Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A coming recession? A war? Or just "infrastructure" graft? Oh, the options!

FLASH addendum up top: Just in case the rumors have substance... Mike Pence hurrying home, GOP senators huddling, a possible Mueller smoking gun... Please, oh please, curb your enthusiasm and read this!  Get every democrat to read it. Especially every DP congress member. Impeachment is a trap. Try, oh try, to be the smart ones, for a change.

=============

Let me put aside the blatancy of our deliberately re-ignited phase of the American civil war.  There are other matters afoot, all sharing a common theme. Lumped together, they add up to everything desired by those seeking an end to the relatively placid and benign era of Pax Americana.

First, economics. Says investment guru John Mauldin, predicting a recession within two years

“U.S. corporations are simultaneously more indebted, less profitable, and more highly valued than they have been in a long time. Furthermore, they are intentionally making themselves more leveraged by distributing cash as dividends and buying back shares instead of saving or investing that cash. Yet investors cannot buy their shares fast enough. Maybe this will end well… but it’s hard to imagine how.”

Note that while he would never admit it, John's forecast is a brutal indictment not of his bêtes noir -- the government and Fed -- but a CEO caste of 5000 incestuously conniving golf buddies, who have set things up (except in the tech sector) so they can steal company assets, use stock buy-backs to boost share price, rake their options and leave the company wrecked, deprived of R&D or any investment beyond a one-year ROI.

These parasites are the true enemies of market enterprise.  And their shortsighted greed may not escape notice, when that recession comes.

== Drumming up a war ==

But that exercise in biased perception ain’t nothing. Remember how the previous Republican president concocted a war-excuse called “Weapons of Mass Destruction” (WMD)? In the wake of the 9/11 attacks that he arguably allowed to happen, Bush Jr. leaned hard on the U.S. intelligence community (IC) to pin the blame on Saddam Hussein. When they reported no such connection – indeed, most of the 9/11 attackers were Saudis, trained in Wahhabi madrassas and financed by business partners of the Bush family – he and Dick Cheney put thumb screws on the IC to find another excuse – any excuse – for war.

That was the previous manic phase of Republican Bipolar Disease and it seems we’re fast diving into another, as the Trumpists seek escape from domestic woes.  Elsewhere I’ve explored the reasons why their focus will likely be Iran. Sure, North Korea and Venezuela offer tasty temptations. A flare-up in the South China Sea? Maybe. A terror outrage somewhere at home? Don't be shocked!

But none of these offer the confluence of motive, means and opportunity that DT sees in Iran. Moreover reports suggest that he is already arm-twisting the IC, demanding they stop with the boring truth and fact-telling and offer up the casus belli  pretext that he needs.

This article about the hunger for a fight is pretty harsh and partisan.  I’d read it with some grains of salt. But it’s also generally on-target and scary as heck. 

What of recent events? Exactly as I predicted, both Donald Trump and the Ayatollahs have ordered their forces in the Persian Gulf to harass each other, with only one possible motive: a ramp-up to war. Everyone wants it. Trump needs a foreign distraction, Congressional Republicans need feel-good symbolic toughness, the Saudis and dumber Israelis want Tehran knocked down a notch. Putin rubs his hands, knowing such a conflict will send Iran running for shelter under his umbrella, giving him the warm water satrapy Russian potentates have wanted for 300 years. Oh, and the Iranian mullahs? Shrugging off the pippety-pops of a few hundred Tomahawks, they'll use war fever to crush the rising, educated, modernist Persian middle class, a looming threat to their theocracy. 

Oh, and oil prices will skyrocket. Winners all around! Well, not the Iranian or American people. But do you see anyone caring about them? Or the waste of our military strength and personnel?

Why do we still have a carrier task group there? Across the last 8 years, the U.S. achieved virtual energy independence. Our allies are heading that way. What possible reason would we have to cooperate with the Putin-Saudi-Ayatollah-Trump plan, pushing each other with potemkin provocations till the missiles fly? This is not 'national self-interest.' It is the Gulf of Tonkin, all over again.

== Hacking Elections ==

Hackers at Defcon took just minutes to break into and modify a wide array of voting machines. Officials from California provided some. Other  machines were bought on Ebay, and were manufactured by major U.S. voting machine companies such as Diebold Nixorf, Sequoia Voting Systems, and Winvote. `This isn't a great surprise, since many of those companies are owned by political extremists who targeted this vulnerability, ages ago. 

The chief safeguard has always been a system that involved paper ballots or receipts that are scanned in... but that can also be hand audited, in randomly chosen precincts. Wherever random hand recounts are possible, cheating is deterred.

Auditable paper ballot/receipt systems are the norm in blue states. Not in red states, where the GOP Secretary of State can pretty much order up any election result she desires. Also it is blue states and only blue states that have seen voter revolts to end gerrymandering.  And voter initiatives to ease out of the insane War on Drugs. Oh, lecture us about election fraud! Lecture us about dishonesty, confederates.
  
== Infrastructure on the agenda ==

Ah, infrastructure. One thing all studies agree upon is that a healthy array of highways, bridges, railways and such are like a nation’s veins and arteries, allowing commerce to flow. Under FDR, then Truman and Eisenhower, the “Greatest Generation” invested heavily in interstates, airports, research centers, power systems, hospitals and so on, with huge and unquestioned multiplier effects on the economy. Time and again, it’s proved that well-done projects pay-off and maintenance is money well-spent. Moreover, no form of government spending has higher direct effects on economic stimulation and employment and Money Velocity.

So, why have we been tumbling deeper and deeper into infrastructure malaise, with decaying bridges, corroding highways and underfunded rails?  All parties have uttered words about this, for decades. President Obama submitted proposal after proposal to Congress… and none was even brought up for serious discussion.

Of course the answer was obvious.  Had an Infrastructure Bill passed, during the Republican Congresses of 2011-2016,  it blatantly would have added to economic recovery from the Bush Depression, and the GOP wanted no part of any action that might add to Obama’s luster. (As it is, the recovery during his administration was impressive.)  For purely political reasons — and Paul Ryan and others are on record saying so — they would pass no infrastructure bill during a Democratic President’s tenure. (The word for that is “treason.”)

Okay, now the Republicans have every branch of government — as they did from 2001 to 2007. With a GOP president to claim credit for any stimulation, and terrified of a recession looming otherwise, Ryan and co. are talking up an Infrastructure Bill that might amount to a trillion dollars! Well, okay, at least workers would get jobs. And the treason is over, right?

Wrong. As you might guess, there are several rubs.

1) Paying to build and repair out of tax revenues… the way our parents did it… would conflict with Ryan & co.’s absolute top priority — another huge Supply Side Voodoo tax cut for the aristocracy. Never mind that Supply Side experiments have never worked, ever, at all, even once across 40 years, and many Red States like Kansas have gone bankrupt by doubling down on the witchcraft theory.  To paraphrase Everett Dirksen “A Trillion here, a Trillion there… pretty soon you’re talking real money.”

2) Hence, get others to pay for the infrastructure work! Their magical incantation is now “public-private partnerships.” We the people hand over our property — our bridges, highways and all that — to private interests (e.g. Republican moguls) who will then put some cash into repairs and then charge tolls forever on routes that till-now we (mostly) used as a benefit of civilization.

A win-win? We get some potholes and rusty spans fixed. The moguls get ownership (or lifespan-long leases) of our commons, plus perpetual right to bleed us. Oh, but it gets much worse than I described, here. Read what Robert Reich has to say about this win-win-win for oligarchy.  

3) Of course this is not about jobs or even supply side tax vampirism. It is about graft. As in contracting for an Atlantic City Casino, construction deals are among the juiciest ways to do corruption, unless they are handled with scrupulous transparency and accountability. Which most public infrastructure programs do feature! The methods have been developed ever since the WPA and TVA and Interstate System. They never work perfectly, but they generally keep theft down to a low simmer… far lower than most private enterprises, in fact.


Only all of these nit-picking, open-bidding and accountability procedures are being torn down by the Trump Administration. Gee. I wonder why an Atlantic City casino owner would do that? Note the the only winners of the wasteful, trillion dollar US intervention in Iraq were Cheney Bush family companies like Halliburton, who got sweetheart "emergency" no-bid logistics contracts, bypassing anti-graft laws with a wave of a pen. The GOP lords are in no hurry to fund infrastructure projects until those inconvenient accountability rules are either repressed or swept aside, in the next "emergency."

4) Never mind. Blue states have already decided not to wait. Especially in California, Oregon and Washington, restore-and-rebuild projects are proceeding apace, the old fashioned way, as time and again we prove that the Greatest Generation were right in many more ways than wrong...

... back when "America was great!" And when that generation's favorite living human was named Franklin Delano Roosevelt.


126 comments:

Tim H. said...

Yes, chock full of problems, one couldn't wave a stick without hitting one. Does show how much "Groupthink" infests the C suites, when it should be fairly obvious that any sort of large stimulus would at least partially land in the pockets of customers. Must be some potent peer pressure to get them to say no to profit.

Viking said...

@Dr. Brin

I will try to stay within the topic:

I totally agree about your suspicion about the "Private-public Partnership" concept. This is a way to improve the budget situation for a couple of years, and make it worse forever after.

Here is something about the Chicago experience:

https://www.minnpost.com/cityscape/2011/12/what-happened-when-chicago-privatized-its-parking-system

Regarding foreign wars, I expect nothing good, and as I mentioned before, in a just society, the majority of the presidents since the Korean war should be charged with war crimes and treason, the power to wage war lies with congress.

I also agree about the 5000 golfing buddies scam, and as such, my action has been to invest more in emerging markets, less in S&P 500. This has not been a winning strategy the last 20 years.

PS, the Chinese infrastructure link does not work for me.

Anonymous said...

I live in Oregon, here is an example of an infrastructure project:

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

Daily use: 30K vehicles

Price: $290 million, opened 2016.

2 Lanes, no physically separated bike lanes, just the dangerous shared space, "protected" by white paint.

Here is how 2 red states do it:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_O%27Callaghan%E2%80%93Pat_Tillman_Memorial_Bridge

Daily use: 15K vehicles

Price $240 million, opened 2010.

4 Lanes, two physically separated bike/pedestrian lanes with concrete barriers.

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7295/9010871429_6b07a1ee42_b.jpg

The Oregon bridge was somewhat complicated with a muddy river bottom requiring deep pilings, whereas the Nevada/Utah bridge required work 900 feet above the river, some complexity in getting the first supporting arches anchored to both sides.

Here, the Utahns and Nevadans got twice as much for their public investments. The original Oregon bridge had 2 lanes, the replacement 100 years later also had 2 lanes. Talk about lack of future orientation! Intentional traffic jams are the agenda here.

Viking said...

Sorry, 4:14 was Viking

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: "...a CEO caste of 5000 incestuously conniving golf buddies...These parasites are the true enemies of market enterprise. And their shortsighted greed may not escape notice, when that recession comes."

I can certainly see a variety of financiers trading on the companies as parasites - they add nothing, and take a lot, and count on predictable behavior (including stock buybacks, and the timing thereof) to maximize their fortunes while adding nothing whatsoever. More often, the folks behind those financiers are the parasites (what does one call a parasite that farms parasites?)...

The 5000 'golf buddies' are mere 'businessmen' - less parasitic than 'herd-driven' (after all, each aspires to be 'bulls' of industry...) Herds may not always be healthy (a herd of goats can wreak havoc on a landscape), but there's a vast difference in malignancy - and while a few extract over $10 mill in annual total compensation, most do not. And within those 5000 corporations they run, vast amounts of innovation and growth occur behind the scenes, often incrementally, but over time, dramatically changing everything. Indeed, revolutions are often the sum of those marginal increments...

"That was the previous manic phase of Republican Bipolar Disease and it seems we’re fast diving into another, as the Trumpists seek escape from domestic woes."
Bear in mind that Obama left Trump a vastly improved economy than the one he inherited from Bush. When/if a recession happens, the 'domestic woes' will suddenly matter a lot. Until then, a creaky 'starter health care' plan will continue creaking along, and the executive can hollow out government agencies...up until the point disasters start to occur that call attention to just how dilapidated governance grows.

"What of recent events? Exactly as I predicted, both Donald Trump and the Ayatollahs have ordered their forces in the Persian Gulf to harass each other, with only one possible motive: a ramp-up to war."
There are lots of other possible motives, and harassment is actually more of an ongoing, seldom noted affair. The Republicans are itching to 'clamor' for war, but not to actually fight one. 'War talk' without war means bases, contracts, shifting funds into Red-controlled districts, and especially, shifting debts from one set of fracking-based junk bond-holders to another. All that happens with minimal scrutiny, enriching the true parasites.

It's only when the body bags start to arrive that the scrutiny follows.

"It is the Gulf of Tonkin, all over again."
We are not in the Cold War, so 'Gulf of Tonkin' incidents don't operate the way they used to. Trump's cronies want a 'reversion' to a simpler era, 19th century imperialism and gunboat diplomacy - but a 'modernized' variation. The British system in the 19th century was inefficient at enriching a large number of lords through colonial pursuits - middle class Victorians, bankers, and industrialists profited more than landowning elites in that era. Today's elites have learned new ways to play...

