A Political Orphan’s 2017 Reading List

It was a ‘back to the drawing board’ kind of year for the kind of people who read books. A world turned upside down dropped a lot of hopes and ambitions in the trash heap. It was a time for looking back, reflected in the presence of three historical counterfactuals in the reading list. We seem to be living in the history we thought could never happen, so it makes sense to look at histories that didn’t happen for guidance.

Here are some of the books that I either read this year, or looked back to for insight.

The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead

This book was an award magnet for good reason. Whitehead reimagines the Underground Railroad as a physical entity. By blurring real with imagined history, he places the absurdity of slavery and racial terror in a more accessible context. Using magical realism to describe that time renders the actual realism, and its persistent modern-day offspring, even more insane.

Dominion – CJ Sansome

What if Churchill in 1940 had lost his bid to become Prime Minister and Britain had made peace with Germany? In 1952, Churchill is in hiding, organizing a shadowy resistance to Britain’s Nazi-allied government. Sansome paints a picture of ordinary life under a British Fascist regime and the day-to-day moral challenges it presents.

The Plot Against America – Phillip Roth

Popular Nazi sympathizer, Charles Lindbergh, was very nearly recruited by Republicans in the America First Movement to run against FDR in 1940. Roth revisits this historical near-miss to examine what might have happened if Lindbergh had run and won. This is a particularly valuable read because Roth wrote the book in response to the abuses of the Bush Administration, a reminder that America First did not just arrive in the headlines last year.

Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right – Arlie Russell Hochschild

A sociology professor at Berkeley travels to Lake Charles, Louisiana to understand the Tea Party fervor. Her timing could not have been better, as the book was released in mid-2016. Billed as a sympathetic effort to build bridges, it inevitably veered toward anthropology. There was simply no way to reconcile the mindset of her subjects with the skeptical, urban worldview necessary to create this kind of inquiry. One is left less with a less sense of hope than with a challenge to win in an unavoidable clash of civilizations.

Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads – Paul Theroux

America’s premier travel writer two years ago wrote what remains today the best piece of ‘Trump whisper’ non-fiction. At gun shows and churches he hears an unvarnished account of modern Southern life on both sides of the racial divide. He manages to deliver an account that is appreciative, sympathetic, and unsentimental. His account of Southern rural poverty is particularly striking and prescient.

Parting the Waters: Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement 1954-63 – Taylor Branch

This is the first of three volumes in Taylors definitive history of the Civil Rights Movement. It’s an important textbook for frustrated suburbanities, waking up to their first taste of political activism. As the initial book of the trilogy, it lays out in painstaking details the nuts-and-bolts organizational challenges facing reformers who sought to challenge a terrorist state with little existing infrastructure on which to rely. More than a history, it is a how to guide for middle class activists unfamiliar with demands of activism.

A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles

Towles’ second novel is a sad, relentlessly humane, and occasionally humorous story of revolution. Count Alexander Rostov returns to Moscow in 1922. He has friends among the Bolsheviks who preserve his life, but as an aristocrat he cannot escape punishment. He’s sentenced to spend his life at his current residence, the Metropol Hotel. Like a clever Forrest Gump, Rostov finds himself experiencing many of 20th century Russia’s pivotal moments without leaving the building. The book is a sobering reminder of the unpredictable human costs of revolution.

63 Comments

  1. Has anyone on this blog heard of that phenomenon of the financial markets known as a financial bubble? This bull market is a very long one, official unemployment is very low, financial institutions are investing in cryptocurrencies, ordinary people are talking about investing in them, people are talking about how great the stock market is doing and that it might keep going indefinitely, in many of the high tech urban areas real-estate has skyrocketed. I’ve been hearing talk that “THIS TIME IS DIFFERENT.” Yet the middle class has not really seen a significant improvement in their situation – wages have been stagnant for a generation or more. To me theses are all signs of a bubble. Now a tax bill that cuts middle class taxes temporarily by a few dollars, and cuts investor class taxes by trillions of dollars permanently is passed. This will inject trillions of dollars of more “gas” into the bubble. BUBBLES ALWAYS POP. I say be cautious, very cautious.

    1. Yeah, I do personal investing and I know what you mean. This time is never different.

      I’m low-key looking forward to the financial bust. Then I can buy up a whole lotta stock on the cheap. What seemed to be holding the bubble off was popular portrayal that the economy was awful even as it surged past pre-recession health. The people left of center were finally starting to feel better about the economy — the people on the right needed their little pet fascist to be in office to suddenly accept those numbers (literally overnight. One Monday in November 2016, the economy was dying forever. By Wednesday it was at historic highs. Republicans are sheep).

      Now that both sides are accepting the data that the stock market is, in fact, high, the next phase is ‘the stupid money’, which is incurious regular people jumping in, to create the weight that causes the bubble to pop. I refuse to allow myself to assume I know when and by what mechanism. I’m just going to keep focusing on the fundamentals and ignoring the rest.

      Most assume it will come from crypto currency. Maybe. The thing is, the mechanism that causes a crash is rarely the one people assume, and many people assume that it will be crypto currency. Nevertheless, I can confirm that market has officially hit stupid money phase. People who have never heard of block chain are currently telling their grandparents to invest in Bitcoin. I have peers stating with no apparent irony that it’s a guaranteed return. That’s pretty much how every article about ‘what happened?’ starts.

      But I wouldn’t be surprised if while financial bloggers are screaming alarum about Bitcoin, the tax bill runs municipal bonds into the trash and suddenly cities are defaulting left and right — a perfect set up for rural folk to blame them libtards for destroying the economy by the mechanism the rural folk forced libtards into dealing with.

