India Works to Stop Global Warming — Republicans Continue to Deny

Global Warming IndiaFirst it was China. And this last week, India Unveils Climate Change Plan. So now the first and third biggest greenhouse gas polluters have come out with plans to cut their emissions. In case you were wondering, we are now number two. But when it comes to per capita greenhouse emissions, we are still number one! So let's give a cheer for that:

We're number one! We're number one!

Back in August, after Obama put out new rules designed to fight global warming, the conservative reaction was not good. Marco Rubio said, "As far as I can see, China and India and other developing countries are going to continue to burn anything they can get their hands on." Of course, since the announcements of China and India, Rubio has had nothing to say. As Steve Benen said, Rubio Needs a New Excuse to Ignore the Climate Crisis.

That's true of all of them. Any reason they give for being against doing anything about global warming is nothing more than an excuse. It's like my three stages of global warming denial. But I've since learned that there are more stages, because literally no amount of information will ever stop the deniers. They simply don't want to do anything and the reasons are irrelevant.

But is this not the Republican Party since Reagan? They simply believe certain things and it doesn't matter how much evidence against it piles up. They don't accept global warming, and that is probably the most important, in the end. But they believe that tax cuts for the rich will fix the economy (I wrote about that earlier today). They believe that whatever next war they've gotten into their heads is going to turn out great. They believe that if only we make it easier for people to carry guns, our gun homicide rate will go down. It goes on and on and on.

It's not surprising that most of the things they just "know" also happen to help various wealthy interest groups. That's what it is all about. And there is no interest group more wealthy than the oil companies. So Steve Benen proposes an interesting question: what will Rubio's new excuse be? I don't think it is hard to predict. He's said other things against doing anything about global warming. He'll just pivot back to, "We can't hurt our economy!"

There will always be an excuse. And the economy is the perfect excuse because it can always be used. I've written a lot in the past that we really should have been doing something about global warming the past seven years, because lots of resources were going unused. It was a time when updating our power system would have actually helped the economy. Doing so during a booming economy will hurt it. But the Republicans will never accept this thinking. They will always be able to make the "It will hurt the economy!" argument. So they will make it — at least until crop failures and decimated coastal cities make it impossible.


Actually, I know what will happen. Eventually, there will be a new generation of Republicans who accept global warming when denial of it is as publicly supportable as denial of the Holocaust. And they will tell us that they are different from the Republicans that came before. They won't be. But the media will treat them as if they are. Because our media always does that. Because it has worked out so well thus far.


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Conservatives Can't Deal With Their Lack of Power

Jonathan ChaitI wrote that liberals have trouble handling authority. In general, we are much more comfortable fantasizing about power; the sensation of holding and using it seems to unsettle us, and we curl into ourselves with disappointment. Conservatives displayed far less grumpiness toward George W Bush than liberals have toward Obama until the very end, when Bush's presidency collapsed so irretrievably the right had to hastily abandon its largely worshipful pose and write him out of the conservative tradition in order to contain the fallout.

Conservatives in the Freedom Caucus suffer from a similar but different problem: they do not seem capable of comprehending a world in which they exert less than total power. This failure to compute leads to bursts of angry behavior that is ineffectual by design. No scalp will satisfy, not when any new head starts to look like another scalp. No Freedom Caucus member who finds himself in the party leadership can be anything but a sellout, since betrayal is the only explanation for the failure of the right-wing agenda.

—Jonathan Chait
The House's Right Flank Finally Got Boehner's Scalp. So Why Doesn’t It Feel Good?

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Why the Poor Aren't Supporting Bernie Sanders

Bernie SandersMartin Longman wants us to consider, Where Bernie Underperforms. He presented some numbers from the Pew Research Center. And there are four groups that he performs badly with: non-whites, less educated, less affluent, and more religious. But as Longman noted, these are not independent. In fact, I would say that they are exactly the same thing: Bernie Sanders doesn't do well with the poor. And poor Democrats are less educated, more religious, and less white. So let's cut the crap and talk about why Sanders does not seem to be appealing especially well to the poor.

What's weird about it is why people usually don't engage with the question. Longman asks some of the standard questions. Is it that he's Jewish? Doubtful. A northerner? Doubtful. Not religious? Doubtful. LiberalInCamo at Daily Kos had an idea in an article back in early July, Bernie Sanders' Two Big Problems: Race and Gender. That claim was, "Sanders silence on race and his tunnel vision on one political issue are problems." But I don't buy this at all. Sanders has since talked a great deal about race, but it hasn't changed his standing among non-whites.

