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Making Political Fun of the President

Donald Trump addressed a rightwing crowd (Turning Point USA) in Washington on Tuesday. The audience roared in support of the president standing in front of the Presidential Seal. Now take a close look at the seal. It had been doctored to include a two-headed eagle – the same as the Russian seal and in place of arrows in one of the eagle’ talons – there was golf clubs.

Click on the image for better detail.

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Rep Liu got Mueller to say it

https://twitter.com/pbump/status/1154042744702029824?s=20

Also the MSM noticed. Bump is a Washington Post reporter.

The point is that this implies that Mueller thinks Trump was guilty and that he would have a reasonable chance of convincing a jury that there is proof beyond reasonable doubt of Trump’s guilt.

The other answer was “that was a sufficient reason to not indict Trump which doesn’t imply that it was a necessary condition. As written in the report I don’t think it is fair to discuss the question of

update: in the afternoon, Mueller took it back

When he appeared before the Intelligence Committee in the afternoon, Mueller clarified this exchange, noting that it was not solely because of the Office of Legal Counsel opinion that he did not charge Trump with a crime. Instead, he said, “we did not reach a determination as to whether the president committed a crime.”

This is inconsistent with his exchange with Liu. The key word is “the” in “the reason”. Liu asserted that there was only one reason and Mueller agreed. But in any case, the bottom line is that he took it back.

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Tomorrow

Everyone is waiting for tomorrow to see what Mueller will tell the House. I am going to say it will be nothing other than what has already been said verbally. No one is going to read the text version and see what was really said by Mueller. Only a few of us will and I have yet to find a place to place it in my bathroom.

In Michigan in May, Congressional Representative Justin Amash had a townhall in his district to explain why he called for the impeachment of DTrump. He did not call it to first explain why he supported Trump or to say I was mistaken in giving him my support since he took office. He absolved himself of the responsibility of doing so and he marched to the same tune as the rest of the House Republicans. Instead Justin arrived at his support of the impeachment of Trump after reading the 448 page Mueller report.

Setting politics aside many of us already knew Trump was not fit for office based upon his past, his actions, and his lies. We saw through Trump and recognized what he was. After reading Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s 448-page report on Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice by the president, Congressman Justin Amash finally saw the light.

As the Atlantic explains, one person in the crowd just found out.

“As far as she was aware, Trump had been totally exonerated.

Cathy Garnaat, ‘I was surprised to hear there was anything negative in the Mueller report at all about President Trump. I hadn’t heard that before. (A Republican who supported Amash and Trump, told NBC that night.) ‘I’ve mainly listened to conservative news and I hadn’t heard anything negative about that report, and President Trump has been exonerated.'”

I am not sure what Congressman Justin Amash’s excuse was for not knowing Trump was not fit (being kind here) for office. He could not see it himself and he marched right along with the rest of them until he was told by someone else Trump was unfit.

Tomorrow morning when Mueller is scheduled to testify publicly before the House Judiciary Committee and the House Intelligence Committee, Ms. Garnaat’s words will be worth considering as they represent a purposeful perception gap by the public. A tidy summary of how Americans may have navigated the time gap successfully between the 4-page Barr commentary on the Mueller report and the report itself. Her short statement underscores how successful Attorney General William Barr exploited the space of time between his release of the 448 page report as compared to his 4-page short brief of what the Mueller report said, harnessing the power of television to set his version of the narrative of the report, and knowing most people were unlikely to read it themselves and have that “aah huh” moment. Why read the book when one can read the cliff-notes? There is no test of citizenry knowledge of current events to be passed here.

The challenge faced by Democrats tomorrow’s attempt is to make Mueller’s words resonate more forcefully then Barr’s 4-page summary in an era defined by the brevity of the laws of entertainment. Mueller’s testimony if it does call out Trump may have missed the moment. Of course many of us claim, the moon landing was done in a Hollywood studio. Perhaps, I will be mistaken and much more will come out of this?

As far as Amash, he is saving his ass and he should have known better well before Mueller’s report.