LarryHart said...

Viking (previous thread):

You are putting words in my mouth that were never there.


Not intentionally, and not to insult you.

I'm guessing what I think you mean and extrapolating. If I'm wrong, clarification is sufficient. No need to bring a gun to a knife fight. :)


I mentioned Rosa Parks as a liberal victory (along with those I mentioned that frustrate conservatives) that will remain in the history books, in contrast to Reagan tax cuts or bankruptcy reform, which I claim are mere blips. Your jab about conservatives being upset about the ending of slavery is totally outside my claim that the last 50 years have gone in the liberals favor, and is insulting to conservatives.


I thought of it as the same kind of thing that the Rosa Parks case represented. And certainly the protests against removing statues of confederate war heroes represents some sort of longing for the good old days of slavery.

My larger point, though, is that progressive victories are often about taking a step that conservatives are concerned may lead to unintended catastrophe, but once in place, they show themselves to be beneficial to everybody, even conservatives. After a period of time, some progressive wins become conservative planks. Look at how the Republican Party keeps reminding us that they're "the party of Lincoln". They even embrace Martin Luther King now. Rather than "rubbing their face in their loss", progressives (in many cases) are just fighting for what seems self-evidently right, and hope that the public at large can see the benefits after the fact.

Obamacare is a good example. It suddenly became popular--not just with liberals, but with voters in general--when it was about to be taken away. That's a progressive win, but it wasn't just progressives who made it happen. The red-state constituents gave their representatives an earful.


I am all for laws about fornication being annulled or repealed, I am simply highlighting the conservative perspective.


We might both be falling into "no true Scotsman" here. Since you don't accept Republicans as conservatives, and you don't equate libertarians with conservatives, I'm not at all sure who you do mean by that term. If you mean reactionaries who wish that the law was their own private enforcement mechanism over other people's behavior, I don't know what to say except that their losing battles is a good thing. That's not going to win me their votes? Nothing is going to win me their votes short of my capitulating to reactionary values myself, and that's not on the table.

donzelion said...

As for this...

"Note the the only winners of the wasteful, trillion dollar US intervention in Iraq were Cheney Bush family companies like Halliburton, who got sweetheart "emergency" no-bid logistics contracts, bypassing anti-graft laws with a wave of a pen."

Hardly. The winners were US-based landowners, and those politically connected to them, and banks who could finance leases for fracking in America. Halliburton mostly broke even on those contracts (the costs were far greater than meets the eye), but they did get absolutely undeniable knowledge as to the technical feasibility and timing to bring Iraqi oil 'back online' in a big way - once it was completely certain that such pumping wasn't in the cards, U.S. oil (as well as Brazilian, North Sea, and numerous other holdings) had a 'stable enough' valuation to be 'bankable.'

"The GOP lords are in no hurry to fund infrastructure projects until those inconvenient accountability rules are either repressed or swept aside, in the next "emergency."
The executive offices are being purged, slowly and surely, and attrition will oust most professionals holding even the few slots that exist. The more important issue is ensuring everyone gets their fill of pork.

That said, I like Viking's cite of the Tillman Memorial Bridge. Initial work was taken over by Clinton era federal highway officials in 1998, the two governors mostly responsible - Kenny Guinn and Janet Napolitano - hardly partisan 'red state' politicians.

Engineers can assess the differences structural costs (they had to scrap and redesign the Sellwood Bridge due to faulty soil analysis), but is anyone be surprised that an urban bridge costs significantly more to build than a rural one? For the Tillman Bridge, a 104 mile bypass for the Hoover Dam was a viable resolution. Try that in a city...

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

First, economics. Says investment guru John Mauldin, predicting a recession within two years:

“U.S. corporations are simultaneously more indebted, less profitable, and more highly valued than they have been in a long time. Furthermore, they are intentionally making themselves more leveraged by distributing cash as dividends and buying back shares instead of saving or investing that cash. Yet investors cannot buy their shares fast enough. Maybe this will end well… but it’s hard to imagine how.”


While I'm constitutionally inclined to believe that warning, it's starting to sound like the boy who cried wolf. The American dollar and the American economy keep not crashing. Even the 2008 recession ended up ultimately being only a hiccup on the world's longest bull market.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "My larger point, though, is that progressive victories are often about taking a step that conservatives are concerned may lead to unintended catastrophe, but once in place, they show themselves to be beneficial to everybody, even conservatives. After a period of time, some progressive wins become conservative planks."

Best example: Jerry Brown's 'moony' healthcare reforms in the 1970s, especially putting medical malpractice caps into place in California at the then 'utterly ridiculously outrageous' cap of $250,000. Today, those numbers have become a line in the sand that conservatives fought vigorously to defend. But they still don't like Jerry Brown.

"Obamacare is a good example. It suddenly became popular--not just with liberals, but with voters in general--when it was about to be taken away."
I don't know that it's 'popular' - it's about as well-loved as your DMV. But love it or hate it, eliminating the DMV is a rather low priority for most libertarians (in theory, you could replace it with private insurance...but when's the last time anyone seriously proposed that?).

David Brin said...

Viking, Utah is the exception to most red state stereotypes, run with the primness of a Mormon household. Nevada is not strictly a red state at all. And any one case is an anecdote, proving nothing.

Donzel the 5000 golf buddies connive to appoint each other onto boards that then vote each other skyrocketing compensation packages. This is not “herd-driven” it is a criminal cabal.

Prove to me that “Halliburton mostly broke even on those contracts.” That’s not what I get from multiple sources.

A cure? Ban the US university MBA from anyone who has not provided a good or service for at least 5 years. Ban the business BA if you haven’t done that for a year.

LarryHart that was some hiccup.

Viking said...

@LarryHart:

"Obamacare is a good example. It suddenly became popular--not just with liberals, but with voters in general--when it was about to be taken away. That's a progressive win, but it wasn't just progressives who made it happen. The red-state constituents gave their representatives an earful."

We know some people are making noise, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, right? The favorite stupid man on the street is a self claimed republican that says, keep the gubmint out of my medicare!

ACA is great if you make $25K per year, then it is a free health insurance. If you make $75K/year and you are young, it is an overpriced racket. To me, ACA is simply a scam that freezes the health care fraction of GDP around 18-20%, preventing any market based solution aimed at decreasing the health care fraction of GDP to around 10%, where it should be.

" Since you don't accept Republicans as conservatives, and you don't equate libertarians with conservatives, I'm not at all sure who you do mean by that term."

I guess I mean social conservatives in this context. Many libertarians are socially liberal, and fiscally conservative.

And to be very specific, if a behavior by group A is criminalized by group B, but the behavior has no obvious victim, then when the overreaching law supported by group B has been eliminated, justice has been restored. The next step is to force an action on group B, for example decorating a wedding cake with 2 same gender people, or forcing members of group B to finance abortions or birth control. This next step is the gloating and rubbing it in. Does a violated right (by restricting actions) in the past justify violating others rights to be left alone?

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

Jumper said...

I would point out who provided the most essential training for 9-11 was American flight schools. This is an unpopular view. As if I am blaming them solely; of course not.

..................

A conservative worth respect is someone who respects solid knowledge, and believes in slow adaptation to change out of concern for unintended consequences and hurting people's lives by disruption. Thus minimum wage increases, if they are to occur at all, should be phased in, as should changes to tax codes, trade treaty provisions, etc.

Jumper said...

It's supposed that up to recently for-profit hospitals provided indigent care and the attendant unpaid bills were covered on the books by higher fees for the insured.In areas where ACA has been well established with the Medicare expansions, have those bloated fees to the insured been reduced, or at least avoided the hefty increases in other medical costs spheres?

Viking said...

@Donzelion

"Engineers can assess the differences structural costs (they had to scrap and redesign the Sellwood Bridge due to faulty soil analysis), but is anyone be surprised that an urban bridge costs significantly more to build than a rural one? For the Tillman Bridge, a 104 mile bypass for the Hoover Dam was a viable resolution. Try that in a city..."

What really galls me, is that the savings from only having 2 lanes instead of 4 are likely to be minuscule, but the consequences in terms of worse traffic will last for many decades. I know that in some meeting, somebody was saying: "4 lanes would only encourage more people to drive", so they undemocratically decide to wreck the traffic, without offering a time effective public transportation as an option.

http://trainweb.org/kenrail/Rail_mode_defined.html

Light rail, pioneered by blue cities across the nation, has allays been a waste of money, in most cases, it would be cheaper for the tax payers to operate free express buses than building light rail. These free express buses would also be faster than light rail in most cases.

Heavy rail (subway) is the way to go, it does not interfere with surface traffic, and the number of rail cars is not limited by the block size in the city.

LarryHart said...

Viking (previous thread) :

I agree there are victories of the republican party, but I was really talking about conservative, not republican in terms of societal changes. Many of these republican victories are more oligarch giveaways to pharmaceutical companies (Medicare part B), feeding Halliburton, Lockheed and Boeing with useless illegal wars, agricultural subsidies to ADM etc. There is nothing conservative about these, but those were victories of the republican party.

I also think these, and the things you mentioned will be forgotten by history books, but the changes in laws regulating human interaction that I mentioned are more significant on the conservative liberal scale. I might be insensitive (ok, I am definitively insensitive), but the things you mentioned as conservative victories I am cataloging as progressives crying the sky is falling for every tiny setback.

I realize that on the individual level, if you managed to get $120K in non dis-chargeable student debt from a worthless college for a worthless degree, this is a personal catastrophe. But it is nothing a historian will care about. Rosa Parks, MLK and the litigant in Roe v. Wade, on the other hand, will stay in the history books probably as long as USA exists.


Since you're not arguing as a conservative, it's hard to argue about conservatism with you. You repeatedly downplay issues that progressives have lost ground on as trivial or petty, and claim that conservatives have been taking defeat after defeat from progressives for decades until they're finally fed up enough to overturn the game board of society just to vent their frustration.

I see history as almost diametrically opposed to that. I've been a liberal since at least the 1980s, and I recall how it was perfectly acceptable for conservatives to insist that we "love it or leave it" or "go back to Russia" if we claimed that everything about corporate America wasn't just perfect the way it was at the moment. Ann Coulter called liberals "Traitors!" in the title of her book, and did suggest that we should be hanged as such, and no one felt the need to caution her or Limbaugh or Glenn Beck that insulting liberals was no way to win their votes.

Where you, like Tacitus2, see beleaguered conservatives bravely fending off continual attacks by liberal harpies, I see conservatives whining about progress toward equality and social justice taking away their precious white male privilege (which they simultaneously claim doesn't exist). I see conservatives "crying the sky is falling after every tiny setback." Conservatives are the sorest winners! When they don't get their way, they consider it some sort of cosmic injustice, and when they do win but their opponents don't unconditionally capitulate and bow worshipfully toward them, they act as if they've been affronted as well.

I do respect true conservatives--in my younger days, I thought I was one--but they're increasingly a dying and insignificant breed. The self-described conservatives who have any actual power tend to suck up either to the corporations or to the Nazis.

David Brin said...

“To me, ACA is simply a scam that freezes the health care fraction of GDP around 18-20%, preventing any market based solution aimed at decreasing the health care fraction of GDP to around 10%, where it should be.”

Jiminy Viking show us the slightest sign - a glimmer! — that health care is a fungible commodity that responds to market forces as you claim. Everywhere else in the world they have accepted a basic truth, that some kind of rationing is necessary. Europeans do it by prioritizing the young, multiplying the likely years gained by an intervention times the quality of those years.

As a “libertarian” (a different type than me or Alfred, but I hope not a member of the Rand-Rothbard cult) you hate the sound of that! But the pre-ACA system also rationed! By kicking out the sick who were too poor to sue.

Yes, the ACA is unsustainable because it has no rationing!

Those libertarians who say “Democrats want freedom in the bedroom and Republicans want freedom in the marketplace” are raving imbeciles. Market competition always does better under democrats. That’s always and always. The tech entrepreneurs are almost all democrats.

The CEO caste want the “freedom” to collude together, form trusts, repress competitors, saddle the public with risks and privatize all profits and benefits.

Deregulation does happen! The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) and Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) became captured eliminators of fair competition… and Congress abolished them! AT&T was broken up.  Or take Bill Clinton’s deregulation of the GPS system, freeing it for use by all, everywhere in the world. And the unleashing of the Internet — the greatest deregulation in history. Oh, and every one of those deregulations was done by democrats. The complainers - Republicans - never deregulate a thing, when they get power, except Wall Street and Banking and resource extraction. (With well-known results.) Oh yes and gambling.

LarryHart said...

Viking:

The next step is to force an action on group B, for example decorating a wedding cake with 2 same gender people, or forcing members of group B to finance abortions or birth control. This next step is the gloating and rubbing it in.


Now you're being insultingly disingenuous.

You can word any liberal issue (200K student loans) as trivial and petty, but this thing about gay wedding cakes which maybe happened once represents some sort of liberal hegemony?

Have the last word now if you wish, because as Khan once said, "I no longer care to try."

Zepp Jamieson said...

Heads up: There are multiple reports tonight that Pence is making sudden and dramatic changes to his itinerary for the next few days. Something big might be up.

locumranch said...


