Patterico's Pontifications

7/31/2018

Wishing the Boss a Happy Birthday

Filed under: General — JVW @ 5:09 pm

[guest post by JVW]

I didn’t want the day to go by without wishing our gracious host a very happy birthday. I wondered for a moment if he wanted to keep his special day private, but I noticed that ten years ago he let slip that today was his celebration day. It’s gauche to mention a gentleman’s age (or maybe it’s a lady’s age that should go unremarked; I can’t remember these things any longer), but this is a pretty momentous birthday as he transitions from a perfect square number to a number that can be represented by only one Roman numeral, all while fighting to keep the AARP membership recruiters at bay.

Happy birthday, Patterico. I hope the celebration is equal to the benefit that you bring to all of your readers. But don’t overdo it at your age.

– JVW

Man Claims to Be Woman to Get Insurance Discount; Canadian Government Complies

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:53 am

Via Allahpundit on Twitter comes this story that well illustrates the way that people can manipulate a “choose your own gender” society to their advantage:

A Canadian man in his early 20s was unhappy with the high quote he got from his car insurance company, so he decided to do something about it: legally switch his gender from male to female.

The cunning 24-year-old resident of Alberta, Canada, first detailed his insurance stratagem on Reddit back in April, boasting that changing his gender on paper saved him nearly $1,100 a year.

‘I have taken advantage of a loophole,’ the man, whom CBC.ca called David, told the news outlet. ‘I’m a man, 100 per cent. Legally, I’m a woman.’

Presumably, if the company tried to use his actual gender to impose accurate rates on him, that would be discrimination of the worst possible kind.

You gotta love 2018.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

7/30/2018

Is the United States a Rich Country?

Filed under: General — JVW @ 9:03 am

[guest post by JVW]

Apparently in defense of the Democrat Party’s rising young star and everyone’s cute but clueless niece, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who came under fire for her inability to square her socialist policies with finance realities, MSNBC host Chris Hayes let loose with this curious tweet:

The idea that we are a “rich country” and thus can afford a lavish and extravagant level of socialism has been around at least since the days of Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn. It’s a favorite trope of the obnoxious Michael Moore, who has also used the claim as justification for government-paid freebies. It’s also a variant of the old talking point “if we can put a man on the moon then why can’t we [insert progressive social policy priority here]” which is nearing a half-century of consistent usage.

But are we a rich country, or are we instead a country blessed by an amazing number of rich citizens? It’s a distinct difference. Warren Buffett as of today has a net worth of $83.3 billion, yet in 2015 he reported an adjusted gross income of $11.5 million and paid Uncle Sam just under $1.85 million. When running for governor in the 2003 recall race, righty-turned-lefty Arianna Huffington was embarrassed by the revelation that she had paid a mere $771 in federal tax the previous year, despite living in a home that was then worth $7 million. This sort of tax arrangement underscores the problems with relying upon the wealthy, whose incomes can greatly fluctuate on a year-to-year basis, to fill tax coffers. Sadly, it’s a conundrum well known to California Governor Jerry Brown, but cynically ignored by him in the interests of maintaining favor with the progressive zeitgeist which dominates the Golden State.

So is the answer then to tax wealth rather than income, a distinction that the Ocasio-Cortezes and Hayeses of the world seek to blur with their demagoguery? One kooky guy proposed such a thing nearly two decades ago, but he then faded into obscurity and was never heard from again. Even if the idea were to catch fire, it’s hard to see how it could pass Constitutional muster unless ratified by the states via an amendment.

If there ever was any reason to take the deep thoughts of Chris Hayes seriously, this tweet should be a powerfully preventative propholactic. Progressives are going to have to do the hard work of convincing us that our “out-of-control” health care costs can be addressed by activist government, providing that we massively raise our taxes to pay for their plans.

– JVW

7/29/2018

Sunday Music: Bach Cantata BWV 21, Part 1

Filed under: Bach Cantatas,General,Music — Patterico @ 12:01 am

It is the tenth Sunday after Pentecost. The title of today’s Bach cantata is “Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis” (I had much grief). This cantata provides the music for both this week and the next, with Part 1 heard today, and the conclusion heard next week.

Today’s Gospel reading is John 6:1-21.

Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand

Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

Jesus Walks on the Water

When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.

The prescribed reading takes up the miracles of Jesus feeding the five thousand and walking on the water, which were skipped over in last week’s prescribed reading from the Gospel according to Mark. I have included the Gospel of these miracles according to Mark on a separate page, here — so that if you wish, you can compare Mark’s version of the story to John’s.

The text of today’s piece is available here. Here are words from Part 1 which, like Jesus’s miracles, reflect God’s ability to provide strength and comfort to those who are in deep distress, and who might feel that they have been abandoned. The words remind us that God will be there even at our most troubled times:

I had much trouble in my heart; but your consolations revive my soul.

