Ann Telnaes Washington Post Cartoon Reference to Nixon May Need Explaining

The Ann Telnaes cartoon in the Washington Post may need some explanation.

It shows Ryan, Pence and McConnel cowering in a sewer.

Most folks will not get the reference.  For decades, the Post Cartoonist Herblock always portrayed Nixon emerging from a sewer.


Will Harvard Have to Move to Canada? Will Google? Will New York City?

After yesterday’s evil, stupid and frightening Executive Order, and its chaotic, confused and terrifying so-called “implementation,” the question has to be asked whether currently US institutions like those listed above (Harvard, Google, New York City) will be allowed to operate according to their internationalist, intellectual, and truth-respecting values.  Because, if the answer is no, then they are going to start thinking about moving first certain operations, and then their leadership, to other countries.

For modern institutions, free flow of ideas, scholarship, thinkers, and contributors is critical, and a rational fair border flow policy is critical.  If a country can not offer that any more, then those organizations that make the country home will suffer massive competitive disadvantages.  And so will the countries from which those institutions then start to move.  Low tax rates only make a difference if you have income.

I am struck by the analogy to the state travel boycotts, and threats of boycott, that played such a role in the recent dis-empowering of homophobia.  Many states were forced to back down by those boycotts and threats of boycotts.  As time goes by, maybe countries will start to face the same dynamics.  It is no good pressuring a corporation to reduce job losses at an in-US plant if there is no intellectual property creating a product that will be wanted enough to keep the previously “saved” jobs producing anything.

Judicial intervention tonight makes this less immediately likely, but unless long term sanity is returned to government, leaders of such institutions will be forced to start to make contingency plans, or cease to be seen as international leaders.

Maybe the current spasms are the death throes of a long dying nationalistic international order, rather than an existential threat to the still emerging international one that has been developing ever since the end of World War II.

I hope that internationalist institutions will find a way to underline the stakes.

p.s. In a model statement, Harvard indeed has.  See here.

GNP Rose Less in the Last Quarter. What Was Different About the Last Three Months?

So, the GNP rose less than recently in the last quarter.

What, pray, was different about it.

Well, not noticed in the media, is that 60% of the last quarter fell in a time when we knew that we were about to enter a Trump presidency.

Now I realize that these things lag, but that actually it would make sense that lots of people would hold back to see what is going to happen with an unpredictable, to put it kindly, president.  Uncertainty about health care alone could produce this kinds of effect.  Remember, Trump has claimed that mere optimism generated by his election would help the economy.

Something to think about, particularly if the trend continues, and the Republicans insist that things were going south before Trump took over.

Silver Lining Long Term View

We all know that in the long term, the demographic dynamics will result in this political episode being an aberration — assuming that our political system has the strength to resist the assault on it.  Moreover the collapse of the assault seems to be happening even faster than expected.

What we have not thought about is how the rules will distribute power.  The following are likely:

Elimination of the filibuster,

Reduction of the power of individual senators to delay legislation.

Recognition that a president can play a wider and more unpredictable range of roles.

Limits on the power of the president — unless House and Senate go along.

So, assuming Democratic majorities in House and Senate, and a Democratic President, there would be much less power in the minority to slow things down.  That is what the demographics are ultimately going to give us.

Imagine, if these rules had been in effect in 209 and 2010.  We would have had a decent instead of a patchwork ACA that it would have been much harder for the Republicans to tear down, and the Tea Party might never have gotten traction.

And, think about how different the Supreme Court confirmation process might have been.

The Republicans should be careful what they wish for.


In the New Digital Era the Classic Book “1984” Can be Updated and Called “11111000000”. Here is How The Updated Version Begins.

Gorge Orwell’s 1984 is now the #1 best seller on AmazonI wonder why.

But that makes it time for a fully updated version.

The new title for the digital age is simple to derive.  Astonishingly, the decimal number “1984” in binary is:


Five “1”s followed by six “0”s.

So, here is the suggestion for how the updated version starts:

Thirty years after his father had worked at the Ministry of Truth, his son Winston Smith, Jr. now worked there.  The big change was that Ministry had discovered that it was no longer necessary to change the memory of the truth. In the digital era, it was enough merely to confuse it.


