…what you think it means [DOT 18/5/23]

it does not mean...

…it might not be permanent…but…this seems like it might be indicative of some stuff

The breaching of the crucial 1.5C threshold, which scientists have warned could have dire consequences, should be only temporary, according to research from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

However, it would represent a marked acceleration of human impacts on the global climate system, and send the world into “uncharted territory”, the UN agency warned.

Countries have pledged, under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, to try to hold global temperatures to no higher than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, after scientific advice that heating beyond that level would unleash a cascade of increasingly catastrophic and potentially irreversible impacts.

Prof Petteri Taalas, the secretary general of the WMO, said: “This report does not mean that we will permanently exceed the 1.5C specified in the Paris agreement, which refers to long-term warming over many years. However, WMO is sounding the alarm that we will breach the 1.5C level on a temporary basis with increasing frequency.”

Global average surface temperatures have never before breached the 1.5C threshold. The highest average in previous years was 1.28C above pre-industrial levels.


…indications can be…confusing…or possibly confused

President Biden left for Japan on Wednesday for a meeting of the leaders of seven major industrial democracies who get together each year to try to keep the world economy stable.

But as it turns out, the major potential threat to global economic stability this year is the United States.

When Mr. Biden lands in Hiroshima for the annual Group of 7 summit meeting on Thursday, the United States will be two weeks from a possible default that would jolt not only its own economy but those of the other countries at the table. It will fall to Mr. Biden to reassure his counterparts that he will find a way to avoid that, but they understand it is not solely in his control.

The showdown with Republicans over raising the federal debt ceiling has already upended the president’s international diplomacy by forcing a last-minute cancellation of two stops he had planned to make after Japan: Papua New Guinea and Australia. Rather than being the unchallenged commander of the most powerful superpower striding across the world stage, Mr. Biden will be an embattled leader forced to rush home to avert a catastrophe of America’s own making.
“I think our biggest threat is us,” said Jane Harman, a former Democratic representative from California who later served as the president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “Our leadership in the world is being eroded by our internal dysfunction. The markets are still betting against our defaulting, and that’s a decent bet. But if we only manage to eke out a short-term extension and the price is onerous budget caps — including on defense — we will be hobbled when Ukraine needs us most and China is building beachheads everywhere.”

The White House warned that a default would only embolden America’s adversaries, using the argument against Republicans, whom they blame for playing with fire.

“There’s countries like Russia and China that would love nothing more than for us to default so they could point the finger and say, ‘You see, the United States is not a stable, reliable partner,’” said John F. Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council.
Even if they understand, though, they see consequences. Mr. Biden’s decision to head home early reinforces questions about American commitment to the Asia-Pacific region and leaves a vacuum that China may exploit, according to analysts. A presidential visit to places like Papua New Guinea, where no U.S. leader has gone before, speaks loudly about diplomatic priorities — as does the failure to follow through.

This is not the first time an American president has scrubbed a foreign trip to deal with domestic concerns. President George H.W. Bush canceled a two-week trip to Asia in 1991 to show he was focused on a lagging economy at home, while President Bill Clinton scrapped a trip to Japan during a government shutdown in 1995. President Barack Obama delayed a trip to Indonesia and Australia in 2010 to focus on health care legislation, then skipped an Asia-Pacific summit meeting in 2013 during a government shutdown of his own.


…don’t think I’ll ever get used to the part where the right wing in the US (…& the UK…& a bunch of places in europe) keep pushing an agenda that might as well have been dictated to them by the very interests that were their bogeymen when I was growing up

Consider this, for example: The United States is a democracy, and China isn’t, of course. But the latest World Values Survey, conducted from 2017 to 2020, indicates that 95 percent of Chinese participants had significant confidence in their government, compared to 33 percent in the United States. Similarly, 93 percent of Chinese participants valued security over freedom; only 28 percent of Americans did so.

“Chinese citizens expect the government to take on larger roles in social and economic issues and do not see interventions as infringements on liberty,” Jin wrote.
Wrapping your mind around those stark cultural differences is the first step toward “reading China in the original,” just as you get more out of reading Baudelaire in the original French or Mad magazine in the original English.

In her opening chapter, Jin described her collision-of-cultures experiences as an exchange student in the 1990s at the Horace Mann School, an elite private school in the Bronx. Outside of class, she was asked, “Do you feel oppressed?” She quickly got involved in local politics. “That a proud Youth League member of the Communist Party could find herself immersed in an American family actively involved in democratic campaigns, conventions and fund-raising seemed utterly surreal,” she wrote.

Much of the book recounts China’s economic miracle. In her final chapter, “Toward a New Paradigm,” she wrote that China’s leadership “fervently wishes” to avoid vast inequality that breeds distrust and extremism. “China seeks an olive-shaped income distribution for its people, ample in the middle and narrow at the extremes.”

China, she wrote, requires that its companies be hefa, heli and heqing — that is, lawful, reasonable and empathetic. Chinese government at all levels “will need to recede to the background while letting markets and entrepreneurs do the work” — but the mechanisms for making that happen “are not yet part of the new playbook.”

