Monday, May 01, 2017

Tax "reform" or not?

In Edinburgh I just posed for pictures next to one statue of Hume and then in front of Adam Smith, the founder of liberal economics.

(Oh the handsome scotsman posing with me? Edinburgh science fiction legend Ken MacLeod. Look up his fine novels, such as The Corporation Wars.)

Back to Adam Smith; it’s clear where he would be writing, were he alive today -- at the website that mentions his name most-often. Evonomics is the fast-rising site where liberals and moderates in the commercial and academic worlds of economics offer spirited resistance to fanaticism. 

While the far-left and the entire-right seem hell-bent on betraying the system that brought us all this vast wealth and opportunity, moderates are rediscovering Smith, who knew that creative-competitive markets can only work when they are regulated to keep them flat-open and fair.  

6000 years of cheaters have showed us that vast disparities of wealth do not lead to healthy market enterprise, but stifle it. (Try running a competitive sports league without "regulation." Alas, leftists reflexively despise the word "competition" and rightists despise "regulation" when it is only the combination that works.) See my posting on Competition and Regulation.

If our parents in the Greatest Generation could stymie oligarchic cheaters, spurring lively market competition by keeping things relatively flat and fair, then can't we?  These re-sets have to be made about once per U.S. generation, and the plantation lords - desperate to prevent it - know that feudalism might be prevented permanently, if we perform just one more.  

Which brings us to…

== The Tax Bill: fool me ten times…. ==

The one and only actual priority of the plantation lords is now forefront in the hilariously sob-worthy new 'tax bill':

"Our expectation is that with the growth we create and the elimination of many deductions that we will make it revenue neutral," said Marc Short, the White House Director of Legislative Affairs, doubling down yet again on Supply Side Theory.

Well, it's a theory that sounded plausible when JFK pushed the first big tax cut in the 1960s. It still sounded conceivable when Reagan pushed the next round in the 80s. 

Then ridiculous when Bush Sr. got us to go a third time with this “voodoo” that has never once worked, ever, in any way.
At any level.
Even once.
At all.
Ever.

Then came the big tax cut for the rich under Bush Junior, when most economists and a majority of Americans asked: “Are you kidding me?” It didn’t work (again) and deficits skyrocketed, along with wealth disparities now approaching those of France in 1789.

So now the Trumpists are doing it again. Read the details, like elimination of inheritance tax so that oligarchy can preserve its feudal power across generations, and the alternative minimum tax, so they do not have to pay for wars they declare. Oh, and you lose your medical expense deduction. And the old excuses aren’t even being pushed hard. The masters want this. And that’s that. It’s no longer “fool me once.”  See:
This Isn’t Tax Policy; It’s a Trump-Led Heist.

Heck, there aren't even fig leaves to actual stimulation. R&D credits? Nope. Depreciation for domestic productive capacity? I don't see any. Credits for public-private infrastructure investment? None that I can spot.

What is in the bill is a set of provisions that openly and savagely attack the finances of blue states. The confederates seem determined to wake us up. This is Fort Sumter, guys.

== Tax Simplification? ==

If "reform" means wanting to simplify the system, so it is no longer a 10,000 rule monstrosity, I have long offered an absolutely guaranteed way to do it.  The non-partisan method is technical, using computer optimization. But my "No-Losers" method not only can work... it works almost by definition. 

In contrast the Trump "reform" has one aim. At risk of repetition, in the 1980s and again in the 2000s, "supply side" tax cuts poured wealth from our carotid arteries into open oligarch maws without once, ever, at all, even one time, having the predicted outcomes. 

Nothing so well proves the stunning stupidity of these neo-feudal lords, that they think this has any logical conclusion, other than tumbrels.

== The Influence of Propaganda ==

From the new Scout site: Welcome to the age of Weaponized AI Propaganda, by Berit Anderson:

"By leveraging automated emotional manipulation alongside swarms of bots, Facebook dark posts, A/B testing, and fake news networks, a company called Cambridge Analytica has activated an invisible machine that preys on the personalities of individual voters to create large shifts in public opinion. " 

This company helped elect Donald Trump and helped with the Brexit Leave campaign. "The company is owned and controlled by conservative and alt-right interests that are also deeply entwined in the Trump administration. The Mercer family is both a major owner of Cambridge Analytica and one of Trump’s biggest donors. Steve Bannon, in addition to acting as Trump’s Chief Strategist and a member of the White House Security Council, is a Cambridge Analytica board member. Until recently, Analytica’s CTO was the acting CTO at the Republican National Convention."

This report on the science reporting site “Scout” explains: In the past, political messaging and propaganda battles were arms races to weaponize narrative through new mediums — waged in print, on the radio, and on TV. This new wave has brought the world something exponentially more insidious — personalized, adaptive, and ultimately addictive propaganda.”

Speaking of weaponized info: recall he beat up on Hillary about how incredibly irresponsible she was by allowing her email, and classified documents, to be exposed to hackers, by using email exactly the way her predecessors had. Now a congressman calls for House investigation of Donald Trump's terrible Android phone In the month since he took office, Donald Trump has refused to drop his Samsung S3 in favor of the standard secured phone. That's a huge security problem, since conventional phones are vulnerable...