For people of moderate incomes, a Republican getting in wouldn't be catastrophic. For the poor, it would be.

There is something that I commonly hear Republicans say that is actually true: members of minority groups care most about the economy. The idea that Latinos are single issue voters on immigration policy is just nonsense. Of course, these very same Republicans offer economic policy that hurts the vast majority of non-whites and whites. But that doesn't matter. And that certainly isn't the case with Sanders. His policies should be particularly appealing to non-white members of the society, because they are far more likely to be poor.

I've begun to wonder if there isn't skepticism toward Sanders amongst poorer people because they have learned that in this society the very best you could hope for is second best — or even just something that isn't especially horrible. Maybe Sanders' message sounds like a fairy tale. I know that it does to me — and I'm a Sanders supporter. But for the last several years, I've been trying to Demand the Impossible.

But let's consider the calculus here. Sanders would be unlikely to accomplish much more than Clinton — and might accomplish less. Both of them will be infinitely better than whomever the Republicans run. Under a Republican, things will be much worse for poor people. Given that there really are concerns about Sanders in the general election — being a "socialist" and being old and not having such a polished public persona — it's safer to go with Clinton.

As for me, despite the fact that I'm a strong Sanders supporters, I haven't decided for sure if I'm going to vote for him in the primary. If I feel that he has roughly as good a chance to win as Clinton by that time, I will vote for him. If I think he will bring down the party, I won't. But I tend to think that I will vote for him. In the end, the general election will almost certainly be what it always is: a Democrat versus a Republican. If the economy continues to grow, the Democrat will win; if it doesn't, the Republican will win.

But for normal people who don't read political science books, the safe choice is Hillary Clinton. What's more, for people of moderate incomes, a Republican getting in wouldn't be catastrophic. For the poor, it would be. And I suspect that why the poor are not jumping on the Sanders bandwagon.

See also: What Risk Is Bernie Sanders Worth?


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Why Supply Side Economics Doesn't Work

Neera TandenI came upon an old article by the President of the Center for American Progress, Neera Tanden, Burying Supply-Side Once and for All. I really liked the way that she framed the issue, because I hadn't thought about it in such stark terms. Conservatives claim that tax cuts will save us all because it will increase investment. But that isn't the way that economic stimulus works — ever.

According to the supply side dogma, we mustn't just lower taxes — we must lower taxes on the rich — the "makers." Doing so will incentivize them to work more. The theory seems pretty straight forward. Imagine that you are working 20 hours per week for $10 per hour. Your boss wants you to work more hours, but you don't want to. If she offered you $20 per hour if you worked full time, you would be far more likely to take that deal. The problem is that it isn't like this at all income levels. And an even bigger issue is that the rich get most of their money from capital gains. They aren't going to work more if their taxes are lower. And they aren't going to invest more, because they are almost certainly investing as much as the investment environment dictates.

So this isn't how stimulus works. Instead, it works by giving people more money, which they spend. Given that the rich already spend as much as they want, giving them even more money makes no sense. They will save it. And saving it will not get funneled into investments when we aren't at full employment. (Note: we are almost never at full employment.) Thus, if we are going to give money to people, we should give it to the poor, because we know that they will spend it and thus cause the money to move through the economy, doing the actual work of stimulus.

This is an excellent way to think about supply side dogma. It shows why it doesn't work. But also, it explains why conservatives say things that seem — on their face — to be ridiculous claims. When Trump and Bush and Rubio put out tax "reform" plans that are just big giveaways to the rich, it looks different to them. They think this is how you stimulate the economy. They implicitly accept the Say's Fallacy that supply creates its own demand and that any money given to the rich will automatically be invested. So it isn't like they are totally unhinged. They just have a deeply flawed theory of how the economy actually works. (Or they only care about the rich. Or both.)

The other side of this is that we have empirical data. Paul Krugman dealt with the issue in his column on Friday, Voodoo Never Dies. Supply side economics didn't even work under Ronald Reagan. The economy was good under him because of Federal Reserve policy and good old fashioned Keynesian stimulus. Under Clinton, the economy was supposed to fall apart when he raised taxes, but it didn't. It was supposed to boom because of George W Bush's huge regressive tax cuts — but instead we got anemic growth. And the economy was again supposed to die when Obama allowed top tax rates to go back up and Obamacare to start. Instead, the economy did even better.

