Why do people who hate Trump want the U.S. government shutdown to end?

My Facebook feed is packed with demands that the government be reopened from people who previously compared Donald Trump unfavorably with Adolf Hitler.

Why do they want a government run by NeuHitler to be reopened? If a government is committing evil acts, wouldn’t it be better to minimize the number of acts that the government can commit, e.g., by sending some employees home for a paid vacation? If they weren’t catching up on Netflix series, some of these folks might be making repairs, for example, to the existing 580-mile U.S.-Mexico border fence, recently declared “immoral” by the Democrats.

(The folks who are home on Xbox or sipping drinks on a Caribbean beach are actually “unpaid” in New York Times parlance, because the paychecks will arrive a few weeks after the time off; how many private sector workers would be willing to tolerate the horrors of a paid month off work in exchange for waiting a few extra weeks for the cash?).

[Vaguely similar issue: my friends in Berkeley said they believed that the U.S. government was committing crimes comparable to what Germans and Japanese did during World War II. (Most heinous: separating children at the border from migrant parents, something that happens every few minutes in the nearby California family court without attracting their attention) Yet despite having ample resources and the prospect of a good job for the husband in France or Switzerland (the wife does not work), they had no plans to renounce their citizenship and stop paying taxes to fund this as-bad-as-the-Nazis evil enterprise.]

Finally, I learned from a patent litigator (one of the perks of being an expert witness is talking to these smart folks!) that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is going full steam ahead. They have money left over from the previous fiscal year so they’re good through February and, should those funds run out, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board will declare that the folks who accept filings are “essential”.

Ergo, we live in a country where we can still fight about patents, but we can’t visit the Smithsonian exhibits that celebrate our patent system

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Michel Houellebecq: Donald Trump Is a Good President

“Officials Say Trump Has Ordered Full Withdrawal of U.S. Troops From Syria” (nytimes) is welcome news for me. One of my hopes in voting for Obama was that he would be able to say “These foreign wars haven’t worked out as planned so I’m ordering everyone home from Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Maybe Trump will get a Nobel Peace Prize too? Even more shocking than that would be some of my Facebook friends giving King Donald some credit for this peace action!

Along the same lines: “Donald Trump Is a Good President” (Harpers) says Michel Houellebecq, the French guy who remains a sourpuss despite having spent years in tax-free (for authors) Ireland. Some excerpts:

The United States of America is no longer the world’s leading power. It was for a long time, for almost the entire course of the twentieth century. It isn’t anymore. It remains a major power, one among several. This isn’t necessarily bad news for Americans. It’s very good news for the rest of the world.

The United States is still the world’s leading military power and unfortunately has yet to break its habit of mounting interventions beyond its borders. I’m not a historian, and I don’t know much about ancient history—for example, I couldn’t say whether Kennedy or Johnson was more to blame for the dismal Vietnam affair—but I have the impression that it’s been a good long time since the United States last won a war, and that for at least fifty years its foreign military interventions, whether acknowledged or clandestine, have been nothing but a succession of disgraces culminating in failures.

Trump is pursuing and amplifying the policy of disengagement initiated by Obama; this is very good news for the rest of the world. The Americans are getting off our backs. The Americans are letting us exist.

The Americans have stopped trying to spread democracy to the four corners of the globe. Besides, what democracy? Voting every four years to elect a head of state—is that democracy? In my view, there’s one country in the world (one country, not two) that enjoys partially democratic institutions, and that country isn’t the United States of America; it’s Switzerland. A country otherwise notable for its laudable policy of neutrality.

The Americans are no longer prepared to die for the freedom of the press. Besides, what freedom of the press? Ever since I was twelve years old, I’ve watched the range of opinions permissible in the press steadily shrinking (I write this shortly after a new hunting expedition has been launched in France against the notoriously anti-liberal writer Éric Zemmour).

The Americans are relying more and more on drones, which—if they knew how to use these weapons—could have allowed them to reduce the number of civilian casualties (but the fact is that Americans have always been incapable, practically since aviation began, of carrying out a proper bombing).

