Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Trump plans to blow up the budget. Conservatives don't notice.

Trump continues to pretend to be a serious candidate, at least part of the time. In that vein, he threw together a tax plan, cribbing a lot of it from Jeb Bush, and announced it yesterday. It's got lower tax rates, it's got more breaks for low-income people, it's got lower corporate tax rates.

What's interesting is that he seemed to choose the rates only to beat those proposed by Bush. That seems to be the extent of his math--just underbid Jeb.

Plenty of conservatives commented on the similarity to Jeb's plan, but few bothered to ask whether the plan would lead to huge deficits. Among the see-no-evil brigade are Mark Levin (who is possibly evil incarnate), the Daily Caller, and Breitbart.

Among the ludicrous praise:
  • "Trump’s plan appears to be economically sound and is very clever politically in building a broader Republican coalition."
  • "I did the plan with some of the leading scholars and economists and tax experts that there are in this country," he said. "They love it, they say, 'Why hasn’t this [been] done before?'" -- The Donald praising his own plan.
One conservative writer, a no-namer on HotAir, mentioned at the end of his piece that the tax plan might not be revenue-neutral, so The Donald might have trouble paying for his grand plans of military superiority and healthcare for all. But even the writer didn't mention that deficit spending would soar.

How much could the deficit soar? Maybe by $10 trillion over the next 10 years. So Obama-sized deficits. But when did Trump ever go small?

Image: townhall.com

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Peeling through the many reasons for Boehner's resignation

Boehner's resignation is not a surprise to me. I don't know how he could stand the job. That said, I didn't know he would resign imminently, or that it would be on Friday, Sept. 25. So why now?

Reading the news reports, at first it sounded like Boehner was somehow inspired by the Pope's visit. Boehner stated that he woke up and knew that "this is the day."

The same story says that Boehner had determined to resign on his 66th birthday on Nov. 17, but brought it forward by a few weeks. Foolish me, I thought he finally got fed up.

Luckily I can read, and found much more revealing reports elsewhere. This article lays out the actual reasons pretty clearly:
  • The Freedom Caucus (a very conservative group in the House) were planning to challenge Boehner's speakership if he didn't let them shut down the government by sending appropriations with poison pill/veto bait provisions defunding Planned Parenthood.
  • Boehner found out that the Dems weren't going to help him stay as speaker, so the threat of being unseated was credible. 
  • Boehner will resign, avoid the challenge, and gets to avoid the shutdown with a clean appropriation bill that lasts until mid-December.
  • The GOP will have between now and mid-December to elect their new speaker, if they can settle on someone.
So the arch-conservatives are forcing Boehner out. This will almost certainly be destabilizing. The Freedom Caucus will either force a shutdown, or will face the humiliation of not being able to force one. Can that really be a good idea? It doesn't sound like a good idea now, but forcing a shutdown in mid-December, just in time for Christmas, sounds even worse.

Maybe they'll wait until February, except that it's primary season, so that's not a good time either. The further they push the shutdown, the closer to Election Day it gets. So a failed shutdown (the outcome I predict) will be fresher in the minds of voters.


Unbelievable. I have got to watch this melodrama unfold. It may even be better than The Walking Dead. We may have flesh-eating conservatives attacking fellow GOPers on the House floor. Maybe Dems will come in toting assault rifles. What a spectacle! I can't wait! (Or maybe I'm losing my mind. Time to stop blogging for tonight.)


Extras. The conservative press didn't seem to know the resignation/ouster was about to happen. No articles in HotAir, Daily Caller, etc. announcing a planned move. The Hill warned about the coup two days before Boehner's resignation. A member of the Freedom Caucus told a local Arizona paper about growing discontent. But when hasn't there been growing discontent?

A listing from 538 of the ultra-conservatives who ousted Boehner. Maybe some Democrats were going to prop up Boehner. A reasonably good summary of Boehner's history from a MSM perspective. Most interesting point: Boehner got to the top of the leadership pyramid because he wasn't highly implicated in the lobbying (Abramoff) scandals that wiped out most of the House GOP leadership.

What I have in common with Donald Trump

I have almost nothing in common with Donald Trump. I haven't been divorced, haven't done deals or written books, don't have a terrible combover, and don't traffic in the swallow analysis like this: "I like the evangelicals, and it's really shown in the polls."

So, to stop being coy, I'm like the Donald because neither of us has to stay on a script. Donald can break with the business orthodoxy about immigrants. He can remind other GOP candidates that ripping up the Iran deal isn't the best course (while saying plenty of stupid shit about the deal too). He can talk about tax rates being too low for hedge fund managers. He can slam other Republicans for being foolish warmongers. He can respect someone in the past and slam them unmercifully now.