Bill Barr Already Won The Atlantic, Elaina Plott, July 23, 2019

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My Favorite Conservative

Is Michael Gerson. My dad likes David Brooks (please no comments on this). I don’t, but also I am quite sure that Brooks isn’t really a conservative anymore. I think he just plays one on TV. He has a column in the New York Times based on their affirmative action conservative quota. There would be no reason to pay any attention to him if he weren’t a relatively reasonable conservative. I think he is, in fact, a remarkably vacuous centrist. It may however be that his penchant for extreme abstraction to the point of vagueness rapidly approach perfect meaninglessness is not the result of an inability to understand which collections of words mean something and which mean nothing. I suspect it is his way of dealing with his recognition of the fact that actually existing conservatism is indefensible. So ring the non changes on the Burkean alarm bells.

I think Gerson is clearly sincere. I think his policy proposals are motivated by strong Christian faith. Oddly for a conservative Christian, his version of Christian principles strikes this atheist as closely related to the example and teachings of Jesus Christ.

He has admitted that he played a major role in convincing Bush to fight AIDS with PEPFAR. He and Bush have saved hundreds of thousands (or millions) of lives (notably with the assistance of outstanding charities including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Clinton Family Foundation which is recognized by independent experts as one of the best and extraordinarily transparent too (hmm maybe Bill Clinton is my favorite conservative)).

He also made an eloquent case for promoting Democracy in Iraq, noting that the claim that they were incapable of it was racist. Now he naively imagined that if he could get Bush to say the words, he could get Bush to pay some attention to them, but they were impressive words.

Finally I like his Washington Post columns including this one. His claims are to avoid Trump considering one to be an enemy one has to act as a servant and defend his actions, and that this requires abandoning “morality or rationality or both.” Quite so and definitely worth writing although sensible people know this already.

However, I am puzzled by the two examples he cites. One is Liz Cheney who, he claims, is not prominent because of her name but because of her political skills. Of course Rep. Cheney defends her father Dick Cheney, so she has abandoned both morality and rationality long ago. I don’t understand how Gerson won’t accept Trump telling us born congresswomen to go back to their own country, but was willing to work with monstrous criminal torturers. Trump has committed many crimes, but I am not sure he has committed any nearly as appalling as the crimes Gerson downplayed in his previous job. I don’t understand how he managed it (and won’t get a change to ask him and he wouldn’t answer if I did).

His other example of someone who was damaged by Trump is Paul Ryan. He wrote

Former House speaker Paul D. Ryan’s reputation, for example, was deeply damaged by his service under Trump. Ryan — whatever his intentions — sent a message that the wealth of the country is a “real” issue, while the character of the country is a sideshow. But what brand of conservatism would elevate wealth above rectitude, decency and concern for the common good?

Every actually existing brand of course. I think Gerson uses “conservatism” to mean “good” and contrasts it with an entirely imaginary alternative. As an economist I am disturbed that he almost concedes that Ryan focused on the wealth of the country. In fact, Ryan focuses on Randian ideology. I suspect he supports tax cuts as a matter of principle no matter what the effects. Before Trump was elected, he demonstrated an extraordinary willingness to lie and to lie without shame. In any case, I think someone who really cared about the wealth of the country would look at the evidence. Basically his approach to policy was to lie about what he proposed. I’d say that his reputation should not have been damaged at all by his service under Trump, because I think he had already earned a reputation for complete indifference to the truth displaying an absolute absense of decency.

Now I have a prediction. I think Gerson will continue to call himself a conservative (unlike say original supply sider Bruce Bartlett). He is clearly a man of faith and, I think, he can keep his faith that his values are true conservatism and the fact that almost no powerful conservative shares them is as irrelevant as is the argument that horrible natural disasters suggest that God is not benevolent, not omnipotent and probably nonexistant.

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How today’s Democratic ‘Squad’ is a direct ideological descendant of the original 1850s Republicans

How today’s Democratic ‘Squad’ is a direct ideological descendant of the original 1850s Republicans

Nothing is ever really “new.” Today’s ‘Squad’ of young Democrats is the direct ideological descendant of the original 1850s Congressional Republicans. That is one of the important lessons of Joanne Freeman’s “The Fields of Blood,” about the increasing threats of, and actual incidents of, violence in the US Congress between the 1830s and the Civil War.

Just as today, there were differing economic and social divides in America. Economically there was a struggle for power between the merchant class and farmers. Socially the increasingly contentious issue was that of slavery. At least beginning with Andrew Jackson’s 1828 Presidential election victory, the Democratic Party was the voice of farmers. The ex-Federalists and the nascent Whig party became that of commerce.