When I interviewed Jin a couple of weeks ago I asked whether she had pulled punches to avoid offending China’s leadership. “I don’t talk about political issues,” she said. “To be frank, this is an economics work.” She added: “Perhaps it would be helpful for Americans to be aware that in China, the problems are overwhelmingly domestic. Chinese are not always thinking about America.”

…well…not all of them, anyway…& now that there are less of them than there are folks in india…they have other concerns…but…all the same

But, I asked Jin, isn’t President Xi Jinping trying to reassert government control over the “commanding heights” of the economy? “Don’t read too much into grandiose messages,” she responded. “The reality today is that the private sector is fully in the driver’s seat.” The best evidence of that is the Chinese economy’s slow rebound from its Covid shutdown, she said. “The reason it’s sluggish is precisely that there’s a lack of confidence in the private sector,” she said. “The old playbook of calling on Team China to do large infrastructure, that is no longer working.”

I asked her about Chinese leaders’ fears of a disengaged “lying flat” generation. It’s real, she said: “Lying flat is associated with few marriages and reduced expectations.” On the other hand, she said, young Chinese aren’t exactly giving up; they just don’t want to do manual labor or other unappealing work: “They’re interested in innovating to solve society’s problems, not just survival of the fittest.”
For the Chinese, “the bottom line is to avoid an American-style capitalism,” Jin said, coming back to the metaphor of an olive-shaped income distribution. Essentially, she said, “China wants to be a bigger and smarter Germany. More managed capitalism.”


…managed, eh? …be nice if that were possible without the attendant stage managed side of things

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) sounded confident that an agreement could be reached ahead of a June 1 deadline to raise the nation’s borrowing limit or risk a global economic catastrophe. Biden gave a similar assessment, though major differences remain between the two sides before a deal can be struck.

White House officials also announced that Biden would be cutting short a visit to Asia as the administration seeks to finalize an agreement. Aides to McCarthy and Biden will negotiate directly, lawmakers said, slimming down the number of parties involved in the talks as the deadline nears. The White House said staff would continue meeting daily, adding that Biden will check in with leaders by phone during his trip this week and in person when he returns.

…I mean…you can argue about whether changing his itinerary counts as blinking or staring harder…but while both teams reassure themselves that the other guy isn’t dumb enough to let this go over the cliff-edge

White House Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young and presidential counselor Steve Ricchetti have been appointed to lead the negotiations for the president, while Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) and McCarthy’s staff will lead the negotiations for McCarthy. Congressional Democratic leaders said they approved that arrangement.

“We’re going to continue to make progress toward avoiding default,” the president said at a White House Jewish American Heritage Month celebration shortly after what he called a “good, productive meeting” with congressional leadership. “There was an overwhelming consensus … that defaulting on the debt is not an option.”

…there sure is a lot of hairy eyeballing going around

Emerging from the White House meeting Tuesday afternoon, McCarthy said: “It is possible to get a deal by the end of the week. It’s not that difficult to get to an agreement.”
The positive signals surrounding negotiations Tuesday came amid new pressure on the administration from its left flank not to agree to new work requirements on federal programs, which McCarthy said must be included in a final deal. Democratic Sens. John Fetterman (Pa.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) strongly criticized such proposals and threatened to vote against a deal that included them, potentially imperiling Democratic support for an agreement.

Publicly, Biden administration officials are adamant that they are working with House Republicans on a deal to fund the federal government in the next fiscal year — not to raise the debt ceiling. Privately, however, some Biden aides recognize that the negotiations appear to be in part about the debt limit. Behind the scenes, negotiators are clear that any deal on the budget must resolve the debt ceiling as well. Democratic negotiators also acknowledge that they will have to agree to more spending cuts if they want to secure a longer extension of the debt ceiling increase — an implicit recognition that lawmakers are bartering over the full faith and credit of the U.S. government, an approach Biden has repeatedly disavowed.

“The issue here is principle: If you accept the idea that you can, in essence, be held to blackmail with the debt ceiling, it will be done again and again. Not to be crass, but it’s essentially negotiating with terrorists who have taken hostages,” said Dean Baker, a liberal economist at the Center for Economic Policy and Research, a left-leaning think tank. “More and more people in progressive circles are becoming concerned with it.”

…in fairness…they would seem to have a point…to be pointed about it

…when it comes to issues of mutual interest the information age sure doesn’t seem to be working out as advertised

Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat, told reporters that the idea of imposing work requirements on food stamps, as some Republicans have proposed, is “despicable” and that the White House should not give in to GOP demands to do so.

“I cannot support a deal that is only about hurting people,” the senator said. “If the Republicans are really serious about lowering the amount of the national debt, then, by golly, let’s bring in some revenues.”

Fetterman said in a statement that he “cannot in good conscience support a debt ceiling proposal that pushes people into poverty.”
The emerging deal could extend the debt ceiling by two years — crucially, past the 2024 presidential election — in a victory for the Biden administration, while also potentially setting the government’s total spending through then. In exchange for avoiding the economic instability of a default, the White House would agree at least in part to GOP demands to set new limits on spending while rescinding unused pandemic funding and, potentially, approving a permitting deal to encourage energy production.
“Congressional Republicans have not been willing to discuss raising revenues, but policy differences between the parties should not stop Congress from avoiding default,” Biden said.

