Monday, December 11, 2017

Too good to be true

I think during the Obama years, Fox News lost any pretense that it was a legitimate news source for people outside its own conservative bubble. For a surprisingly long time before that, people treated it as a serious source, even if they acknowledged its rightward slant. Nowadays, I don't think people view it as merely a slant and the overall credibility of the channel is more in question than it used to be.

And yet Fox News polls are still taken seriously across the political spectrum. Unlike the newscast, they are generally not seen as propaganda, they are reported by other (more respectable IMHO) news sources, and are included in the polling averages at places that try to be objective like 538 and Real Clear Politics. (538 gives the Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Corps. polls a "B" in terms of accuracy, and the Fox News/Anderson Robbins Research/Shaw & Company Research  polls an "A")

Still, I can't help but wonder if this poll (which is a Fox News/Anderson Robbins Research poll--the one that gets an "A" from 538) might not be something akin to a push-poll. A push-poll is when a poll is taken whose goal is not to measure the opinion of the electorate, but rather to influence how the electorate will vote, usually  by contacting people and by asking the question they suggest something bad about one of the candidates. Tomorrow's Alabama Senate race is going to be decided by turnout (aren't they all?) and none of the polling companies know exact what turnout model to use for this race because Alabama races usually are not this competitive. So maybe Fox decided to use a really pro-Jones model in the hopes that it would motivate the Moore voters to turn out the day before election day?

This is just my personal theory/wild speculation. I guess we will never know.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Look the war on coal! For real this time!!!

On his next visit will the Saudis give him another sword dance?

During the Clinton administration, Congress passed a law requiring the U.S. to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The law gives the President the right to waive its provisions and delay the move for six months if the President certifies that it is the U.S.'s interest for the delay. Although that Act passed in 1995, the move hasn't happened yet because every six months the president has used the waiver provision. That has been the pattern for twenty two years. Clinton, Bush, and Obama all decided a delay was in the best interest of the United States, as did President Trump when the waiver last came up in the Summer.

The Christian right and hyper-Zionists in the U.S. really want the U.S. to move its Tel Aviv embassy to Jerusalem. They want it so much, they think it is worth the backlash it will cause among Palestinians, Arab and Muslim allies, and, for that matter, allies outside the Muslim world. Even if you buy all that and think the benefit of moving the embassy is worth the cost, isn't this the worst of both worlds?
President Trump on Wednesday plans to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, reversing nearly seven decades of American foreign policy and setting in motion a plan to move the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to the fiercely contested Holy City.
The process of moving the embassy to Jerusalem will take several years, they noted. As a result, the president plans to sign a national security waiver that allows the administration to keep it in Tel Aviv for an additional six months.
So Trump is announcing the move will happen, thus triggering all the bad consequences of moving the embassy to Jerusalem, but then he is waiving the move anyway. Isn't that paying the costs without getting any benefit?

The Trump Administration justifies its waiver by noting that moving the embassy poses logistical issues and can't be done immediately.1 But couldn't they quietly work on those logistical issues and not announce the move until they were ready to do it? If you are going to take the backlash, you might as well pull that band aid off all at once. This way they are just prolonging the process, which gives even more time for bad responses to brew.

(To be clear: I think the move is a major mistake and I see no benefit at all to having the embassy in Jerusalem before the final status of that city is decided between the parties. My point is even if I did think there was some value to moving the embassy to Jerusalem, I would not want the U.S. to do it this way)

1-I'm not sure how much that is true. The U.S. maintains a consulate in Jerusalem, I have seen it. Can they just move the ambassador's office from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem? My understanding is that would automatically downgrading the Tel Aviv office to a consulate and making the Jerusalem office an embassy? Sure, you have to change the signs, but how long would that take?)

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Republicans have given the tax issue to Democrats

For some reason, the idea that Republicans are better stewards of the economy has persisted for decades. Even the great recession collapse of 2008 did not dislodge that notion from the public's mind. I guess we can thank McConnell and Ryan for this:
In the wake of the Republican tax plan, American voters say 47 - 39 percent that the Democratic Party can do a better job handling taxes. Voters have been divided on this question in the past.

