisman’s reporting to be credible and interesting (I keep track of my thoughts on him because of his profane quarrel with Brad). I am alarmed to find I have trusted the claims of fact of someone who makes claims of fact with reckless disregard. I guess his editors restrain the recklessness which twitter allows. I will continue to treat his reporting as normal NY Times reporting (which I tend to trust).

Second Jonathan Chait is very very hard on conservatives (yeah a shocker). He wrote

… an approach that makes sense if your highest priority is limited government, and you are attempting to reason backward through the data in a way that makes sense of a policy allowing unlimited dumping of greenhouse-gas emissions into the atmosphere. That is a tic of American conservative-movement thought — the conclusion (small government) is fixed, and the reasoning is tailored to justify the outcome. Nearly all conservatives argue this way, and if the Times is going to have conservative columnists — which, in my opinion, it should — they’re going to engage in this kind of sophistry.

I note that the conclusion doesn’t follow. If “Nearly” all but not all conservatives argue this way, the New York Times could probably hire one of the few who doesn’t. My problem (which I posed to myself before reading Chait’s post) is to name a conservative who doesn’t argue that way. If not Bret Stephens who ?

Can you think of a non sophist conservative ? Is there anyone who draws conclusions based on reasoning and evidence (rather than choosing reasoning and evidence based on the conclusion) who is a conservative in good standing with the conservative movement ? I can’t come up with a name.

Now I haven’t read anything by Bret Stephens. Maybe he is the one. But the discussion of his first NY Times column makes me think I should look elsewhere. But where ? I repeatedly have the sense that I have found a reasonable and reasonably honest conservative, but then he* breaks with the movement (sometimes because he was fired for heresy).

*yes all of them are men: Bruce Bartlett, Josh Barro, John Cole.(others I have forgotten).

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Dancin With the Stars or “Why is there an Exemption for Representatives, Senators, and Washington staff?

After being confronted by TPM reporter Alice Ollstein about the exemption for Washington elected officials and their staff, it was obvious they were caught off guard. Read some of the answers dancing around the issue.

New Jersey Republican Representative Tom MacArthur who proposed an amendment allowing states to opt out of key PPACA requirements. Read what he and other Republican House Representatives had to say when they were asked about the exempt to the latest AHCA amendment I had writen about.

Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ); he is working to fix the language in question.

Rep. MacArthur puts out statement saying Congress shouldn’t get special treatment, they are working to fix exemption.

Rep. Scott Desjarleis (R-TN); “I don’t know about that. That’s a good question,”

Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA).; “I’ll have to read the language more closely,”

Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY); “I didn’t know there was [an exemption for members of Congress]. I don’t know what you’re talking about,”

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), ” because D.C. is not a state, it can not apply for or receive the same waivers states can under their bill.”

Rep. David Brat (R-VA) “an exemption for members of Congress seeking to deregulate the health care market “would be, politically, completely tone deaf.”

Other Republicans: “the carve-out would have to be addressed with a new piece of legislation for complicated parliamentary reasons. A senior leadership staff member confirmed that they are working on a ‘stand-alone effort’ to undo the exemption, which lawmakers would vote on at the same time as the larger health care package.

Freedom Caucasus member Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA): “the fix has to come through a separate bill. Did not know whether D.C. could get the same waivers as a state under the legislation; but, Griffith said it did not matter because ‘liberal’ D.C. wouldn’t seek a waiver in the first place.

Republican lawmakers and staff: it was inserted in the first place in order to ensure that it could pass the Senate under what is known as the Byrd Rule, though they did not fully explain why.

The Byrd Rule dictates that strict budgetary legislation that does not increase the federal deficit after 10 years can be fast-tracked through the Senate on a simple majority vote.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX); the Byrd Rule was ‘the genesis’ of the exemption provision, but promised that “every member of Congress is going to vote to make sure we are treated like everybody else.”

Again Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC): It was a provision that, from a fatal standpoint, would not allow us to address it because jurisdictionally on the budget reconciliation instructions, that were narrowly tailored to two different committees of jurisdiction. To fully address that would had to have gone over to another area which would have made it fatal.” huh?