== A Ray of Light ==

The United States Is Not an Apocalyptic Wasteland, explains Steven Pinker in this interview with Phil Torres. Professor Stephen Pinker, along with Peter Diamandis (Abundance: The Future is Better than You Think) has used evidence to shatter the delusion that everything is spiraling into hell. That mythology doesn’t help inspire us to save the world, but rather spreads nihilism and cynicism. In fact, statistically, there are dozens of reasons for (guarded) optimism!  Which, in turn, ought to inspire a can-do spirit and belief that we can act vigorously, to solve problems.  See his book, The Better Angels of Our Nature. One special insight: When people believe that the world is heading off a cliff, they are receptive to the perennial appeal of demagogues: "What do you have to lose?"  Sound familiar?
Yes, both right and left contain critics, who admit the veracity of Pinker’s impressive statistics, yet cast clouds. Conservative writer Tom Nichols’s book -- The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters -- details aims at dangers that he (largely erroneously) believes Pinker is overlooking.  What makes Nichols significant is that he calls the Populist Rejection of Expertise not just damaging, but potentially deadly for our future, with potential to turn large portions of the USA into what are "Apocalyptic Wastelands."

I used to have a fantasy that fellows like this were simmering all over American conservatism. If Nichols' version of Conservatism were to prevail, we could see a GOP that returns to sanity, promoting science, adult argument, mature, success-oriented negotiation based on appraisal of real facts and outcomes. Alas, year after year I see most of the best conservative thinkers just burrow deeper into their ostrich holes of denial. Oh, they are able to admit: “my side has gone insane.” But this only propels them to guzzle the murdochian koolaid rationalizations that “all the scientists, journalists, professionals, democrats and blue Americans are just…as… crazy.”  And of course, that’s plain crazy.

Sure, there are occasional exceptions, willing to stand up and step forward.  Who would imagine that Glenn Beck would be one of the brave ones? But there is no critical mass. No core that is courageous enough to emulate what democrats did to save their party from radicalism and treason, in the “Miracle of 1947.”

== Muddled speech ==

Seriously.  Read every word of this interview with our president. It is verbatim, so he’s not being treated unfairly… though note how many places were marked “unintelligible.”  Transcript of AP interview with Trump.  

Let’s be fair. I am interviewed a lot and I’m well aware that spoken English doesn’t always look so good, when directly transcribed.  I try to speak in sentences and paragraphs, as does any careful and experienced hand. Still – despite lots of practice – I know there’ll be passages that come across either unclear or sounding repetitious or distracted. We should make allowances.  And yet, even so –

-- see if you can pick out one passage, even one, that is cogent and/or uttered as an adult might speak. One. Even one. Heck, find more than a couple that are coherent at any level.

BTW, which seems more likely? That we just saved $70 million on each F35 plane because of hard audits set in motion months ago by the Obama Administration… or because Donald Trump shouted the word “Boeing!” at Lockheed. (The former is what actually happened.) Even if there weren’t firm contracts, does he believe Boeing could underbid the contractor who is now fully tooled and in production, just because the president shouts their name as an incantation?  Bluffing your partners out of some real estate is not the same as managing a complex, 21st Century defense contract.

66 comments:

A.F. Rey said...

The one thing that struck me when my wife and I attended the Trump campaign rally in San Diego a few months back (feels like years, doesn't it?) was that Trump seemed incapable of finishing a coherent thought or sentence. After a half-hour of listening to this rambling and my wife trying to get close enough to see the man (the crowd packed around him like a pack of predators around a kill--you couldn't squeeze in close with a crowbar), we finally left, with the only impressions I recall being "we'll make a better trade deal with China" and "that Mexican judge is out to get me." I see he hasn't improved since then.

How could any intelligent person vote for this guy?

Ilithi Dragon said...

President Trump is the Republican version of Deepak Chopra.

He says enough to make it sound like he's actually talking about something, but doesn't say anything of actual substance, and what substance he does say doesn't actually make any sense, if you're applying any critical thinking skills while listening.

But he's putting out the key phrases that trigger the happy responses from conservative voters, like Lois Griffin running for mayor in Family Guy, while also pissing off/being vehemently opposed by "the bad guy/enemy" liberals. Sure, a lot of what he says doesn't make sense, but the incessant, rambling nature of the BS, like the spread pattern of someone shooting a shotgun, while riding a pennyfarthing, while drunk, manages to hit enough happy response triggers and cognitive dissonance triggers that people think what he's saying actually makes sense, or sounds intelligent (even if they, themselves, aren't able to actually piece it together when listening to him).


On a slightly different note, does anyone happen to know where I might be able to find an english translation of "The Foundations of Geopoplitics: The Geopolitical Future of Russia" by Aleksandr Dugin? I've been looking around a bit the last couple weeks, and haven't been able to find much. From what I understand, it's been one of the primary influences behind Russian military and foreign policy, and was a textbook at the General Staff Academy for a while. I've only been able to find a translation of the Forward, but I feel it would be a very... insightful book to read. Based on the Wikipedia article, and a few other articles on it I've read, the policies and strategies the book outlines are disturbingly close to what we see playing out across the globe.

Zepp Jamieson said...

I think most leftists (and I mean progressives and social democrats, not communists) do NOT 'reflexively hate the word competition.' What they despise is the parody the right wing fresh-water economists have made of it. They will tell you that eliminating anti-monopoly laws "fosters competition' as does eliminating minimum wages and worker rights. "Tort reform"--the elimination of class action suits and other changes making it harder to sue corporations--also "fosters competition."
A mixed economy fosters competition; the right wing proposals eliminate it.

Tim H. said...