President Trump was elected to safeguard the interests of American workers; he’s safeguarding the interests of American workers. During the past fifty years in France, one would have wished to come upon this sort of attitude more often.

In short, Europe is just a dumb idea that has gradually turned into a bad dream, from which we shall eventually wake up.

Related regarding Houellebecq:

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Folks who vote for a larger Welfare State should also discourage the teaching of evolution?

I’ve been enjoying The Great Trials of World History and the Lessons They Teach Us, by Douglas Linder, a professor at the University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law.

One of the trials covered is the familiar Scopes Trial, in which ignorance is pitted against Science.

Professor Linder highlights that one of the reasons William Jennings Bryan was against the teaching of evolution in schools, however, is that he was an advocate for equality and was fighting against attempts to discourage unsuccessful Americans from breeding, e.g., in the Eugenics movement.

I wonder if Jennings Bryan would be perplexed by the situation today in which advocates for a larger Welfare State, which encourages maximum reproduction by the least successful Americans (by providing free housing, health care, food, and smartphones on condition that they have children), are simultaneously loud advocates in favor of teaching evolution in schools.

Readers: Why do people who advocate for maximizing the percentage of Americans who are descended from those who never worked also enjoy rooting out the handful of American Creationists and calling them stupid? Shouldn’t folks who advocate maximum fertility among those on Welfare want to downplay a biological theory that says children will closely resemble their parents?

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Amazon settles into low-tax New York City

“Amazon Announces New York and Virginia as HQ2 Picks” (nytimes):

Amazon could receive more than $2 billion in tax incentives across the two top locations, the company said in its announcement. Up to $1.2 billion of that will come from New York state’s Excelsior program, a discretionary tax credit. In Virginia, the company could receive up to $550 million in cash incentives from the state.

Plainly both New York and Virginia will be low-tax environments for Amazon (not for small competitors, though! The Tax Foundation ranks New York almost dead last in business tax climate; only California and New Jersey are more punishing places to have a company), but how exactly are the “tax incentives” ladled out?

Amazon will pay less in state income tax? In payroll taxes? In property taxes? A combination of these taxes? 

“The mystery tax breaks bringing Amazon to LIC; New York has an incentives package for Amazon, but taxpayers may never know what’s in it” talks about “tax credits,” but doesn’t say if these are credits against state income tax or local property tax or what.

[Separately, anyone planning to sue an Amazon employee for child support or alimony should probably wait for the lawsuit target to be transferred from Washington (capped child support and limited alimony) to New York ($100,000 per year in tax-free child support readily obtainable and far longer taxable alimony duration). New York enables child support profits to be collected through age 21, while Washington cuts them off at age 18. New York is also more favorable for plaintiffs seeking to obtain sole custody of a child (see TMZ for why it was smart for Katie Holmes to sue Tom Cruise in New York rather than in California). For plaintiffs suing the very highest Amazon earners, the Virginia location offers unlimited child support by formula, but a child stops yielding cash at age 18.]

I wonder if the Amazon New York location will end up presenting the nation’s largest contrast in leisure time. “Amazon’s New Neighbor: The Nation’s Largest Housing Project” (nytimes) says that 6,000 people who have no financial incentive to work (they may actually suffer reduced spending power by working due to the welfare system structure) will live right next to people that the same newspaper says are essentially slaves (see “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace; The company is conducting an experiment in how far it can push white-collar workers to get them to achieve its ever-expanding ambitions.”: “When you’re not able to give your absolute all, 80 hours a week, they see it as a major weakness,” she said.)

Readers: What do you think of New York residents paying the nation’s highest tax rates (tied with California?) so that Amazon can be in NYC but be taxed more like a business in Florida or Nevada?

Also, does this mean that the New York transportation system will melt down? How can it handle 25,000 more commutes per day via subway, Uber, private car, train, etc.? Every mode of transit in NYC (even walking in Midtown!) seems to be gridlocked and/or overburdened currently.

