October 25, 2016

"I’d always thought of him as a brother. Every time I’d see his name somewhere, it was like he was in the room." Wrote Bob Dylan about Bobby Vee.

Bobby Vee died yesterday, from Alzheimer's disease, at the age of 73. Here's the NYT obituary, which I first saw linked at my son John's Facebook page. John wrote:
I post a lot of obituaries, but this was the rare one where seeing it made me instinctively exclaim out loud: "Oh no!" I've loved his most famous song, "Take Good Care of My Baby," since I was a young child. It's quintessential early '60s, pre-Beatles pop. Bob Dylan fans in particular should read this to the end...
There's a good chance that I was the one the played him "Take Good Care of My Baby," when John was not much more than a baby. I got the idea early on that rock 'n' roll oldies were sort of children's songs. (I know the exact song that caused this idea: "Ya Ya" by Lee Dorsey.) I bought many rock 'n' roll oldies cassettes and we played them in the car all the time, and I guess "Take Good Care of My Baby" was in there somewhere. I wonder if we talked about the lyrics (which were written by Carole King).
Take good care of my baby
Be just as kind as you can be
And if you should discover
That you don't really love her
Just send my baby back home to me
I can imagine myself saying something like Why does Bobby Vee think that the other man has the power to send the woman where he chooses to send her? Wouldn't the woman just go where she wants to go? And why would she want to go back to Bobby Vee when he admits he cheated on her?

As for the Bob Dylan connection, for us big Bob Dylan fans, the first thing we think of when we hear "Bobby Vee" is "Bob Dylan." Here's what Bob Dylan wrote about Bobby Vee in his great book "Chronicles: Volume One":

A New Yorker headline denies the humanity of Clarence Thomas.

"Clarence Thomas's Twenty-Five Years Without Footprints." I would have avoided that metaphor, which denies the black man's bodily existence.

The word "footprints" does not exist in the text of the short column by Jeffrey Toobin, whose point is only that Justice Thomas hasn't written the majority opinion in significant cases. That doesn't say much of anything about the heft of Justice Thomas's presence. The Chief Justice or, if the Chief Justice is not in the majority, the senior Justice in the majority decides who will write the opinion, and the person who assigns the opinion tends to take the most important cases for himself.

Toobin writes:
Neither Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who presided over Thomas’s first fourteen years on the Court, nor Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., who has run the court for the past eleven, ever assigned Thomas a landmark opinion for the Court... The truth is that Rehnquist and Roberts never trusted Thomas to write an opinion in a big case that could command a majority of even his conservative colleagues.
How does Toobin know enough to speak about "trust"? Perhaps he's merely relying on Thomas predilection for strong originalist principle:
Why was this? It is because Thomas is not a conservative but, rather, a radical... an extreme originalist... guided exclusively by his own understanding of what the words of the Constitution mean... His vision is more reactionary than that of any Justice who has served on the Court since the nineteen-thirties...
Originalism and adherence to text is a bad thing in Toobin's view, but to describe it is to destroy the assertion in the headline. These are very distinct footprints.
Thomas was a young man of forty-three when he joined the Court, and he is now sixty-eight. His views, which never really found favor even in the years of conservative ascendancy, appear headed even further from the mainstream....
If the marks he's left appear headed somewhere, then metaphorically, they are footprints.

"Can you believe someone would put that many Trump signs so close together on our roads? It’s so rude. Who is this jerk?"

That's Betta Stothart — a writer and publicist living in Falmouth, Maine — describing — in The Washington Post — what she and "a bunch of moms" were thinking as they were "grousing about" the proliferation of "Donald Trump signs along our version of Main Street." She says:
We felt assaulted by the number of signs. The idea of "cleansing" our streets seemed like the fastest way to restore balance and alleviate our election stress — at least, that night it did.

The escapade was not premeditated: We simply jumped into my Jetta wagon, drove down to the strip and got to work. In all, it took less than 20 minutes. 
That is premeditated, lady. You discussed it in a group, and you had to get in the car — I call bullshit on "jumped" — and drive to another location, and you engaged in an activity that took 20 minutes.
We grabbed about 40 signs and threw them in the hatchback. I hadn’t really thought about what I would do with the signs; I just wanted them gone. At the time, we believed we were doing the right thing. There were so many Trump signs up and down our main drag — it was destroying all sense of equilibrium in our community.