      1. I read an interesting market analysis yesterday that warns of a confluence of events that could upend the bull market. Basically, it pointed out that due to the long period of low interest rates, many companies and corporations have borrowed for share buy-backs and investment in expansion. It cited companies as large as Apple, etc. This heavy debt-load in combination with the widening income divide and the reduction in social programs, is making the middle and lower classes less able to consume. Rising health care and education costs complete the triad of difficulty for working class Americans. Combine this with a deficit economy and a world that is having many financial problems, and the result could be a perfect storm of financial events. The author did not seem to believe that economic growth predicted in the models of the T administration would materilaize nor that their policies were fiscally sound – i.e., trickle down economics is still and ever shall be, a marketing pitch not a reality.

        Not being a financial pundit, but being interested from a personal financial management perspective, I found this interesting. As for how to ride it out? I am more concerned about unsound policies than the long term ability of the markets to survive. One can only try to make sound choices and avoid debt.

      2. Mary, if you can retrieve that analysis and possibly link to it, I will be thankful. It sounds interesting and similar to my concerns.

        Basically, I wanted to inject a note of caution into the discussion here. Trump has not magically cleared the skies and created fair weather. Despite the optimism of many financial pundits, I do know that the economic fundamentals for the people who largely depend on earned income and invested savings have not improved. The fundamentals of the economy have not shown significant improvement. As you point out the reduction in social programs will worsen the situation. The tax cut will not make a significant difference to these people – the 99%. The foregoing is true despite the propaganda that is being disseminated by the conservative media.

        That is not true for the investor classes. This tax bill favors them. For them the skies are blue. But that is when bubbles get inflated and pop.

        IMO, the tax bill should have been structured a lot differently. It should have favored the earned income classes and increased taxes on the investor classes. That would have stimulated the economic fundamentals and taken some of the gas out of the bubble. But. I am dreaming again. I need to stop doing that.

    2. I definitely worry about the stock market, but I’m not at all confident that my worry is justified. Clearly, stock buybacks and low returns on alternate investments are propping up stock prices. On the other hand, we haven’t deviated that far from long-term trend lines, meaning a reversion to the mean is not overdue or anything.

      When it comes to the stock market, nobody knows anything and all predictions come true eventually. But by then you could be broke, or dead.

      1. It’s hard to predict when a bubble pops. But that said, there is one big data point to consider: the Fed has truly started to reverse quantitative easing (QE). In the aftermath of the financial crisis, the Fed and the ECB poured trillions into the markets, propping up every asset class from stocks to bonds to real estate. That’s a big reason why every asset is so overvalued compared to historical norms.

        But the Fed has started tightening. It’s raised interest rates like clockwork for the past 18 months or so, and a few months ago, started shrinking its balance sheet. Of course, the Fed can reverse course if the economy sputters, but for the past 18 months or so, it’s been remarkably consistent. And the ECB is starting to follow (although they’re about a year behind). That’s a huge signal that many asset classes will start declining (although the Fed hopes they don’t crash, just float down back to reasonable levels; we’ll see how successful they are with that…). You can’t withdraw several trillion dollars from the world’s asset markets without having a negative effect. Or can you…?

      2. WX Wall — the hope is that inflation will rise enough to cover the decline of assets held by the Fed, and high enough interest rates (a measure of inflation) will cause companies holding on all that cash to start investing in capital and production (otherwise they sit on cash of increasingly less value, and buying back stocks doesn’t help as much).

        Creigh — very few people at any point should ever care about the day-in-day-out value of the stock market. Most people should be invested in index funds long term, which means individual daily fluctuations and even major corrections shouldn’t matter to them. Those who stock pick individual companies should only care about the fundamentals of that specific company regardless of the total value of the market it is in.

        Caring about the value of the stock market is like caring about the total value of all goods located in a supermarket. Sometimes massive overproduction of corn sends a wide range of those products down in price, reducing the total value of the supermarkets’ holdings. But that doesn’t mean the customer shouldn’t shop at that supermarket now that produce costs less; and the products aren’t less nutritious just because they are cheaper due to a good yield. In fact the customer benefits from cheaper nutrition.

        In the same way, a bear market should be when stock pickers are buying more — they are buying more of a portion of company for less price. But the average person should be invested in indexes, as I said above, and in that case would just be dollar averaging their investments over the course of a lifetime — when the market is up, the same amount of money is buying less stock, but when it goes down less stock they own is going down. When it goes down, they are buying more stock, and when it goes up more stock they own is going up.

        Of course the supermarket analogy raises the question: what if it’s products drop in such price the entire supermarket goes out of business? Indeed a total market crash of the stock market would completely destroy our entire economy. But the sorts of things that would lead to that would be felt across other parts of the economy well in advance, and would be so impactful that by the time the stock market went completely kaput nobody would care anymore because everything else is lost.

        Only two people care about where the stock market is on a day by day basis. Day traders care because they are gamblers, not investors. And they always lose. Never be a day trader. And people nearing retirement care if there is a market crash right before or a few months after they retire. Even then, if they were careful and followed sound financial advice during the course of their investing, they should have moved more towards bonds and a market loss of 50% (we’re talking Great Depression level loss) should only affect about 18% of their retirement accounts at age 65. Secondly, even if a Great Depression or Recession level event happens right at their retirement, it should only take about five years or less to rebuild, firstly because each year they keep working reduces the total cost of retirement, and secondly because by then, even in worst case scenarios so far, the market has mostly rebounded.

        Not saying that delaying retirement by five years doesn’t suck, but again for people who are conscientious, it wouldn’t happen and it wouldn’t matter. For people without a retirement at all, the stock market wouldn’t matter. So that leaves a narrow demographic of unconscientious index retirement investors with the bad luck of coming to retirement age at a major market loss.

