Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Lesley Stahl Uncovers the Russian Plot to Steal America


This article is hilarious:

I love this exchange:

Brad Parscale: Yeah, Facebook employees would show up for work every day in our offices.

Lesley Stahl: Whoa, wait a minute. Facebook employees showed up at the Trump headquarters --

Brad Parscale: Google employees, and Twitter employees.

Lesley Stahl: They were embedded in your campaign?

Brad Parscale: I mean, like, they were there multiple days a week, three, four days a week, two days week, five days a week --

Lesley Stahl: What were they doing inside? I mean --

Brad Parscale: Helping teach us how to use their platform. I wanna get --

Lesley Stahl: Helping him get elected?

Brad Parscale: I asked each one of them by email, I wanna know every, single secret button, click, technology you have. "I wanna know everything you would tell Hillary's campaign plus some. And I want your people here to teach me how to use it."

Lesley Stahl: Inside?

Brad Parscale: Yeah, I want 'em sittin' right next to us --

Lesley Stahl: How do you know they weren't Trojan Horses?

Brad Parscale: 'Cause I'd ask 'em to be Republicans, and I'd -- we'd talk to 'em.

Lesley Stahl: Oh, you only wanted Republicans?

Brad Parscale: I wanted people who support Donald Trump from their companies.

Lesley Stahl: And that's what you got?

Brad Parscale: Yeah. They already have divisions set up that way.

Lesley Stahl: What do you mean?

Brad Parscale: They already have groups of people in their political divisions that are Republican and Democrat.

Lesley Stahl: You're kidding?

Brad Parscale: Yeah, they're businesses, they are publicly traded companies with stock price.

Lesley Stahl: Did Hillary's campaign have someone embedded --

Brad Parscale: I had heard that they didn't accept any of their offers.

Lesley Stahl: So you're saying Facebook and the others offered an embed, and they said no.

Brad Parscale: That's what I've heard.

People in the Clinton campaign confirmed that the offer was made and turned down. 

Someday, the Dems will be just as embarrassed by this Russian nonsense as Republicans are embarrassed by the Obama is a Kenyan nonsense, meaning never.


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Net Neutrality


I'm reading Thomas Hazlett's "The Political Spectrum." So far Hazlett has chronicled the FCC's opposition to FM radio, broadcast TV, local TV, low power FM, cable TV, opposition that retarded the growth of those industries for decades. Now I'm up to the Mayflower and Fairness Doctrines.

During the New Deal, FDR was angry newspaper owners who also controlled radio stations were opposing his program. Hazlett writes:

...opposition to an outright ban on newspaper ownership of radio stations still ran high in Congress. The Commission sharpened its focus. If it could not force anti—New Deal publishers to sell their stations, perhaps it could mute their editorializing. It did so via the “Mayflower Doctrine,” establishing that information delivered via radio, including news, must be presented “fairly” and “objectively.”

The policy was targeted at the unabashedly right-wing Yankee Network, owner of three radio stations in New England, including WAAB in Boston. The network ran commentary from the likes of Father Charles Coughlin, an outspokenly anti-Semitic cleric suspected of pro-Nazi sympathies, whose ideology had drifted from the radical left to the extreme right. By the late 19305 he had found his voice as a staunch critic of “Franklin Double-crossing Roosevelt.” [16] In 1939, when WAAB’s license came up for renewal, Mayflower Broadcasting filed a competing application. The challenge was dismissed for factual misrepresentations, but Fly’s FCC took the opportunity to send a warning to the Yankee Network by scheduling a renewal hearing. While the Commission elected not to withdraw the station’s license, it issued an ominous nonendorsement:

Radio can serve as an instrument of democracy only when devoted to the communication of information and the exchange of ideas fairly and objectively presented. Indeed, as one licensed to operate in the public domain the licensee has assumed the obligation of presenting all sides of important public questions, fairly, objectively and without bias. The public interest-not the private—is paramount. [17]

Yankee got the message and promised to stop editorializing. Enshrined as policy, the Mayflower Doctrine implicitly forbade all other broadcast licensees to editorialize. Anti—New Deal station owners were silenced. Mission accomplished.
 I suppose some still think it's a good idea for the government to determine what should and shouldn't be said on radio and TV, but I'm not one of them.

What confuses me, particularly with our current President is why some still think we should allow such power to reside in the hands of appointed bodies like the FCC. After all, if Trump is indeed a fascist or totalitarian or whatever he is being called today, why in God's name would you want to give him more power.

I rephrase the question,  why would you want to give anyone that power. I certainly don't want LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, Obama or Trump with control over what can be said, nor where. Counting on a philosopher king to wisely pass laws is foolish. Besides, if I remember my Plato correctly, the philosopher king he envisioned was a totalitarian.

As I read this book I keep asking myself why the demand by many for the FCC to impose net neutrality regulations that would allow the FCC to filter fake news, or pass judgement on new products and services and even impose price regulation. In the Hazlett telling, we've been there, done that, and it sucked.

Our penchant for nostalgia results in romanticizing an era when only three broadcasters  fed us news and entertainment. I much prefer the cacophony of today even though there are loud voices that are sometimes/often/mostly idiotic. (I'm lumping Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Sean Hannity,  Bill O'Reilly, and many others in the loud dumb bucket).