David, you said "6000 years of cheaters have showed us that vast disparities of wealth do not lead to healthy market enterprise, but stifle it. (Try running a competitive sports league without "regulation." Alas, leftists reflexively despise the word "competition" and rightists despise "regulation" when it is only the combination that works.)" And I'd like to elaborate, it's not that conservatives don't have some good ideas, it's that they aren't sufficient for the problems of the United States. As long as enormous money dominates the conservative movement, their policy is going to smell of heist.
And it may be getting worse, Trump is calling the constitution "Archaic".
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/donald-trump-us-constitution-archaic-really-bad-fox-news-100-days-trump-popularity-ratings-barack-a7710781.html

LarryHart said...

Ilithi Dragon:

President Trump is the Republican version of Deepak Chopra.

He says enough to make it sound like he's actually talking about something, but doesn't say anything of actual substance, and what substance he does say doesn't actually make any sense, if you're applying any critical thinking skills while listening.


From PART II: THE ENCYCLOPEDISTS in the very first "Foundation" book:

"...and I have the record, and that's that. I took that record, had it copied out and sent that to Holk for analysis also."

Lundin Crast said, "And where is this analysis?"

"That," replied Hardin, "is the interesting thing. The analysis was the most difficult of the three by all odds. When Holk, after two days of steady work, succeeded in eliminating meaningless phrases, vague gibberish, useless qualifications--in short, all the goo and dribble--he found he had nothing left. Everything canceled out.

"Lord Dorwin, gentlemen, in five days of discussion didn't say one damned thing, and he said it so you never noticed. There are the assurances you had from your precious Empire."

Tony Fisk said...

Ilithi, have you tried talking to Dugin's publishers about an English translation?
(the CIA might have a few spare ;-)

matthew said...

Doc, thanks for the photo with my other favorite author. Ken Mac is another great font of ideas- some great, some stinkers. Much like you. I'm glad you know each other. To be a fly on the wall...

John said...

A. F. Rey, I asked that of several friends who voted for him. The interesting thing is that none of them expected him to win. They each and every one said they "wanted to send a message" against business as usual. They were stunned when they discovered they got what they voted for. Some refused to vote for Clinton because they perceived her as too insider to care. Others have never actually been able to explain precisely what "message" they wanted to send other than "I don't like you." I pointed out that if Trump could describe his "neighbors dwellings in Scotland as "slums," there wasn't a chance he would show more respect to them - or ANY farmer or rancher who didn't live in some place that looked like a Dallas set. Trump doesn't suit their ethics, their sense of fairness, of politeness, anything, yet they voted for him.

Marino said...

Now I'm waiting for a pic near a certain grave in Highgate Cemetery, just for "fair and balanced" :-)

Jokes aside, Italian newspapers have published a piece of news about Trump saying that had Andrew Jackson lived longer, he had avoided the Civil War, and also that Trump didn't mention slavery as an issue or a cause of CW.
Now, I'm no scholar in US history but Jackson was elected in the 1830's, and I'm aware that a leading scholar like Kenneth M. Stampp labeled the CW as "the irrepressible conflict", so was it just a show of ignorance (as our Berlusconi did...when he said he would have met the father of seven partisan brothers killed by the nazis, and the guy was dead iirc twenty years before) or a nudge nudge, wink wink to the Confederates? What next, a praise for Nathan Bedford Forrest, or definign the CW as "The War of Northern Agression"?

Marino said...

or the Social-Darwinist approach to competition: not a tool to improve efficiency and a way of processing information thru the price system, but a struggle for life where who's "not fit" dies

Tony Fisk said...

The reported outcome of the Civil War is fake news in this Age of Bullshit.
That being the case, who's for starting the rumour about the resident's obsession with the Man in the Corner of the Oval Office?
Another example of 'after-dinner entertainment'?

LarryHart said...

@Marino,

This is what today's www.electoral-vote.com has to say about the Civil War thing (actually, there's a lot more than the snip that I'm quoting here) :


Jackson and the Civil War: The first thing that most listeners took note of, when hearing Trump's quote, was that Jackson did not have much of an opinion on the Civil War, since he left office 24 years and died 16 years before the war began. However, he actually made his views quite clear on the subject while he was in office. In 1832, right in the middle of Jackson's term, the nation nearly dissolved—not because of competing social, economic, and cultural systems rooted in slavery vs. free labor—but because of the highly-related issue of tariff rates. South Carolina felt that rates were too high, and—egged on by Jackson's vice president, John C. Calhoun—said they would not be paying their share. Jackson responded by threatening to march an army on South Carolina, and to personally hang Calhoun. Cooler heads eventually did prevail, particularly that of Sen. Henry Clay (W-KY), but it certainly was not "Old Hickory" who resolved the matter with his Solomon-like wisdom.

LarryHart said...

Marino:

What next, a praise for Nathan Bedford Forrest,


I'd be very surprised if that hasn't already been done.


or defini[ng] the CW as "The War of Northern Agression"?


Maybe "The War On Private Property".

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

And the old excuses aren’t even being pushed hard. The masters want this. And that’s that. It’s no longer “fool me once.”


My brother nailed this back during W's tax cut in 2001. He said, "They're not even pretending any more. All they're doing is pretending to pretend."

Paul SB said...

A.F. Rey started us off with, "How could any intelligent person vote for this guy?"
Of course the key word here is /intelligent/. To put it simply, there are a lot of people who are easily fooled by loud noise that has no substance and plain dishonesty.
And Illithi the Dragon noted the vacuousness of Trumpian prose.

Tricks and treachery are the practice of fools, that don't have brains enough to be honest.
- Benjamin Franklin

That pretty much sums up the Republican Party. They have animal cunning, but look at how easily they were taken in by Grope? A year ago everyone was thinking the 2016 election would be a race between a Bush and a Clinton.

