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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Democrat’s “Better Deal”

In a recent email exchange with Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism: “This is not going to work with voters. Tom Frank has been all over this topic, saying again and again, the Dems are refusing to give up on their losing strategy of focusing on the 10%, and are trying to cover for their abandonment of middle and working class people with identity politics.”

What Yves is commenting about is a recent post and the “ Better Deal” proposed by Schumer and Pelosi.

Schumer: “When you lose to somebody who has 40 percent popularity, you don’t blame other things — Comey, Russia — you blame yourself,” In speaking on the Dems new plan, he continues; “So what did we do wrong? People did not know what we stood for, just that we were against Trump, and people still believe that.”

Pelosi: In a separate interview, the House Minority Leader says the new focus “is not a course correction; but, it is a presentation correction.”

Yves Smith again; “Pelosi is upfront that all the Dems are doing is trying a new PR strategy.”

Sounds like Schumer recognized the issue; but as Yves and Pelosi said, it “is not a course correction; but, it is a presentation correction.” In other words, we are going to say the same “stuff,” but it will be said in a different way. That is not going to work for urban and rural dwellers alike who are worried about everyday life. .

Progressives and activists both believe the repackaging of a failed message in 2016 is going to miss the targeted middle and lower income constituents needed to win the 2018 elections. Paul Ryan and his caucus speak of specifics such as “proposals to revamp poverty programs, health care and taxes, and a hawkish national security stance” which plays well to rural constituents who are fed news from conservative sources. In contrast, the Democrat party’s establishment economics addressing the 10% again fails to talk about the everyday life of the rest of voters with a progressive message addressing quality of life improvements. Democrats have to rebut Repub ideology with sound proposals reinforcing and improving healthcare, jobs, education, retirement, long term care, etc. which are attacked in Ryan’s message.

In a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, 37 percent of Americans said the Democrats currently stands for something, while 52 percent said it just stands against Trump. With Trump being one of the most unpopular Presidents early in his first term, Democrats miss the opportunity to define what they stand for specifically capitalizing on Trumps 36% rating with a strong countering economic message. Where is the loud rebuttal by Democrats to Trump’s attacks on progressive healthcare, student loan forgiveness, and minorities. Where is Democrat pushback to tax repeal for those making >$200,000 annually and tax cuts largely going to the 1% of the household taxpayers and large corporations?

Republicans talk in headlines; Democrats speak in fine print,” In his Brooklyn town hall meetings, Democrat Congressman Hakeem Jeffries heard the messages about “pocketbook issues, housing challenges, crime, public safety, failures of the public schools,” and little about the “existential threat to our democracy by Trump and the Russians or what is going on at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” It is here the Democrat message fails with its sole concentration on Trump the person rather than attack on Trump administrative fubars, what the Republican economics means, and Republican policies. There is not enough of a loud outrage in the new Democrat party message. Instead of a new brew of political coffee to sip upon and savor like one would a Starbuck’s French pressed serving of Veranda, we are being served yesterday’s warmed over and weak political brew.

And in the end we will not turn 2018 into a resounding rebuttal of Republican policies and Trump.

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Missouri Travel Advisory

At a conference on Wednesday, National delegates voted to adopt the advisory for Missouri It is the first time the NAACP has issued a travel advisory for a state. The “extreme caution” notification is not exclusive to high crime areas such as may be found in cities. The notification is meant to make minorities more aware of surroundings while traveling in Missouri and to be cautious with encounters with police. What is sad about this is it is telling minorities do not give the white man any reason to take issue with you such as what you wear, being in a heavily white populated areas, a broken tail light, not signaling, rolling stops or going through lights on the yellow, etc. Jim Crow has emerged again and heavy force will be applied to put you into the role expected of you.

The advisory is as follows:

(Jefferson City, MO – Missouri NAACP State Conference Office – edited) Unlike seasonal weather advisories where unnecessary travel on city streets or parking might be directed; the NAACP wants to make Missourians and visitors alike aware of a looming danger which could include the following examples of what has happened to some residents and visitors in the past.

– Tory Sanford was never arrested and yet died in a jail cell. He ran out of gas when he traveled into the state accidentally.
– On campus racist attacks on University of Missouri students after the university system spoke in favor of Romine’s Jim Crow Bill.
– Black high school students in St. Louis have been attacked with hot glue and racially denigrated.
– Two foreign born men were gunned down in Kansas City after their killer thought them to be Muslim.
– African Americans are 75 percent more likely to be stopped and searched than Caucasians according to the Missouri Attorney General.
– Public threats of shooting ‘Blacks’ by an alleged racist and others have terrorized University of Missouri students and members of the public.

Individuals traveling in the state are advised to travel with extreme CAUTION. Race, gender and color based crimes have a long history in Missouri. The home of Lloyd Gaines, Dredd Scott, and the Missouri Compromise gives Missouri the distinction of being one of the last states to lose its slaveholding past.

The Missouri State Conference of the NAACP will follow Governor Greitien’s review of this Jim Crow Bill – SB 43 and will update the NAACP advisory for the State of Missouri if this measure is vetoed. SB 43 legalizes individual discrimination and harassment in Missouri and would prevent individuals from protecting themselves from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in Missouri.

Moreover, overzealous enforcement of routine traffic violations in Missouri against African-Americans has resulted in an increasing trend and has resulted in increased traffic fines, senseless searches of vehicle and persons, and on occasion unnecessary violence.

The advisory is in effect until August 28.

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