Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Various Trump links

Trump is dominating the news even more now than when he was campaigning. There was a spot of good news today. His pick for top national security adviser is praised in this article, with the caveat that honesty may mean he stays on the job only two months. Well, let's be optimistic and hope for much longer than that.

Corey Lewandowski, Trump's former campaign manager (with similar lack of tact with women), doesn't seem to agree with Trump's statement that his administration is a well-oiled machine. He says that Trump is trying to get a lot done, but his subordinates are a disappointment. Um, who hired them? Did he not choose well? I guess the blame has to land on Trump one way or another.

One hope I have for the new national security adviser is that he'll have a healthy distrust of the Russians. The Russian connection to many things Trump has me very worried. Pence might be visiting Europe and trying to reassure our NATO allies, but he's the VP, not Trump. Who really knows what deals Trump might be inclined to make? I take this article with a pinch of skepticism, but it does discuss the patterns that are so very worrisome.

And, as always, Trump attacks the mainstream media. The press isn't reporting on terrorist attacks. They are enemies of the American people. So far, his attacks are words only. If they turn to deeds, such as banning news outlets, launching trumped-up investigations, or inciting violence, then he will have gone into dictator-mode.

Oh, the irony! A huge purveyor of fake news...
Image: youtube.com

Extras. Bob Corker, who sounds like a reasonable person, on his hopes that Trump will 'evolve.' Will Trump provoke a constitutional crisis by refusing to abide by judicial decisions? So far, he has obeyed while complaining very loudly. A more detailed article about the new pick for top national security adviser. How and why the CIA should cozy up to Trump, and the dangers if it doesn't work. The Anne Frank Center blasts Trump for not standing up to anti-semitism. The twitter responses are quite the window to accusations and counter-accusations.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Last output of crazy: Daddy, they're being mean

How can I describe the thin-skinned egotistical asshole that we currently have as president? Maybe the best thing is just to let him out himself with the bizarre things he does.

Now, an adult knows that there are ups and downs in business. An intelligent, honest, non-corrupt president knows not to interfere to help the business dealings of friends, families, donors, and supporters. But Trump isn't intelligent, honest, or free from corruption. So he tweets this when his daughter's fashion line is dropped by a major retailer:

Image: enidnews.com

The idiocy and corruption doesn't stop with Trump, however. Kellyanne Conway told viewers to go out and buy Ivanka Trump merchandise. But it turns out (reasonably) that federal employees aren't supposed to plug commercial enterprises while on the job. That applies when the commercial enterprise is owned by the prez's dear daughter. Imagine that: you aren't even supposed to use all that power to enrich yourself and your family. Who designs these rules?

And what does the pro-Trump, fake news purveyor Breitbart do? A huge article about how the retailer is going to suffer, but how Ivanka Trump is a trooper and will just be stronger. It reads like a bad People magazine article. Barf!

So far Nordstrom's stock took a brief loss and then bounced back. A more important question is whether the asshole president will take a well-deserved hit for this. He truly doesn't seem to understand what his job is now. It sure as hell isn't promoting his businesses or his friends' businesses. A mountain of shame on him and his idiotic supporters.

Links about 'Repeal and Replace'

For seven years the GOP bragged that they could make a better health insurance program than Obamacare. For seven years, they waved their hands, gave us bullets points sprinkled with pixie dust, and didn't deliver.

After winning the presidency, and already having majorities in the House and Senate, the GOP was supposed to be poised to repeal Obamacare on the first day of President Trump's term. Somehow, that didn't happen. BECAUSE REALITY IS A BITCH!

The GOP can't wave their hands anymore and fling pixie dust. They have to seriously crunch numbers, and it hasn't been going well for them. They can drop coverage for millions of people, they can zap the mandate and see cost rise even higher, they can repeal the taxes and blow up the deficit. What they can't do is figure out how to make a program cover more people and cost less. I wonder why not. Maybe not enough pixie dust.