Aside from serving as a distraction from domestic policy failures, 'Drumming up a War' with Iran, North Korea or Russia would only serve to prop-up the weak & failing neighbour states in their immediate proximity, as in the case of a helpless & incapable Kuwait being the primary justification for both of the 1991 & 2003 US-Iraqi conflicts.

Let's call it the Harrison Bergeron Principle of Detente´: A strong nation threatens its weaker neighbour; the weaker neighbour begs for the protection of an even stronger ally; and the stronger ally restores the local 'balance of power' between neighbour states by attacking & destabilising the potential aggressor.

Unfortunately, this an imprecise & ineffective strategy that rarely ends well, analogous to sawing off part of a table leg in order to 'right' or level a wobbly table top, which then requires the shortening & correction of yet another table leg, leading invariably to a laughably short & dysfunctional table that is NOT fair, level, equal or balanced.

This principle does explain practically every aspect of US Foreign Policy, however.

Similarly, the West now intends to 'empower' Ukraine & a degenerate EU, nations that are all economically dependent on Russian energy, by attacking & destabilising Putin's Russia, much in the same way that the West still tries to protect an indefensible South Korea by handicapping an already handicapped North Korea.

In regard to the easily hackable nature of electronic Voting Machines, I seem to recall that these machines were once described as a YUGE progressive technological advance by a certain futurist, which makes me wonder if mass video surveillance systems like CCTV are (or will be) similarly hackable in our immediate future, leading to an Orwellian Government that possesses (and creates) inarguable video proof of everyone & anyone's guilt.

And, 'BOOM goes the Global Economic Bubble", says investment guru John Mauldin and (ashes, ashes) We All Fall Down, perhaps saving us from Orwell's Hackable Video Dystopia.


Best

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Viking

Those trivial changes that the history books will forget about have had the effect of
HALVING!! the US Median wage

If the USA had not gone neoliberal and given 90+% of the additional income from the continual improvement - productivity improvements - to the 0.1% then the median would be twice it's present level

That is why the USA is no longer "the Best Place in the World" for it's 99% - but has fallen to about 40th

That "injury" is what is fueling the rest of the problems - If that had not happened I suspect that racism and all of the other nasty things would be much much less prominent

David Brin said...

" I seem to recall that these machines were once described as a YUGE progressive technological advance by a certain futurist..."

Exactly right! You DO "seem" to recall that. I have always said computerized systems should be paper/hand auditable. Thos who armwave and go blah-blah-de-blah-blah around the central point -- that redders cheat and blues do not -- are just cheater-liar-poopy-traitors.

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan | Are you using the same numbers as Paul451? Care to point me at them?

Is that halving a comparison against where we 'should' be?

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alfred
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/08/07/opinion/leonhardt-income-inequality.html?_r=1

http://gulzar05.blogspot.co.nz/2012/05/long-term-economic-impact-of-growing.html

From 1948 - 2012 the economy grew by 254% - but hourly compensation grew by 113%
By my maths that is 2.24 times - which means that if the loot had been allocated the way it used to be allocated then the median wage would have increased by 224%

And that is until 2012! - when things got WORSE!

We all work hard and make the cake grow but the 0.1% then steal all of the increase!

IMHO after decades of improvement work the top executives contribute LESS than the janitors!
It's worse than that the Janitors have ideas and we (engineers) can filter out the dopey ones - the Execs have ideas and we can't filter the dopey ones - and there are some real doozers!
Dr Brin's CITOKATE does not work on senior Execs because they won't bloody listen

So the 0.1% contributes a low number of good ideas and a high number of bad ideas but still trousers all the profits

Alfred Differ said...

@Viking | To me, ACA is simply a scam that freezes the health care fraction of GDP around 18-20%, preventing any market based solution aimed at decreasing the health care fraction of GDP to around 10%, where it should be.

Where it should be and where it was going aren't related by much. The prices for health care, health care insurance, and pharmaceuticals were all inflating at quite a clip not long ago. It's still a problem.

Time for yet another anecdote?

I was laid off in the summer of 2009 (Larry | That was NOT a blip) and got to due the usual belt tightening that turns small recessions into bigger ones if we all do it. I filed for unemployment benefits because I paid into the system before and knew I'd need them. I got my COBRA statement a little later and realized I had a choice to make. I could pay the mortgage or I could pay to keep my family insured. I could not do both. I had a few days to stew over that and took them. Pretty soon a little letter showed up in my mailbox 'from the President' offering to cover 65% of my COBRA if I covered the other 35%. I COULD do that, so the risk was averted.

While I was stewing, I looked up the inflation rate for health care insurance rates. It was clipping along at about 17%. That means the doubling rate was a little over 4 years. I worked in IT where the half-life of a job is between 4-5 years, so that meant the next time I was unemployed (assuming I found a job right away), my COBRA would be twice as expensive. Roughly. If my employer could afford such a thing that I would buy into after the next lay off. In IT, one has to plan for these things. Our products don't survive forever on the market. CIO's change opinions about what they want. Customers get fickle. It was pretty easy to see that the next time, I'd probably be buying some piss-poor plan or have nothing at all. It was obviously unsustainable. Inflation does that.

After the arrival of the help offer, it was still obvious that the situation was unsustainable. On top of that, I'd become dependent on the government and that would color my politics. I don't mind help, but I don't like to plan on needing it for long periods. It might happen one day, but not while I can act to prevent it. Those numbers showed me that the coming day was closer than I thought.


I would do quite a bit out of the libertarian norm to stop an inflation rate that high. I'd grumble while doing it, but hyperinflation kills trust in the markets faster that a lying politician.


Getting health care back to a modest fraction of GDP would be cool, but first we have to save the industry from all the screw ups.

David Brin said...

Just in case the rumors have substance... Mike Pence hurrying home, GOP senators huddling, a possible Mueller smoking gun... Please, oh please, curb your enthusiasm and read this! Get every democrat to read it. Especially every DP congress member.

http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2017/05/dont-impeach-plus-appraising-gop.html

Impeachment is a trap. Try, oh try, to be the smart ones, for a change.

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan | Aw man. Piketty again. Do you realize he has walked back some of his claims in that big book?

More importantly, though, why would you expect hourly compensation to grow the way the economy does? Labor income is one component in the package for where productivity growth gets delivered. Owners of capital get paid a rate of return too.


The biggest flaw in Piketty's book (in my opinion) is that he doesn't account for the primary form of capital the common man owns and has been investing in since the end of WWII and heavily so in the most recent generation. Human capital. People at the bottom of the labor income curve have a heck of a time doing that in a market where education costs have an inflation rate comparable to health care. What is being demanded of labor wrt education has been growing, so I would expect market forces alone to cause near zero growth rates in the lowest percentiles and maybe even negative ones.

The explosion on the right in the top percentile is obviously something else, but I'm not convinced it is redistribution until someone integrates under the curves to find how much money is moving. My suspicion is the area under the curve on the right simply isn't big enough to account for the loss of growth on the left. I suspect those 'losses' are going elsewhere mostly.

Zepp Jamieson said...

I doubt impeachment will happen, even at this juncture.
But Trump may decide to swing a deal to save his skin and quit.

Viking said...

@Duncan Cairncross
"Those trivial changes that the history books will forget about have had the effect of
HALVING!! the US Median wage

If the USA had not gone neoliberal and given 90+% of the additional income from the continual improvement - productivity improvements - to the 0.1% then the median would be twice it's present level"

To halfway paraphrase Heinlein: Don't assign to malice, what can be explained by uplifting 200 million privileged Chinese living in coastal cities. China has a very large GINI index, and the gains from trade are very non uniformly distributed, but there is some trickle down effect.

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/LABSHPUSA156NRUG

It is true that the labor fraction of GDP is an all time low for the last 70 years, but we are talking about a range of 6%. This is not explained by capital stealing from labor.

Viking said...

@Dr. Brin:
"Jiminy Viking show us the slightest sign - a glimmer! — that health care is a fungible commodity that responds to market forces as you claim. Everywhere else in the world they have accepted a basic truth, that some kind of rationing is necessary. Europeans do it by prioritizing the young, multiplying the likely years gained by an intervention times the quality of those years. "

My impression is that when health care providers have to compete in markets where the payer and customer and patient are one of the same, will behave like COMPETITIVE CAPITALISTS who like COMPETITION. That condition is satisfied when insurance will not pay.

Exhibit one: Cosmetic surgery

http://www.ncpa.org/pub/ba731

Exhibit two: Lasik

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2004/11/seeing_is_belie.html

https://www.lasikplus.com/cost-of-lasik

It is hard to find well researched data on lasik, I fear insurance has started covering it, and wrecked the competitive market.

I did grow up under single payer health care, which I agree gives a better return on money spent than what we have.

Viking said...

@Alfred Differ

Sounds like COBRA after 5 years might be 6 times what you paid, if the subsidy was 65%, and cost was set to double.

My first order of business, if I became health czar, would be to send everybody on public insurance needing hip surgery abroad, there are plenty of excellent international providers offering the service for way less than US hospitals. A paid international vacation for the patient, easily tens of thousands in savings for Uncle Sam.

Slim Moldie said...

Anyone who read "Steve Bannon, Unrepentant" by Robert Kuttner in the American Prospect care to speculate on Bannon's motives for soliciting an interview like this outside the fox and friends box?

Would Bannon keep his job under a President P?

I know our host advocates for nonpence over nonsense (ahem) but I can't help wonder under what motive Bannon put on the big boy pants here: ""There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s threats], forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.” Bannon went on to describe his battle inside the administration to take a harder line on China trade, and not to fall into a trap of wishful thinking in which complaints against China’s trade practices now had to take a backseat to the hope that China, as honest broker, would help restrain Kim."

Changing the subject to infrastructure. I've always thought the solution in urban areas would be to replace the surface area given to each original lane in a typical 8 lane freeway with 2 lanes for trucks and carpools, swap out 2 lanes for 4 commuter trains (local and express each way) swap out another 2 lanes for motorcycles and another 2 lanes for bicycles and rickshaws. You could dramatically increase the flux this way. This is probably derived from reading about strips in Asimov's robot stories. So what's wrong with my pipe dream?

Duncan Cairncross said...

Alfred
I am NOT expecting that labor is an increasing share of the money - simply a constant share

If the amount of capital injected had increased then I would agree that capital MAY get a larger share but that is simply NOT what has happenned

Instead with the same or reducing percentage of capital (remember that capital - real capital - wears out - you have got to keep replacing your machinery - the share of the returns going to LABOR have dropped

Viking
The idea that the USA has "uplifted" China is a good one - BUT that uplift has been by buying from them NOT by exporting jobs - that is a fallacy - the reason the USA exported jobs was simply to break the power of Labor -

"It is true that the labor fraction of GDP is an all time low for the last 70 years, but we are talking about a range of 6%. This is not explained by capital stealing from labor."

It is two fold - one is capital stealing from labor - the other one is the 0.01% - the CEO caste (along with execs) stealing from both

This is very obvious in this
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/08/07/opinion/leonhardt-income-inequality.html?_r=1




Paul451 said...

Slim Moldie,
"Changing the subject to infrastructure. I've always thought the solution in urban areas would be to replace the surface area given to each original lane in a typical 8 lane freeway with 2 lanes for trucks and carpools, swap out 2 lanes for 4 commuter trains (local and express each way) swap out another 2 lanes for motorcycles and another 2 lanes for bicycles and rickshaws. [...] So what's wrong with my pipe dream?"

It only works if there's no entry or exits between a single common origin and and a single destination (and back). As soon as you need to cross those other-type lanes (cars/trucks crossing the bike (motor and manual) lanes, or the train lines splitting and merging across all the other traffic, you have chaos.

--

Viking,
Re: China.

US GDP continued to grow while the income re-distribution happened, the "nation" got wealthier, it was the people of the nation who didn't. And other nations that had identical manufacturing losses in the face of Chinese imports didn't see the same income re-distribution and freezing of median wages. China's growth can't explain the purely internal US phenomenon.

Marino said...

Locum defining EU nations as "degenerate" is Nazi slander. I'd refrain from jokes about a Red state virgin and from whom she's running away faster. Compare btw. Frau Angela (and she's not ever from my side) and the Donald, who's the "degenerate"?

Re: market and healthcare: Viking's examples about lasik and plastic surgery are about elective procedures you could survive without (I'm quite myopic, but I still stay with my old fashioned glasses). But what about life-threatening stuff like cancer, or chronic diseases?

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: "Donzel the 5000 golf buddies connive to appoint each other onto boards that then vote each other skyrocketing compensation packages. This is not “herd-driven” it is a criminal cabal."

The shareholders (the largest of which tend to be pension funds) elect them. But the interlocking boards (a fact I'll not dispute) are an expression of the selection processes; the largest shareholders seek 'safe hands' more often than transformative visionaries (preferably, 'safe hands' who can occasionally be marketed as 'visionaries' to move the needle). As for criminal...hmmm, really?

"Prove to me that “Halliburton mostly broke even on those contracts.” That’s not what I get from multiple sources."

