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

Sigh.

McCain answered the question about the gun debate by citing Obama’s culpability for the attack through his foreign policy: “Barack Obama is directly responsible for it, because when he pulled everybody out of Iraq, al-Qaeda went to Syria, became ISIS, and ISIS is what it is today thanks to Barack Obama’s failures,” McCain said. …

When pressed by a reporter on the claim that Obama was “directly” responsible, McCain reiterated his point — that Obama should not have withdrawn combat troops from Iraq: “He pulled everybody out of Iraq, and I predicted at the time that ISIS would go unchecked, and there would be attacks on the United States of America,” he said. “It’s a matter of record, so he is directly responsible.” …

While the gunman referenced the Islamic State multiple times on Sunday, investigators say they are still working to figure out precisely what motivated the gunman and determine how he spent the months leading up to the attack.

In this post yesterday, I used a lengthy excerpt from an article yesterday at the Washington Post by Mike DeBonis, reporting on that bizarre news conference that John McCain held yesterday.  At least I thought it was bizarre, and assumed that readers would by now know enough about the concept of “lone wolf” terrorist sympathizers encouraged via the Internet or even by television news reporting on military conflicts and radical groups—including those who, like Mateen, were born in this country and never traveled outside of it—and also would by yesterday afternoon know that Mateen apparently was gay yet also either was or pretended to be homophobic as a way to deflect suspicions by his father and other family members that he was gay.  (The above excerpt is taken from the DeBonis article, and was included in the lengthier excerpt in yesterday’s post.)*

Thus the title of my post, which was intended as a facetious takedown of McCain’s comments, especially because those comments made clear that McCain was conflating ISIS’s military victories in Iraq and elsewhere with the ability of terrorist groups of all stripes to use the Internet to encourage nutcases who have access to assault weapons to commit mass deadly assaults and those who just have access to non-military-type weapons to commit deadly assaults on one person at a time.

McCain’s claim that if Obama had kept troops in Iraq and prevented further ISIS victories in that country, Mateen would not have attacked a gay bar he had frequented and claimed his motive was defense of Islam struck me as so obviously absurd—and the point of my post and its title so obviously clear—that it needed no explanation beyond the sarcasm.

And judging from the comments in the post’s comments thread, most readers understood the post and its title.  But via email I’ve learned that the post’s purpose was not clear enough.  So this post should clear it up.

*Parenthetical added 6/18 at 10:32 a.m.

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ADDENDUM: This piece today by NYT columnist Timothy Egan is, I think, the best column of the entire campaign season.  It’s not mainly about Orlando, although it touches on it.  It’s about Trump, the media, and the Republican Party.

I don’t think any commentary by anyone going forward will surpass this. Don’t miss it.

Added 6/17 at 11:45 a.m.

PS: In a column that sent chills down my spine from beginning to end, these two sentences are the ones I want to highlight:

“Man up,” wrote the Republican strategist Rick Wilson. “Show courage. Say what’s in your hearts; he’s insane. He’s poison. He’s doomed. He’s killing the party.”

And:

In this week of trial and tragedy, Trump showed us how he would govern — by fear, by intimidation, by lies, by turning American against American, by exhibiting all the empathy of a sociopath.

Trump indeed is surely quite literally insane.  And a sociopath, which is what Trump University and his other business practices that the news media has reported on in depth in the last two weeks illustrate.  These truths should not be shied away from—as politically incorrect.

Added 6/17 at 12:04 p.m.

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Is “Political Correctness” to Blame for Orlando Massacre?

Well, well, the dear old National Rifled Assholeciation has weighed in with its theory. Assault weapons don’t kill people, “political correctness” does.

“The National Rifle Association (NRA) on Tuesday defended gun rights, two days after a gunman killed 49 people and left 53 others injured at a gay nightclub in Orlando,” Jesse Byrnes at The Hill reports:

“In the aftermath of this terrorist attack, President Obama and Hillary Clinton renewed calls for more gun control, including a ban on whole categories of semi-automatic firearms,” Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, wrote in a USA Today op-ed.

“They are desperate to create the illusion that they’re doing something to protect us because their policies can’t and won’t keep us safe. This transparent head-fake should scare every American, because it will do nothing to prevent the next attack,” he said.

Cox said “political correctness” allowed for the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history to take place, noting that the FBI had interviewed the shooter multiple times since 2013 and that he maintained a government-approved security license.

“Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s political correctness prevented anything from being done about it,” Cox wrote.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who the NRA has endorsed, also attacked “political correctness” in a speech following the shooting.

So what exactly is the connection between “political correctness” and mass murder? Let’s ask an expert: mass murderer Anders Breivik (the following is reposted from EconoSpeak, August 2015)

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John McCain says Obama invented the Internet. And homophobia, too. Seriously.

And also the concept of attempting to cover one’s own homosexual desires by attacking a gay bar.

Uh-oh.  Those Arizona Senate-race polls must be looking really bad for McCain.

Seriously.

____

Okay, the article I link to, by the Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis, is titled “John McCain: Obama is ‘directly responsible’ for Orlando attack.”  And that, folks, apparently is actually what McCain said.  Here are highlights:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the elder Republican statesman, said President Obama was “directly responsible” for the terror attack in Orlando due to his failure to combat the rise of the Islamic State terror group. …

McCain made his remarks in a Senate hallway to a small group of reporters, responding to a question about the gun-control debate that has flared on Capitol Hill since the Sunday-morning shooting that left 49 clubgoers and the gunman dead. Obama on Thursday traveled to Orlando with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to pay his respects to victims’ families.

McCain answered the question about the gun debate by citing Obama’s culpability for the attack through his foreign policy: “Barack Obama is directly responsible for it, because when he pulled everybody out of Iraq, al-Qaeda went to Syria, became ISIS, and ISIS is what it is today thanks to Barack Obama’s failures,” McCain said. …

When pressed by a reporter on the claim that Obama was “directly” responsible, McCain reiterated his point — that Obama should not have withdrawn combat troops from Iraq: “He pulled everybody out of Iraq, and I predicted at the time that ISIS would go unchecked, and there would be attacks on the United States of America,” he said. “It’s a matter of record, so he is directly responsible.” …

While the gunman referenced the Islamic State multiple times on Sunday, investigators say they are still working to figure out precisely what motivated the gunman and determine how he spent the months leading up to the attack.

Omar Mateen, the 29-year-old shooter, pledged loyalty to the leader of the Islamic State during a 911 call made while the hostage standoff at the club was ongoing. According to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, Mateen also posted on Facebook the day of the shooting pledging allegiance to the group’s and claiming that the shooting was “vengeance” for airstrikes.

Officials have said that they have not found any signs that Mateen was directly tied to any kind of network, and the FBI said this week that it remains unclear which extremist group he supported. While he referenced the Islamic State multiple times on Sunday, Mateen has also made comments in recent years claiming that he had ties to ­al-Qaeda and Hezbollah, two opposing terrorist groups that have clashed repeatedly in Syria and that both predate the Obama administration. He has also referenced the brothers who carried out the 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon.

Obama also is responsible for ­al-Qaeda and Hezbollah.  And for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Syria.  Not to mention the conflict in Chechnya, where the Boston Marathon bombers’ family is from.  (I should mention it, but I won’t. I don’t want to pile on.)

ISIS is not the only thing that’s going unchecked these days. Apparently.

Imaginations of longtime senators facing possible electoral defeat are, too.

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Oh, Please.

The Democratic National Committee brought on a new chief of staff Thursday: Brandon Davis, the former national political director of the Service Employees International Union.

The move is a sign Hillary Clinton is moving to consolidate control of the DNC now that she is the presumptive Democratic nominee for president. Davis was introduced as the new chief of staff at committee headquarters by Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook on Thursday, SEIU confirmed.

“The 2016 election is one of the most consequential of our lives,” SEIU President Mary Kay Henry said in a statement. SEIU has endorsed Clinton. “Throughout the primary season, SEIU members have come out by the thousands to get out the vote for Hillary Clinton and fight for the issues that will build a better future for our families. Together they have shifted the national consciousness and dialogue around inequality in this country.”

DNC brings on new chief of staff, David Strauss, Politico, today

Yup. It definitely was Clinton who was the Democratic primary candidate who shifted the national consciousness and dialogue around inequality in this country.

No mistaking it.  I think it was that thing she said at the first debate last fall about Denmark not being a capitalist country.

And that she opposes Sanders’ proposal of a FICA tax of $1.56 (or some such sum) a week in order to pay for guaranteed, paid medical and family leave because she wants to increase wages, not decrease them.