Image: worldwide.chat

Extras. Problems with repeal and replace (with less snark). True believers among Congress just don't understand the delay. Trump makes another promise about the replacement, sprinkled with prodigious amounts of manure-scented pixie dust.

One economist tries to show stimulus didn't work

I've written about the 2009 stimulus for as long as I've had this blog. The conservative talking point is that the stimulus was a giant waste of money that added at least $800B to the national debt with little or no benefit. I believe that the stimulus helped lessen and shorten the recession. I have just a tiny bit of evidence, but the con forces have never provided even a scrap of evidence... until commenter John Riggins pointed to this study by economist John Taylor. (All graphs from this study.)

Taylor's conclusions are that that the stimulus was ineffective because the money went to spending that didn't help the economy:
The federal government only increased purchases by a small amount. State and local governments saved their stimulus grants and shifted spending away from purchases to transfers. Counterfactual simulations show that the stimulus-induced decrease in state and local government purchases was larger than the increase in federal purchases. Simulations also show that a larger stimulus package with the same design as the 2009 stimulus would not have increased government purchases or consumption by a larger amount. These results raise doubts about the efficacy of such packages adding weight to similar assessments reached more than thirty years ago.
Now, I suppose I try to look at the evidence without his conclusion in mind. When I do this, I see the evidence painting a somewhat different picture. Here is the most significant graph:

Actual data from that time (green dashed line) shows that spending by states went down, even with the stimulus support. Taylor runs some sort of model that shows without the stimulus (red/dashed blue line), states actually would have increased spending. He writes that they would have done this through borrowing.

This sounds like a load of bullshit to me. When I look at this graph, focusing on the area in the red square, I see state spending dropping significantly. After Obama's election, the drop in spending mediated somewhat, but didn't reverse until the stimulus was passed. My interpretation is that states were tightening their spending significantly as revenues dropped. Then, when help seemed imminent, they moderated that policy and started spending somewhat more due to the promise of federal funds. Without the federal funds, the drop would have continued and many more workers would have ended up unemployed, worsening the recession.

Taylor posits that, for some unknown reason, states would suddenly substantially increase their borrowing, and spend the borrowed money immediately:

Is that what most states were going to do when revenue plummeted? Somehow I don't think so. I think they'd make some cuts, and maybe try to borrow more. The results that Taylor gets from his model are counterintuitive, and probably dubious when you think of how most states deal with revenue shortfalls.

I've expressed my opinion that payments to states were "very effective at reducing massive public job losses," and thus probably the most effective part of the stimulus. I see support for this opinion in the historical data presented by Taylor. A major drop in state spending was slowed and reversed due to stimulus funds.

Of course, I'm not an economist. Much of the verbiage in Taylor's report is meaningless to me. But it is clear that Taylor's model and his rosy conclusion depend on a huge and anomalous increase in states' borrowing.

Taylor's other conclusions, that tax rebates and other direct grants probably didn't help--I find that much more believable, though even then it's hard to know.

However, now I have one other data point that supports my contention that the stimulus helped. Thank you, John Taylor.

Extras. Summaries of nine studies. I got bored and didn't read the whole thing. A critique with some of the same complaints I had, but from a real economist. A more readable critique explaining how hard it is to figure out a model.

Update 8/3/17. I'm still defending the stimulus against conservative dogma that it didn't do anything but increase the national debt tremendously. However, today's argument spurred me to seek more sources, and I found some interesting ones. How states fared. Idiosyncratic review. I'm not the only one who says it would have been worse. A round-up of studies, which I'll read sometime.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Left-leaning fake news: Found one. Sort of.

I see lots of fake news from the right, less from the left. The MSM media employs a different approach to its bias. It will not report on issues (bias by omission), downplay the importance, not follow up, or latch onto a convenient explanation when they should be digging deeper. They rarely do the outright lie. When they do and they're caught, they have standard procedures: correction, apology, and if the lie was bad enough, someone gets fired. So outright lies are much more the province of the conservative media.