Anyway, they got caught by the police. Is that any surprise? They were doing something that took 20 minutes! 
The officer was kind, informing us that we had stolen someone else’s personal property, which had not really entered into my mind while I was doing it.
How could it not enter your mind that the signs belonged to someone else? She describes her mind as the mind of an insane person: Someone else's speech was assaulting her mind and destroying all sense of equilibrium, as if she had to protect the inside of her own head where she never dreamed anyone else could own property. But it wasn't really only in her own head, as the policeman kindly informed her.
Reflecting back, I realize that I momentarily snapped. 
Temporary insanity. For 20+ minutes.
But there was a deeper reason for my anger than just the signs. 
Yes, your anger is deep... in a way that makes it moral, flips it into the good:
Over the past several weeks, grasping the depth of Trump’s predatory behavior toward women throughout his adult life (and even worse, his denial of it) has simply become unbearable. I became unhinged.
She's running with this I-was-literally-crazy argument. But Trump is worse, because he assaulted women. As if she were protecting women by stealing signs. Stothart proceeds to tell her personal story of "a powerful man using his position of wealth and influence to demean my integrity and put my job at risk."
[O]ne day, he called to proposition me to enter an illicit “relationship” with him where he would fly me around the world to exclusive resorts. For sex.

“You’re not the marrying type of woman,” he told me. “I never see you having a family of your own, so I have an offer for you.” He described how good he was in bed. I wouldn’t regret it, he said. It would be “our little secret” and “worth my while.”
So a man at work asked you out? How is that like the stories of Trump and sexual assault? He didn't impose himself any more than asking her out — on a huge date, to be sure (who gets asked on dates of that magnitude?) — he took her statement that she "needed 'to think about it'" as a basis to withdraw the offer.
I should have told him to go to hell. Instead, I told my boyfriend (now husband) about it and buried the secret. I was silenced, until now.
Why would someone who refused a sexual invitation feel she had a "secret" that needed to be told? If she really believed this rich and powerful person has a modus operandi that unfairly burdens women in the workplace, she should have spoken up for the sake of the other women. How was she "silenced"? She's raising this story now to bolster her claim of some sort of a temporary insanity defense to a crime that she plainly admits she committed — a crime not only against property but against another citizen's freedom of speech. She's trying to flip herself up onto the moral high ground.

She has a "source of my rage" she says, and: "It’s why I committed a crime. Yes, I was acting out... But at the time, my act felt strangely liberating..." It's like the generic formula for a fictional criminal character. Something long ago made him very angry, and when he finally burst free into outright transgression, he felt, at long last, liberated. That works in murder stories. That would work for terrorists. In fiction.

Stothart also takes refuge in the time-honored I'm-not-the-only-one defense, discovered by every child that ever got caught red-handed:
As I prepare for a mid-December appearance before a judge in the Cumberland County Courthouse, I am realizing that I’m not the only one going to extremes this fall. There have been Trump sign thefts in Maine and Massachusetts. Trump supporters’ cars were actually vandalized recently in Bangor. Violence at campaign events is now commonplace, and worse, a bomb went off in a North Carolina Republican Party office. The level of agitation — and fear — is rising daily, on both sides.
But, like a good, old-fashioned, square Hollywood movie, this story ends with a crime-does-not-pay message: "It’s not worth it."

But would it have been worth it if she hadn't been caught? And will it become worth it if the Cumberland County judge looks at this nice lady — who had a bad day and expressed herself so feelingly in a high-tone newspaper — and that judge says: Good thing you learned what you did was wrong, and now, don't do that again?

I'm getting ready to hate the new President, and it's a good thing too.

What a golden age we live in. Maybe it doesn't look that way to you now, but looking back, you will see it. We love Obama, the person. Oh, maybe some of you only like him, but you've got to at least like him, the most likeable person who ever ambled onto the American political scene.

I mean, I know some of you hate him, personally, but you are a tiny group. Those who don't like Obama's policies and his methods still overwhelmingly like or love Obama the man.

