Paul Ryan: tax cuts über alles

Love this post from Chait.  Hits the nail on the head:

Faced with the extraordinary circumstance of a president who refuses either to release his tax returns or to divest his business holdings, Republicans have devised a series of creative explanations for why Donald Trump is entitled to behave like a kleptocrat. Paul Ryan, on the other hand, has no use for creative defenses of kleptocracy. He is satisfied with uncreative ones. To wit, Ryan is happy to allow unlimited conflicts of interest and potential for Trumpian self-enrichment as long as Trump signs Ryan’s bills:

“This is not what I’m concerned about in Congress,” Ryan said Wednesday during an interview on CNBC. “I have every bit of confidence he’s going to get himself right with moving from being the business guy that he is to the president he’s going to become.”

Ryan praised Trump for “basically saying let’s just go unify this party, unify this country, get things done.” …

“That is what I’m focused on,” he said, “and not the legal details of how he divorces himself from his business, which I know he will.”

The bottom line, according to Ryan, is that Trump should handle his massive, undisclosed conflicts of interest “however he wants to.”

Ryan does say he has “confidence” in Trump to avoid self-enrichment, which is a comical statement. Governments don’t run on trusting leaders to do the right thing when nobody is looking. They’re supposed to have mechanisms of accountability… If Ryan has confidence Trump would not use his power for personal gain, what possible leader would give him pause?

The answer, of course, is a leader who isn’t ready to sign some big tax cuts for the rich. And that’s what Ryan’s answer says. Asked about Trump’s blatant conflicts of interest, Ryan just says over and over he is focusing instead on “fixing the country’s big problems.” High taxes on the rich and excessively generous social spending on the poor are big problems. Kleptocratic government is not.

Liberals have been saying that the Republican Party is going to be held together by a devils’ bargain, in which Trump gives Ryan his core economic agenda, and Ryan gives Trump a free hand to corrupt American government as he sees fit. What’s amazing is that Ryan is now basically saying the same thing.

And, of course, not just Paul Ryan, but pretty much the entire Republican Party.  You give tax cuts on rich people and gutting of environmental regulations and pretty much anything goes.

Photo of the day

National Geographic photo of the day from earlier this year:


Waiting for a storm to pass in Utah’s Zion National Park paid off for Your Shot member RJ Hooper, who submitted this image of a rainbow stretched across a golden, post-tempest sky. “A brutal autumn thunderstorm rocked the higher elevations of Zion,” he says. “I hunkered next to some bushes to wait out the storm, [and] it paid off!”




Photo of the day

I had no idea that Saturn has a “polar hexagon.”  Very cool.  Via Sky and Telescope:

Saturn Hexagon

A collage of Saturn’s north polar hexagon as seen by Cassini on December 2nd, in (clockwise, from top left) violet, red, near-infrared, and infrared.
NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute

The good, the bad, and the ugly of Trump’s cabinet picks

Nice post from (Big) Steve Saideman practicing a bit o Kremlinology with Trump’s picks.  Makes a lot of sense.  First, the bad:

So, what can we make of this?  For those who want to focus on Trump’s meetings, it shows that meetings matter very little for reading Trump’s intentions.  Meet with Gore and then pick Pruitt for EPA?  Pretty sure this does not mean a serious pursuit of climate change targets.  For those who want to emphasize Ivanka Trump as a key influencer, again the EPA decision is revealing as her apparent priority is climate change and her father chooses a guy who considers the EPA to be essentially his mortal enemy.

Who in the Trump inner circle wants to burn down the US government and create chaos?

Yeah, Steve Bannon, who has been quoted:

“I’m a Leninist,” Bannon proudly proclaimed.

Shocked, I asked him what he meant.

“Lenin,” he answered, “wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

Hard to see what else could explain the pattern of Trump appointments.  Yes, Trump probably correlates billions with brains so he thinks that appointing billionaires means appointing the best people, but many of these choices are the worst possible billionaires for each spot.  The guy who runs Carl’s Jr/Hardees for Secretary of Labor?  Either Trump is the troll or Bannon is.