This is one rare article where a lazy reader could be left believing a clear lie. Start with the headline:

Did Yiannopoulos secretly send more than 100 thugs to Berkeley to break up his own speech?

(By the way, if you don't know who Milo Yiannopoulos is, it's my displeasure to tell you he enjoys being a provocateur at Breitbart who somewhat admires the alt-right and 4chan types. So, well paid scum. Also gay.)

The headline is nice use of a question to imply the incorrect info, but still allow the author to deny lying. "I am only asking a question" -- I think that was a standard line of Glenn Beck as he drew his infamous charts showing the evil machinations of whomever.

Then I had to scroll down through the equivalent of about five screens before the author casts doubt on this speculation. Up till that point, it's a description of what's known about the event that supports this conspiratorial speculation.

However, this article is generally better than the conservative media because the impression is corrected if you read far enough down. So, it's not like the rest of the fake news I complain about, like Clinton going to Pedophile Island and lies like that.

So even when I see something that looks like fake news in the MSM, it isn't. Conservative media still has a near monopoly of this particularly form of despicable behavior.

Image: forward.com

Extra. More reporting on the campus police's weak response to the rioting. Compare these two responses to the riots.

Update 8/29/19. A MSNBC host rushed a poorly-source scoop (about backing of loans to Trump) onto the air. A day later, he's apologizing, correcting, and explaining what he did wrong. Funny, but Fox News doesn't behave this way when they muck up their reporting... cough ... Seth Rich... cough ... MI6 bugging Trump Tower.

Real massacres versus fake news

Fake massacres should be news for just a short time--as long as it takes to refute, debunk, and search for the origins of the false story. Right now in the news is the story of Kellyanne Conway and her statements (plural) about the 'Bowling Green massacre.' There was no such massacre. She mistook some talking points (spoon-fed to her, most likely) about the arrest of two terrorist/refugees from Iraq in the town of Bowling Green, and erroneously conflated it with some other massacre that did occur. Everyone is fallible, but Conway seems to be quite careless about facts. This was a talking point for her on at least three occasions. I wonder whether she or someone on her staff will fact-check her talking points more carefully from now on. It would be a good idea, but I don't expect it to happen.

In the meantime, fake news entrepreneur Alex Jones (and friend of Trump) has peddled a story that the Sandy Hook school massacre of children and teachers didn't really happen, but was an anti-gun hoax perpetrated by unethical gun control proponents. This is one of the fake news stories I often reference when I make points about fake news not being a new phenomenon. (I also mention birtherism, Jade Helm, and Pizzagate.)

This lowlife purposely peddles lies that anyone with a conscience wouldn't touch. It takes no time at all to find strong evidence of the Sandy Hook massacre, but none of that stops that worm Jones. Nor does it stop his legions of gullible, stupid zipperheads. They regularly make life hell for the families of the victims.

A thread that connects these two massacres, one real and one fake, is the eagerness of right-wingers to embrace false information (that is, LIES) in their pursuit of a narrative supporting their opinions. Truth be damned and run over by a freight train. God, how I hate these liars. I wish I could think of an appropriate punishment severe enough for Alex Jones.

Image: pinterest.com

Extras. Florida prof to be fired for being a stupid lowlife zipperhead. Fake news for liberals, since the right wing nut jobs shouldn't have a monopoly. NYT opinion piece that maybe the Bowling Green massacre will mark the beginning of the end for fake news. I doubt it.

Update 6/18/19. A publisher of a conspiracy theory book about Sandy Hook has apologized to a grieving parent. What the fuck is wrong with these people who will believe such garbage and not take a moment to consider that they could be wrong and vilifying innocent people.

