Perhaps Donald Trump just needs to wear his goddamn glasses


Obama’s teleprompter


Fake President’s teleprompter

❝ There are few recorded instances of Trump actually wearing glasses, but many of the ones that do exist appear to have been taken when Trump thought no one could see…Might this all be because Trump himself is in desperate need of glasses? How much of the president’s erratic behavior could be because he simply prefers to be blind than to display any sort of weakness?…

❝ Another curiosity of the Trump presidency has been his approach to stairs. Almost every time he exits Air Force One, Trump can be spotted white-knuckling the guardrail as he stares intently at his feet. And in 2017, The Times of London reported that widely mocked photo in which Trump grabbed Theresa May’s hand was due explicitly to his fear of stairs…

❝ There’s no question that our president’s brain is broken, and that his mental acuity isn’t anywhere near what it once was. But perhaps it all isn’t quite as bad as we thought. Perhaps Donald Trump just needs to wear his goddamn glasses.

I spotted the fear of stairs long ago. My own eyes aren’t especially bad for my age; but, I also have [idiopathic] pedal neuropathy. There’s no associated illness – like diabetes. Just an old geezer with a percentage of overcooked nerves in my feet. Which is why I carry a cane on my daily walks. Never use it, just carry it in case I need to use it. BTW, About 6% of Americans are in the same boat. No big deal if you’re smart enough to deal with it and don’t let vanity get in the way.

American consumers will pay for Trump’s trade war

As Paul Krugman pointed out, it’s a fallacy to think that foreigners are the only ones paying the tariff bill. U.S. consumers pay as well. Believing that tariffs are a tax on foreign countries is like believing that sales taxes are a tax on Wal-Mart.

It’s also makes little sense for Trump to brag about the tax revenue his tariffs are creating, when his own tax cuts have increased the deficit by enormous amounts. So far the tariffs have raised a few billion in revenue, while the tax cuts are expected to cost about $100 billion every year.

…The burden of tariffs falls mostly on domestic consumers — in other words, Americans — because the prices of many traded goods are set in world markets. Suppose a Chinese company is selling a washing machine in the U.S. for $1,000. Trump then sets a tariff of $200 on the washing machine. The Chinese company knows that it can go sell its washing machine somewhere else without the tariff — France, or Japan, or Russia — and still get about $1,000 for it. So in order to make it worth the Chinese company’s while to sell the machine in the U.S., it’s going to have to raise the sticker price to $1,200.

That’s an idealized example, of course — in fact, the U.S. domestic market is large enough where it has some power to affect global prices, so Chinese merchants will pay some small portion of the tariff. But much of the cost of the tax will be borne by the American consumer.

Nothing new here. Incompetent economists like Peter Navarro – and crooked politicians like Trump and Reagan have been pushing models like this for decades. They fail to grow our economy every time. American taxpayers pick up the tab every time.

Someone Tell Republicans it is 2017, Not 1981 — and Trump Ain’t Reagan

❝ It’s not 1981 anymore. That’s the message of an editorial in the conservative Weekly Standard, which warns Republicans not to design a tax reform patterned on the one that Ronald Reagan signed in his first year as president.

Mimicking the Reagan tax cuts is a temptation both because of Republicans’ enduring admiration for the 40th president and because his program has been the source of the economic ideas they have championed ever since his time in office.

❝ But the Standard is right that times have changed. That doesn’t mean the Gipper’s basic disposition toward lower and less onerous taxes needs to be junked. It means that today’s Republicans (and Democrats!) need to grapple with four differences between our time and his.

❝ First: The federal debt is much larger now…

❝ Second: The top individual income tax rate is a lot lower than it was in 1981…

❝ Third: The payroll tax for Social Security and Medicare has grown in importance while the income tax has shrunk…

❝ Fourth: The corporate tax rate has become a bigger problem. It has fallen since 1981…But other countries have cut their rates further.

I have my doubt if few – if any – Republicans have the economic smarts to move beyond ideology their electoral base thinks is heavenly writ. Establishment Democrats retain their backbone [or absence of same] problem.

Left & Right Agree — Trump’s infrastructure order is plain stupid


Click to enlargeWhat downtown Houston might look like or worse

No one likes Trump’s new infrastructure order…The 2015 Federal Risk Management Standard update was supported by conservative and liberal groups alike.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed a new order that rescinded an Obama-era rule requiring federally-funded infrastructure to follow stricter building standards aimed at reducing flood-related damages. The Obama order also required that federally-funded infrastructure built along the coastline take into account future projections for sea-level rise.

