Streetwise Professor

September 12, 2021

Gabby Biden’s 911 Stream of Dementia

Filed under: Politics — cpirrong @ 5:47 pm

Apparently not wanting to risk Joe Biden breaking his own record for Worst Presidential Speech on as solemn an occasion as the 20th anniversary of 911, his handlers decided that he would not give formal live remarks in New York, the Pentagon, or Pennsylvania. Instead, they decided to unleash the allegedly avuncular Gabby Biden, who responded to some questions in Shanksville.

The question that started this verbal train wreck, this word succotash, was the most dangerous that Biden could have faced:

Q    Mr. President, what is going through your mind today, sir?

Dear God in heaven, anything but that.

Biden responded by saying exactly what was going through his mind. Which is to say, he unleashed a stream of dementia (I would never say consciousness) that veered between something that had at least some connection to 911 (though that (a) ended up being all about him, and (b) sounded like Fractured Fairy Tales as written by Hunter on crack), to his alleged attempts to unite the country, including a foray into his domestic agenda–“human infrastructure”–to a defense of his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, to (amazingly) a defense of how we got out of Afghanistan (there was no other way to get out), to a slap at Trump (who apparently lives in his head, granted there is a lot of empty room).

The man said “anyway” SEVEN TIMES. This is a common verbal tick of someone (usually elderly) whose mind wanders, and subconsciously knows his/her mind has wandered. Like Grandpa Simpson:

“You see, back in those days, rich men would ride around in zeppelins, dropping coins on people. And one day, I seen J. D. Rockefeller flyin’ by– so I run out of the house with a big washtub, and—Anyway, about my washtub. I just used it that morning to wash my turkey, which in those days was known as a “walking bird”. We’d always have walking bird on Thanksgiving with all the trimmings: cranberries, Injun eyes, yams stuffed with gunpowder. Then we’d all watch football, which in those days was called “baseball.”

So, anyway, I’m going to do my thing.    

That last was Joe Biden, not Grandpa Simpson. And Judas Priest. “I’m going to do my thing.” That’s exactly what we’re petrified about. We’ve seen the thing. And we’re afraid. Very afraid.

Really. You have to read the whole thing to get the full effect.

Apparently Gabby’s puppeteers have never heard the aphorism: “Better to remain silent and be thought an idiot, rather than to speak and remove all doubt.”

If you had any doubt, you shouldn’t now. And if you do, I have no doubts about your mental state.

Not only was this Journey Into Joe’s Mind disturbingly revealing about his lack of a functioning mind, it was wildly inappropriate for an extremely somber occasion like yesterday’s remembrance of a shattering episode in American history. It had nothing to do with him, his political agenda, or his performance as president. But this makes it plain: narcissism will win out. Always.

Why do I call him Gabby? Reading his remarks reminded me of Blazing Saddles, and Gabby Johnson’s genuine frontier gibberish.

There were other awful moments from yesterday. Like Biden giving a shoutout to someone at Ground Zero–while Obama looked on in horror.

Insert “WTF Joe” word bubble over Obama’s head.

Or when Biden geriatrically shuffled over to someone pointed out to him by security, and the crowd heckled him–including saying “don’t sniff ’em”–a reference to Creepy Joe’s predilection for inappropriate gropes and sniffs of underaged girls (though not just girls)

This on a day where raucous college football crowds around the country (for the second consecutive weekend) erupted into “Fuck Joe Biden” chants:

This is not sustainable. The problem is that the alternatives are as bad or worse. Look at the line of succession. Kamala. Pelosi. Leahy.

We are truly putting Adam Smith to the test. Yes, there is much ruin in a country. But not infinite ruin.

September 10, 2021

If You Believe “The Worse, the Better” Joe Biden Is the President You’ve Been Waiting For

Filed under: CoronaCrisis,Economics,Politics,Regulation — cpirrong @ 6:35 pm

In my next-to-last post I said Joe Biden gave the worse speech by any president in my lifetime. In his relentless pursuit of perfection, Biden excelled himself and gave an even worse speech yesterday.

Afghanistan last week, COVID yesterday.

As with the Afghanistan speech, the COVID speech was wretched both in terms of atmospherics and substance. The speech dripped with condescension and disdain for large numbers of Americans, notably those who are not vaccinated. (Implicit in most attacks on the unvaccinated is that they are white MAGA Neanderthals: in fact, Biden’s and the Democrats’ most important constituency, low income blacks, are disproportionately represented: why aren’t Biden and his party tarred as racists?)