And in news of the scummiest person in American, Alex Jones raged against the lawyers for plaintiffs suing him. The cleaner version and the candid version.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Links to important topics

I haven't posted much, but I have been saving some links to read and share.
  • The Economist on how worried foreign leaders are about Trump. Yes, and some of it is already coming true. 
  • Evidence (largely anecdotal) that FBI Director Comey's announcement of further investigation of Clinton's emails wasn't an important factor in her loss of the presidential election. 
  • A New York Times article from 2015 about international uranium deals and donations to the Clinton Foundation. Optics are bad, but here is some corrective context. Still looks like the Clintons collected a lot for money from people involved in the deals.
  • A political science explainer about the power play between White House advisers and cabinet secretaries. The prediction is for chaos, but the best part is the view based on historical observation. 
  • More reports of incompetence/chaos.
  • A news article about dissenters inside the new administration and their twitter feed. However, no group has vetted them. It could be a complete fake.  
  • A call to the media to broil Trump for his lies or the lies of his staff. Another article explains how the lies, the abrupt announcements, etc., could all be a plan to tire out the opposition so they can't react when worse comes down the road. Speculative but plausible. 
  • The root of one of the lies--Trump's childish response to reporting about the size of the crowd for his inauguration.
  • A right-wing talking point that is such a lie. George Soros didn't bankroll the millions who marched the day after Trump's inauguration. Yet I here so many making this bogus claim. 
Image: pepperhawkfarm.wordpress.com

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Russia infiltrates American blog

I find stories of Russian hackers believable, but it's even scarier that Russian have targeted my favorite political blog. (It's my favorite not because I highly agree with it, but because it is more frequently readable and interesting.)

The number of pro-Russian commenters on this post is terrifying. Furthermore, they are well armed with talking points: we have to avoid a confrontation that would lead to WWIII, NATO wastes so much money on unneeded defense, Russian isn't threatening or expansionist, it's the governments in ex-Warsaw Pact nations that pushed to join NATO, not the people, etc.

I'm not going to list and debunk all their arguments because that takes a hell of a lot of effort, as you'll see if you read the comments. Suffice to say, the Russian shills are persistent.

What does it mean that there are so many Russian shills on this one thread? How many are commenting here and elsewhere, often pretending not to be Russian, and trying to influence US opinion? To me, it's very worrying indeed. Back in 2012 I detected what I thought were anti-Obama commenters, particularly people pretending to have voted for him in 2008 but deciding against him in 2012.

These Russians are more numerous than those anti-Obama fakers, and the stakes are higher. I'm seriously worried that US policy against Russian could weaken, and leave Russia emboldened to retake lost territory. I wasn't horrified by them taking the Crimea because it was traditionally Russian, and ended up in Ukraine when maps were redrawn (if the capsule history I read was accurate).

But if Russia has its eye on territory in the Baltic regions, that will be very nasty. An invasion there would have been unthinkable a few years ago, but no longer with a Putin-worshipping idiot president (Trump) in the White House. Or Russia might do something else somewhere else. I don't know what to predict, but they must be held in check for the good of the rest of the world. A muscular Russia has rarely been a boon to the world, and I'm not betting it will be better now.

Also very scary is how many on the right are repeating Russian talking points. The right wing media has turned people into parrots. They are such dutiful parrots that they don't even recognize or remember that Russia and its totalitarianism is an enemy. I wonder whether the leaders of the right-wing media have forgotten that too. Maybe they've been bought off, blackmailed, and have gotten so stupid that they don't remember either. Twits... or worse.

Image: dailymail.co.uk

Extras. Here are the names of the Russian shills commenting or upvoting on the discussion thread connected to this article. I'll be watching for their activity elsewhere, and adding to the list as warranted.

