Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Who's helping whom?

As usual, Paul Krugman says it best. Here's his column explaining how Blue states are bailing out Red states, and being slapped in the face for it:

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Waiting for the Dems

It is getting very frustrating waiting for Democrats to actually act. They threaten they might hold Barr in contempt ... in a few days. They threaten subpoenas of information  (say from IRS staff) ... in a few days. They might institute perjury charges ... in a few days. They may issue subpoenas for Barr and Mueller to appear ... in a few days.

How many days will that be?

Why isn't Mueller subpoenaed right now? Now. Yes, he is supposedly still an employee of the Justice Dept. (such as it is under Barr) -- so? Subpoena him now and he has time to quit or even appear without quitting. Will he be prosecuted by Trump or Barr for appearing while technically still an employee? Will he be fired and lose his salary? Who cares? Let's have Mueller on the stand next Monday.

While Trump and his allies seize the moment, the Democrats will do something... in a few days. If Pelosi and Nadler and Schiff think Barr is a liar (which, of course, he surely is) what are they waiting for? In a few days, lies travel around the world many times.

Could we please have some action from the Hamlet-like Dems?

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Center for American Progress Cannibalizes Sanders

Think Progress, the commentary arm of the Democratic Center for American Progress, has levelled an ad hominem attack on Bernie Sanders.

Harold Myerson, of The American Prospect, muses that this is exactly how the right-wing attacked FDR. You can read Myerson's remarks HERE.

Just what we need: the Hillary Clinton arm of the Democratic establishment attacking the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination -- not on the basis of his policies, but because he has made money on his very popular writing. 

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Enlightened Monarch or Democracy

Supposedly, many "millennials" who work in "Hi-Tech" have decided, on the basis of their work experience with successful startups, that having an all-powerful genius leader is the way to produce fast and effective results. They then extend this "principle" to national affairs and push for "strong executives" -- i.e. national autocrats -- who will lead the country to greatness.  Here is an article from Salon magazine discussing (somewhat lightly) these ideas:

https://www.salon.com/2019/04/13/why-some-in-silicon-valley-are-advocating-for-monarchy/

Here's my take.

People who work or have worked in successful startups (no one talks about unsuccessful ones -- see below) have observed that a hierarchical structure seems to be the way to go. The Originator of the idea or prodect knows best -- at least at first -- what it's all about. Decisions must be made quickly and, of course, correctly. There is no time for voting and even if there were, it's the Originator who most likely knows best. Democracy is probably not the best way to procede at the "startup" stage.

Already one begins to see that the argument here has a bit of a hole. No one talks about the unsuccessful startups -- maybe they are not even remembered. In these, the Originator may not be, in fact, that smart and imaginative -- maybe just lucky. Since the structure is autocratic, there is no way to correct the Originator who errs, and so the enterprise fails. And no one remembers why.

Once we turn to endeavors other than startups we see that the autocratic structure is far more likely to fail. The important example is the nation-state. Here there is not just a single process or invention, as in a startup, but a complicated mesh of economics, power, and special and general interests. It almost never happens that there is a One Person who understands every strand in this mesh and can consistently make correct decisions. One needs a lot of ideas and a way of choosing among them that has the highest odds of being correct. I think that history has shown that democracy and division of powers is the best (though not infallible) way to come up with these ideas and to choose among them. The more power a single autocrat has in a nation, the more chance there is that he/she will make a terrible decision. Look at the list: kings, czars, tyrants; Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin. Even in a near democracy, when (presidential) power is too concentrated or unchallenged or secretive, disasters occur: Lyndon Baines Johnson (Vietnam), George Bush (Iraq, Afghanistan), Trump (everything). It is exacly when there are no checks and no openness that disaster is likely to occur, and when it does, is most likely to be most costly.

In complex life, Democracy is a far better way of solving problems than autocracy. Think of the lines from Shelley:

"And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my works ye Mighty and despair!

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away"

See what I mean?


Sunday, November 11, 2018

Not the way to go.


I watched the video of the now infamous press conference and I really thought that CNN's Acosta was cross-examining Trump, interrupting him at several times while trying to make various points and refutations (such as over the meaning of "invasion"), etc.





I don't think that that is the role of reporters at a press conference, and I'm sure that not only hardcore Trump supporters found this rude. Some may think that Trump is such a total shit (which he surely is) that such behavior is justified, but I think that it is rude and, more importantly, simply counter-productive: it plays right into Trump's hands. You simply can't out-Trump Trump.





Let Congress attack the President hard and often. The print/broadcast journalists should use their media positions to expose Trump's lies and distortions and vileness. A press conference is not the place to do this. It seems that if this kind of behavior persists, Trump will simply cancel press conferences. (Though, arguably, Trump came out of this one with a pretty good boost nationally, though not among hard-core Trump-haters; I say this because even I was uncomfortable with Acosta's behavior).


What reporters might do at these conferences is get together beforehand (privately) and agree to follow up on each other's questions -- which questions should be, of course, cleverly constructed but short, and not obviously prosecutorial. That would avoid ego-trips such as Acosta's that look like cross-examination. Related questions from several reporters would also show that concerns about Trump's lies is more across-the-board.

(Of course the doctoring of the news conference tape by the White House was outrageous; it was great that they were caught by experts. In the future, I'm afraid, it will be harder technically to catch this sort of thing as the techniques will get better on the pixel-level...)


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

There and more Kavanaugh lies

In the last blog I quoted a description of a lie that Brett Kavanaugh told while under oath in his confirmation confrontation in the Senate. Here are some more, all of which were assembled by the Huffington Post:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/brett-kavanaugh-lies_us_5bb26190e4b027da00d61fcd

 It is unlikely that any of this will influence the Republican senators, since they are desparate to confirm Kavanaugh. Susan Collins is weighing the political consequences of her vote, but basically she prefers to vote with her party; I don't have a lot of hope that she will do the right thing simply because it is the right thing -- she doesn't want to get "primaried" by someone to her right. She foolishly believes (or claims to believe) that Kavanaugh will not vote to gut Roe v. Wade if he gets confirmed. I don't know enough about Lisa Murkowski (R. Alaska) to hazard a guess as to her eventual vote, but she is no fan of Trump's.