Well, your multiple sources ought to start with Halliburton's financial reports, and then challenge them. As a pretty massive enterprise, doing so is no simple task, but unless you have evidence of criminal conduct (or believe that no Democrat had the guts to prosecute for fraud, and no shareholder had an incentive to do so even if they could have made hundreds of millions of dollars), the public financials are "reliable" until proven otherwise. They show that the firm lost money 2002, 2003, and 2004, making its largest profit in decades in 2005 (at the same time that U.S.-based fracking came on line).

Were they awarded a large number of 'no bid' contracts immediately after the invasion of Iraq? Absolutely (particularly KBR, which was far too cozy with DHS for comfort). The U.S.-based construction was ridiculously profitable (here's a good survey) - http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2006/04/lament_of_the_profiteer.html - bearing in mind Slate is no fan of Halliburton, Cheney/Wolfowitz, or, by the time that piece was published, the Iraq War itself) - but the foreign-based contracts...well, the facts I know are not public.

Did they make billions in revenue in Iraq? Indisputably. Did they make billions in profit there? The public record suggests otherwise. Having worked my share of government contracts over the years, there's a lot more going on than meets the eye. Other hands (cough cough Kochs) made far more money from Iraq than those awarded even $10 bn contracts...

donzelion said...

Viking: I guess my role today is debunker of conspiracy theories, even if those predisposed to believe in them will shrug off contrary reasoning. As such,

"I know that in some meeting, somebody was saying: "4 lanes would only encourage more people to drive", so they undemocratically decide to wreck the traffic

Possible. Also possible that when they studied the soil, they concluded that 4 lanes would result in a bridge that might last 20 years, when they wanted one to last 50+ years. Or that it would increase costs too much to be feasible (or rather, the bondholders refused to consider a design that would require additional investment in order to pay off - they wanted their bridge fixed at a specific liability). Or...any number of other far more likely possibilities.

The kinds of conspiracies you (and Dr. Brin) are assuming actually do happen, but when they do, it's money decisions made by a handful of players who have better, more sophisticated grasp of the probabilities (e.g., the super-senior bondholders conspire to ensure that the junior bondholders get repaid last - and THEN plan for a bridge that will only endure for 20-30 years...or a property investor discovers that an infrastructure plan will benefit someone else, and bankrolls lawyers to fight condemnation proceedings to slow it down). For example -

"Heavy rail (subway) is the way to go, it does not interfere with surface traffic, and the number of rail cars is not limited by the block size in the city."

NYC's experience is particularly telling. The light rail, subway, and freeway/bridge systems (parkways) all had their own set of funders and defenders - and to understand why some expanded, others didn't, and how, I strongly suggest starting with Karo's 'The Powerbroker' to understand how the finances were (and were not) done.

David Brin said...

Very interesting donzelion. Now can you trace the $12 billion in RAW CASH that's said to have disappeared over there? I seriously am curious if there's verifiable smoke under that fire....

donzelion said...

Viking/Alfred: To me, ACA is simply a scam that freezes the health care fraction of GDP around 18-20%, preventing any market based solution aimed at decreasing the health care fraction of GDP to around 10%, where it should be.

I like this 'should be' concept. Which industrialize country with a population of over 5 million keeps it 'where it should be' through a purely market based solution? So far as I'm aware, they all socialized their health system to prevent the same expansion America has experienced.

"Getting health care back to a modest fraction of GDP would be cool, but first we have to save the industry from all the screw ups."
Indeed, but the first question is 'why' and 'is it worth it.' When economies of scale operate in reverse (the larger the scale, the more expensive the products and the higher the ultimate price), something is happening that violates market expectations. It may be that the only effective solution is to treat the industry the same way one treats a modern military...nationalizing it.

greg byshenk said...

Regarding the Sellwood Bridge in Portland: I recently drove across the new bridge for the first time, and was myself annoyed by the design of the bike lanes. I haven't researched the design, but failing to have separated lanes seems a mistake, given the space available and the fact that it was a new design. But the number of lanes is entirely reasonable, given that the feeder road (at least on the East side of the bridge) is itself only two lanes, meaning that extra lanes on the bridge would have no real benefit.

LarryHart said...

@Dr Brin and @Alfred Differ,


I was laid off in the summer of 2009 (Larry | That was NOT a blip)


My observation was hyperbolic, to be sure, but I wasn't saying that normal human beings weren't adversely affected by the crash of 2008. I'm saying that it didn't derail the economy. In that sense, it was a nasty speedbump, but a speedbump nonetheless.

Allow me to explain my mindset by invoking an equally-misunderstood pronouncement by Dave Sim. Back in the 1990s, Dave made the assertion that life and death were out of balance in the sense that the population keeps increasing no matter what happens to counter it on the death side of the equation. His iconoclast point was that, rather than celebrating every birth as a miracle, it is incumbent upon us to notice that we're filling up the planet. As a supporting piece of evidence, he made the statement which he knew would be misinterpreted badly--that even the mass slaughters of the 20th Century--Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and the like--even when they killed millions or scores of millions at a shot didn't do more than make a slight dent in the human population of earth.

He knew in advance that such a statement would be taken badly, but he was not expressing support for mass killings. He was trying to make a mathematical point--that even when such killers try their best, they're not countering overpopulation.

It is in that sense--with equal expectation of being misunderstood--that I claim the crash of 2008 was a blip or a speedbump. Not that it wasn't bad. But that even something as bad as that isn't enough to keep the American economy itself--the holdings of investors and the value of the dollar--from recovering to newer and higher heights.

I've been hearing since the 80s how a new Great Depression is imminent, and I used to believe so myself. How could the math say anything but? And it keeps not happening. 2008 was bad, yes, but what I'm saying is that even the economic equivalent of the Nazi Holocaust didn't stop the economic equivalent of the population boom from recovering itself.

I'm saying I've acquired a healthy respect for betting on the dollar and the American economy rather than against them.

locumranch said...


Duncan_C's math is suspect: He forgets that the workforce was effectively DOUBLED when women entered the job market (during the 1960s to 1970s) which would cut the original value of the male hourly wage in HALF, explaining why hourly compensation only grew at HALF of his calculated rate.

And, Marino's point is well taken and I will no longer refer to the EU & its leaders as 'degenerate', but by the more enlightened & politically correct term "cheater-liar-poopy-traitors", in the sense that Merkel is a "cheater-liar-poopy-traitor" who has condemned Germany & the EU to demographic replacement through mismanagement, suicidal altruism & perverse anti-family policies.

David appears to agree with my assessment as he seems to attribute the decline of the Pax Americana Empire -- not to politically-incorrect 'degeneracy' -- but to a plague of "cheater-liar-poopy-traitors" who have multiplied in betrayal of the selfless state-oriented ideals once propagated by a fascist FDR & his 'Greatest Generation'.


Best

George Carty said...

Obviously locumranch doesn't seem to have noticed that the last time the Germans had a government that encouraged large families and was dedicated to advancing their own ethno-cultural group at the expense of others, it ended up with their cities in rubble, their territory occupied and their leaders hanged.

Robert said...

There was some discussion on Anderson Cooper's CNN program, especially by David Gergen, of growing sentiment among psychiatrists in favor of dropping the "Goldwater Rule" (don't publicly psychoanalyze public figures) in the case of Donald Trump. Put that together with Pence's itinerary, and you have some interesting 25th Amendment possibilities. Meanwhile, for your entertainment, you can read the entry for "Narcissistic Personality Disorder" in DSM-5. However, in a certain President's case, the initials need to be changed from NPD to NSDAP.

CBS News interviewed some WWII veterans about Charlottesville. They were really pissed off. Hats off to the Greatest Generation!



Bob Pfeiffer.
Donald Trump ist nicht mein Führer.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

I filed for unemployment benefits because I paid into the system before and knew I'd need them. I got my COBRA statement a little later and realized I had a choice to make. I could pay the mortgage or I could pay to keep my family insured. I could not do both.


That's another problem with the system of health insurance as it exists. Some people have no economic choice but to miss insurance payments for several months. Bad enough that they're vulnerable to capricious fate during those months, but when they try to get back into the system, they're treated exactly the same as someone who didn't buy insurance until they acquired a condition that needs expensive treatment.

If it's important to the system's functioning (and it is) that people be continuously insured over long periods of their lives, then the system really should be designed to facilitate that. It's why I favor something approaching single-payer. More accurately, I favor treating emergency health care the way big cities treat fire departments. The society pays the cost so that the service is there when needed. It's not something the few who are unlucky enough to require are on the hook for.


I had a few days to stew over that and took them. Pretty soon a little letter showed up in my mailbox 'from the President' offering to cover 65% of my COBRA if I covered the other 35%. I COULD do that, so the risk was averted.
...
After the arrival of the help offer, it was still obvious that the situation was unsustainable. On top of that, I'd become dependent on the government and that would color my politics. I don't mind help, but I don't like to plan on needing it for long periods.


Good point. Although now that I think about it, would you say the same thing about the fire department? That it's nice that it's there now, but you'd rather be able to do without them in the future?

Still, you're describing a market deformity in which escalating prices are sustained by government assistance. That's certainly happening with college costs. The important question is whether that's what's happening in health care. Without the government assistance, would prices come down, or would more people suffer and die?


Getting health care back to a modest fraction of GDP would be cool, but first we have to save the industry from all the screw ups.


This mirrors a point that Duncan made above about how racism and other identity-politicking infighting over the crumbs would not be a thing if the gains from increased productivity had been more equal. The fact that health care today seems like something only billionaires and corporations (and governments) can afford seems to be the root of the other health-care-related problems.


Robert said...

The Jolly Rancher slipped into the thread while I was typing my post - I didn't know I had supervillain powers - sorry.

Bob Pfeiffer

Darrell E said...

LarryHart,

I understand and agree with your perspective of our recent "blip." Even though it did set me back literally to square one when I was on plan for a first retirement at right about today because I just happened to have owned a business in one of the hardest hit industries in one of the hardest hit areas in the country. Our volume literally dropped 99% in one year. That isn't even a tiny bit of exaggeration. The real kicker though was how long business virtually disappeared for. A year would have been no real problem. A set back to be sure but no significant decrease in our capabilities. Heck, if we had just quietly shut things down and walked away right after things went over the cliff I would have been fine. But no, time after time we decided to bet on staying with it thinking surely things must begin to pick up soon. But, no, they didn't. For years. Until eventually we had so little left that it seemed our best bet to have a chance at some level of financial security ever again was to stay in it till the last penny because we no longer had the resources or time to try anything else.

Obviously business has recovered a good bit since then. But it has been very slow and we still are no where near pre-crash volume or ROS. And our specific market is quite different than it has ever been in my experience of about 30 years. It is much harder to make a living. All of our costs are up, including labor costs, yet average ROS is down by something like 12%-15%. That's all the profit that we no longer make and it's squeezing the overhead pretty tightly too. I have employees who make more than I do. This isn't a typical blip as might be expected due to a change in demand. It has been the norm since the crash and during that time there have been no significant changes, 1st or 2nd order, in supply or demand.

The really bad thing is that I hate this business! That's why I was so looking forward to that 1st retirement. To get the fuck out of it.

LarryHart said...

Marino:

Re: market and healthcare: Viking's examples about lasik and plastic surgery are about elective procedures you could survive without (I'm quite myopic, but I still stay with my old fashioned glasses). But what about life-threatening stuff like cancer, or chronic diseases?


That's a big part of the problem. The label "health care" conflates routine maintenance, elective procedures, and emergency care as if they should all be handled the same way. As if you call the fire department to turn off the burners on your stove.

LarryHart said...

George Carty:

Obviously locumranch doesn't seem to have noticed that the last time the Germans had a government that encouraged large families and was dedicated to advancing their own ethno-cultural group at the expense of others, it ended up with their cities in rubble, their territory occupied and their leaders hanged.


That's the point that I've tried to make to anyone who talks about how great fascism works. It always ends up that way. It forces everyone who is not the so-called "master race" to fight to the death against them.

Viking said...

@LarryHart
"That's a big part of the problem. The label "health care" conflates routine maintenance, elective procedures, and emergency care as if they should all be handled the same way. As if you call the fire department to turn off the burners on your stove."

How about equating US emergency care with Roman firefighting during the last days of the republic?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_firefighting#Rome

We are dealing with a highly unethical gang, and unfortunately with silk gloves, and the characteristic cowardice of congress.

One way would be for the federal government to unilaterally demand that all hospital reimbursement rates conform to the average of the rates UK and France, and reimburse nothing until they get agreements. This would require more balls than we have, and that we accept some short term isolated human suffering. I promise you, when 50 percent of the revenue suddenly gets shut off, there will be plenty of defectors in the medical industrial complex very soon.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hip_replacement#Prevalence_and_cost

Catfish N. Cod said...

Viking! How... *socialist* of you?

More seriously: Larry's point harkens to the real issue which deserves discussion. Elective procedures (of which LASIK and cosmetic surgery are great examples) can be treated as "tradeable goods" in the classic capitalist fashion and easily subjected to normal market rules.