Larry, your brother's observation fits well with the idea of having different assumption sets. For right wingers it is just obvious that the rich deserve to be made richer and the rest deserve to be exploited by them. Eventually those assumption sets become so ingrained that by the time many people reach about 40 they no longer see the need to persuade anyone else. In their minds it's just a given and anyone who doesn't agree is not worth talking to.

The Civil War as the war against state's rights is a very old dodge. Do they need another? Older generations that grew up with the fear of communism might buy the "War on Private Property" but I doubt this dodge will move younger people.

Marino, a true Social Darwinist would argue that killing off anyone who is not rich is improving society, just as the KKK would argue that killing off anyone who isn't Caucasian is an improvement, or Nazi's would argue that killing off anyone who isn't Aryan is an improvement.

NoOne said...

Vox has an interesting article on the tax plan.

Vox profiles Kevin Hassett (Trump's chief economist). He has made counter-intuitive claims that cutting the corporate tax rate will actually increase wages for the middle class. From TFA, "[Hassett argues that] cutting corporate taxes would be a very easy way to raise wages for ordinary workers. Hassett has also gone a step further and, with his AEI colleague Alex Brill, argued that cutting the corporate income tax could raise economic growth enough to actually increase revenue: a Laffer effect. They conclude, based on a data set covering rich developed countries from 1980 to 2005, that the revenue-maximizing corporate tax rate is about 26 percent, significantly below the US rate."

This would be a new twist on supply side economics since AFAIK, economists think most taxes are paid by capital and not by labor. Expect Trump to float this argument claiming a middle class tax benefit from cutting the corporate tax rate.

Disclaimer: I'm not an economist. (I work in computer vision and machine learning.)

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

For right wingers it is just obvious that the rich deserve to be made richer and the rest deserve to be exploited by them. Eventually those assumption sets become so ingrained that by the time many people reach about 40 they no longer see the need to persuade anyone else. In their minds it's just a given and anyone who doesn't agree is not worth talking to.


And for some strange reason, no one ever snarks to them, "That's not going to get those people to vote for you!"


The Civil War as the war against state's rights is a very old dodge. Do they need another?


Well, these days, "states rights" means sanctuary cities and other means of defying Trump. So yes, they need something else.

Anonymous said...

If you cut corporate taxes by 50% then corporations would need to have twice as much taxable profit for the federal government to break even. So if you are in construction, you need to build twice as many buildings/houses. If you are a hospital, you need to have twice as many patients. If you are a retailer, you need to sell twice as much.

No one I've spoken to says that their business would double if corporate taxes are cut 50%.

LarryHart said...

NoOne:

Vox profiles Kevin Hassett (Trump's chief economist). He has made counter-intuitive claims that cutting the corporate tax rate will actually increase wages for the middle class. From TFA, "[Hassett argues that] cutting corporate taxes would be a very easy way to raise wages for ordinary workers. Hassett has also gone a step further and, with his AEI colleague Alex Brill, argued that cutting the corporate income tax could raise economic growth enough to actually increase revenue: a Laffer effect.


Supply Side economics seems to rely on the assumption that wages are limited by the cash available to the employer, and that if the employer just had more money in his pocket, he'd pass it along as wage increases. In real life, employers view wages as a cost to be minimized in order to maximize profits. Giving them more money doesn't change the fact that they still want to maximize profit. They don't reach a saturation point and then say "Any cash above and beyond this amount can be spread among the workers or among society at large." The whole point--what they're legally required to do--is to hold onto as much as they can get away with, which means paying as little in wages as they can get away with.

For the proponents of giving more money to rich people and corporations so that they'll invest that money in jobs, would they also agree that it makes sense to give money to unemployed poor people so that they'll invest that money in finding work? I think most on the political right would argue that if you pay poor people for not working, then they have no incentive to work. Well, if you pay rich people for not investing, then they have zero incentive to invest.

Berial said...

After seeing the results for years and years of various tax structures, I've come to the conclusion that if you want workers to get paid better then give them more rights in the employer-employee relationship and they'll force the employer to pay them better. Everything else is just a give-a-way to the already rich.

LarryHart said...

Thom Hartmann argues (persuasively, IMHO) that all income taxes essentially "trickle up" to the employer. Because employees accept or decline wages based upon take-home pay. So if working-class taxes are lowered, the employer knows that he can then hire people for less gross wages (because take-home pay remains the same). So working-class income tax cuts really end up benefiting the employer.

Likewise, raising working-class income tax ends up costing the employer more in gross wages as they have to make take-home pay more attractive. Either way, the cost or the benefit ends up falling on the employer more than the workers themselves.

This effect counter-intuitively correlates with the power imbalance between employer and employee. If the two really were equal partners in a transaction, then when the government raised taxes, the two sides would equally negotiate how much of the burden each party was willing to shoulder. However, if the employers hold all the cards, then the workers are already working for the absolute minimum take-home pay that will induce them to work. If they could have been convinced to work for less, that would have already happened. So when a new tax burden is added, the employer must shoulder it all, because the employee has nothing left to give.

David Brin said...

The southern states utterly dominated the Federal government for decades before Lincoln. And they used that power to relentlessly bully northern states. The States' Rights excuse is bullshit, unless you assume "Our states have rights, and yours don't. Which is of course, the red-gray way.

Hamish said...

LarryHart:

The whole point--what they're legally required to do--is to hold onto as much as they can get away with, which means paying as little in wages as they can get away with

I think the assumption here is that the market will work it's magic - employers who pay too little will lose good employees to other employers who pay better. Which is great if unemployment is low enough that finding another job is (relatively) easy, and there are no other impediments in the way like changing health insurer (which will be back to being an almost insurmountable problem if the mooted changes to health insurance actually happen)

Jon S. said...