. . . .

What? have You therefore, my God,
in my trouble,
in my fear and despair,
turned completely away from me?
Ah! do You not know Your child?
Ah! do You not hear the cries
of those, that are Yours
by covenant and faith?

. . . .

Why do you trouble yourself, my soul, and are so restless in me? Wait for God; for I will yet thank Him, since He is the help of my countenance and my God.

The deep suffering reflected in Part 1, this week, gives way to trust in God and a hymn of praise in Part 2 — which comes next week.

Stay tuned, and as always:

Happy listening!

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

7/27/2018

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Your Lovable But Earnestly Dumb Niece

Filed under: General — JVW @ 5:27 pm

[guest post by JVW]

Democratic Socialist wünderkind (I know the word isn’t really spelled with an umlaut, but any self-respecting fan of Blue Öyster Cult or Mötley Crüe uses the ümülät at any and all opportünity) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez appeared on that evening talk show with the smug leftist host (the one who used to be white but now self-identifies as younger and black) last night in order to enlighten us all on her hip, progressive political philosophy. In the course of the gentle tongue bath interview by the host, Trevor Stewart, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez showed herself to be charming, if a little vacuous. Here is a perfect encapsulation of what she is about (play the video embedded in the Tweet):

Where to begin in unpacking the inanity? Estimates on “Medicaid for All” vary, with the Bernard Sanders folks pegging the cost at $13 trillion over 10 years and the Urban Institute suggesting it would be closer to $32 trillion over the decade. Let’s use the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget’s estimate of $25 trillion over ten years, since it’s (very) roughly halfway between the two and because they had the foresight to put the word “responsible” in their title.

So how will the program be paid for? The CRFB says that transferring all current expenditures on health care (with the exception of the Veterans’ Administration and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which Sen. Sanders did not fold into his plan) and then implementing the additional taxes on payroll, income, and capital gains that he proposes would only raise over the course of a decade about $11 trillion, leaving a $14 trillion hole to be plugged. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, after a prolonged and rambling disquisition about “people paying their fair share,” which she quickly amended to being “corporations and the ultra wealthy” (lest any mocha Marxists think they are expected to cough up the dough) rehashed Warren Buffett’s misleading lament that his tax rate is lower than that of his secretary. She also knocks the recently enacted corporate tax rate reduction and calls for it to be raised up to 28% (which, she notes, is still lower than it was pre-Trump) while eliminating the same deductions already eliminated by last year’s tax plan. That, she assures us, would make up $2 trillion, though that sum would be over the entire decade, and — oh, by the way — that money has already been accounted for in the Sanders tax increase calculations.

But let’s be as generous as possible, accept Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s claims, and decide that we are now down to a $12 trillion ten-year hole for Medicare for All. Hang on, though! Ms. Ocasio-Cortez quickly pivots to a desire to have our country transition to 100% renewal energy by some unspecified time date, which she says will cost us $3 trillion to $4 trillion. And here is where the train goes off the rails:

Now, if we implement a carbon tax on top of that — so that we can transition and financially incentivize people away from fossil fuels — if we implement a carbon tax that’s an additional amount of, um, of, of a large amount of revenue that we can have.

You all followed that, right? I mean, it’s perfectly clear. We implement a carbon tax which will pay for our $3 trillion to $4 trillion transition to renewables yet will still somehow help pay for Medicare for All too. And that carbon tax will magically be paid by corporations and not trickle down into the prices consumers pay for goods, and at the same time everyone is going to get money to put up solar panels and purchase hybrid vehicles. And sure, we’re going to be socking corporations with the carbon tax at the very same time that we go back to a higher corporate tax rate (without the deductions this time!) and a higher payroll tax to pay for Medicare for All, but don’t for one moment believe that this will affect productivity or employment.

It doesn’t get any better after that:

And then the last key which is extremely, extremely important is reprioritization. Just last year we gave the military a $700 billion budget increase, which they didn’t even ask for! They’re like, “We don’t want another fighter jet.” They’re like, “Don’t give us another nuclear bomb.” You know? They didn’t even ask for it, and we gave it to them.