When you are having a stroke you have no market power at all: you must seek the nearest facility with absolutely no time to lose and no choices to make. You take what you're given and are glad that clot-busting drugs exist at all, for you will die or become an invalid without immediate administration. In that situation Viking's analogy to the Roman conflation of fire insurance with high-pressure real estate deals is apropos: they can literally demand your money or your life. Only some collective arrangement can answer for such a problem.

Most of health care lies somewhere in between. The optimum solution is unclear but I know one thing perfectly well: no purist solution will be workable.

Viking said...

"Viking! How... *socialist* of you? "

There is nothing capitalist in the act of paying outrageous amount of taxpayer money to the medical oligarchs.

locumranch said...



Obviously George Carty doesn't seem to have noticed that the last time the United States had a government that encouraged large families and was dedicated to advancing their own ethno-cultural group at the expense of others, this their 'Greatest Generation' ended up VICTORIOUS over the Axis Powers as it reduced their cities in rubble, occupied their territory and hanged their leaders.

Again, I say that our host's position of being a Pro-Union 'F Yeah' Pax Americana Nationalist while simultaneously condemning all other sorts of Evil Nationalism is INTERNALLY INCONSISTENT, and I challenge him to reconcile his mutually contradictory belief system by EITHER (A) Recognising that Nationalism (including the Pax Americana variant) is both laudable & reasonable OR (B) Abandoning all forms of Evil Nationalism in favour of large scale Balkanisation that replaces mandatory Pax Americana 'Übers Alles' Nationalism with a loose, diverse & voluntary Confederacy.


Best

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: "Very interesting donzelion. Now can you trace the $12 billion in RAW CASH that's said to have disappeared over there? I seriously am curious if there's verifiable smoke under that fire...."

Bits'n'pieces of it, maybe, but more in the 8 figure range. Halliburton spent 2002-2004 paying down asbestos/silica claims; both their 'losses' and their gains were carefully engineered. Within Halliburton though, KBR (the primary focus of the complaints) was never MY client; I did work with many of the other massive engineering firms in that region.

But in a $1 trillion war, even with the most scrupulous accounting, 1-5% slips by. Too much, certainly, and orders of magnitude more than would slip by in a routine corporate world, but that's war for you.

But while the Saudis and others petrol-barons profited, the biggest beneficiaries took their money indirectly, through extraction of oil that would never have been profitable otherwise. Look to the billionaires who doubled/tripled their money. I'm still bothered by the 'no-bid' contracts, but much more bothered by those who profited from far away, hidden in the sidelines, taking no risks but reaping massive rewards from the risks other people took with their lives and treasure. That is NOT how capitalism is supposed to work. That is precisely how capitalism has always worked.

donzelion said...

Viking: "One way [to rein in 'health' care costs] would be for the federal government to unilaterally demand that all hospital reimbursement rates conform to the average of the rates UK and France, and reimburse nothing until they get agreements."

Interesting. While some are calling you 'socialist' for such a tact, that seems more Scandinavian. More philosophically, there's an acknowledgment that health markets do NOT work like ordinary markets, where mutually beneficial exchange.

That said, the problem ISN'T that health care oligarchs are 'highly unethical gangs' - but that there's a series of 'mostly ethical' players maximizing their profits through fairly easily justified exchanges, the sum total of which becomes egregiously insane. Relatively few 'health care' billionaires top the Forbes List; but large numbers of folks in the top 1% hover just on the outside.

But really, the problem is grafting capitalist expectations (bargained for mutually beneficial exchange to dictate prices; economies of scale; efficiency/productivity expectations to drive investment decisions) into a field where they simply cannot fit. We do not fight our wars that way; we should stop fighting for health that way as well. Less hunting for the 'greedy doctor thugs' (aside from a handful, they mostly do not exist), more changing the frame of how the market operates (single payer through a nationalized health care system, just as we have a nationalized military system...).

LarryHart said...


"The word you are looking for is 'conquering Europe'. But this is not conquering Europe. Liberating Europe, perhaps, but that's a different thing, in fact the opposite thing."


Jumper said...

locum has gotten through his important message to at least one journalist, thank god:
https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/08/do-you-believe-the-eclipse-is-going-to-happen/537090/

LarryHart said...

Heh.

Maybe the eclipse is a hoax perpetrated by China?

David Brin said...

Re that 2 lane bridge in Portland… Couldn’t you cantilever bike lanes along the side?

LH: interesting that right wing jerks make BOTH points. Sims rais that the teeming masses are overpopulating, while our own resident curbside shouter raves that “women are only having one or two kids! We’ll go extinct!”

Oh, but Germany is doing SO badly!

Aha, so Locum has finally felt cornered enough to change his tune on something! Forced to admit that almost every aim of 40 years of Republicanism has been to reverse almost every policy put in place by the FDR-loving “Greatest Generation,” he now appears to be admitting… “those guys weren’t so great.”

Okay then! The GGs were more union-joining, infrastructure-building, science-loving, recism-fighting, rich-taxing, do-gooder lib’ruls! Okay fellah, then when WAS “America Great?”

(Tune in Archie and Edith Bunker: “Mister we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again!”

LarryHart said...

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-trash-talking-trump-pitts-20170813-column.html

(emphasis mine)


...
The rest of us are in a fight for the life of our country. The memory and promise of America is our last redoubt. It is our Alamo against those who ask us to accept and normalize this madness.

I, for one, will not.

My preference is always to persuade. But when you cannot persuade, you can still protest. And yes, I know someone will advise me to respect the office, if not the man. My answer: I will if he will.

Until then, conscience requires me to treat this president, this singular existential threat, as I’ve never treated any president — liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican — before him. Meaning with utter contempt. I understand that some people will find that offensive. But our country is at stake here.

And I think subtlety would be the greater sin.

David Brin said...

He later asks what - to a zero-sum hysterical mind - seems a cogent question: “I challenge him to reconcile his mutually contradictory belief system by EITHER (A) Recognising that Nationalism (including the Pax Americana variant) is both laudable & reasonable OR (B) Abandoning all forms of Evil Nationalism in favour of large scale Balkanisation that replaces mandatory Pax Americana 'Übers Alles' Nationalism with a loose, diverse & voluntary Confederacy.”

The answer is something you cannot remotely grasp, poor sir. Multi-dimensional and positive sum and futuristic. But for all the others…

Balkanized worlds are horrifically violent, zero sum, intolerant and destructive. Under a few rare circumstances (e.g. Europe after 1650), melanges of competing nations can be engines of rapid technological progress. (Most balkanized situations are not.)

Civilization does better under a pax and so do average people, who live their lives benefiting from their own labor and do not see their city burn. But pax empires can also be oppressors, homogenizing, insensitive, hierarchical and stifling. They generally set up mercantilist trade systems that benefit the capital and impoverish the peripheries till they rebel.

Neither system plans at all for the future or resists the pyramidal feudalism trap.

Especially after WWII, FDR, Marshall, Truman. Eisenhower, Acheson, Dulles looked at that dismal history and applied something entirely new… sapience. They set up an entirely new pax, aiming (and succeeding) at generating a positive sum of the advantages of both while evading the disadvantages.

Result, across an entire human lifespan? Almost no cities have burned. (And BClinton was an archetype of how to intervene and end balkanized horrors… in the Balkans!… with quick-minimal application of pax force.) ANTI-mercantilist trade flows have uplifted THREE BILLION people out of poverty. Techno-science progress has been spectacular and mostly benefited average people. The “state religion” spread by Hollywood preaches suspicion of authority and tolerance, which inherently work against the old failure mode of feudalism.

There have been plenty of mistakes. But among the biggest memes - partly via science fiction - is that the Future must be given a palpable voice. And hence we are the 1st civilization to heed long term externalities. Like saving the planet.

To locum the old, binary choice is the only one possible - violent chaos or rigid oppression. His neurons cannot grasp the positive sum departure I just described. It’s organic! And hence, as always, I wrote the above for the rest of you.

But this illustrates why I think we need to keep skimming his missives for the occasional raving blare that actually (often accidentally) raises an interesting question.

In this case, he assumes that my praise of a pax that saved the world and gave it hope is a sig heil scream of chauvinism. Yes, he is incapable of reacting otherwise. We are a species of wild variety and he can tell that education and calm and a better world will render his kind of thinking…not extinct, but powerless and rare.

LarryHart said...

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-trump-supporters-racist-deplorables-20170817-story.html


...
Moreover, if Trump voters tolerated his racism during the campaign because they thought Clinton was a she-devil or because they were convinced he possessed unique skills or because they thought he'd be controlled by congressional leaders, what is their excuse now? Clinton isn't the alternative to Trump. (Vice President Mike Pence is.) Trump is not demonstrating even a smidgen of competence or ability to enact the agenda he promised. Even if you thought in the campaign his racism was mitigated by other factors (we find that entirely reprehensible, but let's continue) those other factors don't exist any more. All that is left is the white-nationalist sympathizer.

In sum, there is no non-deplorable rationale for continuing to defend this president, his rhetoric and his moral obtuseness. No one is asked to confess error in voting for him (although some self-scrutiny would be appreciated). Nevertheless, continuing to deny he is unfit for office and to make excuses for his verbiage makes one complicit in his racial divisiveness and his determination to provide aid and comfort to neo-Nazis and white nationalists.

Some delude themselves by thinking that Trump can show "greater moral clarity" (!) (as the Republican Jewish Coalition preposterously did) or that staying in the administration prevents damage to the country (as Gary Cohn, John F. Kelly and others apparently do) or that the 2016 voters' verdict cannot be upset with no regard for subsequent events (as Republican lawmakers insist). Let's be blunt, these are rationalizations for continued support for an unfit, racist president. It does in fact make one deplorable.


Viking said...

"Interesting. While some are calling you 'socialist' for such a tact, that seems more Scandinavian. More philosophically, there's an acknowledgment that health markets do NOT work like ordinary markets, where mutually beneficial exchange."

I don't really see strong arguments that market forces don't work on healthcare. Most of the examples used show a situation where demand is not price sensitive. The counter examples of elective procedures not covered by insurance are discounted for no good reason.

Regarding socialism, if you really wanted to use that term, the public expenditures on health may be akin to socialism, but using market forces to decrease the price (pay not one cent more than he price in Europe) would be the equivalent of a reform, that bruised some bad players that used to be "more equal".

Catfish N. Cod said...

Viking sez: "There is nothing capitalist in the act of paying outrageous amount of taxpayer money to the medical oligarchs."

Well, I know that, and you know that, but those who claim to be "market's friends" don't seem to know that.

locum.... I don't see why I didn't see it before. You're a Bannonite. I'd like to drag you down to Arlington Cemetery, point at all the Jewish-American and Native American and Japanese-American graves and have you explain to THEM how victory was achieved by "advancing our ethno-cultural group". We fought that war to STOP such ideologies, you cretinous seditionist. And the sort of multicultural nationalism, based on SHARED VIRTUES and VALUES instead of ETHNICALLY BASED CULTURE, that we are advocating... you don't seem to able to comprehend. I pity you, sir.

@Dr. Brin: My contacts in conservative libertarianism have gone into paroxysms praising Calvin Coolidge: he kept the government small and was personally & professionally quiet. "Silent Cal." He shut up, did little, and let Big Business run the country, "as he should have". The budget was (close to) balanced, and the economy was booming. Conservatarian heaven!

They'll accept no responsibility for the complete collapse of that economy just after his term ended. Mismanagement by.... someone else, they say.

Sure, and a dog ate your homework. They didn't buy that line in 1932. Why should we now?

A.F. Rey said...

Interesting little statistic from FiveThirtyEight: the number of Democratic House challengers for 2018 is up, compared to other recent elections at this time of year. WAY up. Like 3.5 to 9.5 times as much.

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-sheer-number-of-democrats-running-for-congress-is-a-good-sign-for-the-party/

Looks like Democrats smell blood... :)

David S said...

Viking,

I don't discount those examples. Part of the reason they work is that there is quality and price transparency. The success rate of each doctor's Lasik is known (it is part of their marketing material). Prices are published and other than finance charges/cash discounts the price does not change depending on the source of the funds paying for it. Finally, the transaction is between the vision care provider and patient.

These things are missing in health care services provided through an insurance carrier.

You can't find out how good your doctor is. Costs prior to services are nearly impossible to determine -- you can find out your co-pay, co-insurance rate, and deductible rather easily -- but what the true is only determined much later. More over the amounts varies depending on the source of the funds -- medicare, insurance, cash -- all cost differently. In addition, the costs are negotiated with between the heal care provider and the insurance company.

My wife had gall balder stones. We dealt with the emergency room visit to get the stone passed. Afterwards, we were advised to have the gall bladder removed. Since we were out of crisis, we had time to shop around. It was impossible to determine which in-network facility would cost us least. We finally got answers from a kind soul who broke protocol to tell us what procedure codes we were likely to use and with that information we could come up with an estimate. Finally we could start to evaluate our options.

Fixing transparency in quality and forcing providers to stick to published price lists would help.

donzelion said...

Viking: "I don't really see strong arguments that market forces don't work on healthcare."