❝ Trump’s order has already prompted swift backlash from across the political spectrum, with everyone from environmental groups to free market think-tanks arguing that there was little upside to rescinding a rule aimed at saving taxpayer money and preventing loss of life in flood-prone areas…

Since the Carter Administration, federal agencies have been required to avoid building in floodplains, but until 2015, there was no requirement that agencies that couldn’t — or wouldn’t — avoid building in flood-prone areas take extra steps to make those buildings resilient…Additionally, federal agencies constructing projects along the coastline were instructed to look at sea-level rise projections for the project’s lifetime, and take those into account when siting and building…

It’s called saving money, saving lives, by reasonable – maybe even smart – construction and siting.

❝ …Flood damage cost Americans more than $260 billion between 1980 and 2013, while federal flood insurance claims averaged nearly $2 billion per year between 2006 and 2015. Since 1998, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has spent almost $50 billion in public grants to help communities recover from federally-declared flood disasters…

Flood insurance requires all private development projects meet the guidelines just erased by Trump. Many local building codes echo national and international standards meant to save lives and ensure that residential and business structures will survive the disasters we’ve already survived – and will confront again.

What the F***ing F**k?

From the LA Times:

Anthony Scaramucci, announced little more than a week ago as President Trump’s White House communications director, was ousted Monday before he was even officially sworn in. John Kelly, the newly appointed chief of staff, told Scaramucci he was going to be replaced around 9:30 a.m., according to a person close to the White House.

❝ Oh come on. The only way this gets better is if they bring back Sean Spicer and promote him into Scaramucci’s position.

Har! Trump is in the white House to provide entertainment for otherwise hopeless old white guys. He ain’t bad at it. Though it doesn’t require a whole boatload of talent, either.

Why are measles coming back?

❝ We eliminated measles in the U.S. in 2000. Somebody should tell the measles. Because even though the virus has no permanent home stateside, it keeps getting in—more and more, it seems.

❝ If you were born in the U.S. after about 1968, you’ve lived your entire life with virtually no interaction with the measles. Consider yourself lucky. The virus causes fevers over 104°F, inflamed eyes, a cough, plus a rash that begins as tiny white spots and becomes an itchy red mass spreading outward from the head to cover your entire body. And that’s just your basic measles encounter. About 30 percent of measles patients get extra complications, including diarrhea, pneumonia, brain inflammation, and permanent blindness. In healthy areas, few people died of the disease—only about 0.3 percent—but in impoverished or malnourished populations that figure jumps up to around 30 percent.

❝ Before the measles vaccine, 3 to 4 million people got the disease every year and basically everyone had gotten it by age 15. That might sound like pretty good news. If everyone gets it as a kid, surely it’s like chicken pox—you get it, then you’re over it. In some ways, that’s right. But it also means that the potentially permanent complications (and the fatalities) disproportionately affect little kids.

❝ We’ve kind of forgotten what it’s like to live in a world where young children regularly get serious diseases. It’s difficult to notice an absence of deaths, so here’s some perspective: from 2000-2012, the measles vaccine saved about 13.8 million lives. If we continue the way we’re going, though, we might get a different perspective. From 1989-1991, measles saw a huge comeback because people weren’t getting vaccinated enough—and we may not be too far from that happening all over again.

We’re losing herd immunity and that’s sufficient to allow this childhood killer back. RTFA for sensible discussion. By now – if you’re a regular reader of this blog – I take it down to two questions: ignorance or stupidity.

In this instance, I’d say both. I grew up before vaccines were common in the US. Every spring the kids in our factory town sooner or later got round to figuring out who died over winter…and from what. I had measles and waltzed right through. My kid sister wasn’t so lucky. Ended up in hospital in an oxygen tent with pneumonia before she kicked it.

We also had to contend with scarlet fever, whooping cough, mumps, rheumatic fever and more. The summer was saved for polio.

Ultimate Republican solution to bad economic news — Don’t report it!


Doonesbury by GB Trudeau

❝ “What’s measured, improves.”

So said management legend and author Peter F. Drucker about the value of using metrics to define specific objectives within an organization.

Drucker is no longer with us; if he were, he might want to have a few words with Republican Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas. Brownback, despite promising to measure the results of a “real life experiment” in cutting taxes, has decided to cancel a quarterly report on the status of the state’s economy.