        They would be so few it wouldn’t matter to worry about them, EXCEPT our economy has been progressively making more of them: by being swingier in the stock market, by reducing retirement vehicles available to middle class workers do putting them more dependent on the stock market, and by reducing the amount of social safety nets available to prevent them losing retirement savings via tragedies and setbacks inevitable during the course of a full human life. These things must be fixed, and can be (easily, provided people stop voting for Republicans ever again and be very demanding on Democrats or any new not-pillager fascist party that may one day develop), but the fixes largely target things other than the day by day valuations of the stock market.

        In conclusion, nobody should care about the value of the stock market.

      3. Apologies again for my wall of text.

        Simpler statement: don’t worry about the value of the stock market, it only reflects certain products of the economy. Worry about the economy. The economy doesn’t crash because the stock market does, the stock market crashes because the economy does. Best to focus on making a better economy for most Americans, something the Republicans have just proven beyond a fraction of a doubt they are against.

      4. Aaron and WX – good points.

        The tightening by the Fed is definitely a factor to consider. I do believe that they will be cautious, but I believe it necessary. The Fed does need to ‘rearm’, so to speak, so they have ammunition to fight the next downturn. Also in tightening it at least helps to slow the inflation of the bubble.

        Regarding stock market investing, I believe that the members of the ordinary earned income classes should invest for the long term and focus on the fundamentals – basically of the economy. Index funds are a good way of doing that. Also use dollar averaging investments by monthly investing. I basically used mutual funds and dollar averaging, while working with a trusted financial advisor. That was successful for me. I was able to ride through the 2008 depression without severe difficulties. Even so I had to retire a couple years earlier than I planned. Now I am largely out of the stock market and in conservative investments.

      5. One more comment – you notice, I use the terms ‘earned income classes’ and ‘2008 Depression’.

        Earned income classes include all those who basically depend on earned income as opposed to the investor classes who depend on income from investments. It also includes retirees who depend on pensions, social security and saved income perhaps supplemented by investment income. I also include the ‘working classes’ in the earned income group. I feel that recognizes that there is very little that really separates the ‘middle class’ from the ‘working class’, and recognizes that there is indeed a ‘99%’ as opposed to the ‘1%’.

        I prefer ‘2008 Depression’ to ‘Great Recession’ because it was actually a depression as defined by Krugman as an extended period in which normal financial measures do not function. Also, IMO the only thing that prevented a catastrophic depression even worse than the 1930’s was that quick rescue action was taken. Part of that was by George W. Bush using TARP and followed up by the stimulus program under Obama and the actions of the Fed. In retrospect, recovery would have been much smoother had a greater stimulus been applied, but that was politically impossible in 2009 and 2010.

      6. “IMO the only thing that prevented a catastrophic depression even worse than the 1930’s was that quick rescue action was taken. Part of that was by George W. Bush using TARP and followed up by the stimulus program under Obama and the actions of the Fed.”

        Absolutely. Two of the most hated men in America, Been Bernanke and Hank Paulson, saved the United States from, at best, Japanese or Greek style long term structural pain. And they did so by forcing hated men like Jamie Dimon to buy up banks and then take responsibility for those bank’s malfeasance, to the tune of billions of dollars in fines. From 2009 through 2016, if you were angry, you weren’t paying attention. Angry people hated the wrong people.

        There are two things the US federal government could have done to resolve that anger. First, they should have reintroduced laws and legal procedures to put bad acting bankers in jail. Secondly, they should have created a ‘TARP for the people’ that bailed out homeowners trapped underwater by their bankers malfeasance. Obama tried to start that but he was too black for these homeowners to trust. Leftover fear and resentment from the event itself, ah, ‘colored’ their perspective on ‘government spending’.

        I’m not sure anything could have been done then about jailing bankers, but they sure as hell could have done something since. That’s on all sides.

        But the GOP specifically blocked relief for the American people, just as they just specifically taxed the American people to pay for bankers’ second homes and third yachts. Any person who votes for a Republican under the attempt to do good by their own personal finances is moron, unless they are rich. This is no longer a matter of opinion, but a well documented pattern covering two generations of Republican malfeasance.

        I used to be a lot more open minded about this, but Trump was the final layer and the tax bill was the icing of the cake. The tax bill itself is simply unforgivable. For four decades these people stated publicly and passionately that they wanted to reduce the deficit and close corporate loopholes to cut taxes for the middle class. Given their opportunity, they raised taxes on the middle class and increased deficit spending to pay for corporate loopholes.

        That’s that. Republicans are liars. Full stop. They will never get one vote from me on any level, ever again.

      7. I am basically convinced that the GOP we have now is more like the nominal historical GOP as it evolved in the early part of the 20th Century, after it rejected T. Roosevelt’s Progressivism. All business with no concern for the people. The only significant difference is that it now includes the Southerners with their unique outlook and racism. Whereas the Southern politicians used to be moderated by the national Democrats. The period of time from approximately 1952 to 1980 was the anomaly. That was set by first, Eisenhower with his moderation, and second, the requirement to adopt a moderate outlook to at least get a seat at the table after WWII and the Great Depression.

  2. “The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends,” Ser Jorah told her. “It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace.” He gave a shrug. “They never are.”
    ~A Game of Thrones

    Why not take a break from political books pretending to be real life and read a fantasy with real-life parallels?

    I spent time last year reading George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.

    Perspectives that are not apparent in our current media frenzy and polarization:

    People are multifaceted and can do both good and evil.

    A bad ruler can make good decisions.

    A well-intentioned ruler can make bad decisions with horrible outcomes.

    The reverse can also be true.

    A wall is sometimes beneficial.