You might not notice this pleasant feeling, but you will. Just as you don't notice physical comfort and mental peace, you will notice when it's gone. And the feeling of loving the President is about to become very obvious, because we are not going to love the new President.

But that's a good thing. We need our distance, so we can look critically at what is being done to us and to the world. We're going to feel bad — even those of us who vote for the winner — and we should. It will keep us alert.

I haven't had the feeling of hating the President since early 2001, when George W. Bush first took over. Unfortunately, I lost that hating feeling later that year. I'm getting ready to hate the new President, and I don't want a repeat of 2001. I don't want to have to lose that feeling of critical distance from the President of the United States, and I know exactly the kind of thing that could wreck it for me again.

Here's the post where I reject the term "false equivalence."

First, is it "equivalence" or "equivalency"? The Ngram says "equivalence":

The 2 words are equivalent, and neither is wrong. I'm just noticing that there are 2 words and interested in picking one and being consistent. It's not a word I've used much in the 12-year history of this blog. It appears almost only in quotes and almost always when someone is saying "false equivalenc[e/y]" (or "moral equivalenc[e/y]").

It occurs to me that "false equivalence" is a bad expression. What's "false" about thinking 2 things are alike? You might falsely claim that 2 things are identical, but if you are just putting 2 things side by side and saying they are similar when there are also differences, you don't deserve to be accused of falsehood. Maybe "equivalence" is the wrong word. If you haven't said the 2 things are exactly equal, you don't deserve to be said to have asserted that there is "equivalence." To concentrate on the word "false" in the phrase "false equivalence" is to get distracted, perhaps by taking offense at the pejorative.

I'm drawn into this language issue by an off-line discussion of the alleged sexual misdeeds of Donald Trump and Bill Clinton. In case you are wondering.

Anyway, looking at my own archive, I don't think I've ever accused anyone of relying on "false equivalence," but I have discussed the usage. For example, in June 2014, David Brock was trying to convince rich liberals to spend big money on politics even as he was lambasting the Koch Brothers (nonliberals) for spending big money on politics:
“You’re not in this room today trying to figure out how to rig the game so you can be free to make money poisoning little kids, and neither am I... Subscribing to a false moral equivalence is giving the Kochs exactly what they want: keeping us quiet about what they’re doing to destroy the very fabric of our nation."
And I said: 
His idea is: Since the Democrats are in politics to do what is good and the Kochs want what is bad, there's a "false equivalence." Seeing the false equivalence — I observe — requires that you look at the end and not the means.
The phrase "false equivalence" is very common rhetoric these days. Watch out for it. I think it's being used to inhibit comparisons. But there is nothing wrong — nothing false — about comparisons. You just need to be perceptive and honest about how much alike things are. Those who say "false equivalence" are really saying they'd prefer to call attention to the differences or for you to just not bother them with a comparison that makes them uncomfortable.

One last thing. There are different reasons to resist someone's saying 2 things are alike. There's the familiar political argument. X criticizes Y's candidate, Y says X's candidate did the same kind of thing, X wants to get back to the problem with Y's candidate, and the phrase "false equivalence" seems like the tool for the job.

But quite apart from politics, there are different psychological orientations. I'm thinking of lumpers and splitters:
A "lumper" is an individual who takes a gestalt view of a definition, and assigns examples broadly, assuming that differences are not as important as signature similarities. A "splitter" is an individual who takes precise definitions, and creates new categories to classify samples that differ in key ways.
Some people see similarities much more than differences, and for other people differences predominate. I tend to see the ways we're all alike, but there are other people who look for ways to segment us off into little groups. I think I'm more of a lumper but to say that is to be something of a splitter, no? Those other people are splitters. It makes no sense. Or, yes, I see how it does, I need to see how it does. I don't think there are lumpers and splitters. That's too splitter-y for me. I think we're much more alike than different, but if you think we are more different, that's okay too, as long as you don't accuse me of falsehood for saying that we are more alike.

October 24, 2016

The Presidential Poetry Slam.

(If you don't have a lot of patience for this kind of humor, at least scroll forward to 3:45 and watch from there. I'll just say this post gets the insect politics tag.)