…I’ve seen all sorts of analogies to explain what the debt ceiling is & why it matters & what it would mean to default…but…to pick one strand of the thing…it’s a technicality…the money is, in various senses, already spent/borrowed/allocated per a budget…refusing to acknowledge the resultant increase of the consequent total as it appears elsewhere on the balance sheet doesn’t do diddly squat to that part…so…I personally wouldn’t be too sanguine about the GOP not being fine with burning that bridge…they were totally down with their president pulling exactly that shit when it came to paying his bills…practically fawned over what a power move that shit was, even…whereas from the perspective of a.n. other country getting the “look – the trump thing is done, ok…remember how this used to work?” pitch…confidence is not high on the list of things that inspires?

“A key part of this is whether the White House will be able to credibly say the elements that get negotiated are ones that would have been on the table this year anyway,” said David Kamin, who served as deputy director of the White House National Economic Council earlier in the Biden administration. “I think the White House is focused on trying not to reward Republicans for irresponsibly using the debt limit as a focal point for negotiations.”

The emerging deal may also involve a two-step plan floated by House Republicans for speeding up the nation’s permitting process for energy projects, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive deliberations.

As a first step, the person said, the deal would change the permitting process under the National Environmental Policy Act, a 1970 law that requires the federal government to analyze the environmental impact of its proposed actions. As a second step, House GOP leaders would agree to pursue separate legislation to address Democrats’ top permitting priorities: accelerating the approval of renewable-energy projects and electric transmission lines.

…how sick am I of whatever crazy pills we’re apparently all taking that there doesn’t appear to be a plausible reading of that “change the permitting process” part that’s compatible with strengthening the part where we “analyze the environmental impact” of stuff…or, I dunno, actually don’t do shit that’s wantonly destructive when there’s literally alternatives available…including more than we can use of the shit you want to fuck shit up extracting?

Concern is building on the left about a potential agreement, especially as Republicans appear more emboldened on work requirements. Talking to reporters Tuesday, McCarthy said it would be “ludicrous” to fail to reach an agreement and default because of resistance to negotiating on such requirements. Asked in another exchange whether work requirements on certain federal programs were a “red line,” the speaker responded, “Yes.”

…that’s some bold talk for a man holding what looks to be a weak hand backed up by a powder keg he’s sitting on while his buddies flick lit matches at his head…but the show must go on, right?

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said work requirements for federal food stamp programs were “ridiculous.”

“We have work requirements,” Durbin said, adding that if Republicans want “to impose work requirements on disabled people and children,” they should say so.

…actions speak louder than words?

Capitol Police also arrested 12 people in the Rotunda on Tuesday afternoon during a demonstration calling on Congress to raise the debt limit without cutting spending on social programs or efforts to fight climate change. The protesters sat on a banner that read “OUR LIVES ARE NOT NEGOTIABLE.”

Ahead of the meeting Tuesday, House Republicans emphasized that they view work requirements as critical.

“Look: You saw the president himself say over this weekend he voted for these work requirements; why would you back away from them today?” said Graves, a top House Republican in the debt ceiling discussions. “I’ll say it again: Then-Senator Biden voted for this.”

Liberal lawmakers have in prior years called for the White House to resolve the debt ceiling issue by unilateral means, such as by minting a $1 trillion coin or invoking the 14th Amendment to disregard the borrowing cap. Even allies who agree that those measures are risky say that encouraging what the administration sees as GOP “hostage-taking” would be worse, since it gives Republicans an incentive to continue to weaponize the debt ceiling for concessions. While the details of a deal are unclear, liberal allies are also worried about broad cuts to programs that millions of Americans depend on — and are particularly wary of re-creating the budget cuts that similar standoffs over the debt ceiling forced during the Obama administration. Many economists believe those cuts slowed the economic recovery after the Great Recession.


…given the average age of these politicians…you’d think more of them would manage to grow the fuck up…but no…we get to be all “morituri te salutant” while they do their best to grandstand the whole thing into the ground…still…if it keeps the lights on, right…right?

While the seasonal electricity forecast is more optimistic than it was last year — when much of the Midwest and southeast was so short of power that the regions were on high alert for “energy emergencies” — it points to an unnerving summer ahead. The report comes as scientists are tracking a developing El Nino weather pattern that threatens to cause temperatures to spike and big storms to form in the coming months.

The mid-Atlantic and southeastern states are the only areas of the country where the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) is not warning of the potential for outages in the event of prolonged and intense heat waves or monster storms.

“The system is close to its edge,” said John Moura, director of reliability assessment and performance analysis at NERC. “More needs to be done to bolster the system’s resilience.”

The warnings are becoming an annual event. The stability that once underpinned the country’s power system has dissolved under the stress of heat domes and hurricanes precipitated by climate change. A lack of investment in the fragile collection of transfer stations and transmission lines that keep lights on and air conditioners humming is compounding the problem.
The findings are sure to rekindle debate about the energy transition and the extent to which initiatives to curb climate change are stressing the national network of electricity systems. They come only days after the Biden administration unveiled a new, aggressive plan to lower emissions at power plants, which opponents charge will further erode grid stability.