We've tried improving the economy by cutting top taxes. Twice.

It doesn't work.

One can theorize and hypothesize as day turns to night and night to day again, but the empirical data are not difficult to locate. Laffer was wrong.

As for Jackson "avoiding the Civil War", it's worth noting that when one of his slaves escaped, he put a notice in the paper that not only offered a reward for the slave's return, but also a bonus for each time the slave was lashed, to a maximum of 300 lashes. This doesn't sound to me like someone who could possibly negotiate the channel between slave and free states...

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

The States' Rights excuse is bullshit, unless you assume "Our states have rights, and yours don't.


Y'know, I've never heard it put this way, but the small states probably see "states' rights" as a sort of affirmative action. In order to prevent the states with the majority of voters from pushing them around, they require a sort of welfare.

In that context, pushing for "states' rights" for New York or California is tantamount to the National Association for the Advancement of White People, or the Men's Liberation movement--a cruel parody of minority empowerment.

Of course, they'd hate to admit that that's what they're talking about.


Which is of course, the red-gray way.


Instead of Red States, I've jumped on the bandwagon of referring to them as White States.

BTW, even Donald Trump can't ruin my night. I just saw the live performance of Hamilton!

NoOne said...

LarryHart,

The argument that cutting the corporate tax rate increases middle class wages seems to be somewhat new (at least to me). I don't think it works just as the rest of supply side economics has not worked for the middle class in a long time. However, I expect the argument to be trotted out by the Trump administration as a cover. (Many of my business friends mention the high corporate tax rate which of course no one pays but which they want lowered anyway.)

Paul SB said...

Larry,

I'm not so sure that referring to them as "white states" is the right move. It feeds into the us-verses-them narrative, and being Caucasian yourself doesn't help. It's too easy for those who are overtly racist to point this out to the many Caucasians who are not overtly racist and claim that it really is a war between us and them. Being Caucasian and against racism just makes us traitors to our "race" from that perspective. It also ignores the many people living in those states who are not Caucasian, even though we know they are there and living mostly in poverty. Better to point out that they are fascists. But then, calling them something like "nazi states" doesn't encourage dialogue, does it? What they mostly are is places where people have mostly bought into Social Darwinism, but using that label probably won't work, since most people don't know what that means, and the "religious right" that so dominates those places would categorically deny anything that includes the name of Darwin - not knowing that "Social Darwinism" is a dysphemism (there has to be a better word for this - maybe /slander/?).

Hamish, you said, "I think the assumption here is that the market will work it's magic ..."
- Magic is the right word here. It's little else but trickery, a sleight-of-brain in which they show something that works at the butcher, baker and candlestick maker level and insist that it works at the tech giant, big pharma and banking monopoly level. Market magic looks like Smith's Invisible Hand of centuries ago, but in today's context it's just smoke and mirrors to hide the fact that a handful of huge businesses are stealing everything and screwing the people left and right, and in partnership with the kleptocracy instead of sane government reigning them in.

Jon S.,
Yes, we've tried the supply side tax give-aways to the rich, and as Rocky the Flying Squirrel used to say, "That trick never works!" Yet here we go again! How do you combat so much blind, willful ignorance? Facts don't seem to persuade enough of the electorate to prevent yet another disaster - and 40 years later we are still paying for Reagan's voodoo magic.

And Berial,
The key phrase you said is, "If you want workers to get better pay..." President Grope doesn't want workers to get better pay. He has a history of not paying workers at all. Yet millions of fools voted for him because he promised better pay, as if somehow the promises of politicians and corporate executives suddenly became trustworthy. And people pointed this out during the election, yet yuge numbers of people still voted for the Grope, believing that he really wants to help them. Putting a businessman in charge of a nation is one of those idiocies that should be obvious, but the idea has been floated for so long people believe it's a good one just because it's been around for so long.

Some of us get reality, but too many only get wishful thinking. Every time there is a Republican administration, mor elf us sink into poverty.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

I'm not so sure that referring to them as "white states" is the right move. It feeds into the us-verses-them narrative, and being Caucasian yourself doesn't help. It's too easy for those who are overtly racist to point this out to the many Caucasians who are not overtly racist and claim that it really is a war between us and them.


"White States" as a euphemism for "Republican States" is probably gratuitous. But in the context of the Civil War (Dr Brin's "Grey States"), I believe it does make a rather obvious point.

My intellect knows that it's not productive to use terms like "White States" or "#IllegitimatePresident". My heart wants to get the digs in. If I was an influential blogger like Dr Brin or Jim Wright or Paul Krugman, I'd probably be more politic in my phrasing. As someone with no real power, I give myself dispensation. :)

Paul SB said...

Larry,

That's okay, I absolve you (as Salieri might say...)!

Zepp Jamieson said...

Larry Hart wrote:
""White States" as a euphemism for "Republican States" is probably gratuitous. But in the context of the Civil War (Dr Brin's "Grey States"), I believe it does make a rather obvious point."

I would hardly describe Mississippi as a "white state." It's a misleading term. "Republican dominated state" is probably a much more accurate description.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Dr Brin wrote: "The States' Rights excuse is bullshit, unless you assume "Our states have rights, and yours don't."

True dat. I can't count the number of times some Trumpkin has told me "California doesn't really count" as a way of dismissing the fact that Clinton won the popular vote by some three million vote. She won by FOUR million votes here, and they decide that if you remove that, Trump 'really' won the election. You know, much the way your baseball team actually won by a run last night if you don't count the grand slam the opposing center fielder hit.