      1. Ha! I agree. I forgot that one. Hillary would have made a terrible president.

        “You would not believe half of what is happening in King’s Landing, sweetling. Cersei stumbles from one idiocy to the next, helped along by her council of the deaf, the dim, and the blind. I always anticipated that she would beggar the realm and destroy herself, but I never expected she would do it quite so fast.” A Feast for Crows

        “She never forgets a slight, real or imagined. She takes caution for cowardice and dissent for defiance. And she is greedy. Greedy for power, for honour, for love.” A Dance With Dragons

        Happy New Year, Fly. 🙂

      2. Fly, I hope you know I am joking with you. As a resident of Santa Fe, George R. R. Martin is in all likelihood a Democrat.

        I was happy to spend Christmas in Santa Fe. It’s a beautiful place, but decidedly liberal. I had to laugh when I parked next to another car with a “RESIST” bumper sticker.

      3. ““Hillary would have made a terrible president.” A possibility.”

        What I expected was 4 to 8 more years of the standoff that existed between Obama and Republicans in Congress for at least 6 of his 8 years. Wasn’t looking forward to it.

      4. Yes, I can see that you’re trying to joke, but any decent attempt at humor has to have at least some grounding in reality. You’re trying to equate Hillary with Cersei??? I’ve read the books too. Hilarity has her flaws, but don’t insult anyone’s intelligence with that comparison. She was never so incompetent and delusional. She might have been a bad president, but she also did have the skill set to be an adequate one. Not so Trump. There is zero chance that he will rule wisely. Martin himself has said he agrees with the Joffrey comparison. No reports of Donnie torturing helpless animals, but a very long track record of using power in a cruel manner. No real bad consequences for bad deeds, and plenty of toadies and syncophants and opportunists willing to ignore his unfitness for their own gains.

      5. I will agree with you Creigh, that with Hillary there would have been continued gridlock. Regardless, I supported her because I thought she might have been able to work through some of the obstructionism. At least, the destructive actions that are presently underway with Trump, would have been blocked. There might have even been some limited forward progress. But, I felt that Sanders would have been able to accomplish even less than Hillary given the polarization. But with him the destruction would also not have occurred.

        On the other hand, you did comment once that there are signs the log jam may be breaking. I concur that there are some indications that is happening. If there is truly a Democratic Wave (maybe a tsunami) in 2018, then there will have been some significant washing away of the logs. However, there will still be one huge log in the White House. Then hopefully that big log will chip that log in 2020. Unfortunately, those chips may be poisonous and not suitable for composting.

      6. >] “I was happy to spend Christmas in Santa Fe. It’s a beautiful place, but decidedly liberal. I had to laugh when I parked next to another car with a “RESIST” bumper sticker.

        Simply doing the country’s work in resisting the single most destructive “president” in all of American history, no matter how many of his painfully blind followers continue to worship at his golden altar.

        In fairness though, it is going to be something of a pain to have to inflict a lifetime’s worth of shame and disgrace on his supporters and to *never* let them live down their foolishness. Ah well, what’s a citizen to do? 🙂

      7. I too was afraid that we would have continued gridlock. It seems to me that the republicans have a learned way of governing that will not change in the near future. Responsible governing means beating them at the polls by large margins. It means keeping the sane people in charge until a reasonable opposition can emerge.

      8. Fly, at least we seem to have the same taste in books and movies. I have a feeling a fly and objv book club would lean heavily toward science fiction and Tolkien-like books … and perhaps a good non-fiction read or two. Perhaps something like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

        Hillary’s incompetence? How about that private email server stored in the basement … or was that the bathroom? How about the Clinton emails found on Anthony’s Weiner’s computer? Yes, I realize that Huma needed him to print out schedules since he was home basically doing nothing … except communicating with other women (some underage) …. Come on, has Hillary really displayed the technological competence needed in this day and age?

        And, then there’s Bill. Hillary has protected Bill like Cersei protected Joffrey. Do you really condone Hillary attacking the victims of her husband’s sexual assaults?

        I understand that Trump has his faults – bigly. Some of the things he has done disgust me, but the choice was between him and Hillary.

        I’m quite happy with Trumps supreme court pick. My investments have done well since the election. Taxes are going down and illegal immigration is way down. I’d venture that the reverse would be true on all counts if Hillary had been elected.

      9. Republicans basically don’t want the government to do anything but protect property rights. Gridlock suits them just fine. Neither Hillary nor Bernie could have done much about that, but Bernie would have been better at clarifying alternatives and making them pay a price for obstructionism, .

      10. >] “I understand that Trump has his faults – bigly. Some of the things he has done disgust me, but the choice was between him and Hillary.

        I’m quite happy with Trumps supreme court pick. My investments have done well since the election. Taxes are going down and illegal immigration is way down. I’d venture that the reverse would be true on all counts if Hillary had been elected.

        Plenty of the Trump kool-aid going on here that deserves a hearty rebuke. So it said, and so it shall be!

        First and foremost, relegating this to a binary choice between Clinton and Trump is a tried and true tactic of those who seek to avoid taking responsibility for Trump.

        Fun fact: It *wasn’t* a binary choice. There were other options, including choosing not to vote at all. No one twisted your arm, forced you into that voting booth, and made you pull the lever for the guy who said he grabbed women by the p***y, Objv. That’s on you.

        Next up is, ah, “BUT GORSUCH,” is it? Not exactly worth what more and more of our military men and women call an increasingly likely military conflict with N. Korea that could cost millions of lives, including many Americans, but hey, whatever makes you feel better. 🙂

        >] Taxes are going down and illegal immigration is way down.

