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

Ballance in The Washington Post All Time Silver Medalist

Senate to emerge from impeachment trial guilty of extreme partisanship, Paul Kane

The absolute need to balance blame for Republican partisanship with false claims about Democrats overcame Mr Kane’s interest in elementary logical consistency. He wrote

none of the rank-and-file senators made a single real effort to negotiate their own compromise on witnesses.

“Nope. I’ve made phone calls, I’ve sent emails,” Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) said Friday. “And the returns have been polite but brief.”

So his proof that there was not a “single real effort to negotiate” is based on describing an effort to negotiate. Evidently, Senator Coons is not a rank and file Senator.

This is just the most extreme example of undying devotion to Jack Ballance, which is stronger than any interest in logical consistency. Immediately before, Kane asserts with no evidence whatsoever, that Democratic Senators had their arms twisted by Schumer and resented it

“For all their griping about the firm grip McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) have on their caucuses, ”

The entire “news analysis” presents no evidence of such griping in the Democratic caucus. Not only is there not a named source (corresponding to the explicitly griping Lisa Murkowski) but there is no un-named source, nor any reference to any news article which contains any hint of such griping.

He presents no evidence that Schumer had to twist arms to convince a Democrat or an Independent that there should be witnesses at a trial. He asserts this as a fact, but does not feel any need to provide the hint of the shadow of a clue that there is anything behind his assertion except for his own fanatically blind ideological centrism.

Also right after the block quote he asserts

“Just 16 months ago, Coons and then-Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) angered both leaders when they forced an extra week of consideration of the nomination of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh,”

I am aware of no evidence that the delay in the confirmation of Kavanaugh angered Schumer. I think there is no such evidence. I think the word “both” was added due to blind fanatical bothsidesism.

Kane laments the change from the Senate in which Coons and Flake reached a bipartisan compromise. A casual reader would assume he is saying that Coons has changed and is no longer willing to make a “real effort to negotiate”. He should not assume that all Post readers know that Coons didn’t compromise with Flake this time, because Flake is no longer a Senator. T

The reason for the change is clear. After the Republicans picked up two seats, there are at least 50 disciplined Republican Senators who can be counted on to put loyalty to the party above loyalty to the country, the constitution and their recently sworn oath.

The Senate hasn’t become more partisan (more Republicans voted with the Democrats this time). It has become more Republican. That is why it has ceased entirely to fulfill its constitutional role.

Now I don’t insist that Kane reject the Republican party, but I do insist that he never reject facts and logic again. I think it would be best for him to quit and look for a job which he is willing to do.

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SOCIAL SECURITY A Mystery Story

by Dale Coberly

A few years ago, now getting to be many years ago, I solved a crime. Not because I was a Great Detective, but because I happened to be standing across the street where I saw it committed and took the number of the getaway car. Since then I have tried to tell the police what I saw, but they don’t want to hear about it.

I don’t want to go too far with this parable, just wanted to let you know in advance that I don’t claim to be smarter than anyone else, but what I am talking about is not an opinion and is a verifiable fact.

So back to facts. Sometime in the late 1990’s I heard on public radio (“radio for intelligent people”) an expert claiming that Social Security was bankrupt, a huge burden that was going to crush the taxpayers, especially the young.

Intuitively that didn’t seem very likely to me. How much could it cost to pay for the basic needs of retired people? I did a few calculations and saw that it wasn’t likely to be very much and certainly not unreasonable.

The simple equation to set some parameters goes something like this: If you expect to live twenty years after you can no longer work, and you can live . . . comfortably . . . on about 40% of what you were making while you were working . . . the kids are grown, the house is paid for, you don’t need expensive vacations . . . you can save enough money while you are working for forty years (age 25 to 65) by putting away 20% of your wages:

20% of wages times 40 years equals 40% of wages times 20 years

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If democracy fails in the United States . . .

will it survive anywhere else?

Many people (including me) are worried about the failure of democracy here.  But what happens in the rest of the world if democracy fails here, with the leading countries outside Europe authoritarian or leaning authoritarian, and European democracy looking a bit frayed around the edges?  And if authoritarianism is ascendant around the world, what would be the chance of a democratic restoration here?  This is above my pay grade, but I’m not optimistic . . . thoughts?

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Which Lie Is The Worst?

Which Lie Is The Worst?

With the conclusion of the Trump defense in his impeachment trial, the question arises as to which lie told by the defense is the worst?

Sean Hannity has been emphasizing four in particular.  In the first, he claims that there was no linkage between military aid and investigating the Bidens in the July 25 phone transcript.  But there it is in black and white that when Zelensky mentioned wanting more military aid, Trump immediately goes to “I need a favor though,” and with that immediately followed up by his demand for inveatigating the supposedly missing laptop with mention of investigating Bidens coming a bit later.

Then we have the true claim that Zelensky has never publicly said he felt “pressure” from Trump.  Indeed, but we know no way would he say so as long as he wants aid.

Then we have the claim that Zelensky knew nothing about this before the July 25 phone call.  But in fact numerous witnesses have testified that he did and was fully aware of what was coming (more or less) when he participated in the July 25 phone call. This one is an outright lie.