It's not just states; the Guardian had an article this morning about the generally hostile reaction Trump can expect in Manhattan (which went for Clinton by a 9-1 margin in the election, so also doesn't 'count'). One guy wrote, "NYC isn't America." I noted it was true, when you say "America" nobody ever thinks of Manhattan or the Statue of Liberty or the Yankees--they immediately think of the 7/11 in East Bumstead, Oklahoma. Yeah, that's America...

Berial said...

Zepp,
Mississippian's seem to see politics as a zero sum game, where the political winners get to pass all that sweet, sweet, government corruption to THEIR good ole boy network, instead of the other guy's good ole boy network. The existence of the various 'good ole boy networks' is NOT in doubt, and the fact that the winners WILL CORRUPTLY use their power is also a given. Politicians and their supporters seem to have "inept, corrupt, and can fake being religious" built into their DNA in MS.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Berial: Yeah. I think only Louisiana is more corrupt. It's a feature in all state governments (California has a long and storied history along those lines) but it seems particularly bad in the confederacy states. Changing party affiliations in the sixties and seventies didn't change that for the South.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

...and being Caucasian yourself doesn't help. It's too easy for those who are overtly racist to point this out to the many Caucasians who are not overtly racist and claim that it really is a war between us and them.


When Jimmy Kimmel laments that his son would have died without adequate health care, he gets street cred as an advocate for health coverage because he's not just out for his own self. He's rich enough to pay for care if that's all he cared about. I think a similar dynamic occurs when white male Americans advocate for equality. I'm not lobbying for a personal benefit. I'm lobbying for us to be the good guys.

LarryHart said...

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/03/us/politics/james-comey-fbi-senate-hearing.html


Mr. Comey said he went public on Oct. 28 because he believed that the emails found by his agents might provide insight into Mrs. Clinton’s reasons for using a private server as secretary of state and might change the outcome of the investigation. Failing to inform Congress, Mr. Comey said, would have a required an “act of concealment.”

“Concealment, in my view, would have been catastrophic,” he said, adding later that he knew the decision would be “disastrous for me personally.”


Comey is inadvertently correct here, as the concealment (of the Trump/Russia investigation) that he did engage in was catastrophic.

I could understand it if the FBI rules meant that neither investigation should have details revealed while in progress. I could understand it if they had broken with convention on the grounds that the presidential election was too important and that the American voters needed to know. What I still don't understand is how, with a straight face, Comey can claim the need not to reveal details of the Trump investigation while simultaneously insisting that concealment of the details of Hillary's investigation would have been catastrophic. Why don't the same rules apply to both? And if one is qualitatively different from the other to the extent that the American people's right to know supersedes the integrity of an ongoing investigation, surely the Russia connection merits that description more than use of a private e-mail server does.

Berial said...

"Why don't the same rules apply to both? And if one is qualitatively different from the other to the extent that the American people's right to know supersedes the integrity of an ongoing investigation, surely the Russia connection merits that description more than use of a private e-mail server does."

IOKIYAR

It Okay If You Are a Republican. (Sadly not even being snarky anymore.)



This shall continue until people start going to jail.

matthew said...

Comey's reluctance is tied to the relationship between the NY FBI office and Eric Prince and the Mercer clan. The NY FBI are in bed with Mr. Prince, with Rudy Guilliani as the go-between.

LarryHart said...

Berial:

IOKIYAR

It Okay If You Are a Republican. (Sadly not even being snarky anymore.)


Hey, while I didn't use the initials, I'm the one who has been arguing for a long time that America has a built-in assumption that Republicans are patriots and Democrats are uppity traitors, and thus rules which favor the former are no vice. I guess I just wonder how people defending that position can keep twisting themselves in logical knots to avoid saying it.

A reporter recently asked Mitch McConnell if he'd consider passing a law that explicitly states that no Supreme Court nominee will be confirmed in a presidential election year. McConnell responded with that knowing chuckle (the one Mike Pence is a master of) which essentially means "No, of course we're not going to refuse to confirm a Republican president's nominees in an election year." But he doesn't say that. He just acknowledges that we're all in on why the joke is funny.

LarryHart said...

...and in the article I linked above, Comey seems to think he treated both investigations the same: He revealed an investigation had begun and then didn't say anything more until an investigation was closed. The fact that the revelations around the Clinton investigation came before the election, and the revelation of the Trump investigation (opened last July) didn't come until Trump had been in office two months seems to be an irrelevant triviality.

David Brin said...

In fact, some red(gray) states have much lower % whites than many blue states. Mississippi, Alabama and S. Carolinia are regularly topics of dreamers who propose migrating just 100,000 blacks in and taking over.

Berial said...

"regularly topics of dreamers who propose migrating just 100,000 blacks in and taking over."

I wish them luck, but sadly I've seen what happens in MS when 'blacks take over' a town(IE: Get enough voice to win elections.)

1)The whites move out of the city to the surrounding county. Pay less in taxes but continue to travel into town for necessities,
2)The city loses tax revenues so raises taxes to compensate, and MORE people (white and blacks that can afford to) move out, and the cycle continues until you have a city with no tax base trying to support a crumbling infrastructure that no one is willing to pay for and everyone agrees it's their political enemies fault.
3)The new politicos who had no experience before winning turn out to be even more corrupt and incompetent than the guys they replaced. (Look to Jackson, the state capital for an example. It'd be funny if it weren't so tragic.)
3)The good ole boy's make sure to gerrymander the districts (state and federal elections) so that Republican's (ie the white party) maintain control at all levels except the cities which they declare 'lost causes' and 'hell holes of crime'.