One line in particular was disgusting: “We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin.” Our patience? Our patience? Who are you? Just who the fuck are you that your patience matters fuck all?

And who is this we/our? You royalty now Joe? Or are you speaking on behalf of those actually pulling the strings.

Biden made two main arguments: it’s hard to decide which is more idiotic and insulting.

The first is that the unvaccinated pose a threat to the vaccinated: “We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated co-workers.”

Well, it looks like Dumb and Dumber have a new partner–Dumbest:

Image

The externality argument for mandated vaccinations has always been extremely weak. (Not surprisingly, alas, many economists have pushed this lazy argument because too many economists thinking about externalities is lazy in general.) As Coase pointed out long ago, it takes at least two to have an externality, and it is neither obvious nor relevant who “causes” it. The optimal assignment of a property right (and in the case of vaccination policy, what is involved is property rights in one’s person) depends on who is the least cost avoider.

With vaccines, if you are at high risk of COVID, and/or petrified of it, and/or think that the risk of vaccine is low, you can avoid COVID by becoming vaccinated yourself at lower cost than requiring someone who, for example, perceives the vaccine risk to be higher or incurs some other cost to take it (e.g., a religious objection) to be vaccinated. You can protect yourself at low cost: why force someone else to protect you at high cost?

So vaccinate yourself, and don’t force anyone else to do it–or demand the government force anyone else to do it.

But that argument is really moot now. Biden’s mandate is driven by the Delta variant, and Biden’s own CDC–you know, the experts whom we are supposed to defer to–says that vaccination doesn’t reduce the risk of transmission (though it does reduce the risk of serious illness–supposedly, although experience in Israel and elsewhere is casting doubt on that).

(One aside. This speech and the policies expressed were cast specifically as being a response to Delta. If you follow the data, you will see Delta has crested and is declining rapidly: even the NYT admits as such. As well as representing an unwarranted and unjust exercise of power, this policy is cynical: the administration will take credit for the decline in Delta even though it will have nothing to do with it.)

Further, there is the issue which has been raised by very esteemed (or at least once-esteemed) scientists (e.g., Nobel winner Luc Montagnier, but not just him) that the vaccines have spillover effects. Namely, it is hypothesized, and there is some evidence to support, that the vaccines accelerate mutation and in particular mutations that evade the vaccines. Meaning that there could be negative externality not from avoiding vaccination, but from being vaccinated.

As for the other costs that Biden mentions, namely the higher risk of serious illness and death among the unvaccinated, well that’s internalized: people willingly run the risk, and pay the consequences.

Biden’s other argument was “keeping our children safe and our schools open.” “For the children” is the last refuge of the modern (leftist) scoundrel. There is massive evidence–far more definitive than just about anything related to COVID–that children are at extremely low risk of either contracting or communicating COVID.

So hey, teacher, leave those kids alone.

It is particularly disgusting to see children used as Trojan horses for oppressive government policies given the massive harm that has been inflicted on them by governments at every level, most notably by denying them more than a year of education, as well as isolating them socially.

Not only are vaccine mandates a policy monstrosity, the means by which Biden is attempting to implement them are constitutionally monstrous. He has issued an executive order instructing OSHA to issue an emergency rule requiring all those firms employing more than 100 to make employment conditional on vaccination. As an emergency rule, this will be rushed through without the normal procedural safeguards the can sometimes prevent the promulgation of misguided and destructive policies. Moreover, doing this at the federal level by executive–something Biden said during the campaign he would not do and which his execrable flack Psaki said he could not do as recently as 23 July–runs roughshod over the Constitution and federalism.

But that was then. This is now. The even more execrable White House Chief of Staff, Ron Klain, called the OSHA gambit “the ultimate work-around.” Funny I remember the oath of office being about protecting and defending the Constitution, not “working around” it.

Why do we even have a Congress? That’s a serious question. Why do we have states? Another serious question.

Many parts of the country are strongly opposed to his. Many governors in states in those parts of the country have vowed to fight. To which Biden said: “If they will not help, if those governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I’ll use my power as president to get them out of the way.”

What powers would those be? Just how, pray tell, can the president get governors “out of the way”? A drone strike? (You know, like the one that killed an Afghan who had helped Americans and his children?)