Didn't say that 'market forces don't work' - only they don't work as expected. Market forces work on mafia as well, but when each 'bargained for exchange' reflects compulsion outside of the bargain, the outcome is entirely different from anticipated. So to with health: yes, 'market' operations apply to cosmetics, but the most expensive costs come during those last 6 months of life - meaning that the market decision is 'how much is this person's life worth?' - and the rational expectation is, 'everything' (to that person, anyway, and those who live him/her). One should expect 'health care' costs to grow to a vast size (indeed, perhaps up to 90% of the economy - someone still has to feed the doctors, but all other expenses would be devoted toward prolonging/preserving life).

"Most of the examples used show a situation where demand is not price sensitive."
Generally, market forces make a number of assumptions (repeatability, perfect knowledge, price discovery) that do not apply for health (how does someone discover the proper price for meds if they fail to pay it and die?).

"Elective procedures not covered by insurance are discounted for no good reason."
'Elective procedures' strike me as more likely to be covered by supply/demand than non-elective procedures.

"Regarding socialism, if you really wanted to use that term"
I do not, but others had applied that term to you (perhaps in jest/jibe). When government takes control over some field (e.g., the military replacing militias or mercenaries), that does not necessarily mean a 'socialist' outcome - but does mean a 'socialized' approach. Market forces should be respected, but like any forces, they do not always work as expected when the fundamental assumptions are changed, and the difference can be extreme.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

LH: interesting that right wing jerks make BOTH points. Sims rais that the teeming masses are overpopulating, while our own resident curbside shouter raves that “women are only having one or two kids! We’ll go extinct!”


When Dave read the Bible and became religious, he changed his tune on reproduction--sort of. He still maintained that marriage and reproduction were bad ideas for thinking men, but he also insisted that the west was in a population "arms race" with Islam, and that only the Hispanic westerners were keeping our end up in that regard.


Okay fellah, then when WAS “America Great?”

(Tune in Archie and Edith Bunker: “Mister we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again!”


My parents had an old vinyl record album of highlights from "All In the Family". The first cut was that opening song, only it was the whole song, not just the few verses they did on the actual tv show. But it was Carroll O'Connor and Jean Stapleton, in character, doing the singing. The expression you could actually hear on O'Connor's face when he sang "Freaks...were in a circus tent" was priceless!

David Brin said...

Catfish. What’s key is to not let them “move on’ from the Greatest Generation without making it explicit. Get them to actively hate on the GGs. That will stick in the gorge of some of their allies and break up their coalition. No, no. You do not get Calvin Coolidge without hating the generation that knew him much better and despised him. You do not get to venerate confederates without admitting that you hate Lincoln.

Viking: Lasik and cosmetic are capitalist fungible because demand can fall, in the face of too-high prices. Demand for the best medical care for your dying child is not market or price affected.

538 news... That’s great, especially the fact that so many of them are (as I advised) retired military officers who can offer a vastly saner version of the “strong parent” that redders apparently need.

The bad news? We don’t need 200, we need 5000! This will get nowhere unless sane (though personality conservative) candidates invade every single red state assembly and state senate district.

Alfred Differ said...

@Viking | The ACA changed the inflation rate I was facing enough to matter. On top of that, my current job has beaten the odds for the first half-life and looks to be doing well enough to beat the second one. (We will see.)

All of this HAS changed the way I relate to my current employer. The last time one of our contracts looked to be even slightly at risk and my boss asked me how I felt about it, I let him know I was loyal to someone who could pay for health insurance. If that meant the company who won the contract, that's how the situation would work out. I was on chemo at the time, so he wasn't too surprised. It all worked out, though, when we won the contract anyway.

David Brin said...

Geez Alfred. Hang in there! I point to you as proof that there exist libertarians with enough neurons to remember the oligarchy enemy. Heck, you are also a great guy.

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan | I am NOT expecting that labor is an increasing share of the money - simply a constant share

Why would it be constant? Capital and Labor compete in some ways. It gets real messy when Labor acquires capital that it needs to compete against itself.

If the amount of capital injected had increased then I would agree that capital MAY get a larger share but that is simply NOT what has happened

Are you REALLY sure? Have you accounted for human capital which is largely owned by labor? Piketty does not.

remember that capital - real capital - wears out - you have got to keep replacing your machinery

All capital. Even human capital.

Alfred Differ said...

@David | Thanks. 8)

I'm past all that, though. What the medical industry can do nowadays is stunning. I've beaten an auto-immune disorder (nasty one) and a cancer (not so bad).


On a completely unrelated note, though, my blue kepi is getting a very different response from people in the last couple days. People actually look. I can see the gears in their heads turning as they try to remember which color means what. 8)

Paul451 said...

Larry,
"I favor treating emergency health care the way big cities treat fire departments"

In the US, even fire depts are done wrong. It should be a state-level system, limiting it to arbitrary "incorporated" boundaries is stupid.

"you're describing a market deformity in which escalating prices are sustained by government assistance. That's certainly happening with college costs."

The way of getting around that is to limit government funding to areas where the provider agrees to price controls (or, as you note, nationalisation). Don't want price controls, don't put your hand out.

Aside: I made a comment once before (and several times elsewhere) that there are corporations like Lockheed which receive more than 95% of their income from the US government (and the majority of the rest from other governments). About 2% comes from "commercial" sales, and I suspect most of that is sales to other government contractors. This dependency, and their control over a huge chunk of the US military contracting budget, means that military/civilian govt contracts some times are required to take into consideration "protecting national security knowledge" to artificially up-rating LM's bids to prevent them financial distress. That means they win contracts they weren't the lowest/best bidder on, and they presumably bid on that knowledge. They are, in effect, a privately owned government agency. It would therefore make more sense to nationalise the company, bring the critical national-security knowledge in-house, then - if there's a business case - re-float the genuinely commercially viable parts of the company.

Quothing: "this president, this singular existential threat"

{sigh} Singular. Individual. Not a symptom of an entire industry built around one side of politics.

Paul451 said...

Viking,
"One way would be for the federal government to unilaterally demand that all hospital reimbursement rates..."

There's a model in single payer systems, the government sets a chart of fees for service and its up to the medical provider whether they want to comply. I believe some aspects of the US system borrow from that. But in other areas, the govt is forbidden by law from negotiating prices., even for "bulk purchase" areas like medication.

Catfish: "How... *socialist* of you?"
Viking: "There is nothing capitalist in the act of paying outrageous amount of taxpayer money to the medical oligarchs."

However, it is unusual for someone on the right to recognise that doubling down on favouring those oligarchs isn't "promoting efficiency". Those Congressionally imposed restrictions on medicare/medicaid didn't come from "socialists".

---

Locumranch,
"He forgets that the workforce was effectively DOUBLED when women entered the job market (during the 1960s to 1970s) which would cut the original value of the male hourly wage in HALF"

The relationship holds when you look at median household income, total industry wages, etc. And the same "doubling of the workforce" happened in every other industrialised nation without see the same wage stagnation that occurred in the US.

So no.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

To locum the old, binary choice is the only one possible - violent chaos or rigid oppression. His neurons cannot grasp the positive sum departure I just described.


He's metaphorically defending Hitler by saying the equivalent of:

What about the Allies coming at him from across the English Channel brandishing guns and ships? There was violence on many sides. The Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia and Poland, and the Allies invaded Normandy. I condemn them all equally.


David Brin said...

Alfred it’s not too soon to source our kepis. Where’d you get yours? Someone in the supply chain needs a headsup.

Viking said...


"However, it is unusual for someone on the right to recognise that doubling down on favouring those oligarchs isn't "promoting efficiency". Those Congressionally imposed restrictions on medicare/medicaid didn't come from "socialists"."

You might characterize me as on the right, but to me, both the donkeys and the elephants are actively wrecking the country, and since year 2000, I have never held my nose and voted for any mainstream candidate.

I do think we all as a society would be better off if the government fully stayed out of health care, but given the current status quo, it is irrational not to use government monopsony power in a Machiavellian fashion to maximize the value received for resources expended. Since the government is purchaser of about half of all medical services, most hospitals would go out of business if all of that buying power disappeared. The question is, can any existing politicians or public sector executives survive such a game of chicken? It's a winning move for everybody except the <10% in the medical field that receive almost 20% of the GDP.

This is not a single payer system, and not a perfect monopsony where there is a single buyer, but there exist a buyer that is large enough to have price setting power unless the "think about the children softies" folded. This assumes that public employees, public retirees, medicare, medicaid, VA all were folded in under one umbrella.

I am aware of rules against government negotiating drug prices, and these rules are irrational, regardless of which party added them, if I remember right, the republicans did.

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

http://www.investopedia.com/terms/m/monopsony.asp

Duncan Cairncross said...

Larry -
"The "Hispanics" are the only segment maintaining the US population"

That is strange! - way back when the European population stopped growing the papers all worried about the "Latins" - the Catholic "Latins" would keep breeding and replace us Northern types
But it din't happen that way!
The Scandinavians ended up with the highest birth rate
What appeared to happen is that Scandinavian men help out a lot with the kids - the "Latins" don't - such work is unmanly!
The Latin ladies responded by NOT having kids

But you are not seeing that pattern in the USA??

Lasik and cosmetic - these are not "insurance" - using insurance to pay for these would be silly - insurance is for random large bills -

Alfred
If the pattern changes - and much less money goes to the 99% - then it is up to those excusing the change to show that the change makes sense - not up to the rest of us to show "Why would it be constant?"


LarryHart said...

Paul451:

"I favor treating emergency health care the way big cities treat fire departments"

In the US, even fire depts are done wrong. It should be a state-level system, limiting it to arbitrary "incorporated" boundaries is stupid.
...
Quothing: "this president, this singular existential threat"

{sigh} Singular. Individual. Not a symptom of an entire industry built around one side of politics.


You're Mr. The-Perfect-Is-The-Enemy-Of-The-Good today, aren't you? :)

I'm willing to credit that fire protection in a crowded urban setting is a different thing (though not the opposite thing) from fire protection on hostile terrain many miles from the nearest neighbors.

As to the newspaper columnist who backs me up on the idea of not treating Trump as a legitimate president, I'm willing to cut him some slack in the grammar department. If he said that confederate agitators should be hung as traitors, it wouldn't bother me that he used the wrong past tense.

LarryHart said...

Duncan Cairncross:

What appeared to happen is that Scandinavian men help out a lot with the kids - the "Latins" don't - such work is unmanly!
The Latin ladies responded by NOT having kids

But you are not seeing that pattern in the USA??


Our Latins may be different from your Latins. Latin American culture still seems to favor machismo in their men, and the women don't seem to mind.

Then again, Dave Sim is Canadian, so he was speaking from pop culture rather than from direct experience. When Dave fell in love with Scripture (I'm not kidding), his already-interesting world view turned even more interesting. I'm sure he saw uber-Catholic Hispanics and uber-Muslim Arabs as battling it out for who will overrun the world, while atheistic/feminist White and Black America neutered themselves. This from someone who (as far as I know) still to this day believes that thinking men should involve themselves in creative work and disdain the traps of marriage and children.

To women and your European "Latins", I offer this anecdote. It must be 20 years now, where I used to work, I was present at a lunch where two of my female co-workers (neither of whom was Italian herself) complaining about the attitudes of their respective Italian husbands. Half-seriously, I suggested that they should have married Jewish men instead, as we physically resemble Italians but don't come with the same baggage. When pressed for details, I mentioned that Italian men can never allow themselves to be seen taking orders from a woman. Then it occurred to me to add, "With Jewish men, that's all we do."

LarryHart said...

God Bless radio host Norman Goldman for this reference to the Nazi terrorists:


Vanilla ISIS

Zepp Jamieson said...

"Vanilla ISIS"

Love it!!!

Alfred Differ said...

I got my kepi at a small place that sold through Amazon. I don't see it listed now, but I found something close.

http://www.ccsutlery.com/store/civil-war-kepi-caps.html

I don't know anything about these folks, but the price range they give was about right for mine. They obviously don't aim at the Halloween crowd. 8)

Tim Wolter said...

I've not been by in a while, seems like an interesting discussion on health care economics. It is a topic I formerly knew a few things about. But first.

David, in this thread or the last, not sure, you allude to using some kind of prepopulated text to respond to one of our more vocal contributors. This is an insidious practice and perhaps you should reconsider. It suggests that you have run out of new things to say. If so, perhaps just ignoring some posts would be in order. Or, if the idea drought is pervasive, step back to moderator role or even close CB down. A thoughtful place to exchange ideas is worthy. If it starts devolving to all cap blocks of HASTERT, HASTERT, HASTERT, HASTERT... Well, its your site, you can tend the garden or let it turn to weeds.

So, the ACA has been difficult to uproot (continuing the weedy thoughts). This is exactly what conservatives have been saying for years. An established Government Program is very hard to eliminate or curtail. Heck, even proposals to temporarily lessen the rate of growth will be met with howls and rending of garments. 'Tis human nature. Or canine nature perhaps, a snarl when the hand goes near the bowl of food.

I actually find solace in these icky political times in the lack of party line votes. Sure, lots of it is personal disgust with Donald Trump, but if Senators McCain, Collins, etc do the right thing for mixed reasons it is still the right thing.

After an absence I tend to wax verbose, so I'll break this up...

Tim Wolter
Tacitus2 (since LarryH still calls me that)

Tim Wolter said...