This process happens over and over again in cities all over the south.

David S said...


I think another difference between the handling of the Hillary e-mail investigation vs the Trump-Russian investigation is that while both opposing parties were aware of the information, the parties were responding differently. The Republicans were preparing to leak it and accuse Obama of covering up the information to get Hillary elected. The democrats (primarily Obama) had decided not to go public with the existence Trump-Russia investigation because they wanted to avoid Republican accusations that Obama was doing this to help Hillary win.

Given that the Republicans were going to expose the investigation and the Democrats were not, I think Comey felt he had to get ahead of the Hillary leak. Since the Trump-Russia investigation was not being made public and a focal part of the campaign, Comey followed standard procedure and say nothing until the investigation is completed.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@Berial: I second that, but it's the consequence of sudden overturn followed by one-party rule. Incompetency soars in such a scenario. It's not just in the South either. You just described the fall of Detroit, frex. St. Louis had this scenario for a while.

Some places avoided it to a large extent: Memphis and Nashville merged city and county governments precisely to avoid this free-rider problem.

I suspect the differing publication behavior by the FBI was in part because Hillary's investigation was primarily criminal in nature (violations of classification law) and Trump's was counterintelligence (smoking spooks). The latter tries NOT to publish its results as they are more useful not being public.

Paul SB said...

Hey Dr. Brin,

Nice family pic, but who's that guy in the Roman duds? Not exactly 18th Century appropriate (Hume was born just a couple days before me, which makes me like really, really old ...).

Larry,

You make good points all around, and reasonable admissions. I still think that the white-state moniker threatens to become self-fulfilling. Even calling the Republican Party the party of white people can have a negative affect, convincing many fence-sitting Caucasians that it must be the party for them - with or without Jerry Kimmel or other sane white males. It might be best to just call it the Party of the Rich, because race isn't everything. Look at how easily our Troll Brothers were duped by that sort of identity politicking, and they are just the minority who hang out at a blog full of thinkers (who can shoot down every fallacious statement they make, yet they keep coming back for more, proving that stubbornness blinds).

But if you find more holes in my logic, let me know. My concentration hasn't been at its best lately.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Even calling the Republican Party the party of white people can have a negative affect, convincing many fence-sitting Caucasians that it must be the party for them


Good point.

Tony Fisk said...

Calling it the Party of sociopaths and self-servatives appeals to sociopaths and self-servatives too. I do so in the hope that 99% of conservatives... aren't.

Berial, your scenario for southern cities plays out in Cairo, Ill. (Neil Gaiman set part of American Gods there twenty years ago. Sounds like it's got even worse since)

LarryHart said...

@Tony Fisk,

You're not kidding that Southern Illinois is part of the South. Cairo might be physically closer to Atlanta than to Chicago. People don't realize how long this state is in the north-south direction.


Unknown said...

Again, Resource-based economy would make this all irrelevant. It'll happen, though.


AND - following on our...or at least my....earlier discussion on Fantasy: recent exceptions are Hellboy, Watchmen, and the current Luke Cage. They're adult and written smartly. And in the case of Luke Cage, there's all these gorgeous thick an round women! Spend DAYS rubbin down them ho's!! Um, yeah, you white boys might not know anything bout that........

Jumper said...

Have not perused the Motherboard site; now on "favorites." Thanks, David.

Read a thing on Martian soil-bricks yesterday on another site; then noticed Motherboard's piece on lunar brick-making tests using heat.

I wonder if anyone has tried brickmaking under an electrical field as in the work of Dr. Hans Conrad?

LarryHart said...

Unknown:

AND - following on our...or at least my....earlier discussion on Fantasy: recent exceptions are Hellboy, Watchmen, and the current Luke Cage


I hate to make you feel as old as I do, but Watchmen was published more than 30 years ago.


Spend DAYS rubbin down them ho's!! Um, yeah, you white boys might not know anything bout that........


Oh, I was able to explain to my teenager the line from In The Heights that goes: "Got more ho's than the phonebook in Tokyo". She didn't know what a phonebook was. :)

Paul SB said...

Tony,

Do you do so in the hope of convincing 99% of conservatives to abandon the Republican Party, or attempt to remove their sociopathic and self-servative leadership? I think the recent election shows that strategy has backfired.

Larry, that phonebook comment is pretty cringeworthy (to say nothing of really stupid, since Ho isn't a Japanese name. If it was a phonebook in Beijing or Seoul, that would be different. As it stands, it just shows ignorance, which is appropriate for anyone who would describe have the human race as "hos". Then there's the apostrophe thing. Why do so many people today think an apostrophe means plurality?)

Jumper said...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Ho

Jumper said...

Note Mr. Ho was a fighter pilot. In another time stream, he became President Ho in 2000.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Larry, that phonebook comment is pretty cringeworthy (to say nothing of really stupid, since Ho isn't a Japanese name. If it was a phonebook in Beijing or Seoul, that would be different.


It wouldn't rhyme.

As it stands, it just shows ignorance, which is appropriate for anyone who would describe have the human race as "hos".


Paul, I love ya, but chillax!

It's a line from a hip-hop musical, written by the same guy who did "Hamilton". And the character who speaks the line isn't necessarily supposed to be coming off as Einstein. He's fantasizing about what he'd do if he won $96,000 in a lottery, and another line is "Donald Trump and me on the links, and he's my caddy."