But there were northern and southern branches of each party, defined in how they stood on slavery. The story of the 1830s through 1850s is how that moral issue moved to the forefront, splitting both parties, and ultimately giving rise to the Republicans. This is very much the same paradigm as the “great sort” that took place between the Democratic Party and the GOP between 1980 and 2016 (if not 2008).

Not only is that, but reminiscent of polls over the past 10 years, in the 1830s and 1840s  northerners, especially northern Whigs, wanted to settle disputes civilly, while especially southern Democrats were willing to threaten, and even use, physical force to get their way.

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Mankiw Misrepresents a Story on Senator Sanders Campaign Worker Negotiations

Mankiw Misrepresents a Story on Senator Sanders Campaign Worker Negotiations

Greg Mankiw reads this story and writes:

Staffers in the Sanders campaign, who are working on salary, complain that they are paid less than the $15 per hour that Senator Sanders advocates for the minimum wage. So Sanders raises their hourly wage. Does that increase their income? No, because he raised the hourly wage by cutting the number of hours they work! Of course, if a President Sanders raised the federal minimum wage, I am sure he would be confident that the change would not have any adverse employment effects. Downward-sloping demand curves may describe socialist political campaigns, but back in the actual capitalist economy, the laws of supply and demand work completely differently.

OK – he started his post by saying it is a wonderful story, which is true. But as I read the story, I saw a very different tale than the one Mankiw suggested:

Field organizers say they make a salary of $36,000 annually but work 60 hours per week, which is an average of $13 per hour … Sanders’ 2020 campaign was the first to unionize in March 2019. The union then made an agreement with the campaign that field workers were to be paid $36,000 annually. The contract, which began on May 2, also provides platinum level health care, paid vacation, sick leave and other benefits. Shakir also told Newsweek that leadership at the campaign previously offered a pay increase for field organizers, but that the offer was rejected in a formal vote. According to the Post, Shakir offered organizer pay to be raised to $42,000 annually and extend the workweek to six days. The offer was reportedly rejected because it would have elevated staff to a pay level in which they’d be responsible to pay more of their own health care costs.

Let’s note what Mankiw did not. The negotiations also involved what appears to be a decent level of fringe benefits in addition to a $36,000 per year salary. These workers are apparently working 60 hours a week, which if they did so for 50 weeks would indeed translate into 3000 hours per year at $12 per hour. Does Harvard require its faculty to put in such an incredibly demanding schedule? I hope not as we know Mankiw loves to spend time with his children. Now if one worked 6 days a week and 8 hours a day for 50 weeks, then $36,000 per year translates into $15 an hour. How Mankiw interprets this story into evidence that we are seeing a competitive labor market moving along a downward sloping demand curve is beyond me. I’m sure he can explain this all to his students at Harvard.

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Hannity Calls For/Predicts War With Iran

Hannity Calls For/Predicts War With Iran

OK, sorry if this is just over the top, but this evening Trump’s close pal, Sean Hannity, has gone over the top both predicting and clearly supporting a full blown attack on Iran, “take out all their nuclear facilities.”  Curiously a sign of how over the top this is was given by one of his guests, a colonel, warned that it would take nuclear weapons by the US to fully take out the most deeply buried  Iranian capabilities.

I am reasonably certain that part of why Hannity was sounding the war trumpet rather than his usual “investigate Hillary and the Steele dossier” baloney is that today Trump put himself into a difficult contradictory situation, having gone doubtful last night on his followers in NC chanting “Send her back” to supporting those chanters today. So, much easier to distract everybody with a possible war in the Persian Gulf (sorry, not “Arabian Gulf,” not yet), especially given that there has been an ongoing escalation of incidents in the Gulf over oil tankers, with Iran pushing back against the US withdrawing from the JCPOA nuclear deal.

But the bottom line is that what Hannity spouts often ends up being what his close pal Trump ends up doing.  I take this spout from Hannity all too seriously.  We may well be in more serious war with Iran soon, with such an effort accompanied by far more massive lies than the Bush admin gave us when he stupidly invaded Iraq on false pretenses, although Hannity is assuring us that “It will be all over very soon, with no boots on the ground.”  Yeah, we have heard that one before.

Barkley Rosser

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Bill Black says what if…

(Dan here… Via Real News Network, Bill Black discusses the what-ifs of President Trump’s policies in a spectacular contrast to current expectations…providing. a jumping off point from what we expect from the way it is framed now. I assume the complex interalationships of the wealthy elites (let us see how the Epstein case unwinds for another aspect) plays an important but not so well known role in this drama.  I find his thought his conclusions dismaying if even somewhat accurate.)