        I requote that only to emphasize their importance when I say that immigration is our greatest strength and we need *more* of it, not less. ICE is tearing apart families, holding immigrants in extended detention, and committing moral atrocities even as we speak, and the Bigot-in-Chief and his Keebler Elf AG are acting to appeal to 32% of the electorate and demonizing immigrants every chance they get.

        https://www.buzzfeed.com/mikehayes/prosecutors-tossed-their-murder-convictions-so-ice-seized?utm_term=.bfQ0EYOk4&bftwnews#.rwDK9A3aM

        As for taxes, well…

        http://www.businessinsider.com/will-my-taxes-go-up-or-down-under-trump-tax-reform-bill-2017-12

      11. “Some of the things he has done disgust me, but the choice was between him and Hillary.”

        I hear conservatives saying this and all I can think is “what did Hillary do that was worse than treason and money laundering for the Russian mob?”

        I heard one guy say “oh, so he lied and they found a little money laundering” as if it’s okay for a sitting president to engage in laundering money. Trumpsters have truly lowered the standards for the office of the presidency.

      12. >>I understand that Trump has his faults – bigly. Some of the things he has done disgust me, but the choice was between him and Hillary.

        So if you really want to keep maintaining that Hillary would have been worse, I challenge you to answer these questions:

        Do you think that adding a second narcissistic bully to the mix is going to help the situation in North Korea? Do you believe that Hillary Clinton would constantly undermine the efforts of her Secretary of State and that said Cabinet member would refer to her as “a fucking moron”? Do you believe that members of the Senate would publically express worry about how she might use nuclear weapons (and do doubt express even greater worry in private)?

        Do you think that the various despots would come to the conclusion that they could easily manipulate a President Clinton by rolling out the red carpet, holding parades, and stroking her ego?

        Do you think people would be looking to Angela Merkel to lead the free world in this alternative Clinton timeline? That other countries would be making plans to do end runs around a United States that refuses to live up to the responsibilities that come with great power? Do you think that the world opinion of the US would be as low as it currently is under Trump?

        Do you think that the alt-right/KKK/ neo-Nazi types would feel empowered under a Clinton administration? Do you think that she would encourage them and make them feel that their beliefs are valid and deserve a respected place in our political discourse?

        I have no doubts that if Clinton had been elected, Congress would have started yet more investigations into the e0mail server and/or Benghazi. Do you honestly think that she would have fired Comey (or any other investigator) to thwart the investigations?

        Do you think Clinton would be actively trying to undermine the FBI the way Trump is currently doing?

        How many Clinton campaign advisors/transition team members/ staff do you reckon would be under indictment/have pled guilty at this time point in her term?

        Do you really think that she would have hired her daughter or any other relative to fill official positions that they were NOT qualified to do?

        Do you think that Clinton or members of her family would be using the office of the President to line their pockets as the Trump family is doing?

        Do you claim that Clinton would spew, on a daily basis, the sheer volume of outrageous lies that Trump does? Cannot you not see the damage that is doing?

        Do you think that she would require her press secretary/chief of staff/ etc. to constantly demean themselves in public by defending obvious falsehoods and/or make up new falsehoods?

        Can you also not see how dangerous all these cries of “fake news” are? Do you think that Clinton would be trying to undermine the vitally important protection of a free and independent press the way Trump is?

        French President Emmanuel Macron invited US climate scientists to come to France. He’s received hundreds of applications. There’s also the xenophobia that Trump feeds (because it gets him applause) that has great potential to discourage the best and brightest foreign students/researchers from coming here. Why would Hillary Clinton set the stage for a US brain drain?

        Would Hillary constantly be tweeting out mean-spirited/impulsive/misleading/embarrassing garbage on Twitter?

        Would we see cabinet meetings/ press conferences featuring groveling, servile, ass-kissing that is SOP in North Korea, but absolutely nauseating in the United States?

        >>Hillary’s incompetence? How about that private email server stored in the basement … or was that the bathroom? How about the Clinton emails found on Anthony’s Weiner’s computer? Yes, I realize that Huma needed him to print out schedules since he was home basically doing nothing … except communicating with other women (some underage) …. Come on, has Hillary really displayed the technological competence needed in this day and age?

        Ah yes, the old refrain of “But her E-MAILS!!” That is one of the complaints with some substance. Unfortunately for you, Trump and his people have undermined that talking point with their own technological incompetence. Surely you haven’t forgotten that little incident in the dining room of Mar-a-Lago with the cell phones and the classified information? Or Jared using a private e-mail server? Seems like we now have a tie with that subject of fault-finding.

        >>And, then there’s Bill. Hillary has protected Bill like Cersei protected Joffrey. Do you really condone Hillary attacking the victims of her husband’s sexual assaults?

        I won’t defend her on that. She made a bad choice on that one. So another tie.

        >>I’m quite happy with Trumps supreme court pick. My investments have done well since the election. Taxes are going down and illegal immigration is way down. I’d venture that the reverse would be true on all counts if Hillary had been elected.

        So you have zero guilt about the way Merrick Garland was treated? The ends justify any means and IOKIYAR? Are you also happy with the judicial picks that the National Bar Association rated as unqualified? The one who had to withdraw in embarrassment after he couldn’t answer basic questions that a GOP Senator asked him? Does it make you feel good for the future of the courts that even Chuck Grassley has felt compelled to complain in public about the poor quality of some of the nominees?

        As for taxes, yes there would not of been that unneeded tax cut for the rich. We would instead have had a focus on the infrastructure that needs fixing, and yes, if you want nice things you do have to pay for them. The crumbs that were tossed to most Americans are not going to help in the long run. The rich will get richer, trickle down is a farce, the national debt will increase, and we’ll still have unfixed infrastructure.

        And yes, illegal immigration is down, due to fear-mongering and cruelty rather than any real reform to the system. You don’t see to be too disturbed by the moral consequences to that.