Likely Russian shills without Russian names. Many don't write, but upvote and therefore may be shills-in-waiting.
  1. R.W. Emerson II
  2. EmilyEnso
  3. aprecoup
  4. Styx
  5. Aldous Huxley
  6. Southern Cross
  7. michaelbarningham
  8. Kapricorn4
  9. John
  10. Bob Belz
  11. Juan Pablo
  12. fafniro
  13. JOSEPH
  14. helena violet
  15. Theodora Angelina
  16. NATOcracy
  17. Popcorn (probably not--his comments as of 2/13/18 seem very independent)
  18. Che Guevara
  19. ES71
  20. Enrique Costas
  21. Ron Halaka
  22. lawfrench
  23. Go Wild Rose
  24. Big John
  25. Jim Jacobson
  26. Gary Sellars
  27. BlackRoseML
  28. Doom Sternz
  29. George Evans
  30. Dig 'Em
  31. Maelstrom_19
  32. ApqlA
  33. Lord Lemur
  34. MR
  35. ed H
  36. Zack Smith
  37. Kimo Krauthammer
  38. Goldenah
  39. drkkrw
  40. Mirumir
  41. Saint Jimmy (Russian American)
  42. chris chuba
  43. Anja Boettcher
  44. dorotea
  45. Leftofleft
  46. Qephetzial
  47. Jav
  48. shmaktastic
  49. Bruno Clabot
  50. Huaimek
  51. Hedel
  52. Timo Okello
  53. Eugen Hartescu
  54. Martin Alfven Haider
  55. Maji_Baridi
  56. Aaron Kirsch MDPhD
  57. Phil
  58. Stelios Touchtidis
  59. roberto
  60. nick1111
  61. Ramnik Singh
  62. Dan Delgado
  63. Ztop
  64. Atlas
  65. Southern
  66. Winston_S_43
  67. Leonardo Giuseppe Masia (Italian but still a shill)
  68. Nomadic Man
  69. Savage Savant
  70. Farmer Scott
  71. Attila
  72. Diego Van (mixed signals earlier, but lately very shillish)
  73. John
  74. EF304
  75. Mark Thomason
  77. experience
  78. Rock IT!
  79. Carl Tycon
  80. Arthur
  81. toucheamigos
  82. Winton
  83. terry
  84. Sean.McGivens
  85. Puigdemont Catalan
  86. timepass?
  87. KissMyAss88?
  88. Tokaro?
  89. Bankotsu - it's a Japanese name, but many shill-like activities. Sometimes he seems independent, and sometimes like a highly paid, highly intelligent shill. Note: He's identified himself as Chinese. 
  90. tweets 21 (maybe not--seems more logic-based)
  91. Power Girl (probably not--pattern of comments is ad hoc, like a real person)
Russian shills with Russian/Slavic names:
  1. Putler Polak (weird name, but uses Russian)
  2. Kalinin Yuri
  3. Gazpikae (with a Romulan avatar)
  4. Jozsef Volgyi
  5. Sergey Tokarov
  6. Andrey Koleshov
  7. novychelovek
  8. German Yakovlev
  9. Jew from Russia
  10. Keruzkho
  11. Victor Krachkovsky
  12. stephen kulodrovic
  13. Dmitry Vakin
Weirdos spouting pro-Russian talking points:
  1. anonaccount - comments on lots of topics, usually with an alt-right spin. Wrote that whites are superior.
  2. Pseudo Turtle - sounds reasonable sometimes, but hates libs and wants his country back.
  3. profwatson - a very strange commenter with a lot of craziness (Porklandia) but also tried to be serious at times. He upvotes a lot of Russian shills.
Chinese shills:
  1. discoverer
Iranian shills (added 10/24/19)
  1. Soldiers spies traitors books
  2. Mike
  3. James
And, here I am, burying the bombshell, except that it isn't a bombshell for most of us thinking people on the center or left. I worry that Putin is hoping to split the Europe into two camps, and maybe he thinks he has found the partners who'll make that deal--Trump and the stupid American right-wingers. It's a scary reminder of the Hitler-Stalin deal, and I sure hope that it doesn't happen. But I worried and I'm going to be vigilant and outspoken.

Update 11/9/17. Putin had a press release/speech published in Bloomberg View. The good part was that comments weren't disabled, so people went to town. I argued with a bunch of Russian shills including their top gun Emerson. Nothing new really. The same talking points about Russia being good, Ukraine being corrupt and full of Nazis, armies at the doorsteps, etc. I added some new shills to the list.