BILL BLACK: Sure. The question I ask in the article is why did Trump choose to be so spectacularly unpopular? Because had he done what he promised and had a true middle class tax cut that gave, for example, $5,000 a year to the typical middle class household, he would be spectacularly popular. And almost certainly they would have–the Republicans would have retained control of the House, and quite possibly they would have gained seats in the House. And of course they would have gained seats in the Senate. And Trump would be well positioned for re-election. He would have greatly expanded his base, and he would have paid off to his base, as well. And you know, convinced them that backing him was exactly the right thing.

And that’s the biggest thing. But also, if Trump had done what he promised and had a true infrastructure bill, where he spent $2 trillion on infrastructure, he would have divided the Democratic Party.

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Eliminate The Debt Ceiling

Eliminate The Debt Ceiling

Several days ago in WaPo, Catherine Rampell published a highly reasonable column calling for eliminating the century-old US debt ceiling, something no other nation has ever had, a position supported by a wide array of economists including such a conservative GOP stalwart as the recently deceased Martin Feldstein, a former CEA Chair for Reagan.  I have made numerous posts here on this in the past, but the issue is hot again as once again the debt ceiling is being rapidly approached.

The latest story is that the “adults in the room,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, may be very near an agreement to raise the debt ceiling, Reportedly Pelosi has been open to eliminating the ceiling, but in the current circumstances I certainly understand why she might be wanting to secure a two year agreement to preserve funding for social safety programs crazy right wingers want to use the debt ceiling issue to trash as well as holding off any shutdowns this fall.  This is what used to be known as “good government,” but in the current environment, even this apparently reasonable deal, which also has no non-economic sideshows involving abortion or whatever, may yet not pass.  Pelosi says it must be agreed to by tomorrow evening if it will get passed properly by Congress before they all go on leave and the government might run out of money in early September (corporate tax payments have been way down due to Trump tax law).  Eliminating the ceiling would avoid all this bs, but this is not the moment for that.

This is definitely a weird and unprecedented situation.  For over a century we have had this completely indefensible debt ceiling, which has been raised so many times it is not worth counting, and when the WH and Congress have been controlled by the same party, it has been no big deal, although obviously that is what we need to get rid of the damned thing.  However, historically, when there has been split partisan control the game has been the WH pushing raising the ceiling while the opposition party in Congress has made lots of complaining noises and often made demands for raising it.  The problem this time is that the major power broker of the administration, Acting Chief of Staff Mulvaney, was part of the tea party fanatics in the House who when Obama was prez tried to block raising the ceiling.  Apparently at times he and Trump have indulged in fantasies that if there is a default he could personally control which agencies get funded and which do not.  This is not true, and maybe they are figuring it out, but Mulvaney has said nothing, and Trump must pass on this.

If he messes up the deal, it will be all his fault, as his own Treasury Secretary has cut it with the Congressional leader of the opposition party in the House, with reportedly the toadish GOP-controlled Senate ready to go along.  He may or may not have figured out that triggering a shutdown did not help him, but if he thinks triggering a default will not be worse, this will be a big mistake, to put it mildly.

Barkley Rosser

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A Voice from England

Trevor and I worked together on the supply of antennae for keyless go automobiles including Chrysler, Mercedes, BMW, Skoda, etc. I had met him while working in Germany as the Purchasing Manager for North America. He was representing a German/Czech company.

I spent time traveling around Germany, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic. Partook of Czech Budweiser beer which is many steps up from the American version. We have been exchanging words on the situations and conditions in England, Europe, and the US. It sounds as bad as the US; although, I would like to think we are far worse than what Europe is experiencing. This exchange was started with a short comment I made on Facebook:

A few racist remarks by the Pres and suddenly the imprisonment of immigrants seeking asylum from violence in their homelands is forgotten along with the poor conditions under which they are being held.

The squad of four is tough enough to take the abuse. They have heard worse. We should be angry at Republicans and Trump’s purposeful comments in an attempt to deflect our attention from the crisis on the southern border and his continued abuse of people.

Bill,

We live in scary times, some comments by your President and our possible new Prime Minister seem to echo the 1930’s in Europe!