      13. “Next up is, ah, “BUT GORSUCH,” is it? Not exactly worth what more and more of our military men and women call an increasingly likely military conflict with N. Korea that could cost millions of lives, including many Americans, but hey, whatever makes you feel better.”

        Ryan, that is what horrifies me the most. Millions of innocent people could die in S. Korea and Japan because two schoolyard bullies decided to have a pissing match.

        Also Gorsuch looks like he’s an asshole who will side with the rich/strong over the poor/weak.

      14. Ob, you and I might not be that concerned about collusion, but somebody is. The following are selected excerpts from a 30 minute interview in the New York Times yesterday:

        “Frankly there is absolutely no collusion…Virtually every Democrat has said there is no collusion. There is no collusion…I think it’s been proven that there is no collusion…I can only tell you that there is absolutely no collusion…There’s been no collusion…There was no collusion. None whatsoever…everybody knows that there was no collusion. I saw Dianne Feinstein the other day on television saying there is no collusion [note: not true]…The Republicans, in terms of the House committees, they come out, they’re so angry because there is no collusion…there was collusion on behalf of the Democrats. There was collusion with the Russians and the Democrats. A lot of collusion…There was tremendous collusion on behalf of the Russians and the Democrats. There was no collusion with respect to my campaign…But there is tremendous collusion with the Russians and with the Democratic Party…I watched Alan Dershowitz the other day, he said, No. 1, there is no collusion, No. 2, collusion is not a crime, but even if it was a crime, there was no collusion. And he said that very strongly. He said there was no collusion…There is no collusion, and even if there was, it’s not a crime. But there’s no collusion…when you look at all of the tremendous, ah, real problems [Democrats] had, not made-up problems like Russian collusion.“

      15. “I read that, Creigh. He repeats no collusion so many times it makes me think he knows there is.”

        Indeed Kayray. With Trump, you get more projection than an IMAX theater. 25 lies in 30 minutes of barely coherent rambling. If Congress and the Cabinet were actually doing their jobs, they would insist an a thorough medical exam immediately. If this is the onset of dementia, we need to know and they need to act.

      1. Well, hello unarmed! True. Up in the decidedly not liberal part of New Mexico, the people I meet care more that they have lost their jobs and can’t get employment than in nebulous Russian collusion charges.

      2. Objv, here in the liberal part of NM, I don’t get the sense that people care about the Russian collusion thing directly either. We do need to get to the bottom of it, though, for two reasons. One is that the Russians definitely attempted to influence the election. We can’t afford to be naive or complacent about this. The other is we need to be vigilant about conflicts of interest in our public officials.

        And as for jobs, those are clearly of primary importance for liberals too. So far what Trump has done is what any Republican would have done; given a trillion and a half dollars to corporations and billionaires who already have so much money the only thing they know to do with it is stuff it in banks in the Cayman Islands. If the Republicans had any thought about creating jobs, they would have cut taxes for middle and lower income folks. Because customers, not rich people, are the job creators.

      3. Objv, when you talk to the non-liberals, do they have a solution to their problems? That is, do they expect the wall and, err, something else, to bring back the good ole days?

        I assume there were jobs but not now?

        If so, what types of industries are not there anymore. Was it a mining area? Oil? Manufacturing?

      4. unarmed,

        The jobs lost were in mining and natural gas.

        I wish I had a solution. I live in a county that is low income and has more Native Americans than Caucasians. I see firsthand that dependence on government is not the ideal way to live.

      5. Ob, yep, since 1964. Albuquerque mostly, but also Mora, Las Vegas, and Clayton. With a couple of sojourns to states where I thought they might ask for my green card.

        Sure, there are some crumbs in the tax bill, until they expire. But it’s pretty clear who wrote the bill and why. And if jobs were the objective, it would have looked very different.

      6. So Objv, do you know anyone on SSI, or low income with a child with disabilities? The tax breaks for low and middle incomes are temporary, but ignoring that, assuming those cuts will be retained, you must realize that in a county like you describe, cuts to safety net programs will be painful.

        Of course, trump doesn’t have anything insightful to say about taxes, but those in the republican party that do have thoughtful opinions about deficits and debt will want to eliminate spending, and there is one area that they will be focusing on. It won’t be military spending.

      7. Creigh, I’m a relatively new New Mexican – since 2013. I know what you mean about that green card. Believe it or not, someone thought I lived in north Mexico. 🙂

        Now, about jobs …. Wouldn’t the lower tax rates encourage companies to stay in the U.S. instead of moving headquarters and assets overseas where tax rates are lower? Wouldn’t that preserve and increase employment here?

      8. unarmed, I have friends and family in all income levels. I have a brother-in-law who is completely disabled from a stroke, so I do appreciate that there is a safety net.

        Right now, there are numerous holes in the net for some who make too much to qualify for government assistance and don’t have insurance through their employer. I have a good friend who has a part time job working at a gym and also works as a real estate agent. She makes too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to pay the Obamacare premiums. She needs surgery on her ankle, but the surgery will be expensive and require a hospital stay. Even though walking on her ankle is painful, she plans on limping around until she qualifies for Medicare in five years.

        Healthcare is one of the areas I tend to be a little more liberal than most of my Republican peers. Honestly, something needs to be done about our current system.

      9. “Up in the decidedly not liberal part of New Mexico, the people I meet care more that they have lost their jobs and can’t get employment than in nebulous Russian collusion charges.”

        Did they care about Hillary’s email server? Or Benghazi? If so, why? Surely it has no bearing on their job status either.

        Or is their not caring about far bigger problems like treason, money laundering, election tampering, not worry them only if it’s their guy doing it?