We Need the Voter Fraud Investigation — Assuming It is Fair and Real

Its hard not to be freaked out by Trump’s call for a voter fraud investigation, and to worry that it might lead to more suppression efforts.

But I ask you to think forward four years, and where we will be likely be with a President who has just been defeated in the election, and is now publicly doubting the result, and is suggesting that he should not leave.

We would like to hope that Republican colleagues would shut that down, but given their repeatedly demonstrated inability to resist the lures of craven self-interest, I find it hard to be confident about that.  (It is true that so far they have not gotten onto this particular anti-fact bandwagon, but not at much risk.)

Obviously, such a study/investigation would have to be truly bi-partisan and fact based, and willingness to engage in such a process, also critical to restore the overall legitimacy of our political process, should be a test of ability to transcend narrow interests.

If such a process were successful, it might be a model for other shutdowns of fact-free expeditions.

P.S. I have to emphasize that this assumes that such a project would be open, fair and real.  I had added the last qualification to the title to make this clear. (added Jan 26, 2017)

Rules for Sanity Under this Administration

I am trying to understand how to understand what is happening and keep our sanity.  Some suggested rules.

1.  Never take anything the administration says or does at face value.

As Jarred Bernstein points out, Trump operates it the two modes of telling an audience what they want to hear, and “trying to put perceived enemies and negotiating opponents back on their heels.”  I think I would put it differently, that he and his team are always engaging in misdirection and conflict.  No other strategy is comprehensible to them.

2.  Remember that what he says can be a guide to what he wants, but that you can only figure it out by understanding the context.

It may be to distract attention from something.  It may be a feint, so you argue and organize against what is not happening anyway.  It may be designed to destroy an opponent or potential opponent.  It may be for short term gratification.  If you can not figure that out, it is better to ignore the statements completely.  Any other way madness lies.  Focus only on actions.

3.  Remember the relevant context that explains the purpose is as likely to be within his own operation, as it is the world as a whole.

Most likely the motivation is the desire to avoid any centralization of power other than in himself.  Bu it could also reflect a desire to delay decision, create uncertainty, or even to shift internal dynamics indirectly.

4.  While there are smart people in the operation, that’s mainly an accident, so expect confusion, chaos, and massive incompetence, disguised as uniqueness.

No need to look for evidence of that.

5.  Because their motives and goals are so hard to figure, expect to find it really hard to know whether the problem is the goal, the plan, or the execution.

Just remember that with this gang it is most likely to be all of them.

6.  Remember that the bureaucracy always wins in the end.

They stay, you go.  “Yes Mr. President.”

7.  Plan to be always and repeatedly disappointed by non-Trump Republicans.

They made their fundamentally bankrupt choice long ago, and would be destroyed if they tried to change it. It is OK to use their public hesitancy to undercut Trump, but know that they will fall in line in the end, or rather will do so until #9 kicks in.

8.  Never underestimate the tendency of any incoming leader, let alone this gang, to overestimate their popularity, wisdom, knowledge, skill, luck, and capacity.

There are no exceptions to this rule.  The only possible one I can think of is Ike.  Part of his secret was having no ego needs.  Compare and contrast.

9.  When the tipping point comes close, it will suddenly accelerate very quickly.

Nixon was not liked by his colleagues, but he was respected.  Most, except the business leaders being shaken down for contributions, had no real reason to fear hm.  Almost no one wants Trump in.  They are trying to get what they can out of him.  When the calculus of interest changes, so will their public posture, and very quickly.

10.  Never underestimate the power of the intelligence “community” to protect itself.

And, know that you will never see how it actually operated to do so.  Remember, “Deep Throat” was Deputy Director of the FBI.

11.  No President can reverse the tides of globalization, any more than Canute could stop the waves.  A leader could help mitigate the effects, but not with the policies this one advocates.

History is divided into 1) those who understood the tides of history and try to take advantage of them, 2) those who did not, and tried to ignore and reverse them, and 3) those who understood, were to optimistic in their understanding of the implications, and were foiled by their over-ambition.  Decide for yourself which group Trump fits into.