Comments on economics, mystery fiction, drama, and art.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Is this any way to run a superpower? This is all--all--from one NYTimes article

 "And while Mr. Obama liked policy option papers that were three to six single-spaced pages, council staff members are now being told to keep papers to a single page, with lots of graphics and maps...“The president likes maps,” one official said."
One page, with lots of graphics and maps...and how much space does that leave for, you know, WORDS?

"Three weeks into the Trump administration, [National Security council] staff members get up in the morning, read President Trump’s Twitter posts and struggle to make policy to fit them. Most are kept in the dark about what Mr. Trump tells foreign leaders in his phone calls..."

"...what is happening under the Trump White House is different, officials say, and not just because of Mr. Trump’s Twitter foreign policy. (Two officials said that at one recent meeting, there was talk of feeding suggested Twitter posts to the president so the council’s staff would have greater influence.)"

"New Trump appointees are carrying coffee mugs with that Trump campaign slogan into meetings with foreign counterparts, one staff member said."

"Mr. Trump’s council staff draws heavily from the military...Many of the first ideas that have been floated have involved military, rather than diplomatic, initiatives."

"Last week, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was exploring whether the Navy could intercept and board an Iranian ship to look for contraband weapons possibly headed to Houthi fighters in Yemen...But the ship was in international waters in the Arabian Sea, according to two officials. Mr. Mattis ultimately decided to set the operation aside, at least for now."

  "Paper flow, the lifeblood of the bureaucracy, has been erratic. A senior Pentagon official saw a draft executive order on prisoner treatment only through unofficial rumors and news media leaks. He called the White House to find out if it was real and said he had concerns but was not sure if he was authorized to make suggestions."

"Officials said that the absence of an orderly flow of council documents, ultimately the responsibility of Mr. Flynn, explained why Mr. Mattis and Mike Pompeo, the director of the C.I.A., never saw a number of Mr. Trump’s executive orders before they were issued. One order had to be amended after it was made public, to reassure Mr. Pompeo that he had a regular seat on the council."

"Two people with direct access to the White House leadership said Mr. Flynn was surprised to learn that the State Department and Congress play a pivotal role in foreign arms sales and technology transfers. So it was a rude discovery that Mr. Trump could not simply order the Pentagon to send more weapons to Saudi Arabia — which is clamoring to have an Obama administration ban on the sale of cluster bombs and precision-guided weapons lifted — or to deliver bigger weapons packages to the United Arab Emirates."
 My comment:  Cluster bombs are anti-personnel weapons. And in Saudi Arabia, that means they are intended for use against civilians.

"Several staff members said that Mr. Flynn, who was a career Army officer, was not familiar with how to call up the National Guard in an emergency — for, say, a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina or the detonation of a dirty bomb in an American city."

And there's much more.

Did 14% on non-citizen residents vote? Not just no, but there is no evidence that any significant number of non-citizen residents voted.

If you keep hearing about an "academic study" which concludes that 14% of the non-citizen residents of the US voted, here's what the people who do the survey on which that study is based have to say about it:
"We found that NONE of the 85 individuals in the 2010-2012 panel survey who indicated that they were non-citizens in 2010 and again in 2012 in fact voted."…/10/trumps-bogus-voter-fraud-cla…/

They use a panel study approach, in which the sample consists of a fairly large group of people who are interviewed or fill out a survey response form repeatedly over time. They can then identify some response errors (e.g., someone who checked the "citizen" box in one year and the "non-citizen" box in another). And the sample of non-citizens is really small--85 in the repeated sample (none of whom claimed to have voted, you will note).

The people who maintain the database allow other people to use it for research purposes, but they are not the ones who did this research, about which they say: “The Richman and Earnest study is an incorrect use of the survey that we manage, and a false claim of evidence of non-citizen voting. It’s a dangerous, stray false-fact.”

12 February

The Second Inaugural Address

Fellow-countrymen: At this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office, there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement, somewhat in detail, of a course to be pursued, seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself; and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it—all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union, and divide effects, by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the Southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war; while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it.

Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes his aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces; but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered—that of neither has been answered fully.

The Almighty has his own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through his appointed time, he now wills to remove, and that he gives to both North and South this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to him? Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, "The Judgments of the Lord are true and mighty altogether."

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Intergenerational Compact

Just posted this (with minor modifications here) as a comment on Claire McCaskill's FB page:

Here's the thing. The Republicans, led by Paul Ryan, intend to make massive cuts to Social Security, to Medicare, and to Medicaid. The threat is much less to those of us who have retired and are signed up with Medicare and are receiving our SS payments (although the threat to Medicaid is real--so many seniors depend on it to pay for nursing home care--that I'd almost place protecting Medicaid above protecting SS and Medicare, for those of us over 65).

The REAL threat is to those younger, especially those 40 & older. They have (largely) built savings portfolios on the assumption that SS and Medicare (and, again, Medicaid) would continue to provide their current levels of standard of living for (future) retirees. THOSE are the people who are going to be really screwed--their benefits stolen, but without time to change the course of how they prepare for retirement.

Ryan and his acolytes are aiming to break the generations-long inter-generational compact that SS is, and they are hoping that those of us who will not be harmed don't care enough about the trailing generations to ACT. We need to prove them wrong.