I'm getting a kick out of "The 281 People, Places and Things Donald Trump Has Insulted on Twitter." I don't know why.

It's just so absurd — 281 people, places, and things — all with at least one insult, some with it looks like 100 insults, and a hot link for each insult, sometimes the same insult over and over, like every time he called Hillary "crooked" and the 3 times he called Karl Rove a "clown." Some targets have only one insult, like Neil Young, who's a "total hypocrite" — hot-linked to a tweet with a photograph...

How much does a handshake mean? That you are friends? I guess Neil told him not to play his song,"Rockin' in the Free World," which Trump didn't even love anyway.

"What went wrong for Gary Johnson?"

At FiveThirtyEight.

"One said, 'He grabbed me on the arm.' And she’s a porn star.... Oh, I’m sure she’s never been grabbed before."

Said Donald Trump.

At the Icee Café...


1. You can talk in the comments about anything you want. That's what "Café" in the post title means.

2. Please consider doing your shopping through the Althouse Amazon Portal (which you can always find in the banner to this blog) or the Amazon search box in the sidebar. The Amazon Associates program is the main way this blog is monetized, and your support for the writing I do here is noticed and appreciated.

3. Why did I take a picture of an Icee truck? I'm fascinated by the brand name "Icee," which I'd only ever noticed before in crossword puzzles, where it is one of those words — like aloe and oreo and aria — that have convenient letters and are used way too much. And I liked the graphic design — the way the product flows splashily indicating forward motion of the truck (even when the truck is parked).

"Last night’s episode of Saturday Night Live exposed the harsh truth of Halloween as an adult..."

"... and it was frankly a little too real."

ADDED: In case you don't have the patience to watch the clip: It shows 3 young women being cutesy about getting ready for Halloween, intercut with scenes from much later in the night where they are falling-down drunk.

I've observed the transition of Halloween into an adult holiday, including some really high-quality manifestations of the trend — most notably the parades in Greenwich Village in the 1970s. And I'm fine with the street parties like Madison's Freakfest. But the adult enthusiasm for Halloween strikes me as just dumb. Why isn't the popular culture more interesting?

As for drinking too much: Don't do that. Actually, I'm surprised that SNL is getting away with doing humor that is basically just showing women getting very drunk. That used to be a staple of TV comedy... Foster Brooks, Dean Martin...

... but I'd thought that had fallen out of favor — what with alcoholism being a disease.

Tom Hayden died yesterday.

He was 76. Here's the NYT obituary:
In 1961, Mr. Hayden joined the Freedom Riders on interstate buses in the South, challenging authorities who refused to enforce the Supreme Court’s rulings banning segregation on public buses. His jailhouse draft of what became the 25,000-word S.D.S. manifesto was debated, revised and formally adopted at the organization’s first convention, in Port Huron, Mich., in 1962.

“We are people of this generation,” it began, “bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit.” It did not recommend specific programs but attacked the arms race, racial discrimination, bureaucracy and apathy in the face of poverty, and it called for “participatory democracy” and a society based on “fraternity,” “honesty” and “brotherhood.”...
Much more at the link, including this, about the part of his life he shared with Jane Fonda:
Although Ms. Fonda was a wealthy movie star and financially supported Mr. Hayden’s early political career, she and Mr. Hayden lived for years in a modest home in Santa Monica, near but not on the ocean. They did their own shopping and laundry, cooked meals in a tiny kitchen with an old stove and shared child-care duties for Troy and Vanessa....
ADDED: I think I've only written about Tom Hayden once before on this blog, in this May 20, 2007 post "Roberts Rules of Order and 60s radicals." Yeah, Roberts Rules of Order....

"In reality, there is no such thing as not voting..."

"If you are bored and disgusted by politics and don't bother to vote, you are in effect voting for the entrenched Establishments of the two major parties, who please rest assured are not dumb, and who are keenly aware that it is in their interests to keep you disgusted and bored and cynical and to give you every possible reason to stay at home doing one-hitters and watching MTV on primary day. By all means stay home if you want, but don't bullshit yourself that you're not voting. In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard's vote."

A quote from David Foster Wallace, stumbled into while looking for a list of people famous for not voting.