And the truth?
Health care law expert and professor at Washington and Lee University, Tim Jost: “D.C. is clearly defined as a state in the Affordable Care Act. And I don’t see anything in the AHCA that changes that, including this provision,” he said. “The provision provides for congressional coverage through the marketplace, and the language is clear [regarding the exemption].”

I think most of these reps are residents of the state they represent in Congress, so why wouldn’t they be exempt from the exclusion as defined by the amendment?

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Congressional Republicans looking Out for Your Health, Healthcare Insurance, and Their’s Too . . .

One Happy Republican House Representative
invisible hand If you have not been paying attention, it looks like the Republicans are getting ready again to submit another version of a PPACA/ACA repeal bill. New Jersey Republican Representative Tom MacArthur is proposing an amendment allowing states to opt out of key PPACA requirements. For example:

- Preventative Care: The PPACA has 62 preventative measures or Essential Preventive Care benefits which are no cost to a patient. Cholesterol screening, Type 2 Diabetes screening various immunizations for adults and children, breast cancer screenings, hepatitis B screenings, HIV tests, lead screening for children, etc.

- Community Rating: In the good old days when people had a heart attack , disorder, or illness; insurance companies would rate the individual and either insure them at a much higher rate or deny insurance to them. The PPACA acting like a true insurance pool spread the risk amongst the community adapting a more uniform rate for people. Two exceptions were smoking at 150% of the lowest cost individual and 300% for older people (Republicans wish to increase this to 500%). Where people with pre-existing conditions had to pay much higher rates or had no insurance, the PPACA established rates covering them and spreading the cost.

This new GOP amendment allows states to waive community rating. Insurers could again charge people based on their health and expected health care costs. The state would have to participate in the Patient and State Stability Fund (which would be underfunded) before it could waive out of Community Rating. The PSS is a pool of money in the AHCA that states can use to set up high-risk pools or shore up insurers that get stuck with really expensive patients (think of Corridor Risk and Reissuance programs which Republicans defunded).

Initially, the AHCA as proposed by Republicans would have resulted in an estimated 24 million people becoming uninsured over 10 years with a loss of 14 million in one year. We would be back to pre-PPACA with no single payer, universal, public option, Medicare-for-all in sight. The change in the Community Rating would target those with severe illness or disorders, the elderly, and those with pre-existing conditions. Removing the Preventative Care portion of the PPACA targets women and children and again patients would have to pay for them. There is just the healthy left or healthy today and the rest of the populations gets to fend for themselves. That would certainly lower healthcare insurance costs until the healthcare industry sucked it up in increasing prices. Not quite sure who the Republicans are tossing a bone to with this amendment, the healthcare industry or healthcare insurance companies?

As Vox’s Sarah Kliff points out; when the PPACA came into play, all Representatives and staffers had to purchase healthcare insurance on the individuals exchange. What was good for the gander was also good for the goose so to speak. I seem to remember differently; but, let’s go with this for now. There was quite a bit of grumbling going on in Congress when this was proposed.

invisible hand Fast forward to today’s amendment by New Jersey Republican Representative Tom MacArthur; it appears Congress now likes the PPACA when it comes to their healthcare insurance. If Representatives and staffers live in one of those states waiving out of Preventative Care and Community Ratings, Congress is exempt from the wavier. Looking at section 1312(d)(3)(D) of the amendment (sixth page) there is an exemption for those who will not be included in a state’s waiver. Senators, House Representative, their staffers and I am sure every other staffer in Washington, the Cabinet and their staffers, Bannon, etc. are all excluded from any state wavier on healthcare. I am glad they are looking out for us and the people who vote for them.

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It was actually quite amusing to see an article in my provincial newspaper a while back where two sides were arguing about a reduction in the work week, and you could play bingo with the excuses the anti-side used. There wasn’t an original idea in the whole article, as the pro-side was almost apologizing and got one paragraph of the six on offer. – “Salty,” comment at AngryBear.

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Special elections

Five Thirty Eight‘s Harry Enten offers thoughts on current special elections for Congress:

So, keep an eye on the special elections over the weeks and months to come. Next Tuesday, voters in traditionally red Georgia 6 will cast their ballots. If Democrat Jon Ossoff wins, it would be yet another sign that Republicans are in trouble nationally. If Republicans there do better than expected, it could indicate that California 34 and Kansas 4 are outliers.

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