So supply side is nonsense. But I do think it is important to understand so that you can counter conservatives. It won't do for us to talk past each other. They need to have their nonsense confronted directly. Because it is literally killing Americans.

Actually, it turns out that I had read Tanden's article before. But the article I wrote about it (and another) are worth checking out, Supply Side Dogma.

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Morning Music: Hear the Wind Howl

Mudlark - Leo KottkeIn 1971, Leo Kottke had his major label debut with Mudlark. I'm very inclined to present his 12-string version of Eight Miles High. But you can check that out on your own. Instead, we can listen to another song where he sings, "Hear the Wind Howl." The truth is, I'm not that fond of him singing. It's not that it's bad, but he is the kind of musician where you want him to just shut up and play his guitar. Of course, his playing is as great regardless of what else he's doing. That's true here where he does some beautiful slide work.

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Anniversary Post: Monty Python's Flying Circus

Monty Python's Flying CircusOn this day in 1969, the first episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus appeared on BBC One. I remember when I first discovered it, although I'm unclear what year it was — 1977 most likely. It was astounding. But I have to admit that a lot of it worked for me just because it was silly. I especially remember, Climbing the North Face of the Uxbridge Road. How could I not love that?

As I got older, I turned off to it. I started getting more of the inside humor and it seemed somewhat pretentious and always overdone. But about a year ago, I decided to revisit it. I watched the entire series in a short period of time. My first take on it was right: astounding. It's more the subtle points that impress me now. For example, the first episode of the second season, "Face the Press." It is most known for The Ministry of Silly Walks. But right at the start of that sketch, Cleese walks by a long line of delivery men — a payoff to the earlier New Cooker Sketch. It's a marvel, even today; but at that time, this approach to comedy just wasn't done.

There are things that have become so ingrained in the culture so as to be annoying. I really do find the Cleese "list" sketches hard to take. They depend entirely upon Cleese's acting, which is superb, but old hat now. These include some of the "best loved" sketches like the Dead Parrot sketch and Cheese Shop sketch. The Dead Parrot sketch has a bit right in the middle where Terry Jones says, "It's not easy to pad these up to 30 minutes." Exactly! People remember the beginning of it, but not all the wasted time of going to the brother's shop and all that. As for the Cheese Shop sketch, it ends stupidly. But I must admit it's brilliant when Cleese loses it with the musicians.

What works best for me now is when episodes hang together. I didn't know what to make of "The Cycling Tour" when I was young, but now it is one of my favorite episodes. It reminds me very much of what Palin and Jones would go on to do in Ripping Yarns. But the main thing is that in any episode — Any! — there is a tremendous amount to love. And then, of course, they went on to make three great films. Although, if you ask me, they're horrible live.

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Odds and Ends Vol 19

Odds and EndsAll day today, I've been seeing articles that I'd like to comment on but don't feel like there is enough to say for a full article. And then I thought, "What about another Odds and Ends?!" This is exactly the situation that I originally started the series for. Just the same, in this case, it may just be that I'm tired. I stayed up very late last night and then didn't sleep well. You would think it would be because I was drinking, but I was actually working. Oh well.

Peak Uber?

Michael Hiltzik brought my attention to something interesting, Has Uber Already Peaked? There is a new study out by some investment types that looked at what's going on in New York. Apparently, at this point, Uber drivers are as likely to cannibalize each other as the regular taxicab drivers. It looks like the reason for this is that Uber has saturated the market with its drivers and they quickly find that they don't make much money. It comes as no surprise that this "new economy" job — despite the fact that all the upfront costs fall on the worker — only pays about minimum wage.

Mathematical Genius

John Nash was one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century — a century that had some great minds. You know, he's the guy in A Beautiful Mind. He is known primarily for his work in game theory, and as such, he's had a great influence beyond mathematics — most especially economics. He died earlier this year at the age of 86. He was also mad as a hatter.

In 1948, Nash apparently asked physicist Richard Duffin to write him a letter of recommendation for graduate school. The letter is wonderfully on point:

Richard Duffin Recommendation Letter for John Nash

Trump Got Boring

Matt Yglesias got it exactly right in an article last week, Donald Trump Used to Be the Most Interesting Person in Politics, but His Tax Plan Made Him Boring. As I said many times around here, Trump's actual policies were better than any of the other Republicans running for president. His rhetoric was bad on certain issues, but his policies were no worse than the others. And on economics, he was talking like an actual populist. But then he brought out his tax plan and it was not qualitatively different from Jeb Bush's — it was just worse. And you have to wonder: if this is what a self-funding Republican is for, it must be that the party is not dysfunctional because of its dependence on courting billionaires. They just really believe all their supply side claptrap.