About that $700 billion budget increase: the entire defense budget for fiscal year 2018 was set at $700 billion and the proposed budget for 2019 is $716 billion. Our lipstick Lenin is conflating the entire damn defense budget with a one-time increase in spending. Now it is entirely proper to question whether the defense increase of $150 billion over the amount capped by the 2011 Budget Control Act (the infamous sequestration) is necessary or prudent; a lot of us here would probably argue that it is not. But Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s worldview is dependent upon her gullible supporters believing that our defense budget grows by nearly three-quarters of a trillion dollars in a given year, because she needs that sum of money (and much more!) to pay for her promise that you can vote yourself the good life. It’s a pity that the show’s host, Jon Noah, doesn’t know enough or care enough to question her about her assumptions, though I guess we can be grateful that he asked her the funding question to begin with.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s performance has been largely panned by the usual suspects among conservatives and libertarians, but it doesn’t seem that too many “sensible” Democrats have bothered to point out her bosh and piffle. And yeah, the Trump Administration and the GOP Congress certainly play fast-and-loose with numbers too. But these Democratic Socialists, who hope to sell us on a vision of a benevolent government with the money to pay for everything that we could possibly desire (our discussion of how to pay for Medicare for All doesn’t even begin to cover funding free college and a government job for all the unemployed), are either setting us up to challenge Greece for benign fiscal irresponsibility or they are setting up their supporters for a massive disappointment when they fail to deliver on their lavish promises.

That said, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is attractive and charming, with a nice television presence when she is in front of a friendly host. She’s like your cute yet exasperating niece who comes home for Thanksgiving her freshman year of college and suddenly knows exactly how society should be ordered and why it’s sheer selfishness and greed that prevents us from seeing the wisdom of the ideology she absorbed on campus. (Your clever but annoying nephew who comes home a rabid libertarian is a whole other ball of wax.) She’ll probably win her election, she’ll probably be very popular as a charismatic young minority female leftist in Congress, but our great nation really can do without her devotion to the mediocrity of the welfare state.

– JVW

Cohen: Trump Knew About Trump Tower Meeting in Advance

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:53 am

Well, of course he did:

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, claims that then-candidate Trump knew in advance about the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower in which Russians were expected to offer his campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton, sources with knowledge tell CNN. Cohen is willing to make that assertion to special counsel Robert Mueller, the sources said.

Cohen’s claim would contradict repeated denials by Trump, Donald Trump Jr., their lawyers and other administration officials who have said that the President knew nothing about the Trump Tower meeting until he was approached about it by The New York Times in July 2017.
Cohen alleges that he was present, along with several others, when Trump was informed of the Russians’ offer by Trump Jr. By Cohen’s account, Trump approved going ahead with the meeting with the Russians, according to sources.

Cohen is hardly Mr. Credibility, and the “sources” relied upon say he doesn’t have evidence. And to the most diehard Trump supporters, this doesn’t move the needle, because they don’t think there’s anything wrong with a presidential candidate seeking dirt on his opponent from the Kremlin. (Three years ago, the bolded passage I just wrote would have been unthinkable, but that’s our politics these days. It’s Trump’s world; we’re just living in it.)

So, just like Avenatti’s claim that Trump paid off way more women than previously suspected — or like literally any other evidence you can think of — this news seems unlikely to change minds. Which raises the question that I now pose to avid Trump supporters: what would change your minds about this guy? What, if proved with solid evidence, would make you say: Hmmm. This seems to be a bad guy who doesn’t deserve my support?

Just curious.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

7/26/2018

Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan Introduce Articles of Impeachment for Rosenstein

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:16 am

If I had ever been inclined to take these people seriously before (not that I recall that I ever was), that ship has sailed. Clowns. They should be honest and put on the makeup and big floppy shoes, because that’s all they are.

The Republican party is such a joke. And the only people who bother to stand up and declare what nonsense this all is? People who are retiring anyway.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

Trump’s “Deal” with the EU: What Did It Actually Achieve?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:08 am

President Donald J. Trump on Twitter:

So: what was actually achieved here? Haley Byrd talked to free trade advocate Scott Lincicome, who says the answer is “not much”:

After a joint meeting on Wednesday, President Donald Trump and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker announced that they had reached a deal. in order to pursue a deal.

In a broad statement, the two leaders said they hoped to advance a new phase of collaboration, friendship, and strong trade ties in the relationship between the United States and the European Union. The rest of the statement offered glimpses at a purported desire for free trade, but was vague and left many questions unanswered.

“On the bright side, there is a clear de-escalation of rhetoric and that’s good, but the devil will be in the details,” Scott Lincicome, a trade lawyer and adjunct scholar at the libertarian Cato Institute, says. “And this provides almost no details. Meanwhile, all the tariffs implemented so far remain in force.”

During a phone interview, Lincicome walked through the joint statement and laid out what—if anything—of substance had been achieved by the meeting.

Lincicome’s comments on the details (as summarized by Byrd) include phrases like “while appearing ambitious, is actually quite narrow” and “largely aspirational and lacking in detail.” Also included are phrases like “We already knew that” and “They’re just talking” and “That’s, again, things they’ve always wanted to do.”

It’s a good thing everything’s fixed! Just don’t tell GM, because they’re not convinced:

General Motors Co. has become the highest-profile American company to fall victim to Donald Trump’s trade wars by cutting its profit forecast for this year on surging prices for steel and aluminum.