I’ve said before, and I will say it again: we are hurtling towards a constitutional crisis. Vaccine mandates are bad on the merits, and even worse when rammed down our throats while throwing constitutional and federal principles to the winds.

Not only has Biden given the worst presidential speeches of my lifetime, he has cemented his place as the worst, most destructive president of my lifetime, supplanting–by a mile–the loathsome LBJ. Alas, LBJ’s deficiencies became acute when he was entering the last year of his first full term (and his fifth year in office). Biden’s are manifest mere months after his inauguration. And his abject failings, and stubborn, disdainful refusal to brook any objection, are fanning the flames of civil conflict that could make the Vietnam protests look tame by comparison.

I have considered whether we have reached a stage where “the worse, the better” is a reasonable position. If one does indeed believe that, these are the times for you, and Joe Biden is the president for you.

September 8, 2021

The Fed and the Administration: Don’t Believe Your Lyin’ Eyes At the Supermarket Checkout

Filed under: Economics,History,Politics — cpirrong @ 7:15 pm

The basic lesson of Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz’s majestic Monetary History of the United States is that most major economic disruptions in the history of the US have monetary origins. Since 1913, and the creation of the Federal Reserve, the Fed has been responsible for these monetary shocks. Which is why Friedman advocated rules over discretion, to reduce the degrees of freedom available to the Fed to fuck things up.

For this, with a few exceptions, Fed board members and chairs have hated Friedman, and attempted to devise alternative histories that blame others for Fed f-ups. Current Fed chair Jerome Powell has joined that crew of ankle biters.

The price level has spurt upwards lately, leading to fears of a resumption of 1970s-style inflation. Not wanting to admit that the current price level increases could be harbingers of true inflation (a sustained rate of increase of the price level), Powell is attempting to argue that these recent increases are due to idiosyncratic factors (e.g., COVID-related supply chain shocks) that will not persist. In an attempt to make this case, Powell has engaged in a revisionist history of 1970s inflation.

In a nutshell: it was your fault. Or your parents’/grandparents’ fault. So if inflation happens again, it’s your fault.

The basic story is this. There were supply shocks in the 1970s (e.g., OPEC) that caused price level increases. These caused people to believe (mistakenly, per Powell) that there was true inflation. These inflationary expectations were self-fulfilling: these expectations decreased the demand to hold nominal balances, which increased the velocity of money, which per the PY=MV equation led to an increasing price level, which confirmed inflationary expectations, which kept velocity high, etc., etc., etc.

There is a core of truth to this: expectations matter in inflation. But monetary growth matters too, and money growth in the 1970s was clearly as much of a driver of inflation as a shift in expectations. Indeed, the money growth was likely a cause of the shift in expectations.

Inflation peaked and subsided when the Fed (under Volcker) put the brakes to monetary growth.

Why does this ancient history matter? Because Powell is using it to justify standing pat on monetary policy despite the recent price spurts. Sort of like someone Powell should NOT want to imitate–Arthur Burns, who made very similar arguments in the 1970s. It was exactly the same don’t worry, be happy complacency that Powell expresses today that led Burns–and the country–down the path of inflationary perdition.

Indeed, Powell’s mistaken-inflationary-expectations argument is all the more reason to take aggressive action today to prevent a shift in inflationary expectations. If he really believes we’re all idiots who will confuse one-time price level shocks with true inflation, he should take aggressive action to show credibly that the Fed will not let inflation take hold. Using it to rationalize inaction which will likely exacerbate a shift in expectations is frankly idiotic.

And also like the 1970s, we are seeing a Democratic administration attempt to rationalize and blame. Case in point, Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese. This oh-so-typical DC cockroach (who scuttled to Black Rock after the end of the Obama administration only to scuttle back to Washington with the ascension of a Democratic administration) was at pains to educate you idiots that what you are experiencing at the grocery story is a figment of your imagination, except when you pass the meat counter:

So I guess vegans should be happy!

This is transparently bullshit on many levels.

First, Deese is literally cherry picking by focusing on fruits and vegetables.

Second, if you look at other ag prices–notably corn, soybeans, and wheat–they have spiked in the last year (although they peaked in the summer and have turned down slightly). The increase in food prices is not limited to meat and poultry.

Here’s corn, for example:

Third, even looking only at meat and poultry Deese’s economics are idiotic and indeed represents another acid flashback to the 1970s.