But many energy scholars say that while the rapid shift to cleaner energy does add to the challenge of modernizing the grid, other factors play a much bigger part in what are becoming annual summertime energy-shortage anxieties expected to persist for years.

“The extreme weather that is hitting a wider swath of the country is putting more pressure on the system,” said Bill Dugan, a director at Customized Energy Solutions, a Philadelphia firm that advises clients on electricity markets. Compounding the challenge, he said, is that many coal plants are shutting down earlier than initially planned, not because of regulatory deadlines but because they are not economical to operate.
It all points to too little energy available at the same time demand is soaring. A lot of what is driving that summer demand is air conditioning. As the weather gets hotter, people are cranking up the AC higher. And more Americans have air conditioning than ever before, according to the Energy Department. Nearly 90 percent of U.S. homes are now air-conditioned, up from 77 percent in 2001.

Replacing the coal power that is disappearing with clean energy is taking longer than anticipated, even as solar and wind developers have financing lined up for major projects and are eager to bring them online. There are interstate fights over the siting of transmission lines, supply chain challenges slowing shipments of equipment and bureaucratic snags that are inhibiting the permitting. The wait time for connecting renewable energy to the grid is increasing every year.
There are enough wind, solar and other clean-energy projects waiting to connect the grid to make the U.S. electricity system 90 percent zero-emissions by 2035, according to an April report from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “But this growing backlog has become a major bottleneck for project development: projects are taking longer and longer to complete the interconnection study process and come online, and most of these interconnection requests are ultimately canceled and withdrawn,” the report said.

…I think this is part of what I find most frustrating about this stuff…while tracts of forest bigger than I can wrap my head around go up in smoke from siberia to canada to south america…& heatwaves write off crops hither & yon the way they did recently in spain…while parts of italy are flooded out to the point of landslides by a deluge of more rain in a couple of days than they’re used to in a year…& they tell us that the last few hot summers were actually curbed by a global weather feedback loop that’s about to flip its net heat exchange from chill to warm…we have the capacity to be doing more things faster about the things that exacerbate that problem…but instead of putting them into action…the same thing that keeps us spiting ourselves all the way up & down that chain continues to pull shit like holding the global economy as its hostage to fortune in order to demand a ransom…to continue compounding the very problems they fight tooth & nail to impede any solution to

…nazis…nihilists…why-not-both.gif…& all due respect to donnie…but a heart attack in the background is certainly one way this could go…it’d be a more intelligible sequence of cause & effect that the one that has troops from florida off to police the mexican border like they’re the spartans off to the pass of the hot springs

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he’s sending hundreds of law enforcement officers — along with aircraft, drones and boats — to Texas, deploying state resources toward an issue he is likely to make a centerpiece of his expected presidential run.

It’s the second time in two years that Florida has entered into an accord with Texas for help at the U.S.-Mexico border. But in 2021, Florida’s assistance was much more modest — 50 officers. This time, DeSantis (R) is promising to send 1,301.

The move comes at the request of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who on Tuesday “urged the nation’s Governors” to help with border security in his state, according to a statement from his office.
According to the assignments listed in the description from DeSantis’s office, the Del Rio and Rio Grande Valley sectors in Texas will each see the deployment of 50 Florida Highway Patrol troopers, 10 state game wardens and 10 criminal investigators. The deployments will last for 31 days.

Last week, DeSantis signed into law a sweeping immigration bill that gives him more money to resume a controversial migrant relocation program. The new law limits social services for immigrants who don’t have permanent legal status and requires hospitals that accept Medicaid to ask patients their citizenship status on intake forms.

The law also expands the required use of E-Verify, a federal system that determines whether people can legally work in the United States, to cover all businesses with more than 25 employees. Opponents of the law say industries that rely on immigrant workers — including agriculture and tourism — will lose workers as a result.

…must be an urgent crisis they have on their hands down there

Border crossings have decreased by 50 percent since Title 42 policies limiting crossings ended and President Biden began enforcing new restrictions last week, but it’s unclear whether the decline in illegal entries will continue.

…so…what’s the story?

“The impacts of Biden’s Border Crisis are felt by communities across the nation, and the federal government’s abdication of duty undermines the sovereignty of our country and the rule of law,” DeSantis said in a statement released by his office Tuesday.


…as opposed to, say, undermining the sovereignty of the federal government by using a state-level fiefdom to flout its rule of law…some of which he’s a fan of abdicating even at the level of his current office when it comes to things like the dark arts of campaign finance…mind you…given that he’s now in the crosshairs of the house of mouse…&…effectively…random house…of penguin fame…maybe there’s other reasons ya-do-run-ron might be looking wistfully at that mexican border…are we sure he’s not a flight risk?

In addition to the publishing house, PEN America, a nonprofit group that advocates for free expression in literature, five authors whose books have been removed from the district, and two parents whose children go to school in the district filed the suit against the Escambia County School District and the Escambia County School Board in Pensacola, Florida.

The plaintiffs alleged that the district and the board violated the First Amendment by “depriving students of access to a wide range of viewpoints, and depriving the authors of the removed and restricted books of the opportunity to engage with readers and disseminate their ideas to their intended audiences.” 