And that she opposes Sanders’s idea of tuition-free public universities and colleges because Donald Trump’s grandkids might use it, and because while Sanders also proposed much higher taxes on Donald Trump and his children (the parents of those potential freeloading state U. students) that would go in part to help support those universities and colleges instead of forcing them to rely almost entirely on tuition to fund them, as occurs now, she herself would tax Trump and his kids more but would not use any of that money for that purpose.

And that she told the public, repeatedly, that Sanders’s single-payer healthcare insurance plan would raise taxes substantially but that families, individuals and employers would continue to pay premiums to private insurance companies and that families and individuals would continue to pay large deductibles and co-payments to healthcare providers.  Or that taxes are the only expenses that matter to families and individuals and employers.  (It was never clear which of the two she meant, although now that she and the SEIU have managed to have shift the national consciousness and dialogue around inequality in this country, she might reveal which one of those she meant in order to push that consciousness and dialogue still further.)

And that she opposes a national $15/hr. minimum wage increased incrementally over a period of a few years because $12 would be better.

And that she opposes Sanders’s proposals to decrease the economic and political power of Wall Street and to rein in publicly-held-corporate top executive compensation, that her own proposals in this area have been, let’s say, not at the forefront of her campaign.  And that she jumped on the New York Daily News editorial board bandwagon to say that Sanders doesn’t know what’s in Dodd-Frank and that Dodd-Frank doesn’t provide what he said it provides–which is what she had said at two earlier debates (including a then-recent one) that it provides.

And that she’s oddly unwilling to campaign against Trump by pointing out that Trump indeed is taking orders from the Republican donors, which is why his policy proposals—which everyone keeps saying he doesn’t have, but he does—are being written by the Republican Billionaire Donor Foundation, a fact that finally, finally, was discussed at length by someone other than me*: Jonathan Chait, on the New York magazine website.  (YAY!!)  But not by, say, the Pennsylvanians interviewed by NYT columnist Thomas B. Edsall.

The Strauss article goes on to say, “Davis has also served as political director to Sen. Claire McCaskill.”

Which is good to know, because McCaskill implied on national television last fall in her capacity as Clinton surrogate that Sanders is a Communist.  Which doesn’t mean that Davis would imply that Sanders is a Communist.  Although, who knows?

I recognize that Clinton thinks she should be trying mainly to woo Republicans, because they won’t know enough about Trump’s views on Mexicans, Muslims, women, immigration policy, wall building, NATO and nuclear proliferation to make that choice all by themselves, and Clinton needs to educate them.  But if she thinks having surrogates say it was Clinton (along with a labor union whose top brass strongly supported her in the primaries) who shifted the national consciousness and dialogue around inequality in this country will help her secure the votes of supporters of the primary candidate who, everyone knows, was the one who did, she’s again highlighting her hallmark obliviousness.

____

*ALSO:  HereHere.  Here.   And here.

I’m tired of saying the same obvious thing again and again.  And I’m tired of being attacked for it. I’m happy to pass that torch to Chait–and anyone else with an actual media voice who is interested in picking up that mantel.

____

POSTSCRIPT:  Just to be clear, I’m absolutely going to vote for Clinton.  I wouldn’t be caught dead not voting for the Democrat.  And that’s in very large (but not exclusive) part precisely because I know what Clinton isn’t saying: that Trump would be Paul Ryan’s puppet on fiscal policy, labor policy, regulatory policy–and court appointments.

The Heritage Foundation would be staffing the administrate agencies from top to bottom and the Federalist Society would stocking the federal bench at all three levels. It does look like Clinton has decided not to go there in the campaign; she really, really wants all those Republicans to vote for her, every last one of them.  And partly because maybe she plans to be Heritage Foundation Light and Federalist Society Light on the non-identity-politics/culture-wars issues.  I.e., on fiscal and regulatory issues.  I just don’t know, at this point.

But Heritage Foundation Light and Federalist Society Light are better than Heritage Foundation Heavy and Federalist Society Heavy.  By a lot.  There truly is no equivalence there.  So I’ll be voting for her.  It’s not a close question, in my opinion.

But that’s because I actually know what the Federalist Society bench has done–the stuff that almost no one else knows. And because I know enough about the Heritage Foundation to really feel for any blue-collar voter who is confused about whose back Trump would have.

Clinton thinks it’s important to educate Republicans about what they already know about Trump, but it’s not important to educate most other voters about what the pig many of them think is in a poke about, say fiscal policy, but who is not would do through abdication of decisionmaking. Because, she thinks, these are mutually exclusive choices.  And she’s chosen.