Airbnb Thinks You Should Trust It

I'll end with another Michael Hiltzik article, No surprise: That Airbnb Study of Rentals in LA Isn't What It Seems. Airbnb put out a study claiming that its influence did not incentivize the transfer of long-term rentals into short-term rentals. But the company implied that it had analyzed data with a UCLA professor, when all that he had done was go over their procedures — he's never seen the data and does not vouch for it. Of course, no one has seen the data. Airbnb won't make it available — even to government regulators. So should we trust them? The business community does not have a good record of putting out objective research that just happens to prove that the best thing is for them to do exactly what they want to do.

That's all for now folks. Have a good evening and I'll check in with you in the morning.


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Paul Bibeau's Thorough GOP Vetting Process

Paul BibeauEveryone needs a chance to meet the voting public. I think that's crucial. Whether it's a town hall-style debate where audience members pose questions, a series of formal head to head match-ups among the top contenders, or an iron cage, no-rules bloodbath where the losers are dispatched without mercy... we all want to feel these people went through a real vetting process on the way to the White House.

I'm not saying they have to fight to the death with lead pipes. It's a long process, and we have to be flexible. Maybe they could struggle to outlast each other while being hunted by wild animals in some kind of arena. The point is, we need to find out if these GOP candidates are right for America. There are a number of ways to accomplish this.

Perhaps a shark tank? I wouldn't mind a shark tank at all. I'm just brainstorming here.

With so many political outsiders, I am concerned we're not really testing these people to see how they'd govern. Carly Fiorina is a business leader, but how would she build a legislative coalition to get her policies through Congress? Ben Carson is a brilliant doctor, but what kind of science and technological policies can we expect from a creationist? And Donald Trump is a successful developer, but if he were hooded and chained up in a box slowly filling with water, would he be able to free himself in time? I need to know these things. And I don't think I'm the only one.

Paul Bibeau
For The Third GOP Debate, Will The Candidates Go At Each Other With Lead Pipes?

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Libertarianism Is Based Only on Property Rights

Matt BruenigI've long been a fan of Matt Bruenig's battles with the "serious" libertarians. What he shows is what I know from experience: libertarians don't think very deeply. It is a political ideology that appeals to people on a superficial level, because it has a certain mathematical simplicity to it. The arguments you most hear are that no one has a right to bother you if you aren't infringing on their rights. Thus, libertarians tend to be in favor of the very governmental functions that are most often used by governments to oppress their people: the military and police.

The philosophical basis of libertarianism is the non-aggression principle: the idea that one cannot initiate force against another. But what does it mean to initiate force? This is where libertarians get into so much trouble. They believe in private property. Thus, if you think you own a piece of land and I step on it, you think that I am initiating force. But if I don't accept the idea of private property, then I think you are initiating force. So the non-aggression principle is begging the question. The real issue is whether there should be private property or not. But libertarians pretty much never even mention that question — they take it as given.

So all libertarianism is left with is a particularly belligerent approach to property rights — one where a person can initiate all the aggression they like as long as they (or more likely, their ancestors) staked a claim before anyone else got there. To me, there is a real sense in libertarian thought that it works backwards from the result it is looking for. Proponents want absolute rights to their property, and so they work back to the non-aggression principle. But actually what they do is a lot of intellectual busy work that goes nowhere: I must have absolute rights to my property because I must have absolute rights to my property.

Unless we are going to get into Inequality: the Monopoly Analogy, all people born should receive an equal share of the earth's resources. Obviously, that would be pretty hard to do as a practical matter. So as a result, we as a society, have come up with other mechanisms to facilitate this — at least to a small extent. These include things like safety net programs, public education, and so on. Is that really so hard to understand? Apparently it is to libertarians. To them, it is absolutely right and fitting that Donald Trump and someone else born to poor parents on 14 June 1946 get absolutely divergent resources because of the accidents of their births.

Say what you will about aristocrats, at least they had a theory for why one's lot in life was totally random. Libertarians offer no excuse for why Trump deserved to inherit his fortune other than that history itself is a kind of God that must be worshiped. That is ultimately what the non-aggression principle means in practice: no one is to do violence to the way things are. And I fully acknowledge that in such a world, there are some born with great dis-fortune who will do well, and vise versa. But libertarianism stacks the deck heavily — providing the opposite of equality of opportunity.