Yep.  So, what could possibly be the good in all of this?  The fact that none of these guys have any experience in government, thereby making it harder for them to accomplish their malicious ends:

The only silver lining here is that few of these awful picks have any experience governing.  Which means that they will have a hard time inflicting their will on the bureaucracy.  In principal-agency theory, where the boss has less information than the underlings, the underlings can do more or less than the boss wants (shirking is what it is called, but it can mean doing more, not just goofing off).  There are always information asymmetries, but when the principals (the bosses) are amateurs, the agents can resist more deeply and for longer than if the principals know what they are doing.  So, as these guys try to burn down these agencies, expect much resistance and not just through leaks.  The resistance will come via implementation of policies that actually don’t implement the intent of the principals.  Of course, this might serve Bannon’s purposes–showing that the bureaucrats aren’t doing their jobs, but that is probably better than their following through on the worst impulses of the awful men (and a woman or two) chosen by Trump/Bannon.

The ugly?  Makes a good title for a post.  Also, fair enough to describe Michael Flynn that way.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Derek Thompson’s take on Hillary, the working class, and identity politics:

The long-term future of the U.S. involves rising diversity, rising inequality, and rising redistribution. The combination of these forces makes for an unstable and unpredictable system. Income stagnation and inequality encourage policies to redistribute wealth from a rich few to the anxious multitudes. But when that multitude includes minorities who are seen as benefiting disproportionately from those redistribution policies, the white majority can turn resentful. (This may be one reason why the most successful social democracies, as in Scandinavia, were initially almost all white.) Nobody has really figured out how to be an effective messenger for pluralist social democracy, except, perhaps, for one of the few American adults who is legally barred from running for the U.S. presidency in the future.

So, the country is wobbling between two extremely different futures: pluralist social democracy on the one hand, and white nativist protectionism on the other. The election’s bizarre schism, with Clinton winning the popular vote and Trump winning the electoral college, is a sign of how razor-thin the margin between those dramatically opposed futures is.

Rising diversity isn’t going away. Income inequality isn’t going away. Support for redistribution isn’t going away. For liberals, pluralist social democracy is the project of the future, and any alternative falls somewhere between xenophobic and amoral. But what if the vast majority of white voters who voted for Trump aren’t interested in any version of that future, no matter who the messenger is?

2) It is kind of funny that you cannot tell the gender of a human nipple when you only see a close-up of the nipple.

3) Yglesias‘ take on why Clinton lost based on what he wrote when he thought she was going to win.  The subhead captures it well, “A workhorse, not a show horse, which is great — except winning the election is important.”

4) Systematic racism found in the granting of parole in New York.  Glad to know systemic racism is just a liberal fantasy.

5) I quite understand the inter-relation between shutter speed, F-stops, ISO, etc., by this point.  But if you are looking to improve your photography and understand how all these actually work, this interactive website is very, very cool.

6) I love this idea– self control is empathy for your future self:

Empathy depends on your ability to overcome your own perspective, appreciate someone else’s, and step into their shoes. Self-control is essentially the same skill, except that those other shoes belong to your future self—a removed and hypothetical entity who might as well be a different person. So think of self-control as a kind of temporal selflessness. It’s Present You taking a hit to help out Future You…

This tells us that impulsivity and selfishness are just two halves of the same coin, as are their opposites restraint and empathy. Perhaps this is why people who show dark traits like psychopathy and sadism score low on empathy but high on impulsivity. Perhaps it’s why impulsivity correlates with slips among recovering addicts, while empathy correlates with longer bouts of abstinence. These qualities represent our successes and failures at escaping our own egocentric bubbles, and understanding the lives of others—even when those others wear our own older faces.

7) Speaking of which, when it comes to kids, we really need to be thinking about self-regulation, not self-control.  Not sure I would have learned about that if not having a kid with autism.  But it’s a super-important and super-helpful concept.

8) And, while I’m at it, I think I might have quick-hitted this article once before, but now that I have read Ross Greene’s Raising Human Beings, I can definitely endorse the concepts here.