      10. Objv, you make a good point about corporate tax rates. There are a number of overhead considerations that corporations would think about, taxes are one of them.

        For a number of reasons, I’d prefer elimination of income taxes on corporations, replaced by much higher top rates on individuals. But that would mean making it harder, not easier, for individuals to structure themselves as corporations.

    1. >] ““The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends,” Ser Jorah told her. “It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace.” He gave a shrug. “They never are.”
      ~A Game of Thrones

      Why not take a break from political books pretending to be real life and read a fantasy with real-life parallels?

      I spent time last year reading George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.

      Perspectives that are not apparent in our current media frenzy and polarization:

      People are multifaceted and can do both good and evil.

      A bad ruler can make good decisions.

      A well-intentioned ruler can make bad decisions with horrible outcomes.

      The reverse can also be true.

      A wall is sometimes beneficial.

      All true. With all respect however, the Robber Baron-in-Chief deserves not even an iota of that consideration. All he’s earned is righteous and fiery retribution at the ballot box in ’18 and then to be kicked out on his sorry rear end in ’20, after which Robert Mueller and his fine crew will be waiting to escort him to his own private, taxpayer funded abode, for the rest of his life.

      1. GoT is a wonderfully complex world full of political intrigue, emotional highs and lows, and a no-holds-barred cast of characters that’ll push the boundaries of conventional society to their moral breaking points and beyond.

        It’s also a soulless husk of senseless violence and savagery that’ll leave you feeling a little more dead inside each time you watch if you’re fool enough to place even an iota of emotional investment into it. Everyone’s going to die in the end without accomplishing anything of merit anyways, so why bother?

      2. Creigh and Ryan, I had a problem with the incidents of underage sex as well as the violence. I’ve read all the books and have only started watching the series on Blu-Ray.

        Much as I hate the “senseless violence and savagery,” cruelty and brutality is part of our human history. We can’t ignore it, but we shouldn’t glorify it either. I believe that parts of the books and HBO series cross that line. It wasn’t necessary.

        To me, the series is worth reading, because the characters are complex. Humans are capable of great evil as well as good. We tend to see only one side in politics. Democrats see Trump as a deranged, evil maniac who will destroy America. Republicans see him as a successful businessman who wants to make America great (again).

        Reading Game of Thrones was a welcome relief from the polarization in the media.

        Like most books, there is an underlying message of good prevailing. Characters like Tyrion and Jon Snow are flawed but overcome circumstances to become better people. It’s true that many of the characters die, but don’t we all …eventually?

    2. “The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends,” Ser Jorah told her. “It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace.” He gave a shrug. “They never are.”
      ~A Game of Thrones”

      I have thought before, it’s possible to fulfill our biological duties soon after puberty. And if we experience love and being loved and at least once feel the sun and wind on our skin, we shouldn’t ask for too much more.

      For myself, spending time with kids and grandkids during the last few days has made me feel very optimistic.

      Happy New Year, everyone.

  3. Eric Weinstein tweeted recently why people mistrust experts. He thinks it is because economic experts systematically oversimplified things to push certain agenda, so mistrust is actually rational. I copied his tweets and edited for clarity:

    Great. Let’s do this then as I’m can play as an expert too: Harvard PhD. MIT/Harvard/NBER Post-Docs. Sloan Funded. NSF-Fellowship. Etc…

    I’m sorry to tell you, we the experts have been lying to Laypeople on Trade, Immigration, STEM and Terror. The crumbling embargo was real.

    I was in multiple closed rooms where experts told me over and over “Well of course we can never say that to the public/donors/students/patients/voters.” Cambridge MA, Washington D.C., New York. And now, San Francisco too where it hit quite a few years later.

    let me tell you what we’ve been lying about (in elite terminology) on MAJOR issues one by one: immigration, trade, STEM, mortgage backed securities and self-regulation, terror, fake news and conspiracy.

    IMMIGRATION: EXPERT LIES Experts lie about work based immigration as needed for free markets to remove a tiny ‘Harberger Triangle’ of inefficiency. It is the reverse: an uncompensated taking of citizen’s rights without securitization to transfer a massive ‘Borjas Rectangle’.

    In free markets, citizens TRADE their rights of preferential labor market access a la Coase’s theorem. The giant Borjas Rectangle would stay w/ labor. Inequality could reverse. Women/minorities would enter. Income might again rise. Foreigners welcomed.

    Here is an expert article I wrote on the subject (peer reviewed, UN sponsored Journal): http://www.eric-weinstein.net/Papers/Eric_Weinstein_Migration_for_the_Benefit_of_All_International_Labour_Review_Vol_141_2002_No_3.pdf

    Of course the expert community pretends it isn’t there as they support a wealth transfer through forced takings of workers’ livelihoods.

    TRADE: EXPERT LIES. In the theory of trade, lies are deeply layered. First there is a nonsensical emphasis on Pareto improvement (as if that was a meaningful social welfare function) & a denial of cardinal utility to stop diminishing returns arguments being applied to wealth.

    Then we substitute a Kaldor-Hicks standard for Pareto welfare as if we were going to tax winners to pay losers. Which trade economists laugh about. Because what factory worker ever heard of “unimplemeted Kaldor-Hicks”.

    As the grandson of a seamstress, a door2door used clothing salesman, a self educated chemist thrown out of work for his politics and a female college grad who couldn’t work in a man’s world, it feels great to stand as a STEM PhD speaking the language of the academy for them.

    Then there‘s the appearance of “Comparative Advantage” which was recently revealed as an iron clad Exoteric explanation trade experts give to all but each other because the real Esoteric is “too complex” for the rest of us & has holes.