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Digital technology as used in today’s campaigning

I just read the this article: Trump’s Digital Advantage is Freaking out Democratic Strategist.   It is a NYT’s opinion piece.

I know and have known about the use of collecting our data to sell us stuff.  The concern for me is that there is almost no way for an individual to stop having their self tracked and mined any more based on this article.  What is worse though than just having it used to sell me stuff is having it used as what clearly has become psych ops.  We are clearly in the subliminal suggestion pathway to influencing personality.

Steven Livingston, a professor of media and public affairs and director of the Institute for Data, Democracy and Politics at George Washington University, has been tracking this sub rosa electioneering in the current election cycle.

Livingston described “these digital shadow campaigns” as “analogous to and perhaps an actual digital manifestation of ‘dark money’ influence campaigns.” In addition, he continued,

Overwhelmingly, these pages and groups do not have ownership declarations or Facebook verifications. We simply do not know what other digital properties might be operated by common sources with the groups. There is money being spent but we don’t know the sources. It is unaccountable spending.

The article notes the difference in expenditures on digital processes between the Trump and Clinton campaign (it was big) and that the Trump campaign has been developing obstructive since. This is the point I present my political ad: Time for the 1% who are still on the left to start spending their money to combat the money infrastructure the right has built.  I’m talking to you Bloomberg and Steyer instead of for office.

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The U.S. Position in the World Economy

by Joseph Joyce

The U.S. Position in the World Economy

The election of 2016 in the U.S. saw the popularity of campaigning against international trade, foreign investments and immigration. Under the Trump administration the U.S. has implemented policies that mark a retreat from the globalization that was engineered during the 1990s and 2000s. What role has the U.S. played in the integration of global markets, and what happens if we withdraw?

Anthony Elson’s new book, The United States in the World Economy: Making Sense of Globalization, provides a thorough description and analysis of the position of the U.S. in the world economy. Elson, a former IMF staff member, shows that the U.S. retains a predominant position in international economic transactions. But the foreign sector is not as important for our domestic economy as it is for many other countries, and as a result its contributions to the domestic economy are often overlooked.

In international trade, for example, the U.S. share of global merchandise exports and imports lags China’s very narrowly, 11.46% versus 11.86% in 2015. But trade openness (the sum of exports and imports as a share of GDP) in the U.S. was 28%, lower than China’s openness of 40% and significantly less than Germany’s 86%. This disparity may explain the lack of attention paid to exports, while imports are seen as a threat. (One exception has been the agricultural sector, where China’s cutback of its purchases of U.S. soybeans and other products has forced the Trump administration to make payments to farmers).

Trump has cut back existing institutional arrangements, exiting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). (However, its successor, the United States, Mexico and Canada Agreement (USMCA), does not substantively change the basic provisions of the earlier pact.) The administration actively uses tariffs as a tool of policy, often with little justification, and these inflict damage on the global economy. The U.S. agreement with China halts the scheduled escalation in trade measures but leaves in place tariffs that disrupt the domestic economy, leaving great uncertainty about the timing of the next stage. Training programs that could facilitate the movement of workers across sectors, on the other hand, have been underutilized.

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Other Immigration Issues Here and Elsewhere

From SWI, Swiss news: Switzerland’s House of Representatives has rejected an initiative by the right-wing Swiss “People’s Party” to limit immigration and cancel a deal with the European Union on the free movement of people.

Albert Rösti, head of the Swiss People’s Party warns that “uncontrolled” immigration could increase the current 8.5 million Swiss population to ten million and place additional pressure on infrastructure and the environment. It also says free movement of people encourages employers to recruit foreigners at cheap rates rather than Swiss people.

Sound familiar?

Per SwissInfo.ch , Switzerland faces a “shortage of workers 10 years out according to the Swiss Employers’ Association which warned Switzerland could face a shortage of 700,000 workers in ten years’ time.  Immigration is a key to plug the gap.”

To help close the potential gap, professionals possessing engineering backgrounds will be needed with a priority on civil and electronic engineering being the most important. Also technical skills in such fields as heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning have moved up from third to second place in needed skills followed by fiduciaries, auditors, and IT ability. These types of capabilities and skills are not possessed by present day migrants coming to Switzerland.

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Does the United States Have a Progressive Future?

Spoiler alert:  maybe.

The surprising success of Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential bid, widespread protests against Trump, and the election of a number of highly progressive candidates in the 2018 midterms all seem to suggest a progressive turning point in American politics.  At the very least, the intellectual stranglehold of right-wing economic ideas on our political discourse seems to have been broken.  Progressive proposals for Medicare for All, a higher minimum wage, higher taxes on the wealthy, free college, child support, and the Green New Deal are all generating enthusiasm among Democrats and getting a more respectful hearing in mainstream political circles than would have seemed possible even 5 years ago.

I agree that greater interest in progressive policy ideas among journalists, political leaders, and the policy elite is an important political development, but it is a common mistake to read too much into short-term swings in public opinion or the results of a single election.  So it is useful to step back and ask what we know about the path to a progressive future in the United States.

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