For one thing, the consolidation in the meat sector occurred years ago, and cannot explain the increase in prices now. Furthermore, firms with market power raise prices above the competitive level, but that is different from causing an upward trend in prices (which is what inflation is). In attempts to deny the true cause of inflation in the 1970s, it was common for liberal politicians and liberal economists to blame “monopolies”: again, this is transparent bushwa, because although monopolies can raise price levels that’s different than causing an increase in the rate of change in the price level.

Indeed, ceteris paribus greater consolidation in the meat sector would tend to reduce input costs (e.g., corn and soy prices): greater monopsony power tends to decrease not increase input prices. That has obviously not happened in the last year. As noted above, corn, soy, and wheat prices have all spurted.

So there’s something else driving food price increases. Deese’s attempt to explain away what your lyin’ eyes see when checking out at the grocery store is pathetically and obviously wrong.

There may be a reason why this is a one time shock rather than a true inflationary trend. But Deese doesn’t provide any such reason, and his risible attempt to provide one seriously undermines his credibility.

And that ultimately is the problem. In the 1970s, the Fed’s and the Carter administration’s attempts to cast blame for price level increases undermined their credibility and contributed to the expectations spiral that Powell laments today. The 70s flashback of just such denial we are experiencing before our very eyes is the strongest indicator that real inflation will return. And with a vengeance, given the far weaker fiscal position of the US government (cf. the fiscal theory of the price level).

September 6, 2021

Joe Biden’s Speech: He Wanted to Depart Afghanistan In the Worst Way, and He Succeeded!

Filed under: Uncategorized — cpirrong @ 7:21 pm

Last Tuesday Joe Biden delivered the worst speech I have heard from any president going back to the mid-1970s, including Jimmy Carter’s “malaise” speech (in which he did not actually use that word, by the way). It was horrible both in terms of the delivery and the content.

In terms of delivery, Ranty Joe appeared in lieu of his alter ego Sleepy Joe. He shouted out his remarks, shrilly and defensively.

Note to Joe: saying something louder and more shrilly does not bolster your case. To the contrary. It makes it clear that you have no case to make.

Biden clearly came off as an extreme narcissist enraged by criticism of his conduct in Afghanistan. He could not acknowledge that the criticism he has received over Afghanistan had the slightest justification–that would be too much for his fragile narcissistic ego to handle. So he responded with rage and bitterness. He bristled with defiance, not against American enemies (a la say Churchill in 1940), but against Americans he deems to be his enemies because they dare question his judgment.

Very revealing.

The speech only accentuated the shock of many at Biden’s recent behavior, most notably at the arrival of 13 dead Americans at Dover, and his meeting with the parents of the dead. At the ceremony he acted disrespectfully (checking his watch repeatedly) and–wait for it–narcissistically by going on and on AGAIN about his dead son Beau, who has nothing in common with combat Marines shredded by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan except for the fact he is dead. Biden’s narcissistic ego was also evidently incensed at the anger directed towards him by the bereaved parents, in one case rolling his eyes at a mother of a fallen Marine and angrily saying over his shoulder as a Parthian shot at her that he understood her loss in response to her claim to the contrary.

It’s not about you, Joe. The fact that you can’t believe anything isn’t about you speaks volumes.

Amazingly many are astounded that Biden is not an empathetic healer in these trying times, as they assured us he would be in contrast to the boor Trump. Just what planet these people inhabit is unknown to me. Joe Biden has always–always–been a narcissistic, arrogant, asshole. Believe me: I’ve witnessed this for about 35 years. Anyone who thought otherwise is delusional.

And as I always remind my children, mark well my faults–they will become more pronounced as I age, so prepare to deal with them. This is true for most everyone: one’s least appealing traits almost always become more accentuated with age. Joe Biden is living (supposedly) proof of this: he is becoming a more narcissistic, arrogant asshole by the day. Moreover, his panic at the realization that he is in over his head is causing him to double down on obnoxiousness and rage.

That is, the problems with his obvious mental and physical decline are not that he’s “lost a step.” It’s that they have made his more repulsive traits (which are legion) more pronounced. He’s added a step to his arrogant repulsiveness.

One more point about affect. The extreme variance between Sleepy Joe (literally at times, as with his nap while meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister) and Ranty Joe is striking. This could again be symptomatic of senescence. But it also strikes me that it could be chemically induced, or exaggerated. Do they juice up Joe before they let him give a speech of such importance? It’s not the first time he’s appeared cranked during a speech in decided contrast to his dazed and confused mumbling during other public appearances.