Liberty . . .

This liberty to say whatever, untethered from party or factional talking points, is absolutely great, and a lot of fun. At least the Donald certainly appears to be having fun.

For me, it's different. I don't want to be a zipperhead or dittohead, and I know it's actually hard work to avoid that. It's hard to question all your received ideas and political positions. For one thing, there are a hell of a lot of political positions, and reexamining them takes time.  You can't do it in a short span. It's going to be a long process, and an ongoing process.

For example, I don't take the typical liberal or moderate view on immigration. It took me a long time to accept what reason told me about immigration--that the high level during the last three decades has had enormous negative consequences. Despite my pride in my immigrant roots and my personal empathy for immigrants, I can't ignore the results I see. This is a bad situation, and we've been following the wrong policy for 25 years.

Liberty, Analysis, Socrates

What motivates me to be different, and to examine all these positions? I want to be realistic, grounded, and right about my opinions. I can only feel confident that I'm right if I've subjected the opinion to a lot of fact-checking and questioning.

That is what I learned nearly four decades ago when I first learned about the Socratic method. It was a powerful lesson--to question honestly, answer honestly, and examine honestly. That's hard work and a very high standard, but it's what I try to do on every important question.

Somehow, I bet the Donald can't say that.

Image: philadelphia-reflections.com

(My first attempt at Photoshop. Argghhh.)

A conservative blog investigates... and collects evidence

I've complained many times about how poor conservative journalism is. They provide much more conjecture and unsubstantiated claims than hard evidence.

So this is a remarkable difference. The Blaze, Glenn Beck's conservative news website, gathered a bunch of evidence that a 13-year-old black conservative is also a fraud. He appears to have made false claims that Obama banned him from following @POTUS on Twitter. Now the boy refuses to answer any questions.

Fraud happens regularly, and it's a real drain on time and resources. You can spend all your hours trying to debunk fraudulent claims. Meanwhile, new fraudulent claim are popping up, and there's no way to debunk them all.

So good on The Blaze for exposing this one.

Crop, cut, and paste for instant celebrity.
Image: theblaze.com

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Short: What went wrong with Walker

Buried in a predictable but correct article by Sean Trende is perhaps the best guess at what happened to Walker's bid for the presidency:
Walker lost because he had no strategy. There was no David Axelrod for the Walker campaign; Scott Walker hired Scott Walker to be his David Axelrod.
...A presidential candidate has a more-than-full-time job: being a candidate. He or she does not have time to follow ever-changing electoral dynamics. So when a candidate without a good strategist is faced with Supreme Court decisions on gay marriage, questions about the legality of abortion to save the life of the mother, the rise of birthright citizenship as an issue or, say, the ascendency of Donald Trump, that candidate will flail.
Sounds plausible to me. Of course I read many comments from Wisconsiners about how horrid Walker was and predicting his failure. However, you can always predict the failure of a presidential candidate, and 95% of the time you'll be right. Only one person is going to make it to the White House, and all the others will reward your dour predictions. Predicting the winner is hard, predicting a loser is like hitting the broad side of a barn. I guess Walker hit that barn pretty hard.

Image: @Anomaly100

...Or did he tank because he frequently looks like a doofus?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The old appropriation two-step

The choreography we get from Congress at the yearly appropriation deadline is getting as familiar as the Christmas Rockettes show. Plenty of R's claim that only the Dems are talking about shutdowns, and a few mentally feeble ones (R's) might actually believe the Dems would be the cause of a shutdown.

The R leaders are giving their caucus lots of chances to vote for their issue du jour. (Not that the issue matters. Two years ago it was defunding Obamacare, and it didn't happen. This year it's defunding Planned Parenthood, and we can watch while it doesn't happen either.)

After the ritual yet useless votes, the R leaders will trot out a clean, status quo bill, and we'll all yawn and go to bed. Well, a few people will scream about betrayal and cowardice and turn strange shades of red (such as Erick Erickson), but the rest of us will be watching reruns and drifting off to dreamland.

The only question is how many times the Republicans will repeat this ineffective strategy. At least once after 2016, that's my prediction.

 Image: dailymail.co,uk

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Trump tumbles?

Is it really possible to predict what will trip a candidate who's gotten away with saying this about Mexicans?
"They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."
Or one who's increased his stature by disrespecting John McCain for having been captured?