Then there's the apostrophe thing. Why do so many people today think an apostrophe means plurality?)


In general, I agree with you. My daughter's friend's family has a sign hanging up on their house that says (name changed to protect the innocent) "The Smith's", and I cringe every time I see it.

But when people spell ho', the apostrophe seems to be in there for "missing letters" rather than for plural or possessiveness. The plural just adds an "s" to the word that already has an apostrophe in it.

LarryHart said...

several things from today's www.electoral-vote.com :


Actually, it is not hard to speculate about why Comey did what he did (and didn't do) in October. After he announced in July that no charges would be brought against Clinton, he went on at length about all the bad things she did. This violates FBI protocol. Clinton was hopping mad about this. Although FBI directors are appointed to 10-year terms, they do serve at the pleasure of the president and there is little doubt that Clinton would have fired him had she won. So one way to save his job would be to make sure Clinton didn't win.


That actually makes more sense than anything I had heard or thought of previously.


Donald Trump is expected to celebrate the National Day of Prayer today by issuing an executive order making it possible for churches and other religious groups to support or oppose candidates for public office without risking their tax-exempt status. Some conservative religious groups have long longed for such an order. Others don't want it because it could split their congregations along partisan lines and interfere with their religious message.


This relates to the "It's OK When A Republican Does It" meme we discussed yesterday. Trump and Republicans clearly mean this to empower right-wing churches to support and endorse Republican candidates. I wonder what they'll do when they realize that black churches, Reform Jewish synagogues, and mosques might also get into the business of politics. Maybe they can say it doesn't apply to institutions located in counties which contain more than a million residents?

LarryHart said...

BTW, my daughter likes an internet image of a cute, perky puppy with the caption "...And I want chocolate, but it makes me die!"

That should be the logo for the Republican health-care plan. In fact, it would make an appropriate logo for the Republican Party future elections. "I want to elect Republicans, but they make me die!"



Berial said...

"I wonder what they'll do when they realize that black churches, Reform Jewish synagogues, and mosques might also get into the business of politics."

They'll be shocked, SHOCKED, to discover all these white male lone wolves (with mental problems, of course) start bombing and shooting up churches again, for no reason that anyone can understand.

Zepp Jamieson said...

"I wonder what they'll do when they realize that black churches, Reform Jewish synagogues, and mosques might also get into the business of politics."

And I wonder what those churches will do when they find out that Trump's silly XO does NOT have the power to negate the Johnson amendment (which is an actual law) and they find themselves being sued and indicted.

LarryHart said...

I heard mention of this on the radio this morning. Apparently, Dr Brin's "worst man in America" had belatedly had enough of President Snow.

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/331882-george-will-trump-disabled-by-inability-to-think-speak-clearly


Political commentator George Will in his latest column blasts President Trump as someone who is not able to "think and speak clearly."

"It is urgent for Americans to think and speak clearly about President Trump’s inability to do either," Will wrote in The Washington Post.

"This seems to be not a mere disinclination but a disability. It is not merely the result of intellectual sloth but of an untrained mind bereft of information and married to stratospheric self-confidence."
...

LarryHart said...

Well, the Republicans in the House of Representatives just voted to make me die.

This means war.

Berial said...

@LarryHeart

A friend of a friend posted this on twitter:

"When the first attempt by this Congress to repeal the ACA failed, some people said it was due to pressure from Democrats - marches, phone calls, petitions, emails. I said it was because it wasn't harsh enough for the Freedom Caucus. Now that is has passed the House in harsher form, do you believe me?

They don't care what we think or do. We are not even a consideration at all."

LarryHart said...

Berial:

Now that is has passed the House in harsher form, do you believe me?


You sound as if you expected an argument. I would have agreed with your statement even before this monstrosity passed the House.

The #FreedomToDie Caucus most certainly nixed the first repeal because it wasn't cruel enough. I'm not surprised that they went along with a worse version of the bill. I'm disappointed that the #SoCalledModerates did. Bill Maher absolutely nailed the modern Republican Party when he said that their guiding principle is now, "What Would A Dick Do?"

Note also the "I know you are but what am I?" hypocrisy of the party. Remember what was so terrible about Obamacare? It passed without a single Republican vote? They had to vote on it without reading it? It was too many damn pages for one man to understand? Well, check, check, and check.

My one satisfaction is that, despite a Republican governor (who at least fancies himself a populist and avoided the Trump convention), I doubt the Democratic Illinois legislature will have us opting out of the pre-existing condition requirement. Not so for the poor schmucks who voted for Trump in rural red states. Maybe enough of them will die before the next election. Harsh? Well, if a foreign gunboat decided to shell a few coastal cities, that would be taken as an act of war. As far as I'm concerned, the Republican Party has just declared war on my family and me. And I'm not going meekly to the "Holocaust Centers".

David Brin said...

Frankly, I hope the whole bill passes. They must own this thing.

onward

onward

David S said...

Now that churches can speak about specific candidates and money is speech, it follows that churches can funnel money to politicians. There no limits on the amount you can donate to churches, this becomes another method of funneling untraceable funds into campaigns.

In addition donations to churches are tax deductible (most charities are 50% organizations which means that you can deduct up to 50% of your adjusted gross income, the excess carries over to the following year.)



David S said...

AHCA says that mutlti state organizations can pick which states insurance rules they want to follow. So just because Illinois choose to keep pre-existing condition protections, you might lose this protection from your employer.

Source: http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2017/05/04/the_republican_health_bill_might_ruin_employer_based_coverage_too.html

David Brin said...

onward

onward