They know that "Death to Democrats" doesn't actually kill them, right?

The weirdest thing about this is the utter lack of a long-term strategy. Hitting democratic areas and constituencies with higher taxes doesn't kill of democratic voters. If anything, giving them the shaft is going to energize them to go to the polls to oppose the Republican agenda. Republicans already have a shrinking voter base because the percentage of white voters is steadily shrinking and young people increasingly don't identify as Republicans.

Payback for not voting Republican is one thing, but how can they not think this will ultimately hurt them? And if they lose a bunch of elections, all of their tax code victories could be on the line. In drafting the tax bill, they are obsessed with avoiding President Bush's mistake by having the tax changes sunset. But if you work this hard to screw segments of the population which will motivate them to vote your people out of office with a mandate to repeal the bill, the changes to the law might have a shorter life span than it would with a ten year sunset clause.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Major Fuckup

For the first time since Friday, I have hope that the Senate tax bill is not a done deal.

I thought a tax code that encourages people to spend their tax breaks is what we want

Chuck Grassley's now well-derided statement is just weird. Even if we put aside the ridiculous stereotype of and seeming bigotry against non-rich people, or his casual sexism for his tacit assumption that the only actors that matter are men,1 isn't people spending as much of their money as they can good for the economy?

Also, if he is going to lather a moral judgment over how he imagines people spend their money, why is spending money on movies in the same category as spending it on alcohol and prostitutes?

1- Who else would be "spending every damn penny on... women"? Well, I guess prostitution-seeking lesbians, but I really doubt that is what he was thinking of.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

A thousand butterfly effects

Since around the 1980s, when spending government money to solve problems fell out of favor, one major way that Congress has allocated money to address problems has mostly been by fiddling with the tax code. If you want to encourage home ownership, it is politically impossible to just people a government stipend if they buy a first home. So instead, Congress passes a rule that they have to pay less taxes when they buy their first home, even though it is equivalent to a direct government payment. The tax code is filled with stuff like that, reflecting decades of attempted social engineering that has shaped our economy in profound, if often unseen, ways. Entire businesses have sprung up around obscure corners of our tax laws. Long established institutions have plotted their development around the weird contours of the internal revenue code.

Last night, the Senate voted to sweep away a ton of tax breaks =with no consideration of how those changes will affect our economy and society. If this thing becomes law (as it look like it will), it is going to have all kinds of unforeseen consequences.

Friday, December 01, 2017

The only silver lining to this tax bill

There is a real (perhaps not great, but nevertheless real) chance that Congressional Republicans will turn on Trump once they get their odious massive-tax-cut-to-the-wealthy-at-the-expense-of-everyone-else bill passed.

Is there any serious doubt that they wouldn't rather have President Pence than an unhinged moron who creates a new crisis with every tweet? Sure, getting rid of Trump will cause a big hit to the Republican brand and a backlash from Trump supporters in their base. But having Trump in office is also causing a big hit to their brand, and if they get the rightwing media on board with their Trump betrayal, I bet the number of real Trump supporters (people who will support Trump even even if the rightwing media stops covering for his nonsense) is probably much smaller than they fear.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Here comes Tommy Cotton-tail

It looks like Rex Tillerson is on his way out as Secretary of State. Okay, he has been on his way out for months, but for a while people thought he would at least hang on until he passes his one year mark on the job so he could get his massive tax windfall. But now that Congress is about to pass a massive tax giveaway to rich people like Tillerson, why wait? Tillerson may be the worst Secretary of State in American history, having kneecapped America's ability to conduct diplomacy for a generation to come. So this can only be good news, right?

Well... Tillerson will be replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo, and then Pompeo will be replaced as CIA Director by Tom Cotton. Cotton is a total nutcase. What a great guy for a job that requires dispassionate analysis of the state of the world!