Sanders and Warren will choose, too, once they start campaigning for Democrats. Their choice, of course, will be different than that of the person at the top of the ticket.

Added 6/16 at 5:15 p.m.  Postscript edited for clarity, 6/16 at 7:30 p.m.

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Checking on 2016 Predictions

On January 6th, I made some predictions for 2016. (link to post). Let’s look at some of them.

#1. I saw a higher probability than Tim Duy for a recession. He did not predict one. We do not have a recession yet.  I wrote, “It is possible that the economy could stabilize by the end of the year if labor share continues to rise carefully and not too fast to spook business. The US consumer could come to the rescue and keep the business cycle alive.” Labor share is rising fast and spending is increasing. I still hold to about a 70% chance of a recession by the end of 2016.

#3. I saw 2016 as the year that unemployment stops falling and begins to level out. Is the 4.7% unemployment rate the bottom? That remains to be seen by end of 2016. My view is that we are seeing unemployment hitting its bottom level and will eventually go up from here over the next year.

#5. Inflation has not increased much since January of this year. I said it would keep increasing but with a caveat, “But even so, cascading economic weakness globally would weigh down inflation.” Global economic weakness is apparent in parts.

#6. I predicted that oil would stay in the range of $30 to $47 a barrel for 2016. It is gone up over $50, but has recently moved below $48.  I see that $50 was the peak and that oil will move down from here as internal weaknesses in the US and global economies develop.

#7. I held to my view that the Dow would tend to move around the 17,500 level. It went to 18,000 but is now down to below 17,700. I see the stock market getting weaker as the year progresses.

#9. I predicted that the Fed would want to raise rates and probably would but with the caveat, ” The Fed can only raise rates very slowly when up against the effective demand limit of peaked profit rates. Still, I see that the Fed will have to think very hard about maintaining a pace to raise rates. The economy is more vulnerable than the Fed appears to think.” I think after holding rates steady today, the Fed realizes how vulnerable the economy is. Market participants get the message and are a bit more worried about the economy than they were last week.

10#. If productivity starts to rise, it is a sign for me that a recession is forming. So far in 2016, productivity is not rising so much.

 

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Reality settling in

Looks like the Fed is finally understanding that they are behind the curve and not able to catch up to the curve without triggering an economic contraction. Now we will see how long the business cycle can hold on.

I still see an economic contraction starting by 2nd quarter 2017.  Still a 70% chance by end of 2016 as I predicted back at the start of January. The only difference now is that reality is settling in more at the Fed and market participants.

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The Fed Continues Trying to be Insane

The Fed did the right thing, and moved in the right direction, though in part for the wrong reason today.

Go to Tim Duy for the rational approach. For me, I quote the Fed

Inflation is expected to remain low in the near term, in part because of earlier declines in energy prices, but to rise to 2 percent over the medium term as the transitory effects of past declines in energy and import prices dissipate and the labor market strengthens further. [emphases mine]

check the market

bberg20150615

and conclude that, with one exception, the only question worth asking is, “What color is the sun on the planet of the Fed Governors?”

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Male, Female, and Transgendered Athletes and the Future of Sports

by Mike Kimel

Male, Female, and Transgendered Athletes and the Future of Sports

Men and women don’t compete directly against each other in sports ranging from basketball to golf to track and field. This seems intended to simultaneously acknowledge and paper over the performance difference between men and women in those activities. The process is enforced asymmetrically – a woman good enough to play in the NFL or the PGA would be welcomed in, but a man would be prevented from playing in the WNBA or running in the women’s 100 meters in the Olympics.

However, sports fans tend to like to gravitate toward watching the best. In general, given the choice between tickets to the NBA finals and the National Basketball League of Canada finals, the vast majority will go to the former. For the same reason, the PGA is more popular than the LPGA, and men’s tennis gets more viewers than women’s tennis.

That isn’t to say there aren’t occasional exceptions to the “people will gravitate to the best performers” rule of thumb, but it requires tv-friendly novelty interest. For example, the 2014 World Series final between a team from Chicago and a South Korean team drew over 5.3 million viewers a game on ESPN, but the average Chicago Cubs game that year had a fraction as many viewers. That explains why occasionally, the women’s national soccer team, which is often a contender for women’s world champion, can command more viewership than the men’s national team. It doesn’t change the fact that men’s team can easily beat the women’s team.

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