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Veterans Day Observed (F-35)

Today we observe Veterans Day.

In addition to remembering those who died in previous wars, let’s consider our arsenal for the next ones.

The F-35 was used in combat by the US for the first time in September (Reuters story on attacking a ground target in Afghanistan; maybe a drone could have done this?). Wikipedia says that taxpayers began funding this program in 1992 and that the plane first flew in 2000 (prototype) and 2006 (production version). So it was 26 years from the start of development to the first military use, longer than the interval between World War I and World War II.

Comparison: The B-29, the most technologically advanced plane that we had in World War II, was requested by the Air Corps in December 1939, first flew in 1942, and was used in combat in June 1944 (5.5 years after the start of the program).

Should we be happy with Donald Trump for not starting any new wars? Or unhappy with him for not disentangling us from places where we apparently can’t win (or even define “win”)? See “Who Is Winning the War in Afghanistan? Depends on Which One” (nytimes, August 18), for example.

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Aspiration for Democrats: a government voted into office by people who can’t find the Post Office

A California Democrat on Facebook posted a link to “College students say they can’t send in their absentee ballots because they don’t know where to buy stamps” (Business Insider) and added the following:

Post Office policy is to deliver your ballot whether it’s stamped or not – so don’t let your lack of a stamp stop you from voting.

He is well beyond college age so I’m not sure how many of these stamp-ignorant Millennials might be reached by his post.

My response:

It will be awesome to see these folks, who are unable to find a post office, denounce Trump voters as “stupid.”

Happy Election Day to everyone! My ballot here in Massachusetts is nearly all candidates running unopposed, but I would be interested to hear from readers in states where not everyone agrees on the One True Path.

[My Facebook feed today is filled with friends bragging that they voted, often complete with a photo of an “I voted” sticker as proof. Most of these folks live in states such as Massachusetts or California where the outcome of the election is not in doubt, but these folks often describe their actions in heroic terms and add some trash talk about how people in other countries don’t get to vote (where is that true?). My Facebook friends are living through (and heroically acting in) dramatic times:

It is not the Democratic Party on the ballot today, but democracy itself.

More than perhaps ever before, your vote matters a great deal

Probably more is at stake, then, than during the 1860 election in which Abraham Lincoln ran as an anti-slavery Republican?]

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Silicon Valley is the best reason to vote Republican next week?

As technology takes over American lives, literally in the case of Facebook, I wonder if voting Republican tomorrow isn’t the best way for Americans to #Resist total domination by their smug rich Silicon Valley overlords. The titans of Silicon Valley often seem to infer from their wealth that they have special insight into how a society should be organized and how non-wealthy, non-important people should conduct their lives (see Lean In for example, and “Guy with a ‘Whites Only’ sign in his conference room tells others not to discriminate”). Having created one of the nation’s highest tax states (#6 in percent of residents’ income devoted to state and local government) that operates perhaps the worst-performing school system (nytimes) in an environment of racial inequality (“California is the center of American racism?“), these folks feel confident in preaching proper government organization to the ignorant non-Silicon Valley masses. While presiding over enterprises whose employees overwhelmingly identify as white or Asian men, the CEOs prate in the media about how other companies should hire and promote employees who identify as non-white/non-Asian women. If they think not enough reporters are listening, they simply buy the media (see below).

Even on business subjects, these folks have essentially no useful experience to relate. If you’re manufacturing car parts or providing landscaping services or running a restaurant, how is it useful to hear from the CEO of a company that has had, essentially, a monopoly for 5-15 years? The regulated Bell System monopoly had its drawbacks, but at least Americans were spared from having to purchase and read books by its managers offering purported secrets of their success. Nobody who ran a business exposed to competition was forced to watch a Bell System executive being interviewed on TV with fawning questions about how he or she had made the company so profitable.