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Bankruptcy Laws and the Corporate Takeover of the American Government

Robert ReichDuring my lifetime, I've seen the laws change to make personal bankruptcy get harder and harder. At the same time, corporate bankruptcy has gotten easier. It's kind of like how the banks were bailed out in 2008, but not the homeowners. The banks just had to sign a two page document to get billions of dollars in low interest loans. There was a program to help homeowners, of course; but it was incredibly difficult to qualify for. Most people didn't. And those who did spent years doing it.

That's the thing. As far as the government is concerned, there are the right kind of people and the wrong kind of people. The right kind of people are the rich and they are lavished with money because they always land on their feet. Of course, it's a bizarre kind of self-fulfilling prophecy where the government "knows" the rich are good for any help they get because the government makes sure that they get help whenever they get in trouble. Meanwhile, if you are poor, you're screwed. I once thought about applying for food stamps in the relatively liberal state of California, and I was handed a packed of about 50 pages of forms to fill out. If I had done it, I would have received about $20 per week in food.

Robert Reich wrote a very interesting article the other day, Donald Trump Proves What's Wrong with Bankruptcy Laws in America. And he provided a way of looking at corporate bankruptcy and the economy at large that I had never thought about:

People with lots of money can easily avoid the consequences of bad bets and big losses by cashing out at the first sign of trouble. Bankruptcy laws protect them. But workers who move to a place like Atlantic City for a job, invest in a home there, and build their skills have no such protection. Jobs vanish, skills are suddenly irrelevant, and home values plummet. They're stuck with the mess.

Think about about. When an individual goes bankrupt, it doesn't affect the rest of the economy that much. Yes, some creditors end up with less money. But no individual is going to make or break a credit card company. But when corporations are allowed to go bankrupt, they can destroy the lives of thousands of works -- sometimes far more. Yet our government has decided that the far more destabilizing kind of bankruptcy is the one that should be encouraged. Obviously, such policies have little to do with what is best for the nation as a whole.

Most of Reich's article is about how the finance industry has warped the law for its own gain and against the people of the nation. Long ago, there was this idea that what's good for General Motors is good for America. That certainly wasn't true -- even when it provided really good union jobs for tens of thousands of workers. But now we operate as though what is good for Goldman Sachs is good for America. And that's simply a bizarre notion.


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Morning Music: Leo Kottke

6- and 12-String Guitar - Leo KottkeI was going to get back onto my history of classical music, but it's kind of time consuming and I'm working a lot right now. Also, I was listening to Pandora the other day and a song came on that blew me away. The guitar playing was unbelievably great. So I rushed back to the computer and saw that it was Leo Kottke. That didn't surprise me. But it had been a while since I had listened to him. It's easy to forget just how awesome he is.

So let's start with a track from his first album 6- and 12-String Guitar, "Busted Bicycle." This is from a recent concert, shot on a phone. But the sound is okay and the video doesn't annoy me. What it shows is how much you can do with an open tuning. But if it weren't for his amazing right-hand picking, it just wouldn't work. That's not to say that his left hand isn't great. He makes it look easy. But then, he always does.

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Anniversary Post: SpaceShipOne

SpaceShipOneOn this day in 2004, SpaceShipOne took its last, fastest, and highest flight into space. It was the first commercial aircraft to fly in space. It was designed by Burt Rutan for his company Scaled Composites. He's an amazing guy. But the truth is that I only really know about him because I used to work for a real estate company that did most of its investing in the California desert where the company is located.

I've long wondered why it is that Elon Musk is such a big name in the world of high tech but Rutan isn't. And then I realized: Musk is a billionaire. It's not about tech. I never thought much of Musk. Other than a couple of successful — but hardly innovating — companies, what has the world gotten from him: talk. But this is America and "when you're rich, they think you really know!" It's a shame. And a sham.

But Rutan is the real deal. And he doubtless has a better life. He's been able to do what he loves. Musk shows all the signs of needing the accolades he receives. He's another Steve Jobs. And those who read me often will know that I don't mean that as a compliment.

Update 4 October 2015 7:13 pm

David Nichols mentioned in the comments that "A Satisfied Mind" would would be appropriate here. I quite agree. But we'll go with Porter Wagoner's popular version instead of Cash's:


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