Health Care. What a monolithic term. And per above it is a roof under which much gets parked. To craft a health care system that makes a damn bit of sense you need to differentiate. To prioritize. To actually say no and deny payment once in a while. So long as it is a blank check it will never be under control.

Stroke care was mentioned. I consider a major stroke to be one of the few things I would personally go overboard on when treatment of myself or a family member was on the line. But it is the exemplification of rushed medical decision making often bereft of decent information.

Its a complex topic but in short you have a very short window of time to do anything that is likely to be long term positive. The clock starts running with onset of symptoms. You wake up with stroke symptoms after sleeping all night....benefit gone, no start point.

In that short window you need to figure out that it might be a stroke. Get to the nearest appropriate place. Convey the sense of urgency. Get lab work and a rapid head CT done. Get thrombolytics started. Get on a helicopter to a bigger center unless you happen to live next to Big Center. In my rural ER experience perhaps 5% of the people with stroke/TIA actually met the criteria.

But of course the system cheats. There is no actual exclusion of patients with significant dementia but the outcomes are much worse and the clarity of info less good. Scan. call helicopter. In theory just being dizzy could be a stroke (cerebellar region, much better outcome treated conservatively) but could be lots of other things. Scan. Call helicopter.

Look, strokes are a horrible thing. Sometimes aggressive treatment saves the day. Sometimes it kills patients dead. (which some might opt for in place of severe deficits...but what about minor ones).

Between liability fears and the expectation that "everything and then some" will be done we make decisions that are good, mediocre or bad. But always expensive. Scan. Call helicopter.

Ah, but that was my past life.

Better now.

T.

Paul SB said...

I have a suggestion for a new infrastructure project. Both here and in Europe we should start installing dragon teeth on sidewalks in busy areas, since cars seem to be taking over as weapons of choice for terrorists. Some Target stores have big, red concrete spheres in front of the entrances to prevent runaway cars from smashing in. I would think that some businesses could be encouraged to do the same, especially places like cafés that have outdoor seating. It would certainly reassure customers in places like Paris, London & Barcelona.

Those that would call you Tim, you don't even come close on the verbosity scale! I'm homozygous recessive for that trait.

Viking,

For profit health care is what has gotten us in the mess we are in today. When business people make health care decisions, they tend to think about short-term profits, not the health of their customers. Adam Smith would expect the ones that provide bad service to go out of business, but they very quickly learn that they can charge 1000x the cost of an IV drip and no one will know but their competitors, who will do exactly the same thing instead of charging less. It's a race to the bottom for the people and a race to the bank for medical field executives.

Jumper said...

I wish someone smarter than me would ponder my question on for-profit hospitals and the theoretical reduction in padding bills to the insured to pay for the uninsured, in places where states opted for Medicaid expansion.
http://familiesusa.org/product/50-state-look-medicaid-expansion

Because it's obviously not happening. Signs of unalloyed profiteering, or am I confused?

LarryHart said...

Tim Wolter:

Tacitus2 (since LarryH still calls me that)


I won't if you don't want me to. You do notice, I hope, that I stopped using ALL CAPS for emphasis because you didn't like it.

But if it doesn't matter, then I tend to stick with your superhero name because it's what people here know you as, and because it is more of a symbolic name than just any old John Smith type name.

Your call.


Health Care. What a monolithic term.


Yes, I mentioned yesterday that a big part of the problem is trying to have a single method of handling routine maintenance care, elective procedures, and emergency services.

People may not love Obamacare, but they fear being completely without access to the system more, which is why "replace" is required along with repeal. The noteworthy thing is not that politicians are unable to repeal a government service, but that the consituents loudly demanding they not do so are many of the same ones who were loudly demanding that they not implement Obamacare back in 2009 and 2010. There's no pleasing some people.

Again with my fire-department analogy...if it became economically necessary to reimagine the way the fire department works, voters would insist on a replacement ready to go at the time of any repeal. An extended period with no fire department while we "figure out what's going on" would be unacceptable. I'd find it totally acceptable if, to save money, the fire department insisted they would no longer come over to your house to light your grill or turn off your stove. But I suppose, people who had become used to the government service would howl at that.

A.F. Rey said...

538 news... That’s great, especially the fact that so many of them are (as I advised) retired military officers who can offer a vastly saner version of the “strong parent” that redders apparently need.

The bad news? We don’t need 200, we need 5000! This will get nowhere unless sane (though personality conservative) candidates invade every single red state assembly and state senate district.


Agreed. Fortunately, it's very early in the game, so there's still plenty of time to reach 5000. And with the enthusiasm seen so far... :)

Berial said...

NakedCapitalism has a post that I think will be interesting to those partaking in the economics debate here.

A few paragraphs for the only semi-interested:
"During the post war Golden Age, from 1950 to 1973, US median real wages more than doubled. Today, they are lower than they were when Jimmy Carter was President. If you want an explanation why Americans are pessimistic about their future, that is as good a reason as any. In a recent article, Noah Smith examines the various causes of the slide in labor’s share of national income and finds most explanations wanting. With a blind spot common amongst economists he doesn’t even investigate the most obvious: politics."

"Fiscal policy, by increasing government spending, creates jobs and so raises wages even in the private sector. Monetary policy works mostly through the wealth effect. Lower interest rates almost automatically raise the value of stocks, bonds, and other real assets. Fiscal policy makes workers richer, monetary policy makes rich people richer. This, I suspect, explains better than anything else why monetary policy, even extreme monetary policy remains more respectable than even conventional monetary policy."

"During the Golden Age, fiscal was king. Wages rose steadily and everybody was richer than their parents. Recessions were short and shallow. Economic policy makers’ primary task was insuring full unemployment. Anytime unemployment rose over a certain level, a government spending boost or tax cut would get the economy going again. And since firms were confident the government would never allow a steep downturn, they were ready and willing to invest in new technology and increased productive capacity. The economy grew faster (and more equitably) than it ever has before or since."

Zepp Jamieson said...

A F Rey: I'm mindful of one comment I saw the other day: The generals are not the people I worry about when I think of a military coup. I worry about the colonels.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@Zepp: Colonels (or their equivalent) are always the critical tier to a revolt. Generals are, by their nature, political creatures; they are also removed from functional units. Therefore generals are either invested in a political system and interested in continuing it (therefore not recruiting troops), or placed above a direct command position and in need of the support of colonels to actually have troops to command. Colonels therefore either follow their generals in a coup, or revolt *against* their generals. But in either case, colonels are the critical layer: the highest level of command that also has direct operational control.

Example: in 1945 the generals of Imperial Japan knew the cause was lost, but refused to surrender... anticipating a revolt by their colonels. In fact a last-minute attempt had to be stopped from destroying the recording of the Emperor announcing the surrender.

@Berial: very interesting. That analysis implies a necessary role for Keynesianism in job creation... yet does that take into account Dr. Brin's point about the Joseph policy, where savings must be made in good times to pay for the spending in bad times?

@Tim: that was why government health care was fought from the beginning, but it is not by itself a sufficient argument for why there should be no government health care. The case has not been made that private health care is superior. In fact the available evidence seems to show a quite thorough case as to the UNdesirability of private health care.

Conservatives always seem to regard progressivism as this unthinking, unending force of nature trying to mindlessly collectivize things without rationale or cognition. It's rarely the case. Most attempts to create government programs occur for specific reasons relating to specific failures of the free market to provide a good or service. If someone came up with a market-based approach, and that approach was superior to the government approach, most times the demand for intervention went away, or was muted to the point that only obsessives and fringe lunatics talked of it.

TLDR: if you want a free market solution, make one, or argue the merits of the proposed government solution. Saying it's hard to undo is not a sufficient reason not to do something.

LarryHart said...

For those who think "The American Conservative" represents any sort of sanity on the right, I give you Patrick Buchanan. "Which side are you on?" indeed.

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/buchanan/americas-second-civil-war/


...
While easy for Republicans to wash their hands of such odious elements as Nazis in Charlottesville, will they take up the defense of the monuments and statues that have defined our history, or capitulate to the icon-smashers?

In this Second American Civil War, whose side are you on?

A.F. Rey said...

And another one bites the dust: Steve Bannon.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/18/us/politics/steve-bannon-trump-white-house.html

At least he's off the government payroll. :)

David Brin said...

Tim glad to see you back. Though I have a soft spot for “Tacitus.”

The ACA may be an “entrenched bureaucracy” but democrats would dump it in a flash, if they had a chance at something Canadian. The huge irony here is that the dems are defending the GOP’s own… damn… plan, because the goppers are too frothed-crazy to even look at it that way. But when faced with replacing it? They had no ideas. None at all.

David Brin said...

So Buchanan was nuts again? Hey, I am willing to parse a spectrum of confederate statues, and Robert E Lee is way at the near end -- yes a rebel-traitor who owned slaves and tried to help dismember his country... but also representative of the one genuine virtue that the otherwise horrifically evil Confederacy could claim -- battlefield courage and martial resilience.

Those virtues were also displayed by Stonewall Jackson and Nathan Bedford Forrest. But unlike Lee, those two were pure sons of bitches, evil to their cores, and proved it repeatedly. Lee, in contrast, tried to control his army is ways that followed the letter and spirit of the current codes of war. Moreover, he acted vigorously - in 1865 - to accept the offer of lenience made by Lincoln, and reciprocated by calling on all Southerners to "be good citizens" of the United States.

(A side note: Lee was over-rated as a general. He had one trick that he used successfully over and over... pounce on the flanks of a befuddled, lumbering, larger army. When a general came along who shrugged that method off (Grant) he was doomed.)

If Forrest and Jackson had mostly yin, but a little positive yang, there's no justification for any hagiography of Jefferson Davis, whose image should be trampled far worse than Benedict Arnold (who actually saved the Revolution four times, before proving incompetent as a traitor.)

My conclusion? R.E. Lee could remain in statuary at public places if balanced by great heroes of progress and tolerance. Jackson and Forrest should be sent to battlefields or parks run by the dizzy daughters of the confederacy. And Davis representations should be chiseled to dust. And I include Stone Mountain.

matthew said...

Buchanan makes clear what a moron he is yet again. Old news.

Zepp Jamieson said...

It's pretty safe to assume that when people like Bannon and Buchanan whine about "globalists" they mean "Jews". I know most people who use the terms don't have the bigoted overlay, but those two are a darker breed.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Catfish N. Cod wrote: "Colonels (or their equivalent) are always the critical tier to a revolt."

I suspect that is a critical issue with the Air Force. And while Doctor Brin's notion that we should attract such to be office seekers is well-intentioned, it wouldn't hurt to see where their loyalties lie. Many won't be Democrats. Some may not rise to the level of loyal citizens.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Health care argument

I keep hearing the - if it's free people will keep using more and more - argument

This simply does NOT happen - there is a personal "Cost" to using healthcare - and even for things that have a much smaller "personal cost" - like watching free television - we don't end up with people watching 14 hours of television a day
Just because it's "free" people don't "fill their boots"

The issue with the US system is NOT "people using more because it's free"
But Doctors using more because they are defending against lawsuits

PLUS - and this is the big one - a total lack of discussion and planning over end of life treatment
If you want to cut that cost down - and it is a huge part of the total costs - then all this is required is frank discussions and plans when people are still healthy

I am damn sure that if all of the people who are having all of this money spent on them in heroic and uncomfortable attempts to buy them an extra day of life could actually choose most of them would say - let me die in peace -

If they made those plans and had them signed off while still able to make those decisions we would save a fortune and millions of people would not be tortured to death

donzelion said...

Bye bye Bannon. May no one advertise on your foul site ever again, may all who read it habitually cringe as their penises shrivel.

Told you he was nothing. That said, the folks behind him, esp. Mercers, are still billionaires. Alas, Bannon will prove easily replaced.

Zepp Jamieson said...

I note that Bannon and Mercer had a three hour meeting in private the other day. I suspect Mercer is going to be lavishly funding Breitbart in efforts to pressure Trump to slew to the nazi right.

donzelion said...

Zepp - rather, websites are easily replaceable, interchangeable. Bratbrit will be re-launched. All Mercer wanted from Bannon was to talk up trade war with China, moving some derivatives a tiny bit, enough to make back a cool hundred million or two in a few trades. That, ultimately, is all those guys care about.

Pappenheimer said...

"Whose side are you on?" Doesn't only apply to Nazis. The IWW used to ask that.

LarryHart said...

Ok, credit where credit is due concerning "The American Conservative". This column does a good job of repudiating the Buchanan one, and the columns he links to do a good job of acknowledging the terrorism that the KKK and their ilk regularly inflicted upon blacks for decades with the full cooperation of white society and authority figures. At least as bad as ISIS.

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/buchanan-shameful-defense-of-white-supremacy/


Ok, credit where credit is due concerning "The American Conservative". This one rightly repudiates the Buchanan column. And the other columns he links to in there do a good job of acknowledging the ways the KKK and their ilk regularly for decades inflicted terror to rival anything ISIS has done, with the full complicity of American white society and authorities.

Buchanan is not meditating on the tragic nature of history, as any conservative worth the name must do. No, in this column, Buchanan is defending white supremacy, straight up.