They also argued that the removals violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment “because the books being singled out for possible removal are disproportionately books by non-white and/or LGBTQ authors, or which address topics related to race or LGBTQ identity.”

“This is no accident,” the suit alleged. “The clear agenda behind the campaign to remove the books is to categorically remove all discussion of racial discrimination or LGBTQ issues from public school libraries. Government action may not be premised on such discriminatory motivations.”
Since last May, the district and the school board have removed or indefinitely restricted access to five books by the author plaintiffs: “Uncle Bobby’s Wedding” by Sarah Brannen, “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson, “Two Boys Kissing” by David Levithan, “When Aidan Became a Brother” by Kyle Lukoff and “Out of Darkness” by Ashley Hope Pérez. 

The other removed or indefinitely restricted books include “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut, “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini, “Milo Imagines the World” by Matt de la Peña, “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison and “Push” by Sapphire.  More than 100 other titles are restricted and require parental approval for access.

Suzanne Nossel, the CEO of PEN America, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, said in a statement the freedom to read “is guaranteed by the constitution.” 
In its latest annual book censorship report, the American Library Association documented 1,269 challenges to more than 2,500 books last year, the highest number of attempted book bans since it began tracking such efforts in 2001. Of the 13 books that made its list of most challenged books last year, seven titles — including three of the top four — were challenged for having LGBTQ content, it found.


…some days, I swear

“Facts are stubborn things.” So, in 1770, said John Adams, who lived in an era of reason and respect for the findings and the truths to which they lead. Adams would have had difficulty comprehending an era in which some people assert straightfacedly that “facts” are mere variable products of social constructs or that multiplication tables are tools of oppression. Nonetheless, when assertions are grounded in empirical, measurable and replicable research, they still usually carry a credibility that sustains them against challenges from contentions lacking such support.

What our second president did not note, or at least anticipate, was that falsehoods can be just as stubborn, or more so, than the facts that refute them. In our day, falsehoods’ level of obstinacy appears to be rising fast. Consider the example of election results, numerical tabulations that, though counted and recounted, verified and reverified, are still disbelieved by millions. The encouragement to reject established facts has done terrible damage to public unity — and nurtured the instinct to disbelieve other objectively demonstrated facts.
It has been said over the years that “We made war on poverty, and poverty won.” No, it didn’t, not if we mean, as most people do, material deprivation. What remains of that in the U.S. population, 2.5 percent by the authors’ calculation, is surely a low in human history. If one means the poverty of spirit that can come with chronic dependency and the lack of active, productive purpose, we haven’t won, but that’s a different column.

We should keep debating the right means and right amounts of assistance to send from some Americans to others. But constantly misrepresenting and understating what we do for each other, and the results achieved, disrespects the taxpayers who fund this assistance, and fosters misimpressions as societally poisonous as other political assertions now routinely labeled as untrue.

Our commitment to lift our fellow citizens out of poverty should be a matter of national pride. It cannot be if those whose professional responsibility is, or at least once was, the unearthing and sharing of objective truth, instead propagate its opposite.

Gramm and his co-authors’ book begins with a maxim often attributed to Mark Twain, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” Today too many of us “know” things about our economic well-being that ain’t so. Facts might still be stubborn, but unfortunately so are falsehoods.



Using the Treasury Department’s “debt to the penny” website, we can see that the nation’s total public debt, including intragovernmental holdings, was just under $20 trillion when Trump took office in 2017. Four years later, when Trump left, the figure was about $27.8 trillion. That’s an increase of nearly 39 percent. (The debt has increased an additional 13 percent since Biden became president.)

But numbers can be deceiving. The Treasury website also shows that $4.3 trillion in debt — more than half of the $7.9 trillion increase — came in the last 10 months of Trump’s term, as the coronavirus pandemic emerged, and massive government spending was needed to mitigate the economic fallout. Both parties strongly supported such measures; Biden has criticized Trump’s handling of the pandemic but he has not questioned the level of government spending needed to combat it.
Which president has contributed the most to the nation’s long-term fiscal imbalance? That would be Lyndon B. Johnson, according to a 2021 study by Charles Blahous, a former economic adviser to George W. Bush and a public trustee for Social Security and Medicare from 2010 through 2015. Through an exhaustive study of Congressional Budget Office and Office of Management and Budget reports, Blahous estimated LBJ’s share of the fiscal imbalance is 29.7 percent. Close behind is Richard M. Nixon, with 29.2 percent.

[…] in effect, according to this analysis, almost two-thirds of the nation’s long-term fiscal imbalance is a result of policy choices made more than 50 years ago. Spending on Social Security and Medicare happens automatically, not subject to annual appropriations made by Congress. So lawmakers would have to pass new laws to restrain spending in those programs, which are called “entitlements” because benefits are guaranteed for all who qualify.

The cost of some of these decisions in the 1960s only became apparent much later.

Former LBJ White House aide Joseph A. Califano Jr. in 1993 disclosed that a seemingly minor provision to provide nursing-home coverage that was added to ensure passage of Medicaid, the health-care program for the poor, unexpectedly led to a gusher of cash from the federal government that helped build what is now a $150-billion nursing-home industry; one-third of Medicaid personal-health spending goes to nursing homes. To pry Medicare out of a Senate committee, Johnson also agreed to pay hospitals a certain percentage above hospital-determined costs and accept doctor fees that were considered “reasonable,” “customary” and “prevailing”— a compromise that at the time he was told would cost just $500 million. Since then, lawmakers have struggled with the spiraling consequences of giving “hospitals and doctors the keys to the federal Treasury,” as Califano put it.