Even if the President were wise and beneficent and even if his/her FCC were the same, why would you want the FCC to have that kind of power when there's a pretty strong likelihood at some point the President and commissioners won't be as wise.


Friday, March 9, 2018

A True Steel Story


Recently I listened to a CEO of a company that uses steel as an input for a product that is sold globally. The company has two facilities, one in the US, the other in Europe. The CEO was asked about the impact of the steel tariffs on his business. He wasn't sure. On the one hand, steel prices would rise, so he would have to increase the price of his end product. But, he has two facilities. So maybe, he said, he would bid projects with his European facility and avoid the tariffs.

Perfect. Trump increases tariffs to "save" the US steel industry. In this example, however, not only does the consumer NOT buy US steel, but it moves manufacturing to a different country in order to avoid the higher steel prices.

When government interferes with the price mechanism it creates all sorts of perverse outcomes. Like when it artificially increases the price of labor with minimum wages or mandatory paid maternity leave the result is a decrease in demand for the very labor it is "protecting."

Economic ignorance is a true bipartisan accomplishment.


Thursday, March 8, 2018

When Trump and Sanders Agree, It has to be Monumentally Wrong.


Bernie and Trump agree on trade.
"We need to fundamentally rethink our trade policies and move to fair trade rather than just unfettered free trade,” Sanders told The Daily Beast in an interview on Wednesday afternoon. “So Trump is identifying a problem. Certainly China’s role in dumping an enormous amount of steel, not only in the United States, but all over the world, is very very clear. It has to be dealt with.”

Maybe mercantilism and socialism are similar ideologies. Both bad for consumers, wages, growth, innovation etc.


Monday, March 5, 2018

Trump's Trade Wars


My view on tarriff's is not much different than many who oppose them. Like these guys: Economists Against Smoot-Hawley. Or this guy: “We’ll Injure Ourselves If You Injure Yourself!

I was hoping the knee-jerk Anti-Trumpians protectionists like Rosa De Lauro and Sherrod Brown would automatically oppose these misguided taxes on consumers, but alas, no.

It's an odd thing to me that people who mostly see the benefit of allowing consumers to buy groceries from whatever retailer serves them best find it anathema to allow consumers of steel and aluminum to buy from whatever retailer serves them best because: "unfair trade," and "jobs." It matters little to them that if I am forced to pay more for a product with steel in it I'll be forced to forgo consumption of some other product, so the job saved/job lost calculus is murky, at best. And "fair?" China wants to tax their citizens in order to give me cheap steel. We'll make that "fair" by increasing prices for our consumers. It's odd logic.

It is futile to expect politicians, of any party to be economically literate. Reagan imposed tariffs on autos, and my guess is all of them have done some sort of silly market distorting action like minimum wages, tariffs, supporting one industry over another, "green" energy for instance. Economic ignorance is a true bipartisan achievement.

I have little sympathy for those in Congress bemoaning the President's actions. The Constitution gave tariff power to Congress, not the President. Then Congress passed legislation giving that power to the President. Don't like it? Change it.

No President or Congress will get it right completely. I just hope they get more right than wrong. So far, in my opinion, Trump and the GOP have gotten more right. But it's early.


Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Nothing Is Permanent Except Loss


My neighbor died last week. He was in his late 80s. He was was old new England Yankee who took over his father's medical practice after graduating from Harvard, in an era when local boys from my hometown an hour south of Boston were admitted regularly, and getting into Harvard depended more on family and social ties and not an unpredictable mix of increasing exotic qualities. He was a deeply elegant man and a passionate sailor who owned salmon colored cat boat with a gaff rig anchored in the cove outside the backyard of the beachfront home my father built in 1962 for fifty thousand dollars. 

In my mind a summer morning begins with the sun glittering across the cove, and the mast of the boat reflecting across the water like a long line casting for fish. He would appear later in the morning with his stately gait and his understated elegance and grace. There might be the pleasure of a short chat which always left me  a bit more optimistic, about everything . I have a picture of the boat at sunrise in my office. Its a touchstone.

He would never die, I thought, somewhat foolishly. But last Spring his bone marrow decided it had made enough red cells for one lifetime, and he became transfusion dependent. Subsequently, a pericardial effusion developed and he declined to have it drained. In the words of his wife of 50+ years, "He dressed every day and did his usual routine as best he could.  I am happy to report that he died himself."

The boat's been sold. This Sping it will no longer grace the cove. There will just be the endless expense of ocean, and a hole inside my heart that will not likely fill in


Tuesday, February 27, 2018


The table is from Mark Perry's column at AEI, "America’s top 10 inbound vs. top 10 outbound states: How do they compare on a variety of tax burden, business climate, fiscal health and economic measures?" I'm typically skeptical of these types of presentations since it's easy to pick the things that support your argument and ignores the things that don't. That said, an interesting table. North Dakota in the outbound states probably due to the oil recession in 2016. It would be interesting to see how much of the migration is retirement driven (AZ, FL, NV, the Carolinas). I was struck by how similar the unemployment rates were in the two groups, and how different the employment growth was. But employment growth is a function of both labor demand and supply.