Adjusted earnings will drop to about $6 a share, down from a previous projection for as much as $6.50 a share, the Detroit-based company said Wednesday. Raw material costs probably will be a $1 billion headwind — roughly double GM’s previous expectation. The carmaker’s shares are on course for their steepest one-day plunge in more than seven years.

The hit to GM’s profit underscores the risk that Donald Trump’s policies pose to automakers. While the U.S. president is moving to weaken fuel economy mandates, his tariffs on steel and aluminum — and potentially on imported cars — is undercutting what was shaping up to be a near-record year for an iconic American company that weeks ago was riding high on a $2.25 billion investment in its autonomous-driving unit.

How bad is it? The tariffs have more than outweighed the tax cut for GM and other American automakers:

As a friend says by email: “I can see the campaign ads in Michigan and the midwest now: ‘Barack Obama saved GM; Donald Trump is sabotaging it.'”

Your job, as a card-carrying member of the tribe, is to defend this idiocy with whatever pathetic argument you can scrape up. For God’s sake — whatever you do — don’t think for yourself.

P.S. Thank God all those national security concerns that ostensibly justified these tariffs have been resolved. What were they, again?

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

7/25/2018

CNN Obtains Tape of Trump Talking to Cohen

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:55 am

It’s outrageous that Mueller would leak this!!!!1! Except 1) Mueller isn’t running this investigation and 2) CNN explicitly says it got the tape from Lanny Davis, Cohen’s lawyer.

Donald Trump complains on Twitter that the tape ends abruptly, which is typically dishonest of him as the sudden end is almost certainly for his protection (my educated guess is that attorney-client privileged materials immediately follow).

It’s not 100% clear what the tapes reveal. They seem to be discussing reimbursing “our friend David” (presumably David Pecker, the head of the National Enquirer), for his “catch and kill” hush money payment to Karen McDougal. The Big Dispute between Lanny Davis and Rudy Giuliani appears to be who was proposing that the sleazy payment be made in cash, with Davis saying Trump proposed that and Giuliani saying Cohen did. I can’t tell — and I can’t figure out why I am supposed to care. Here’s the audio so you can reach your own conclusions:

UPDATE: Interesting question raised by bobble in the comments: perhaps “our friend David” refers to David Dennison (an alias Trump used in these payoffs) rather than David Pecker.

Not impossible at all.

UPDATE x2: On second thought, the “maybe he gets hit by a truck” line seems more consistent with it being Pecker.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

7/24/2018

Trump Prepares $12 Billion Bailout of Farmers Hit by His Super-Easy and Great Trade War

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:07 am

The government is good at one thing. It knows how to break your legs, and then hand you a crutch and say, “See if it weren’t for the government, you wouldn’t be able to walk.”Harry Browne

Trump has broken farmers’ legs with his tariffs, and the crutch is going to cost $12 billion:

The U.S. Agriculture Department on Tuesday plans to announce a $12 billion package of emergency aid for farmers caught in the midst of President Trump’s escalating trade war, two people briefed on the plan said, the latest sign that growing tensions between the United States and other countries will not end soon.

Trump ordered Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to prepare a range of options several months ago, amid complaints from farmers that their products faced retaliatory tariffs from China and other countries. The new package of government assistance funds will be announced Tuesday and is expected to go into effect by Labor Day.

The aid package is expected to target soybean farmers, dairy farmers, and pork producers, among others. White House officials hope it will quiet some of the unease from farm groups, but the new plan could revive debates about taxpayer-funded bailouts and the degree to which Trump’s trade strategy is leading to unforeseen costs.

Farm groups have complained that moves by China and other countries in response to Trump’s protectionist trade stance could cost them billions of dollars, spooking Republicans who fear a political and economic blowback to Trump’s approach.

The White House has searched for months for a way to provide emergency assistance to farmers without backing down on Trump’s trade agenda, and the new program will extend roughly $12 billion through three mechanisms run by the Department of Agriculture.

Tariffs are taxes:

tar·iff
ˈterəf
noun
1.
a tax or duty to be paid on a particular class of imports or exports.
synonyms: tax, duty, toll, excise, levy, charge, rate, fee, countervail; price list

What’s more, they represent the government telling you that you cannot voluntarily purchase goods from someone who voluntarily wants to sell them to you, at a price that you both voluntarily agree to.

Here’s how the Economic Genius in Chief feels about these taxes, that interfere with your freedom of choice:

Your choosing to spend money in the way that you choose is “robbery” according to this guy.

But hey. As long as we can bail out the victims, that’s better than just taking his tariff power away. Right? Just ask the Very Courageous Republicans in Congress and they will tell you exactly that, through their inaction.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

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