Of course, you can’t evaluate the effectiveness of policies just by looking at costs. Social Security and Medicare helped mitigate poverty among the elderly. Indexing Social Security benefits to inflation gave the program a feature that virtually no annuity can match — and has ensured the elderly do not suffer economically during periods of high inflation.

Social programs, in fact, can provide more benefits than costs in the long run, but it’s not easy to document because the returns may take decades to materialize. A 2020 analysis by Nathaniel Hendren and Ben Sprung-Keyser of Harvard University of 133 policy changes found that spending on low-income children’s health and education in particular paid for themselves. That’s because children who benefited from those programs earned more money as adults, thus paying higher taxes and requiring fewer welfare payments. Children’s health programs, for instance, were estimated to earn the government $1.78 for every dollar spent. Spending on adults did not have the same kind of long-term impact, the analysis found.
Why don’t you hear much about these Obama tax cuts? Democrats don’t tout them, in part because they extended about 80 percent of tax cuts first passed by George W. Bush in 2001 and 2003. Bush included a ticking time bomb — the tax cuts expired after nine years, forcing Obama to either extend them or allow taxes to go up for many Americans. He reached a deal that just raised taxes on people making more than $400,000. So Democrats often argue that those tax cuts, including what Obama extended, should be counted as GOP contributions to the deficit.

Trump included a similar ticking time bomb in his tax cut for whoever is president in 2025, as that’s when his tax cuts will expire. Biden has also engaged in these budget tricks for some of his spending programs, having them expire after a few years to make the fiscal consequences seem lower in the long run.
Blahous said that Congress fiddles so often with the tax code that the effects of one particular tax cut are difficult to discern over a 50-year period. In doing his research, he said he was struck by the fact that policy choices made by Trump will have a greater long-term fiscal impact than his tax cut. Trump eliminated several streams of revenue that Obama enacted to help finance the Affordable Care Act, including a 40-percent tax on high-cost, employer-sponsored “Cadillac” health plans and fines imposed on people who failed to obtain health insurance. Blahous estimated that revoking these taxes will amount to 7.6 percent of the future fiscal imbalance. “One would never know that just following the political debates,” he said.
“The Great Recession and the covid crisis led to unusually large deficits due to congressional action (and in the Great Recession, losses of revenue due to a recession) right at the transition between terms,” said Eugene Steuerle, a fellow at the Urban Institute, in an email. The nation has experienced “ever higher deficits, which result partly from never having policies in place to pay off past crisis-level deficits (and growth in debt) and partly from the automatic growth in spending rather than just legislative increases.” Both parties, he said, have a “joint but growing responsibility for kicking the compounding entitlement shortfall down the road.”


…speaking of things getting a kicking & stuff down the road

There have been four major investigations into Russian intervention in the 2016 presidential election and the FBI’s handling of the subject — a 2019 report released by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, a 2019 Justice Department inspector general report, a bipartisan report by the Senate Intelligence Committee issued in 2020 by a GOP-controlled Senate, and now a 2023 report released by special counsel John Durham. All told, the reports add up to about 2,500 pages of dense prose and sometimes contradictory conclusions.

But broad themes can be deduced from a close reading of the evidence gathered in the lengthy documents, as well as indictments and testimony on related criminal cases.


…don’t go telling everyone…but someone…that, for legal purposes, I probably ought to stress wasn’t me…went ahead & archived that page a day or so ago…as what some might call a public service…just sayin’…anyway…where was I?

As Donald Trump’s legal troubles mount at the federal, state and local levels, the ex-president and his lawyers are banking on their political allies in the Republican party to make attacks on a New York prosecutor who has charged Trump with criminal offenses, and to also get them to help derail investigations that endanger his 2024 campaign.

Former prosecutors and members of both parties have voiced strong criticism about the drives by Trump, his lawyers and Republican House allies to attack prosecutors who have filed charges against Trump or are investigating him, calling such moves antithetical to democratic principles and the rule of law.

…oh, yeah…I remember now

Such criticism has not deterred Trump, his lawyers or pliable Republicans from trying to discredit prosecutors with political attacks that in part reflect Trump’s lack of success in convincing courts to curb prosecutors.


…can we just take a moment to appreciate how entirely fucking whacked-out it is for certain people to consider themselves the aggrieved party

George Soros’ family office cashed out on Tesla’s impressive stock-market rebound this year by selling its entire stake in the first quarter, according to a 13F filing published Friday. 

Soros Fund Management had gradually added to its holdings of Tesla stock during the second quarter of 2022, holding around 132,000 shares by the end of last year. By offloading that position, the fund likely enjoyed significant gains from the surge in the EV maker’s stock price this year. 


…because in the sinning:sinned-against stakes

The Twitter owner and Tesla chief executive said he is “allowed to say what I want to”, as he defended a tweet posted on Tuesday saying the billionaire financier “reminds me of Magneto” – the Jewish villain in the X-Men series.