It is abhorrent, and must be rejected in the strongest terms by conservatives. If this is where the Right is going, it can go right off that racist cliff without me. This is what white supremacists did to black people in the American South. And this is the terrorism white supremacists inflicted on black citizens in my own town a few years before I was born. This was really inflicted by white people on black people made, like them, in the image of God. It is a blood-red stain on this country, and in particular on my ancestors.

It grieves me to see a conservative writer and thinker I have long admired, even if I did not always agree with him, descend to the gutter like this. But it has happened, and it is shameful. It is intolerable. He has crossed a bright red line. No, no, no! Conservatives, this is not us. It cannot be us. We cannot put up with this.
...


I'll just add, though that if "We [conservatives] cannot put up with this, then they had better stop putting up with it. Giving terrorists a pass because they're "our" terrorists--because at least they're not Muslim and thank God they're not Hillary--just doesn't cut it any more.

LarryHart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

I note that Bannon and Mercer had a three hour meeting in private the other day. I suspect Mercer is going to be lavishly funding Breitbart in efforts to pressure Trump to slew to the nazi right.


At our old house, my wife and I had a gay neighbor couple who were Log Cabin Republicans. This was early in W's first term, and we used to wonder how any gay men, especially those living so openly, could vote Republican. Something must have struck home for them, because they didn't have the "Bush/Cheney" signs up in 2004.

Likewise, I have to wonder how any Jews can support Nazis, let alone so many Jewish billionaires.

LarryHart said...

Pappenheimer:

"Whose side are you on?" Doesn't only apply to Nazis. The IWW used to ask that.


It wasn't the question that was so noticeable, but the fact that Buchanan's implied answer was the confederate side.

It's bad enough to understand that the "Make America Great Again" side apparently doesn't mean to go back to 1950 or 1920, but to 1860. It's also ironic that the ones who scream that they want their country back are the ones (or worship the ones) who left that country voluntarily.

Paul451 said...

David,
"Lee, in contrast, tried to control his army is ways that followed the letter and spirit of the current codes of war."

Lee's men massacred surrendering Union soldiers without punishment... if those soldiers were black. He allowed the brutalisation, torture and enslavement of captured black Union soldiers. When Grant offered a prisoner exchange, Lee refused because Grant insisted that black Union soldiers be part of the exchange; he let his own men rot rather than accept a black soldier as a soldier. He used his troops to capture free black civilians in northern territories and ship them home to be sold into slavery.

No, Lee was of his kind. No better and maybe worse.

--

PaulSB,
"Both here and in Europe we should start installing dragon teeth on sidewalks in busy areas, since cars seem to be taking over as weapons of choice for terrorists."

How would dragon's teeth stop the terrorist attacks? Bollards, yes, but merely shredding the tyres as they mount the sidewalk would only prevent them from getting away afterwards (which I don't think has happened?)

(Of course, rigid bollards will also make accidental crashes more fatal to the drivers. So you'd really want two layers, deformable bollards along the road-side, and then rigid bollards set a little back. Although bell-bollards are apparently "safe" for crashing, but a day-to-day pain for pedestrians.)

Interestingly, the anti-terrorist bollards don't have to be as close as true traffic barriers. Even if a car can fit between, it could only do so at right-angles, preventing the attacker from "sweeping" the path, limiting casualties.

--

Duncan,
"The issue with the US system is NOT "people using more because it's free"
But Doctors using more because they are defending against lawsuits"


The French system is interesting, focusing on reconciliation and reconstruction over punishment. There is caps on payouts, but the system is much healthier (pun intended) for both the patient and the doctor, to the point where the doctor himself is likely to aid a medically-injured patient in applying for compensation and help them through the process of proving the injury (at the hand of that same doctor). Totally different mind-set. [There was some interest locally, but it fizzled away almost immediately.]

Zepp Jamieson said...

donzelion wrote: "Zepp - rather, websites are easily replaceable, interchangeable. Bratbrit will be re-launched. All Mercer wanted from Bannon was to talk up trade war with China, moving some derivatives a tiny bit, enough to make back a cool hundred million or two in a few trades. That, ultimately, is all those guys care about. "

Guys like Mercer still need propaganda and lots of it. That's where Bannon is of value to him. He doesn't need any more traders or corporate lawyers; he needs glib liars who can convince the American people to trash their own interests.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Larry Hart wrote: "Likewise, I have to wonder how any Jews can support Nazis, let alone so many Jewish billionaires."
Religious morals and ethics when AWOL with Trump's ascendency. Even as his actions drove away his CEOs and artists, the religious hangers-on remained steadfast. Trump has promised them a place at the table, and power. That matters far more than any god to religious leaders.
A lot of Jews are not rebelling against the Nazi elements because a) Trump himself appears to not be anti-Semetic, even if his morals are too flaccid to tell the good guys from the bad guys and b) Trump is staunchly pro-Israel. So the Jewish population is somewhat divided.

LarryHart said...

@Zepp Jamieson,

I wasn't posing a question about religion per se. More about survival. "I have to wonder how any Jews can support Nazis who would kill them.

I get the "support for Israel" thing. I mean I get that it is there, not how it actually makes Republicans more palatable to Jews than Democrats. I know it's accepted wisdom that Barack Obama was an enemy of Israel, but what did he actually do to deserve that appellation? The US as a fair broker in the Middle East is better for all concerned than is the US as a symbolic enabler of one side who tends toward "Let's you and him fight!"

The double-think on both sides (I mean Jews who support Nazis and Nazis who support Jews) is incredible. You've got Trump tweeting images of Hillary with Jewish stars and money, implying she's a creature of AIPAC at the same time you've got Jews supporting the side doing the tweeting, because she's so bad for Israel. You've got Nazis chanting "Jews will not replace us!" and supporting Republicans who suck up to Israel as no other country has been sucked up to in history.

LarryHart said...

Finally, someone besides me says it...

Bill Maher:

There was violence on both sides in World War II. We were still the good guys!


https://lastnighton.com/2017/08/19/bill-maher-talks-donald-trumps-new-low-real-time-monologue/

LarryHart said...

There's more good stuff in that Bill Maher monologue too.


For Washington and Jefferson, owning slaves was a bug. For Lee, it was a feature.

...

Steve Bannon never got along with Jared Kushner, who will probably take over some of his duties. So for all of those who were chanting "Jews will not replace us"...Yeah, they kinda did it again.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Larry Hart;
There's an element amongst Jews in America (voiced loudly by AIPAC) that believe if you are not 100% for them, you are against them. Obama got attacked simply for pointing out that the Palestinians had rights, as well. I don't recall that Obama ever advocated anything that would be injurious to Israel,
Bannon was pro-Israel, but for horrible reasons. He wants chaos. It will be interesting to see what, if any, changes Trump makes in his approach to Netanyahu.

dennisd said...

@LarryHart
Re: Gays who support Alt-right, Trump, anti-gay politicians.
For years I was confounded by this phenomena until I realized that these gay men and lesbians are delusional. They think that their money, class, or conservative beliefs will protect them from the anti-gay factions of society. Of course, eventually none of this offers protection except maybe being ultra-rich.

LarryHart said...

dennisd:

Of course, eventually none of this offers protection except maybe being ultra-rich.


I guess even Caitlyn (nee Bruce) Jenner saw the light eventually, but it boggles my mind that these people are blindsided by these "revelation" moments where they realize that what has been obvious all along is in fact true.

The only thing Trump has said or done in the past two years that surprised me is "win an election".

LarryHart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

There's an element amongst Jews in America (voiced loudly by AIPAC) that believe if you are not 100% for them, you are against them.


I get that, but it surprises me which actions count on each side of the ledger.

Apparently, being in bed with actual Nazis isn't as much a negative as (to use a Krugmanism) looking at them funny.

donzelion said...

Zepp: "Guys like Mercer still need propaganda and lots of it."

There are a thousand channels. Trolls proliferate on the web, and don't even cost any money. Offer tiny sums to them ($10,000 payments spread out in $5/ad buys = a LOT of propaganda) and they'll fall over themselves with news and insight about the latest 'oppression.'

But Mercer needed someone prominent enough to inject a few choice words - all it takes is the word 'China' in a news piece, and trades are lined up in milliseconds by waiting financial AIs. If one knows the person who will say such things, and when, then one can prepare BEFORE the key word breaks, and profit even more. If one knows what they will say, that's even more valuable. That is what Mercer needed Bannon for.

"He doesn't need any more traders or corporate lawyers; he needs glib liars who can convince the American people to trash their own interests."
They're all interchangeable, disposable. Lining up billions of dollars to profit on it all is more challenging - there's only a handful of people at that level able to pull that off.

donzelion said...

Zepp: "(AIPAC)...believe if you are not 100% for them, you are against them."

Actually, even if you are 100% for them, if you're not for them for the right reason, you're against them. It's fascinating to read our host's diatribes against the Dominionists, who are routine 'fellow travellers' of AIPAC despite the obvious consideration that they anticipate (and cheer for) a destruction of Judaism vaster than the Holocaust, while Jimmy Carter, the president who did more to protect Israel's security from real threats than any other, was lambasted as an 'anti-Semite,' and Peres and Rabin (even Sharon) lambasted as 'weak' compared to Netanyahu.

"It will be interesting to see what, if any, changes Trump makes in his approach to Netanyahu."
He'll make the changes Adelson, Mercer, Murdoch, Kochs, and a handful of others require of him (most likely: none whatsoever). That brood has no shortage of hired hands to guide the president. They loved AIPAC before Trump, and will love it after.

David Brin said...


Paul451 I thought that the policy re Union prisoners was ordered by Jefferson Davis and the worst murders of Union prisoners were done by Forrest’s men.

Jumper said...

If Israel changed its name to Abrahamia would that amount to "wiping it off the map?"

George Carty said...

David Brin, could the Confederate policy of executing the white commanders of black Union troops be considered a precursor to Hitler's Commissar Order?

locumranch said...



As his response amounts to blah-blah 'bad militant national socialism' is bad but 'good FDR militant national socialism' is good -- the main distinguishing factor between the two being the so-called SAPIENCE of personal preference -- David appears to be both unwilling & incapable of confronting the inherent contradictions of his zealously pro-Pax Americana Nationalism & his equally zealously Anti-Nationalism for all others belief systems.

Catfish doubles-down on such incoherence by conflating 'ethno-culturalism' (as ethnicity correlates with culture in ALL situations) with evil RACISM even though this is patently false. Patriotism is ethno-culturalism. So is Tikkun olam, Taqiyya & the ever popular White Man's burden of guilt for 'privilege'.

All of the Greatest Generation's best qualities (as lauded by David) include "Personal Responsibility, Self-Sacrifice for the Greater Good, Humility, Prudence & Faithful Commitment" combined with a "PURITAN Work Ethic" are 'Ethno-Culturalism' in fact, which is NOT to say that these qualities could not be ASSIMILATED by other races, religions & creeds who choose to become American in culture as well as name in the way that most 20th Century Immigrants chose to do.

The USA (and the Greater West) have been inundated with degenerate ""cheater-liar-poopy-traitors" because the West has abandoned both Assimilation & the Ethno-Cultural traditions of the Greatest Generation in favour of multicultural Cultural Relativism which judges ALL ethno-cultural traditions as equal to, interchangeable with & (in some cases) superior to the PURITAN & libertarian culture that made the West & the USA 'great'.

And, for all those of you who rely on the FASCIST ad hominen in place of actual argument, please note that FDR (who was much admired by Mussolini) was both a Fascist & National Socialist by all objective criteria, even though David judges him a 'good' one by the non-objective SAPIENCE criteria (despite a documented record of FDR's antisemitism & racism), meaning that you're begging favourable comparison between FDR, the 'Greatest Generation' & all those you who you smear with a similar fascist & national socialism designation.

Wave that single-payer National Socialist Healthcare flag as hard as you like: Just remember that you & FDR are bigger 'National Socialists' than I am or I have ever been.


Best
______
Yes. Without a doubt. BALKANISATION is 'pure evil', so much so that those degenerate North American colonists have experienced nothing but failure ever since they dared to secede from the British Commonwealth. Let's make North America BRITISH again if this would make David so happy. And, God Save the Queen!!

donzelion said...

Locum, perhaps, "Pax Americana = good/real/factual" but "Pax WASP-ica = bad/myth/counterfactual." The fact is that the "Greatest Generation" became great by enlarging to include women, African Americans, Catholics, Jews - and enabling all to contribute as they wished.

Britain/France was significantly less oligarchic than Austria/Germany, but to call FDR a 'nationalist' or a 'socialist' is to butcher the meanings of the words.

David Brin said...

blah blah de blah blah yet again. The greatest generation worked hard, overcame evil that you now support, locumranch and they would spit in your eye. They built a nation so powerful it had to take on Imperial duties, and did it vastly better than all the other Pax empires that actually wanted the job. There are no metrics by which they did not succeed in making a civilization that is vastly better in all ways than how they found it.

And they knew FDR vastly better than your whiney, ignorant, facile set of insipid nostrums. And they adored him.

onward

onward

Jumper said...

Some people do locum's shtick better than he can.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYyBZE0kBtE