I'm still looking for a good list of famous people who don't vote. I found a list of 10 from 2012 (in Mental Floss). It includes Zachary Taylor:
Before “Old Rough and Ready” was elected president in 1848, he had never voted. This can partly be explained by Taylor’s constant relocation as a soldier; he never established residency and never registered to vote. But our 12th president also reportedly claimed that he would never want to vote against a potential commander-in-chief—even when his name was on the ballot.
There was this "Don't Vote" hipsterism in 2008, which I can't put up with long enough to figure out how it turns into a pitch to vote for Obama...

... but it does make me think that we are not getting the kind of celebrity videos for Hillary that we got for Obama in '08. But we must be getting some, because there's this:

Okay. Working backwards from that I got to this.

How did that escape me?

Bob Kerrey says Trump is putting out "the geezer cynic" message that you shouldn't get involved because the voting is rigged.

Former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey was on CNN's "State of the Union" yesterday. The host Jake Tapper had asked him whether election rigging was "something you worried about... except from the other side of the aisle." I think that translates to: Did you ever worry about Democrats rigging elections?
KERREY: I mean, the big thing you always worry about whether people will register and get out to vote. No, never worried about rigging of any election I've ever been a part of.
Another guest, Dana Loesch (of The Blaze) observed that if a candidate (like Trump) says the vote is rigged, it might make your own supporters feel that they shouldn't bother voting. This prompts Kerrey to say something that made me want to write this blog post:
KERREY: There's also sort of a tendency of older people, and I can speak on behalf of older people in this town.... There's a tendency as you go through life to become bitter. The one thing I don't like is when you listen to old people telling young people, don't get involved. Don't participate. The whole system is rigged. It isn't rigged. It's terrific to get involved. There's great opportunity to be involved. Both Republican and Democrat. I've rarely talked to anybody that got involved in politics who said it was (INAUDIBLE). So the central message [Trump]'s putting out there is sort of the geezer cynic don't get involved because the whole thing does work. It does work.
1. I'd put a hyphen between "geezer" and "cynic" because (I think) it's used as an adjective. Trump is putting out a geezer-cynic message.

2. Is "it's all rigged" the kind of belief that should be associated with old and cynical people? It is something Bernie Sanders has also said this year, and though he himself is an old man, his message was appealing to young people.

3. Should young people turn away from a message because it is the sort of thing that older people come to believe? Does that make it toxic or, at least, dubious? Or can the young look upon older people as experienced and possibly a good source of information and wisdom?

4. Is prejudice against the old pernicious and something to be ashamed of or is it okay for Bob Kerrey to use the term "geezer" in mockery? Kerry identifies himself as one of the old people, so perhaps he's claiming a privilege to put old people down because he's one of them. But he's not embracing the ideas he's ascribing to the "geezer cynic." He expresses optimism, and he never refers to himself as a "geezer optimist."

5. Is there a natural process in aging that causes a person to distance himself from the affairs of the world and to begin to cede the decisions to younger people? If that is what is happening, why see it as cynicism if old people withdraw?

"A climate scientist who studied glaciers died in Antarctica on Saturday when the snowmobile he was riding went into a 100-foot-deep crevasse..."

"... according to the National Science Foundation, which was funding his research."
The researcher, Gordon Hamilton, died on White Island in the continent’s Ross Archipelago, according to the University of Maine, where he was an associate research professor in the glaciology group at the Climate Change Institute. He was 50....

Dr. Hamilton was camped out with his research team on what is known as the Shear Zone, an area about 3 miles by 125 miles where two ice shelves meet. While parts of the Shear Zone can be up to 650 feet thick, the area is “intensely crevassed,” according to the National Science Foundation.

At the time of the accident, Dr. Hamilton’s team was working with an operations team to identify crevasses in the area, some of which were found and filled earlier in the week. Both teams included experts familiar with the area and with glacial safety.
Here's a video from 2013, showing Gordon Hamilton explaining his work:

"I can’t think of a better job or another job I would rather be doing."

Is SNL's "Black Jeopardy" racist?