Another Greene concept that challenges preconceptions is “incompatibility”—that is, the idea that when children misbehave, what’s going on is that their skills are incompatible with the expectations they’re under or the environment they’re in. But rather than viewing incompatibility as a problem, he sees it as an opportunity—indeed, struggling with a crisis is what helps people cement their identities and leads to the most growth. In that moment, adults can help the child identify the root of the incompatibility and find a solution…

So many adult-child conflicts ultimately boil down to a power struggle. The child is doing something the adult doesn’t like and resists attempts to make him change. By shifting the goal from power to collaboration, Greene opens a whole new world of possibilities. Instead of trying to be in charge, parents simply seek to influence their children. In so many ways, it’s a relief to admit that I’m not truly in control and to stop feeling that I should be.

9) Huge fan of Kahneman and Tversky, of course.  And, of Michael Lewis’ writing.  So, the latter doing a biography of the former?  Yes, please.  And Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler writing a review of the book in the New Yorker.  A trifecta.

10) Charles Blow is sure on a post-election roll:

And be clear: It is not the job of the defiant to conform to a future president who makes them completely uncomfortable. The burden of unity lies with Trump, not his detractors.

“Just wait and see.” “Give him a chance.” But what if what you’ve already seen is so beyond the pale that it’s irrevocable? What if Trump has already squandered more chances than most of us will ever have?

What if Trump has shown himself beyond doubt and with absolute certainty to be a demagogue and bigot and xenophobe and has given space and voice to concordant voices in the country and in his emerging Legion of Doom cabinet? In that reality, resistance isn’t about mindless obstruction by people blinded by the pain of ideological defeat or people gorging on sour grapes. To the contrary, resistance then is an act of radical, even revolutionary, patriotism. Resistance isn’t about damaging the country, but protecting it.

11) Some Onion headlines are just too good:

Facebook User Verifies Truth Of Article By Carefully Checking It Against Own Preconceived Opinions

12) Farhad Manjoo on the gadget apocalypse.  Blame your IPhone.

13) Jeffrey Toobin on the “real” voting scandal of 2016.

14) Love this video showing why maps inevitably distort the globe.

15) James Fallows’ magazine piece on Trump’s election:

I view Trump’s election as the most grievous blow that the American idea has suffered in my lifetime. The Kennedy and King assassinations and the 9/11 attacks were crimes and tragedies. The wars in Vietnam and Iraq were disastrous mistakes. But the country recovered. For a democratic process to elevate a man expressing total disregard for democratic norms and institutions is worse. The American republic is based on rules but has always depended for its survival on norms—standards of behavior, conduct toward fellow citizens and especially critics and opponents that is decent beyond what the letter of the law dictates. Trump disdains them all. The American leaders I revere are sure enough of themselves to be modest, strong enough to entertain self-doubt. When I think of Republican Party civic virtues, I think of Eisenhower. But voters, or enough of them, have chosen Trump.

16) Paul Ryan is ready to dismiss and move past any egregious thing Trump says now that he’s president-elect.  Dahlia Lithwick on just how wrong this is.

17) I was reading a poorly-researched paper on performance pay for teachers (basically argued it’s a panacea) when I decided I’d see what would come up in two minutes of google searching.  Among other things, this great OECD summary:

The bottom line: Performance-based pay is worth considering in some contexts; but making it work well and sustainably is a formidable challenge. Pay levels can only be part of the work environment: countries that have succeeded in making teaching an attractive profession have often done so not just through pay, but by raising the status of teaching, offering real career prospects, and giving teachers responsibility as professionals and leaders of reform. [emphasis mine] This requires teacher education that helps teachers to become innovators and researchers in education, not just civil servants who deliver curricula.

18) I’m pretty excited to be a part of this citizen-science project that examines the microbial life living in your shower head.  Since Evan’s current stated future career is microbiologist, I was especially pleased to be able to carry out our investigation with him.

19) Depressing series of vignettes in NY Times on what it is like to be the unlucky few left out of Obamacare by heartless (non Medicaid-expanding) state governments.

20) Conor Friedersdorf on the hung jury in the shooting of Walter Scott.  Utterly depressing.  Though, I guess there is something to the fact that 11 of 12 got this right.

21) Very happy 40th birthday to DJC who loves quick hits more than anybody I know.  Glad to know this post is doing a little bit for birthday happiness.


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