    Look at the slide & listen to this talk from a former Clinton administration economist. Notice the words ‘Esoteric’ vs. ‘Exoteric’. Claiming the real arguments are too complex to math guys like me is laughable: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCgUkfhB8Uk&feature=youtu.be&t=179
    Now what happened when @PiaMalaney, a Harvard PhD Economist finally got to explain to the ‘experts’ why the world is rejecting experts, and in their own professional language? She’s totally ignored by the panel.

    As if nothing happened. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCgUkfhB8Uk&feature=youtu.be&t=2811
    I’ll pause here. But there’s an entire world of Ivy-Level experts who the public suspects exist. People who have paid for their integrity with their careers. Either undisappear these good folks … or prepare for 7 more years of Trump.

    Noah Smith partially agrees, at least on trade bit.

  4. Eric Weinstein tweeted recently why people mistrust experts. He thinks it is because economic experts systematically oversimplified things to push certain agenda, so mistrust is actually rational. I copied his tweets and edited for clarity:

    Great. Let’s do this then as I’m can play as an expert too: Harvard PhD. MIT/Harvard/NBER Post-Docs. Sloan Funded. NSF-Fellowship. Etc…

    I’m sorry to tell you, we the experts have been lying to Laypeople on Trade, Immigration, STEM and Terror. The crumbling embargo was real.

    I was in multiple closed rooms where experts told me over and over “Well of course we can never say that to the public/donors/students/patients/voters.” Cambridge MA, Washington D.C., New York. And now, San Francisco too where it hit quite a few years later.

    let me tell you what we’ve been lying about (in elite terminology) on MAJOR issues one by one: immigration, trade, STEM, mortgage backed securities and self-regulation, terror, fake news and conspiracy.

    IMMIGRATION: EXPERT LIES Experts lie about work based immigration as needed for free markets to remove a tiny ‘Harberger Triangle’ of inefficiency. It is the reverse: an uncompensated taking of citizen’s rights without securitization to transfer a massive ‘Borjas Rectangle’.

    In free markets, citizens TRADE their rights of preferential labor market access a la Coase’s theorem. The giant Borjas Rectangle would stay w/ labor. Inequality could reverse. Women/minorities would enter. Income might again rise. Foreigners welcomed.

    Here is an expert article I wrote on the subject (peer reviewed, UN sponsored Journal): http://www.eric-weinstein.net/Papers/Eric_Weinstein_Migration_for_the_Benefit_of_All_International_Labour_Review_Vol_141_2002_No_3.pdf

    Of course the expert community pretends it isn’t there as they support a wealth transfer through forced takings of workers’ livelihoods.

    TRADE: EXPERT LIES. In the theory of trade, lies are deeply layered. First there is a nonsensical emphasis on Pareto improvement (as if that was a meaningful social welfare function) & a denial of cardinal utility to stop diminishing returns arguments being applied to wealth.

    Then we substitute a Kaldor-Hicks standard for Pareto welfare as if we were going to tax winners to pay losers. Which trade economists laugh about. Because what factory worker ever heard of “unimplemeted Kaldor-Hicks”.

    As the grandson of a seamstress, a door2door used clothing salesman, a self educated chemist thrown out of work for his politics and a female college grad who couldn’t work in a man’s world, it feels great to stand as a STEM PhD speaking the language of the academy for them.

    Then there‘s the appearance of “Comparative Advantage” which was recently revealed as an iron clad Exoteric explanation trade experts give to all but each other because the real Esoteric is “too complex” for the rest of us & has holes.

    Look at the slide & listen to this talk from a former Clinton administration economist. Notice the words ‘Esoteric’ vs. ‘Exoteric’. Claiming the real arguments are too complex to math guys like me is laughable: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCgUkfhB8Uk&feature=youtu.be&t=179
    Now what happened when @PiaMalaney, a Harvard PhD Economist finally got to explain to the ‘experts’ why the world is rejecting experts, and in their own professional language? She’s totally ignored by the panel.

    As if nothing happened. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCgUkfhB8Uk&feature=youtu.be&t=2811
    I’ll pause here. But there’s an entire world of Ivy-Level experts who the public suspects exist. People who have paid for their integrity with their careers. Either undisappear these good folks … or prepare for 7 more years of Trump.

    Noah Smith partially agrees, at least on trade bit.

    1. In economics, there’s a big propensity to come up with theories that support preconceived notions that the economist wishes were true. People are right to be skeptical about those “experts.” The reason that intellectual honesty is so critical is that any failure creates cynicism about expertise in general.

    2. Antimule-

      I would differentiate economic experts from other experts (e.g. scientists). Mainly because economics is not a science. It is politics by other means. After all, money = power, in a very literal way.

      If I give you a stack of dead Presidents, you give me your labor or your possessions. Yes you can refuse those dollars. Until you need food to eat. IOW, those little green bills are stores of power. Power to compel people to do what you want them to do.

      At best, economics is sociology: an observation and narrative-based discipline to understand the types of decisions actual, real people make. In the middle, it’s politics: an attempt to structure / control / share power to improve everyone’s lives. At worst, it’s war.

      In no case is it a science. At least guys like Marx were honest were honest about this, and didn’t attempt to hide behind a bunch of equations.

  5. A few of mine

    David Auerbach has ongoing “Trump Diary” series. This time about tax cut.

    Point of note is that he says that both republicans and liberals now want to “prune” poor Trump voters. Former because they are economically unproductive, the latter because they voted for Trump thus proving their appaling racism and sexism.

    https://www.waggish.org/2017/trump-diary-13-kill-the-poor/

    He links to his another work that explains why did liberals flipped and in what way:

    http://theamericanreader.com/jenesuispasliberal-entering-the-quagmire-of-online-leftism/

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