Anecdote at the lower end of the wealth spectrum: a (white) friend who studied at Stanford and lives in Berkeley traveled to Ohio to canvas African-Americans in Cleveland to encourage them to go to the polls and vote for Hillary (Trump ultimately won). The majority of people who opened their doors told him that they didn’t expect a Hillary presidency to make them better off than would a Trump presidency. He might have concluded from this that black Americans rationally evaluate their interests and vote accordingly. Instead he concluded that black Americans were dumber than he had anticipated.

The election of Donald Trump was helpful in deflating some of these sermonizing billionaires, but the Insufferability Index seems likely to rise if Democrats win a lot of mid-term seats. Could it be that the best reason to vote Republican, therefore, is to quiet down the Blowhards of the Bay for a couple of years? Trump makes them angry, but a hate-filled Silicon Valley Master of the Universe might be less annoying than a self-sastified one?

[This advice is purely for readers. My own ballot here in Massachusetts is dominated by Democrats running unopposed. There are essentially no options for incorrect voting.]

Related:

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Massachusetts ballot questions

This year we voters in the Land of Righteousness (i.e., Massachusetts) get to decide…

Question 3: whether the government should continue to be able to imprison people for up to 1 year and/or fine them up to $50,000 for failing to keep up with proper thinking regarding transgender bathroom and locker room access. (boston.com)

Question 1: whether the government should set the maximum number of patients a nurse can take care of (varies by type of facility, e.g., 3 patients/nurse in “step-down” and 1 patient per nurse for ICU; see boston.com)

Question 2: creates a commission to study ways to work around the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United. Decries the “corporate takeover of the First Amendment”

Can we infer from the above that citizens are more or less happy with everything else that goes on in our state?

Question 3 is the most interesting one. The current law is from 2016 and provides for correct bathroom thinking. Anyone who identifies as a woman can use a women’s locker room, for example. Folks in Massachusetts pride themselves on not being racist, sexist, and stupid, like the Trump supporters in other states. And yet tens of thousands of seemingly righteous Massachusetts voters signed a petition to put a “restore hatred and improper thinking” question on the ballot.

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Coastal elites decide on fair wages for blue collar Americans in the interior

From a coastal elite venture capitalist friend on Facebook:

When these 5,000+ migrants inevitably arrive at the US / Mexico border and begin to force their way across, what if we rallied 10,000 Americans who value refugees to stand peacefully at the border between them and whichever armed military division Trump brings out to stop them, as an act of civil disobedience?

His virtuous friends cheer him on:

Count me in if you organize people/dates/locations. Or if you need a $$ contribution to help make it work.

I highly recommend supporting Al Otro Lado. They helped with previous refugee caravans and do exactly this work fighting for the right to seek asylum. They particularly fight border patrol at the Tijuana crossing refusing to let people even present themselves for asylum. … Basically, the administration is trying to eliminate asylum entirely.

I’ll go

I gave my standard reply

The good news for these able-bodied ambulatory folks is that they are entitled to free housing, free food, free health care, and a free smartphone as soon as they arrive (“The Contracting States shall accord to refugees lawfully staying in their territory the same treatment with respect to public relief and assistance as is accorded to their nationals” — Article 23 of the UN Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees). But how is it fair to those who are too sick, too old, or too disabled to make the trip? If we are truly good-hearted, shouldn’t we put an Airbus A380 on the Honduras/Boston route to bring in 1,000 elderly wheelchair-bound refugees daily? Surely folks in Massachusetts will do a better job caring for these unfortunate souls than will the cold-hearted Trump voters of Texas.

The elite post-gooder (not really a “do-gooder” since he hasn’t done anything to help the migrants yet):

in my opinion it’s only their human right to be able to enter when someone here does have housing or work to offer them.