In an interview with US broadcaster CNBC on Tuesday, he said: “I’ll say what I want to say and if the consequence of that is losing money, so be it.”

Asked about the “humanity” tweet, Musk said: “Yeah I think that’s true, that’s my opinion.” Musk also defended his interaction last week with conspiracy theorist tweets about a mass shooting in Texas this month.
Musk added that Twitter, historically a loss-making company, was “close” to breaking even and that Yaccarino might rehire some of the approximately 6,000 staff that were made redundant after the takeover.

“I think we absolutely need to hire people. And if they’re not too mad at us, probably rehire some of the people that we let go,” he said.


…they have all the legs to stand on of an avatar in zuck’s metaverse?

…ok…so this is due up…but I reserve the right to come back an add a whole rant to it about how not-ok the part where musk attempts to cast himself as inigo from the princess bride was

[ETA: …you know what…I’ll let the man himself do it for me…& then I might finally have a minute to dig up some tunes…apologies for the delay]



  1. Speaking of climate change, a lot of people are shocked that insurance premiums for low lying flood areas with frequent heavy storms are climbing.

    It’s happening everywhere.

    What the hell did you think, climate change denying yobs? My insurance rates have doubled in the past 5 years in part because of this too.

        • Yeah, unlike Russia, Ukraine is planning for the long term. Even if Putin is somehow removed, the next asshole is going to decide he’s fucking Alexander the Great or something and try this shit again.

      • …depending on how things shake out domestically…russia post-this-particular-war-by-another-name could be several different kinds of unpredictable…but now they’ve gotten on board a sort of military surplus pipeline to decant kit to as they try to make room for newer & shinier objects…there’s quite a bit of scope for what might be longer-term planning…crimea isn’t going to un-dig those new trenches overnight, for a start?

        • ukraine is still quite adamant about taking back crimea…cant say i blame them….also cant see how they would that quickly

          tho…a lot is going to depend on how effective the eventual counter offensive is going to be

          if its a flub i suspect we will start putting a lot of pressure on ukraine to negotiate an end to conflict

          the spending over there is a pretty divisive subject over here… me personally i think if we we’re going to drop support…we should have never given it…we are committed and directly responsible for dragging this out now

          but thats just me…theres a sizeable chunk of the country in the not our war and we should be fixing our own problems camp now…and its not just the right anymore either

          the longer this drags on the less i like ukraines odds of keeping our support

          course…if in the meantime the russian gubment somehow topples…well..fuck knows whats going to happen if russia falls apart again

          • …I get how in some specifically-worded instances it’s sort of similarly important for “us” to say it’s ukraine that’s at war…not us…the same way vlad wants to say it’s both importantly-not-a-war but also that he’s fighting against a vast western might that encompasses all of NATO especially the nuclear bits

            …but…particularly I’d have thought with a foe who touts “full-spectrum” “total war” & likes to fuck with elections & leverage misinformation & poorly-schooled, low-information, high-grievance voters

            …pretending that the spending & associated military support & provision directed to ukraine is a domestic-facing kind of a consideration comes off counter-productive to me?

            …& by curious coincidence seems to be a favorite line of reasoning among people like…orban…or the GOP…who don’t noticeably seem opposed to letting russia walk in & start picking out new curtains for the whole region

            …might not be polite to mention that part…I dunno anymore?

            • i mean…i agree with you

              but theres a surprisingly large amount of people here that think we are meddling where we shouldnt and russia is only threatening nato coz we keep poking them

              coz they were sweet cuddly teddy bears before…you know

              and then theres the far right…who i very much suspect are for the most part on putins pay roll one way or another

              i would say…our support is a fragile easily lost thing

              the court of public opinion is a fickle and ill informed thing…and with a largely centrist gubment here…if the court of public opinion swings a little too far into the oh shit we could lose our jobs here side of things for the politicians….then yeah…thats trouble for ukraine

              probably trouble for us too..in the longer term…

              • …that’s the part where not looking at that aspect of the domestic arena in the same light as the call-it-what-you-like-but-it’s-killing-a-lot-of-people-over-something-that-looks-like-a-war…just because it manages to look like it’s not a matter of life or death with consequences beyond its nation’s borders…feels like it isn’t an afterthought in that total war doctrine

                …which seems like it might line a lot of those people up with chamberlain if we leave it to them to ensure peace in our time

                …not to mention the whole “aid & comfort to the enemy” aspect

                …so…I tend to find myself looking askance at those folks?

                • pretty much….tho…as i work with a bunch of these people….i would say its not appeasement

                  its me!me!me! fuck them

                  shit sucks for meeeee!

                  these people are not going to give a flying fuck unless it directly affects them

                  which for the moment they think it does…. coz we are spending billions on not ME!

                  (edit) with a side of why the fuck is my tax money getting spent over there……instead of on me!

  2. Kessler is an idiot and fact-checking is for the birds but his story about the budget is extremely interesting and, more importantly, what political journalism should actually be. Ignore the slogans and narratives in favor of data. It is missing the very simple fact that should be in every story about every budget anywhere that the government could just raise taxes and close the holes, but … I suppose that’s a little too “fetch me my fainting couch” still.