Trevor,

My English associate, I am sure you and your country men and women will rid yourselves of Boris as soon as you can do so. For us, it is a bit more difficult as we have actors of democracy placing party and politics above country and the general welfare of this country. We do not make much of a safe or dependable ally in the world today either.

Bill,

I sincerely hope so, I see too many parallels with the rise of Hitler in our current European political environment, calling for sovereignty and blaming immigrants for the ills of a nation are not the way forward. But this kind of rhetoric appeals to the less thoughtful amongst us. I listen to people telling us that the UK must leave the European Community because of their control over us, but 95% of the legislation put before the European Parliament during the last 5 years was voted through with very close to total support of the UK MEP’s. I am watching the most divisive split of the UK driven by the media and a few MP’s who appear to be stupid. It is just unbelievable, you could not make it up. Then we have Trump who appears capable of gross stupidity, and has crowds cheering him and chanting for democratically elected senators to be sent home! It is all very scary!

I trust you are well!

Trevor,

I have been reading and watching. This is highly unusual for Europe in this age. Hungary appears to be off the rails also with Orbán as is Poland too. Radicals have also reappeared in Germany, And the US has its blood and soil marchers who are further radicalized by the stupid remarks of our President. Politicians of his party are condoning his racist hatred which empowers and mobilizes others to do stupid things. It has gone beyond verbalization.

Yes, yes, blame the poor and the weak, the different culture and color, who come to America having other languages and looking for safe haven amongst us. Instead they are portrayed as a class level lower than the poorest of the white American, taking advantage of our economy. This has kept the population from concentrating on the disproportionate, and growing, distribution of wealth and income in the US. For the lower white class, an allowed luxury, a place in the hierarchy and a sure form of self esteem insurance.

The political economics of it have certainly led to bad and violent reactions towards immigrants. We are not a small country. At the most only 10% of our land mass is occupied. New people keeps our median age lower, which is good for labor, and most have assimilated into society over the generations.

I am hoping with “a little patience, we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles (Jefferson).”

This bastard occupying our presidency must go.

Perhaps a couple of more Budweisers in Prachatice to dull our thought on the current events????

Bill,

I wrote this to a Brexiteer friend who I just cannot believe fails to see the reality.

Yes a difficult area as the public are not fully informed, however, there is already far too much anti immigration feeling in this country, it is clear that without immigrants our NHS would not function. The media has a great deal to answer for, during the last 20 plus years they have printed distortions and blatantly biased articles against immigrants, and indeed against the EU.

The rise of the likes of Farage and Trump with their, in my view distorted views of the world, claiming they only want to reclaim their countries for the people is dangerous rhetoric, I thought that with the end of the Second World War we had moved on from demonizing and blaming particular races of people for damaging a country.

Indeed there is the moral dilemma of ensuring that we do not create poverty, but our current crop of politicians has spent and is indeed spending multiple millions of our tax money on foolhardy adventures, HS2, PFI and yes Brexit. These same politicians, whilst cosseted in their parliamentary roles have made costly decision after costly decision without a care for those in genuine need.

Universal Credit is an absolute fiasco, it is causing immense levels of poverty for both indigenous British people and immigrant alike, just look at the rise in food bank use, also consider the absolutely appalling numbers of children living in poverty. The claims of children unable to go to school as they have no shoes are true, just ask my daughter who works for a charity.

I am no socialist or indeed liberal, I believe in freedom for the individual to make the best of their lives, I also believe in the free market. But, and this is a big but, I also believe in helping those in genuine need, the low paid workers who contribute much to society for little reward. For example those earning the UK minimum wage who are trying to feed and house themselves.

So I do not believe in squandering tax £’s on vanity projects, or things like PFI, or as I said earlier Brexit, the bill to date on this alone is in excess of £900 million in the last financial year, with 5,000 civil servants diverted from their real jobs and numerous fat cat consultants from the big four consultancy practices creaming £ millions of Tax £’s. All whilst the self-serving egotistical politicians argue amongst themselves about a deal that needs to be agreed by 27 other countries.

You can tell that I feel very strongly about the situation to which the media has misled us, I am ashamed of my country when I see homeless people on the streets, and when I see the use of food banks increasing on a daily basis, and when I hear that we have staggering numbers of children living in poverty. This is supposed to be the 5th largest economy in the World, but our politicians are squandering our Tax pounds without a care for their country.

Me: I do not believe in mislaying the people I get to know while traveling. We have issues globally and similar concerns by the sane.

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