But, finally, this week Trump seemed to be dropping. Carly Fiorina put him in this place by pointing out that we hear him loud and clear when he spews his outrageous blather. The specific topic was her face (not generally a national issue), but it's true of everything he says. His own words are his clearest reflection. They should be his strength or his undoing, and Fiorina let them stand starkly. That's the best way to argue against him when he's blatantly being a horse's ass--just let his words stand.

This week Trump didn't correct a person at a town hall meeting who said Obama was a Muslim and not born in the US. Trump's been pandering to this type of person for over 5 years, so it's no wonder that someone said it at one of his own gatherings. However, Trump made a poor contrast to John McCain, who corrected a women back in 2008 who made a similar hateful and/or ignorant statement. Trump, who's supposed to be the big, brave alpha-man, was shown up by the past actions of John McCain.

Then Trump made it worse by tweeting that he wasn't "morally obligated" to defend Obama. No, he isn't morally obligated. However, Trump would be wise not to use the words 'moral' or 'obligated' because they are a reminder that Trump isn't moral and doesn't honor his obligations. That's why he's been married and divorced several times over, and declared bankruptcy rather than pay from his own billionaire pockets. Not to mention that Trump feels no moral obligation to the truth. reality, or humility.

Today, Trump is declaring that he has Muslim friends. That's got similar optics to saying that some of his best friends are black.

But as I wrote at the top of this post, can we actually predict when Trump's unending blather will hurt him? Maybe it's unsafe to predict, but this week's polls show that Trump has fallen considerably. He had 32% support, and is now down to 24%.

Better late than never.

Image: 123rf.com

Extra. There's still no shortage of blather. Carson says Muslims are unfit to be president.

Sunday, September 13, 2015


An American remembering 9/11:
...I was in an office five blocks from the Capitol on 9/11, and after watching the second plane hit the Trade Center live on television, and seeing the smoke rising on the horizon in the direction of the Pentagon from our windows (right after a colleague called in to say she had seen a plane crash into the Pentagon from her car on I-95), several of us, without words, left our office and walked out onto Pennsylvania Avenue and stood on the sidewalk staring at the Capitol, from which pedestrians were streaming. The dome looked so incredibly frail, like an eggshell. 
I also have vivid memories of 9/11. Like the author, I was watching live reporting when the second plane smashed into one of the World Trade Towers.

All that fall, I worried about additional attacks. And they happened--in the form of anthrax sent through the mail. I was on edge for months, turning on CNN immediately after coming home from work or errands.

Gradually, I got over this anxiety and obsessive vigilance. And even my anxiety was a luxury because the country didn't come close to collapsing. I wasn't worried about defending myself, my family, and any survival provisions we had. I watched as debris was cleared, people moved back into homes near the disaster site, the economy teetered but didn't nose-dive.

Still Going

What I saw was the resilience of this country. But it wasn't a large attack. It's unclear what the Islamist planners of the attack thought would happen. Perhaps they thought it would provoke a major war between the West and the Islamic countries. If so, they partially got their wish.

However, neither side is even close to victory or defeat. There is still lots of fighting, but it's confined almost exclusively to Islamic countries, while the Western countries enjoy mostly peace and relative comfort. Perhaps that means the planners of the 9/11 attacks failed, but they play the long game--hoping for success decades or centuries from now. I don't think they will win, but the hope clearly keeps them going.

I'm so happy for my resilience (which didn't face much of a test), and for the resilience of the US. Unfortunately, the people who hate us are also resilient. But perhaps that's an attribute of humanity, so I can't be too upset about it. Better that we're all resilient than none of us.


Images: (top) nbsnews..com; (bottom) cheekyspanky

An alternative to sending Kim Davis to jail

If you're a judge trying to ensure compliance with the law, what can you do when someone like Kim Davis absolutely and publicly refuses to follow the law?

I'm not sure there's an alternative to 'showing them who's boss,' with 'boss' being the law, not the judge. I think it was correct to send Kim Davis to jail, and it was correct to release her once her office started issuing marriage licenses to all who qualified, including same-sex couples.

This article, however, suggests a very good alternative to jailing Ms. Davis:
Bunning could have simply ordered that, if Davis would not carry out her constitutional obligation to issue marriage licenses on an equal basis, she would be forbidden to issue marriage licenses at all. Under Kentucky law, the responsibility for issuing marriage licenses would then devolve onto Rowan County Judge/Executive Walter “Doc” Blevins, who had expressed willingness to issue the licenses on an equal basis. To ensure that Davis did not reap a windfall from that decision, Bunning could have ordered the county to withhold whatever portion of Davis’s salary was attributable to her marriage-license duties and to use that money to reimburse the judge/executive’s office.
Yes, that does sound a good solution.