    What’s more is that everything in politics is like this! Decisions made a long time ago shape so many of the arguments we have now over everything, and until we get strong enough to resist “well we’ve always done it that way” we’ll never do anything.

    • …considering how much of politics in the present sense is reacting to the consequences of things the prior doing of which can’t be changed…& the amount of time is spent talking about consensus…it’s…curious, you could say, that so much of the approach to the business of it seems to have been boiled down to leverage in the sense of forcing the other guy’s hand…generally while saying “why are you hitting yourself?” as loudly as possible in the direction of the peanut gallery & hoping the ref will let it slide…to thoroughly over-mix my metaphors?

      • I was once talking to someone, years back, and he said “Sometimes, the status quo is radical” and it stuck with me. I complain a lot about the lack of imagination in our politics, but most people have no idea even of how we got to where we are on most issues, and journalism about that is usually enlightening. (Especially compared with, oh let’s say anything ever written by Maga Haberman.)

        And a lot of it is economic, but frankly, it’s even broader than that. There’s a reason conservatives want to ban the study of any history that’s not completely sanitized!

        • The reality is that all reality is a big change in the status quo. There is no such thing as standing still, and change comes whether anyone wants it or not. All that’s left is trying to shape it for better or worse. But being able to define what is status quo is an extremely powerful tool in the PR wars.

          Preserving the status quo in climate became the radical position, while sending it spiraling to an extreme became the status quo.

          The right wing was able to limit the framework purely to coal miner jobs and gas prices. Even basic infrastructure like keeping the electrical grid up to par and running railroads on a par with the 1950s became a crazy radical position, while dooming much of Florida and Louisiana was business as usual.

          New oil drilling, ending longstanding conservation measures and building huge new roads are all treated as the status quo, while refusing to prop up fossil fuels with subsidies is radical. Worsening  drought and the end of white Christmases is status quo, while scaling back car ownership to older times is radical.

          That’s not to say you can’t slice and dice issues and rearrange frameworks to come up narratives of status quo vs. radicalism, but when viewing these frameworks from even a slightly different perspective, everything changes.

          • …I think maybe the idea that the status quo can itself be radical maybe is hinting at a slightly different line…but not in a way that would conflict with that?

    • The unchallenged assumptions in the places where politics and economics intersect are manifestly insane. Inflation from April ’22 to April ’23 is 5ish percent per year, and the rate has dropped at its current level to under 3 percent.

      But the econ-political reporting is that it’s “too high” and needs austerity. If you dig deeper, there may be some vague attempt at hedging the claim by saying “well, it is lower, but perceptions remain that it’s too high” without ever admitting that the perceptions are fed to an overwhelming extent from the press acting like it’s still high.

      And even when actual consumer behavior indicates that the public is reacting to lower inflation and isn’t acting like it’s “too high” in their savings and purchasing patterns, the reporting still comes out that perceptions should be that it’s “too high.”

      To be fair in a limited sense to reporters, a lot of what they report is driven by just quoting standard sources — the usual suspects of Larry Summers types, think tankers, and fin sector analysts. But there’s never any attempt to cull sources based on accuracy. Paul Ryan was promising tax cuts would pay for themselves, and the only time he should be cited is as a negative example, not as a qualified source or legitimate dissenting view. But he’s still treated as an honest player.

      • …same deal with “now that the numbers have *checks notes* dipped at the border after this thing you’ve heard of was allowed to lapse it’s a sign of how potentially-presidential I am that I’m seconding a bunch of my non-border state’s law enforcement resources to get people talking about me in texas combat this diminishing menace before it poses as big a threat to our democracy & the rule of law as I & the fellow travelers on my side of the aisle are trying like hell to be”

        …sense…is apparently not on the menu

        • Once the subjective opinion of a border “crisis” is moved over into the column of objective fact, all reporting can ever manage is to confirm it in one way or another, even when presenting clear facts to the opposite.

          Likewise with guns — once the connection between hyperlethal guns and mass shootings was moved into the subjective opinion category, no amount of reporting will ever be able establish objective reality, even when it covers actual facts.

  3. All national news media has become a hysteria machine.  It’s designed to bombard you with crises that you cannot solve or influence in any way because that heightened state of FUD makes you more susceptible to advertising.

    I’m considering giving up on it entirely and only consuming local news, which around here means a weatherman in an ill-fitting suit giving the weather with smiley-face suns and stories about local gardens and the lady over in Possum Holler who turned 105.

  4. Chris Licht at CNN is still cracking up.

    CNN’s ratings have been eclipsed by freaking Newsmax after the Trump town hall, compounding Licht’s inability to capitalize on the Carlson firing back in April.


    Licht’s efforts to make his talent shut the hell up seem weak, as Christiane Amanpour blasted the town hall, as reported by CNN’s media reporter Oliver Darcy, who Licht earlier tried to shut up through some kind of sloppy bank shot.


    One telling sign is that this has been festering in public for over a week after his big gambit. He’s just bad at the internal spin he needs to get his employees on his side, he’s bad at the basic programming needed to hang on to his core audience, and he’s bad at developing new audiences. He’s worse than Zucker, and Zucker wasn’t good.


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