Me:

Your notion of rights of refuge conditional on “work to offer them” is at odds with the UN convention to which the U.S. is a signatory. There is no requirement for a refugee to work, any more than there is a requirement for a native-born American to work. And if you want to make this conditional on housing, then you would accept no immigrants at all. The U.S. needs 7.2 million more apartments and houses just for the lower-income residents who are already here. See https://nlihc.org/press/releases/9493

Him:

there’s tremendous demand for labor and plenty of housing availability if you just look beyond major metro areas. Why else do you think they all want to come here? No one really becomes happy by living on welfare or in shelters for long. People generally want pride of providing for themselves. And this is where there are plentiful jobs, especially if we get rid of the misguided minimum wage laws.

I pointed out that, regardless of wanting “pride of providing for themselves,” roughly 73 percent of immigrants from the countries that are contributing to the current caravan actually were collecting welfare in 2012 (source). Also that there does not seem to be a tremendous demand for unskilled since states raising minimum wage results in a reduced number of employed low-skill workers (2015 economic study).

Him:

I don’t understand your last point at all. Of course increasing the minimum wage drops employment levels, that’s basic economics. I personally want to see a repeal or at least a major rollback of minimum wage laws, less welfare, and more immigration which will keep wages low, and therefore further decrease the cost of locally produced goods and services and make their local consumers better off. I also generally want to see lower wages in the US and higher wages in places like Honduras. That would make the world better in my opinion and would ultimately reduce the need for caravans. More open borders is consistent with more free markets, in addition to being more just. I do however see the short term dilemma this philosophy poses for democracy. The ultimate answer is less power in the nation, more at the very local level, and also more at the world level, but this is a very long term ambition.

So the Bostonian’s plan for helping Hondurans requires only that the 50+ million Americans currently on welfare (Census 2015) make a huge financial sacrifice and also that blue collar workers in the Midwest accept reduced wages.

It is tough to understand why a blue collar Midwestern might be skeptical of the coastal elite’s commitment to his or her interests…

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The modernity of the Bolshevik Revolution

One interesting aspect of Understanding Russia: A Cultural History (course by Lynne Ann Hartnett, a professor at Villanova) is how modern and familiar the ideas of the Bolsheviks are. After the October Revolution, for example, Prof. Hartnett talks about women gaining the rights to on-demand abortion and on-demand divorce (what today is called “unilateral” or “no-fault” divorce). The rate of abortion quickly grew to exceed the rate of live births. The divorce rate in the Soviet Union became the highest in Europe. Unlike in the U.S., no-fault divorce did not come with the need to hire a lawyer and litigate in a courtroom (see Real World Divorce). The wife could go to City Hall, fill out a form, and her now-ex-husband would be informed of the divorce via mail (“postcard divorce”). [Unlike in the U.S., though, there was no possibility of an alimony revenue stream following a no-fault divorce; women in the early Soviet system were considered capable of working to support themselves and if they wanted extra spending power from a man’s income they had to get it through a voluntary arrangement.]

The professor also cites paid maternity leave and state-run day care as early Soviet programs.

Radical thinkers today like to talk about reconceiving state-run education as a lifelong process rather than merely K-12. The Soviets were there 100 years ago! Prof. Hartnett talks about how lifelong education was an explicit goal and the Soviets quickly organized programs for both peasants and factory workers.

I wonder what percent of the positions taken by a modern American politician might have been anticipated 100 years ago by the Bolsheviks. It would be an interesting exercise to line up what our current leaders say and promise to what the Bolsheviks were saying and promising.

Separately, the lecture series adds a data point to how present-day academics think about capitalism and the market. Prof. Hartnett does not seem to be a fan of Marxism-Leninism due to its reliance on violence to keep the population in line. However, when talking about pre-revolutionary Russia, with its 7 percent annual economic growth (like China today), she describes factory workers as “underpaid.” There does not seem to be any evidence of collusion among employers and state intervention in the economy was minimal compared to modern welfare states. Thus, it seems likely that the workers were earning a market wage. Due to the ample supply of labor this might have resulted in “low paid” workers, but to the modern American academic “low paid” seems necessarily to imply “underpaid” (unfairly low wage).

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