It's very funny and has a significant point to make — that lower class black and white people are more alike than different — but that doesn't make it not racist:

This is from last Saturday's show, with Tom Hanks, and — looking for commentary on it — I am reminded that the "Black Jeopardy" idea has been used before, but, in earlier variations, the third contestant — the one who doesn't fit the stereotype of a lower class black person — was unable to understand the questions in the stereotypically lower-class-black-person way that was easy for the other 2 contestants. There was Drake, the Canadian black person, and Louis C.K. as a white African-American studies professor. This past week, the contestant who seemed not to belong (because he was white), was, in fact, able to get all the answers.

Tom Hanks's lower-class white man wore a "Make America Great Again" hat, and this led one commentator, Daniel Barna at Complex to say:
There may not be as big a difference between Trump supporters and the black community after all. That was the clever premise behind Saturday Night Live's "Black Jeopardy" sketch, which saw last night's host Tom Hanks don a red “Make America Great Again” cap as Doug, a pretty docile Trumpeteer who gives all other Trumpeteers a good name.
Docile. Well, I guess the point is that SNL viewers were invited to perceive the disaffected white people who turn to Trump as sympathetic because they remind us of black people — even though the black people he's like — the other "Black Jeopardy" contestants — have clownishly rude and ignorant ideas. I wouldn't call them docile. They are angry, suspicious, and proud of themselves — in a manner similar to the stereotypical Trumpster.

Here's Daniel Politi at Slate:
[T]his episode of “Black Jeopardy” looked to be an easy setup to mercilessly mock Trump supporters at every turn. Instead, it revealed that conspiracy theorist Doug had a lot more in common with the other contestants—Leslie Jones as Shanice and Sasheer Zamata as Keeley—than most people would have likely expected....
Oh! I thought I was going to get some serious analysis here. Actually, this goes nowhere. I had the feeling that people were talking about this sketch, but I'm not finding any depth to the analysis.

To me, the sketch is too racist to just point at and call funny. It relies on a stereotype of black people.

It's also too serious not to want to talk seriously about. The serious point is something I've heard — mostly from left-wing people — for decades: That what really matters is not race but class. This orientation is important going forward out of the 2016 election, because the Trumpsters have peeled away from the establishment Republican Party. Where will they go after Trump loses the election? (I know, I'm assuming, but come on.) Shouldn't the people who coalesced around Bernie Sanders be looking to embrace the disaffected, working-class white people who turned to Trump? I could see the 2 parties flipping and re-composing themselves, with half of each party connecting with half of the other. Maybe nobody wants to talk about this until after the election is over. But no: I do. I want to talk about it.

ADDED: Meade wanted me to address the "punchline" of the sketch. The "final Jeopardy" category is announced: "Lives that matter." The black host and contestants turn and stare at Hanks. This happens after Hanks had won their enthusiastic approval and inclusiveness. The host then laughs and says: "Well, it was good while it lasted." The audience laughs a lot. Hanks's Doug mutters that he has a lot to say about that, and the host (Keenan Thompson) brushes him off.

This could be taken to mean that the idea that had been developed — that working-class people should see what they have in common and get together — was all just a fantasy that everyone entertained for a while and now we're getting back to the reality of hostility and deep-seated suspicion.

But I saw the ending as similar to the ending of the great old "Theodoric of York" SNL sketch from 1978. In that sketch, Steve Martin plays a "medieval barber" who, in the end, gets the idea of using the scientific method to understand disease and discover treatments. Then there's a pause and the sketch ends with him saying: "Nah!"

That doesn't mean that the "nah" was the right answer. It's patently wrong, but Theodoric made progress toward the right answer before he threw it away. Thus, the last line isn't necessarily the insight the writers want you to take with you. That line could be the funny-sad experience of the characters losing an insight that you have received and should not forget. Indeed, the characters' loss of the insight could reinforce its value as you feel the poignancy of their losing it.

Why does The New Yorker's endorsement of Hillary Clinton praise something it recently published a piece rejecting?

