Saturday, December 31, 2016

For I also am a steward

“The rule of no realm is mine, neither of Gondor nor any other, great or small. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task, though Gondor should perish, if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I also am a steward. Did you not know?”Gandalf to Denethor, Steward of Gondor, in The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien

Friday, December 30, 2016

Twitter Harassment Is Stochastic Terrorism

So can we prosecute Donald Trump as a terrorist? What about the G*m*rg*t*rs?

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Public Remembers: the Obama Recovery

While the Democratic leadership points to the recovery since 2008, the public remembers losing their homes and having their wages cut.

But, hey, the economy had nothing to do with the 2016 election results.

Trump: People Have Forgotten How Bad It Can Get

Americans have forgotten how bad it can get:  hyperinflation, mass unemployment, hunger, disease, these were all things good government shielded us from for 60 years. Trump promises to bring them all back.

Tweets: the Democratic Party and the Working Class

While the Democratic leadership points to the recovery since 2008, the public remembers losing their homes and having their wages cut. Democratic policies may have been enough to allow a recovery, but the public remembers how the banks were bailed out, and not the public.

The party of the working class must act openly on behalf of the working class.

Democratic Coalition Blues

Young people and older women are the coalition that elected Obama. I think there would be little such a coalition could not do. — myself, writing on health care in 2009
But in 2016 that coalition split and now we have not only a crazy Republican President, but also Republican control of the House and Senate.

Wotta revoltin' development.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Econodisaster ahoy!

The combination of Kudlow as head of the Council of Economic Advisors and Mulvaney as head of the Office of Management and Budget is a one-two punch for the economy:

Paul Krugman:
Cutting taxes on high incomes probably has a low multiplier: the wealthy are unlikely to be cash-constrained, and will save a large part of their windfall. Cutting discretionary spending has a large multiplier, because it directly cuts government purchases of goods and services; cutting programs for the poor probably has a pretty high multiplier too, because it reduces the income of many people who are living more or less hand to mouth. — Krugman, “Will Fiscal Policy Really Be Expansionary?
 Kudlow, 2005:
Why not apply the same tax laws that have benefited home owners to stock market investors and home buyers? If this were to come about, even more wealth would be created in America, leading to even more new business and job creation. — quoted in Delong, “Monday Smackdown: No, Larry Kudlow Is Not an Economist II.” Read the previous and following posts on Delong's blog for a comprehensive takedown of Kudlow.
Mulvaney, 2010:
"I have heard people say that if we don't do [raise the debt ceiling] it will be the end of the world," he said. "I have yet to meet someone who can articulate the negative consequences." — quoted by Jon Perr, “Trump Risks U.S. Default with Debt Ceiling Denier Mulvaney as Budget Chief.
Ezra Klein, quoted in the same article, summarizing the likely results:
It makes perfect sense unless you, like me, had spent the previous few days talking to economists, investors and economic policymakers about what could happen if we start playing games with the debt ceiling. Their answers were across-the-board apocalyptic. If the U.S. government is so incapable of solving its political problems that it can't come to an agreement on the debt ceiling, they said, that's basically the end of the United States as the world's reserve currency. We won't be considered safe enough to serve as the investment of last resort. We would lose the most important advantage our economy has in the global financial system — and we'd probably lose it forever. Skyrocketing interest rates would slow our economy and, in real terms, make it even harder to pay back our debt, which would in turn send interest rates going even higher. It's an economic death spiral we associate with third-world countries, not with the United States.
So we have Kudlow's stupidity weakening the economy even further, while Mulvaney promises to blow up the credibility of the US Treasury for generations.

Thanks, Republicans.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Unwinding: World Trade

If enough of these factions, all alike and all hating each other, come together the global economy will unravel. The networks of trade that make us a rich world, if not all of us rich people, will be dismantled and all nations will be the poorer for it. Refugees will be turned away to be crushed under brutal autocrats. Possibly shooting wars will follow. — myself, Brexit: Are We Without the Peace?
And now we have:
Trump plans - using the good offices of Nigel Farage, at least is a go-between - to boost the UK's leverage in its Brexit negotiations by moving quickly to conclude a free trade agreement with the UK. […] Trump hopes to follow, using the model of the US-UK deal to strike separate bilateral trade deals with Germany, France and down the line, in essence breaking up the EU. — Josh Marshall, Trump Has a Plan to Break Up the EU
 Right on track.