❝ Although Brownback’s spokeswoman said “a lot of people were confused by the report,” no one has been fooled. The problem was that the reports didn’t match the governor’s predictions for the state’s soon-to-be-booming economy. Local news media, including the Topeka Capital-Journal and the Kansas City Star, flagged the abandonment of the reports as evidence not only of policy failure, but as an attempt to hide that fact from the public…

❝ Since the Brownback tax cuts were passed, almost nothing has gone as promised in Kansas. Revenue plunged and the state resorted to pulling money out of its rainy-day fund to plug the holes. A number of critical services, including for road maintenance and schools, were cut. The business climate has been poor, and the economy has lagged behind neighboring states as well as the rest of the country.

Why hasn’t this worked out? As we have discussed before, the failure of the Kansas tax cuts to do what was promised is a simple combination of state budget math and human psychology.

❝ The math is simple: Tax cuts tend to reduce revenue, in Kansas’ case much more than expected. To change people’s behavior requires more substantial incentives than changing things by a few percentage points. The reduced revenue led to spending cuts that lowered quality of life. In response, rising numbers of people and companies have left the state…

❝ Kansas’ gross state product fell behind the six-state region and the nation for the third straight year…

Private industry wages in Kansas grew at a slower pace last year than they did in the region and the U.S. — as they did during the past five years…

By just about every measure, Kansas’ tax experiment has failed to meet the promised performance objectives. Killing the quarterly report won’t change this…

❝ Brownback is now said to be considering tax hikes. He has paid the deserved price for his errors, with a 26 percent approval rating, the lowest of any governor in the U.S. The people of Kansas have paid a bigger price.

Dribble-down economics fail for the umpteenth time in a Century. No, that won’t stop Republicans from advocacy. They have nothing else to offer. Modern economic analysis, 21st Century solutions for leftover Republican economic disasters are still a work in progress. The kinds of jobs that give us something that looks like full employment prove that.

And we still have a gerrymandered Congress that keeps useless turd-brain roadblocks in office for at least another 4-6 years. So, don’t get too cheerful, yet, over the possibility of ordinary American voters reforming the system. After all, ignorant Kansas voters elected and re-elected Brownback.

Trump’s test for immigrants is hogwash! Of course.


Click to enlarge

Donald Trump’s foreign-policy speech on Monday was more staid than some of his recent outings, but it didn’t necessarily make any more sense…In his speech, Donald Trump proposed an ideological test for immigrants, one that would allow in “only those who we expect to flourish in our country – and to embrace a tolerant American society.” Is it possible to implement a test like that, and would it be a good idea?

The practical reality is that you are dealing with people who, if they’re fairly sophisticated, are going to almost immediately learn what to say. So unless you intend to tie them to a polygraph, which is a notoriously uncertain device, you’re assuming that you are basically only going to catch the inexperienced or the stupid…

With groups like ISIS or al Qaeda or any of its offshoots, they’ve gotten very, very sophisticated in training. So you are essentially focusing in many ways on the innocent and ignoring the guilty.

Are there more effective ways to screen out people who might be terrorists?

Usually the only way you can really know is through background checks and by tying the data uncovered in intelligence efforts that track terrorists and terrorist training to the screening process. It’s not something where people can pass some kind of magic test of their ideology.

You also have to recognize that part of this is not confronting people who come to this country with intolerance and ignorance of their faith. If you are going to avoid alienating them, you are going to have to show some understanding of the fact that Islam is one of the major faiths of the world…

Mr. Trump mentioned shutting down ISIS’ internet access. Is that possible, and if so, is it wise?

It really is not possible. There are a virtually infinite number of ways that you can disguise who you are and where the message is coming from. There is no magic sign that says, “I’m from ISIS.” The problem you also are getting into here is that to some extent we use the internet to identify some of these people.

Lots more of this in the whole blog post. None of it unexpected. Like many topics considered controversial, support for unworkable solutions comes from the ignorant and the stupid. It’s become a defining question online. Are the people commenting stupid or ignorant?

As ignorant as Donald Trump often is – about anything other than American bankruptcy law – he knows his supporters generally fall into one of those camps. He doesn’t have to worry about whether or not his so-called solutions are legitimate or lawful. They just have to sound powerful to someone who is pissed-off and xenophobic.