John Althouse Cohen writes:
The New Yorker's endorsement of Hillary Clinton praises her for planning to "increase the tax rate on short-term capital gains for high earners, with lower rates for longer-term holdings." Why wasn't the New Yorker convinced by its own article against this plan?
Here's the editorial endorsing Hillary Clinton. This is all there is on the topic, with the proposal lumped together with a handful of things:
Clinton’s tax plans are also designed to promote broader-based affluence. She would increase the tax rate on short-term capital gains for high earners, with lower rates for longer-term holdings; close the “carried-interest” tax loophole that favors hedge-fund managers; and levy fees on banks with high debt levels....
Here's the James Surowiecki article — published by The New Yorker in August 2015 — "The Short-Termism Myth":
The political appeal of [Hillary Clinton's] plan is clear. It targets wealthy investors, is friendly to executives, and is aimed at getting companies to spend more money. Unfortunately, it almost certainly won’t work. The simplest reason for this is that the plan would affect only a small slice of the market. Len Burman, a tax expert at the Urban Institute, told me, “The plan’s unlikely to have a major impact on stock prices, since most of the money in the market is controlled by institutions that don’t pay capital-gains taxes, like endowments and pension funds.” Burman also made the point that pushing people to hold stocks they would rather sell is hardly conducive to productive investment. “Even if short-termism is the problem, locking people into unprofitable transactions for long periods of time doesn’t really seem like a great solution,” he said.

Aside from these practical problems, the plan rests on two common but ultimately questionable assumptions. The first is that corporate decision-makers care only about the short term. The second is that it’s the stock market that makes them think this way. These assumptions are widely shared and long-standing, in both business and academe...
I'm just putting this problem out there, not expressing an opinion. Who am I to disagree with "assumptions... widely shared and long-standing, in both business and academe"?

October 23, 2016

Robby Mook's sleight of hand about the Democratic operatives who manufactured violence at Trump rallies.

On CNN's "State of the Union" this morning, Jake Tapper confronted Robby Mook (Clinton's campaign manager) about Robert Creamer and Scott Foval, the 2 Democratic operatives who "were caught on tape talking about instigating violence at a Trump rally."
TAPPER: Have you looked into whether or not Democratic operatives paid by the Democratic National Committee were actually instigating these horrific actions, these violent actions we saw at Trump rallies? That's -- I'm sure you would agree, if that's true, that's really offensive.

MOOK: Well, violence is unacceptable. These individuals no longer have a relationship with the DNC. They have never had a relationship with the Clinton campaign. And my understanding is that the events that are referenced happened, I think, in February of last year. They didn't have a contract with the DNC until June. 
That doesn't get the DNC off the hook. Why were these people hired? They did something, and then they were hired. Were they hired because they'd shown what kind of dirty tricks they were capable of?
MOOK: But, putting that all aside, this was, again, a video that was leaked out for the purpose of damaging the campaign. It's edited, so we don't know what the full context is. And there is -- there's no evidence whatsoever that we have been able to find that anyone ever did anything like this when they were working for the DNC. 
Mook sounds so guilty there. He's mad that any video exists (because it hurts his candidate), and he's also telling us not to make any inferences about anything that isn't proved by video. Again, I'm thinking: They did something bad before they were agents of the DNC, so why did the DNC hire them and what did they do?

Lake Mendota, today.


"[B]illions of ordinary web-connected devices — many of them highly insecure — can be turned to vicious purposes."

"And the threats will continue long after Election Day for a nation that increasingly keeps its data in the cloud and has oftentimes kept its head in the sand...."
[H]undreds of thousands, and maybe millions, of... security cameras and other devices have been infected with a fairly simple program that guessed at their factory-set passwords — often “admin” or “12345” or even, yes, “password” — and, once inside, turned them into an army of simple robots. Each one was commanded, at a coordinated time, to bombard a small company in Manchester, N.H., called Dyn DNS with messages that overloaded its circuits....

[I]t is not clear in the United States who is supposed to be protecting [the Internet]. The network does not belong to the government — or really to anyone...

The Department of Homeland Security is supposed to provide the baseline of internet defense for the United States.... The F.B.I. investigates breaches, but that takes time....

Most of the devices have been hooked up to the web over the past few years with little concern for security. Cheap parts, some coming from Chinese suppliers, have weak or no password protections, and it is not obvious how to change those passwords....
But "the internet of things" sounds so cute. All the cute stuff will be rallied by... whoever it is out there issuing commands.

Maybe President Hillary will fix it. She's got years of experience in this area.