I don't know how likely of success this is — I am not sure that the Trump administration will not crash and burn — but give it 1 in 10 odds of success. No. One in six. Russian roulette odds.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Counting and Recounting: Tinfoil?

Here we have we have a short recounting of the events at one Michigan recount, from Nick Sharp:
Trump’s legal team was there in force, circling the room like sharks. They were challenging everything, gumming up the works and disqualifying whole precincts. I was only aware of a single Green Party attorney plus one law student in my (large) room. Many challenges had one or more Trump lawyers speaking with election officials, and no legal advocate present for the other side; they were simply outnumbered and outgunned.
Going into the election, the Trump campaign had this in their back pocket. So they were planning on making any recount difficult. It is possible that the plan all along was to steal the vote in key states, and then block any recount. This would, for instance, explain why Trump, at the third debate, would not say he was willing to concede. Because he knew that not only was his campaign going to fix the the election, but it was going to make sure that the fix was not investigated. It would also explain why the pre-election opinion polling disagreed with the final tally: the opinion polling was correct; the final tally was deliberately miscounted.

Do I believe this? No. Do I think this is possible? Yes. A full, thorough, and well-funded recount would be appropriate but, for whatever reason, the Democratic Party has chosen not to undertake it. Until our voting procedures are made secure against these tactics, it will always be possible for a campaign that has stolen the election to bury the evidence of that theft; no recount or audit will be allowed.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Not Tinfoil Anymore: The Russian Connections

Washington Post: Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House

Charles Pierce is furious, reminding us of the history of tolerating such crimes.

Even Marci Wheeler is starting to come around.

It's OK if you're a Republican. Even treason, apparently.

One ray of hope in this: the treason of Nixon and Kissinger remained secret for decades; likewise the treason of Reagan administration officials. This has perhaps come out in time to do some good.

Progress. Slow, but progress.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Tinfoil: Who Are Donald Trump's Foreign Policy Advisors?

The world order shook when Donald Trump accepted a congratulatory call from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen. At first, it looked like more ignorant Trumpery. But it has since become clear that it was long-planned by foreign policy hawks:
Immediately after Trump won the Nov. 8 election, his staffers compiled a list of foreign leaders with whom to arrange calls. “Very early on, Taiwan was on that list,” said Stephen Yates, a national security official during the presidency of George W. Bush and an expert on China and Taiwan. “Once the call was scheduled, I was told that there was a briefing for President-elect Trump. They knew that there would be reaction and potential blowback.” — Washington Post, Trump’s Taiwan phone call was long planned
The New York Times has since reported that Bob Dole Worked Behind the Scene on Trump-Taiwan Call.

This has weakened the One China Policy, a long-standing diplomatic compromise dating back to 1972 wherein China agreed to leave Taiwan alone, and the USA agreed to say that there was only one China (and never mind who governed it), made by none other than Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon. Since that time, China has become a major US trading partner and US capitalists have moved much manufacturing to China. The One China Policy has long been unpopular with US hawks, who want conflict with China, and who Trump is sympathetic too. But how would this work in practice? As with the ACA repeal, no-one seems to know how to abandon the One China Policy without dire consequences.

Trump has been refusing national security briefings and, apparently, contact with the State Department, and seems to have foreign policy advisors he has not yet named. So who are these advisors?

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Protectionism and Jobs: It Could Work, But…

If trade barriers barriers are raised, I speculate it could be  jobs will be created. BUT. We know this history. It is the history of the Soviet Union, which forbade trade which capitalist countries. The USSR did, indeed, make consumer products on its own. Shoddy, expensive ones which everyone hated. Bootleg Western products were prized. Consider US-made automobiles; they are among the least reliable and comfortable.

I don’t see how the USA can produce consumer products at anything like the price or in anything like the quantity that foreign producers do; all the US ability to do so has been taken apart. (Much of it was shipped to China by none other than Mitt Romney.) Meantime, though, we’ll be putting up with appalling quality at high prices.

There's probably other negatives here I can't see, but I'm pretty sure they are yuge.