Image: kentuckykindredgenealogy.com

Friday, September 11, 2015

Last outpost of crazy: Ohio war

Just imagine that you're engaged in a guerrilla war. You can pick your side: a church or a strip club.

Usually, I'd pick the church, but not this time. They started the war:
... a nine-year battle that began when church members protested at the Foxhole on weekends, posting patrons' license plate numbers online and urging them to repent. [The owner] sued the church in federal court and lost in 2009.
So what's a good countermove in such a fight?  How about sending topless women to church services?

Now, guess which one wants protesters to stop getting on the property, intimidating visitors, and blocking entrances. Probably both.

Effective protest? Made you look? Made you think?

Extras. This has been going on a long time.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Another 'Cops should be perfect' story

I'm so incredibly tired of people defending assailants who shoot at the police. Here's the latest:

Police: Cops Fired Into Car Not Knowing Infant Was Inside

Look at the entire story, and you find out that this headline would also be applicable:

Man knowingly fires at police with infant in back seat of car

In this case, a man with a long criminal history put himself, his girlfriend, and her 4-month-old son in grave danger by shooting at police. He actually knew who was in the car. He knew how many weapons he had. He initiated the exchange of gunfire. Is it really surprising that the police shot back? Should they have waited to see if he would shoot again, maybe blowing someone's head off?

According to the girlfriend's mother, yes, they should have waited. They should have put themselves in that dangerous position rather than fire into the car. According to her, the law enforcement officers should take on all the risk, so that her daughter, who was riding with a criminal who had more than one loaded gun, and who shot at police, could be safe.

To me, this is a patently ridiculous viewpoint. Perhaps it's mitigated because the mother is grief-stricken, but I've seen it too often to think that it's grief every time. Instead, it's become a pattern among many blacks to blame the police, no matter how justified they are.

I think this shooting should be investigated, as all police-involved shootings should be. However, if the current reporting is fairly accurate, then the family of the dead couple have nothing to blame the police for. Any blame they lay on the police is misguided scapegoating, and should clearly be labeled that way. And I have to question the motives of people who don't support the police in cases like this but instead support dangerous criminals. It looks like a case of playing the racial victim card and hoping that the audience doesn't notice that the 'victim' is not innocent at all.

The shooter's other gun
Image: 13newsnow.com

Monday, September 7, 2015

The scope of conscience in same-sex marriage

Kim Davis, a protesting county clerk from Kentucky, is in jail today due to contempt of court. The Supreme Court ruled the same-sex couples have the same right to marry that opposite-sex couples do. Then the Supreme Court decided not to review Davis's suit that she should be exempt from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples due to her strongly held religious beliefs.

I'm a strong supporter of using your conscience on the job, though you don't always get to. You don't always get to do what feels right because the boss disagrees, or the company policy is X, or it's someone else's job to make that decision.

I don't remember ever having to do something that felt very wrong. And I've never had to deny services to someone who was sorely in need.

Denying services is exactly what Kim Davis wants to do, so she doesn't get my support. If she feels that she can't issue marriage licenses, she can quit her job. If she doesn't want to quit her job (and that feeling is even stronger than her stance against same-sex marriage), she can tell herself that she isn't performing the weddings or even supporting them, she is only do the bureaucratic work of asking the state's questions, filling in answers, and determining whether applicants meet the state requirements.

However, Kim Davis doesn't have the power or mandate to decide who can get married and who can't. She wasn't elected to be the judge of those issues, so she very much oversteps her mandate when she refuses to issue marriage licenses. She ought to decide whether she is going to be a county clerk or going to be an conscientious Christian during her work hours. She wants to be both, but that isn't her remit. She should stop being a spoiled brat insisting on both, grow up, and make up her mind.

Image: ifyouonlynews.com

Extras. Town vs. college in Davis's hometown. Interesting political landscape. More quotes, but not more insight in this article.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Short: China prediction

Here's a fascinating article that predicts that China won't get rich as the western countries have. Why not, especially as they've become a high-tech manufacturing giant at the expense of the US and other countries?

The average income in China was depressed by colonialism and then by Maoist communism, so the Chinese have a big gap to overcome. They've certainly been working on that gap, but it's not going to be easy to break into the rich club now. Some aspects of China will hold it back, such as corruption, zombie companies, and property laws that are less than favorable.

I would guess that its massive size will also hold it back. Can that many people become rich? It seems to me that income equality is the more likely outcome. Just look at the rising income inequality here in the US.

Image: capitalisticons.com

Extras. Based on a less-focused Brad DeLong article. Also, look at the difference between being rich on average and being rich at the median.