Insofar as “substance” is concerned, the speech was an incoherent farrago. Getting out of Afghanistan was the right thing to do. But that’s not the point–the issue is how it was done, which Biden ignored. Biden wanted to get out of Afghanistan in the worst way–and he succeeded.

Bizarrely, moreover, Biden portrayed the exit as a great success. I am reminded of Pyrrhus of Epirus: “One more such victory and Pyrrhus is undone.” One more such success like Afghanistan and America is undone.

Moreover, even though Trump also said that getting out was the proper course, he didn’t give Trump props. Instead, per Biden, Trump caused the fiasco we have witnessed by tying his hands with a May 1 exit deadline. Except Trump obviously didn’t, because Biden moved the exit to 9/11 (swift move, dude), and then back to 8/31. This was not a date written in stone. And if Trump is so horrible–as Biden repeatedly has said–why would he feel bound to follow his plans? He hasn’t on anything else.

This is gaslighting on an epic scale. Every sentient being (I understand Biden may fail to qualify) recognizes this for the catastrophe it is. But Biden insists it is a great, great triumph. Who you gonna believe? Joe or your lyin’ eyes? Joe insists that you believe Joe.

Spare me more such successes. I can’t handle them.

We are learning more about the events that led up to the fiasco. Most notably, the Afghan president, Ghani, begged Biden for continued air support. Biden promised it–if Ghani could provide a plan, as if Ghani (rather than the US military on which his government and army were utterly reliant) was independently capable of conceiving such a thing. No air support was forthcoming. The inevitable happened.

Moreover, Gaslighter Joe instructed Ghani to gaslight the world, and claim that his army was succeeding when it clearly was not. Perception, not reality, was Biden’s preeminent concern.

This is dereliction of duty of the most egregious sort. A transparently political calculation to buy time and to distance himself from the impending catastrophe. In the end he did not, but the whole sequence of events reveals that Biden had only two objectives: to get out, and not to be blamed for an ultimate Taliban triumph.

Well, you’re batting 500, Joe.

Moreover, although Biden claims that the decision to abandon Bagram was made by the military, and that he merely acceded to it, it is clear that they made this decision due to a constraint that he imposed. Namely, a limit on the number of military personnel in Afghanistan to 650 or so. It was impossible to hold Bagram, the embassy, and the Kabul airport with such a paltry force. So Bagram went, and we were reliant on an utterly indefensible exit point.

This is on Biden, and his crew of idiots–namely the execrable NSC chair Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Stinkin’ Blinken–and no one else.

In a parliamentary system, Biden and his crew (including latest milk carton “have you seen me?” person Kamala Harris) would have been removed through a vote of no confidence, and a snap election. But under the US system, which provides stability and continuity often lacking in parliamentary ones, we are cursed with them for at least another 40 months. (Life is all about trade-offs.)

If the catastrophes continue–and they well might, both geopolitical and economic–the prospect of continued misrule by a senile narcissist and idiot and assorted other throne sniffing dim bulbs will be unsustainable. In that event, there will be a constitutional crisis. How that will be resolved is unknown, but almost certain to be ugly, divisive, and destructive.

These are the fruits of 2020.

September 4, 2021

Where Are You Now, Bowe Bergdahl?

Filed under: History,Military,Politics — cpirrong @ 6:54 pm

Bowe has been the shy and retiring type since his exchange for five Taliban leaders seven years ago. So where’s Bowe?: Bowe knows! but not me. Said Taliban have been anything but retiring, however. When they were released Obama said they would never return to the battlefield again: TRUE! There was no battle to speak of in Afghanistan, but these guys sure enough showed up for the victory parade–as part of the Taliban leadership.

I questioned at the time trading multiple Taliban leaders for one American loser/deserter. The exchange rate comes to mind given that the Taliban now have their hands on many Americans who did not desert, but were abandoned by the US. Do you seriously think the Taliban–or even less savory elements in Afghanistan–will not extract an even higher price for them?

This thought is intensified by observation of a brisk and strange traffic in recent days. If you’ve followed flight tracking services, you may have noticed many unidentified Boeing 767 flights between various US-related origins (e.g., DC, Rammstein) and Sofia, Bulgaria, and Sofia, Bulgaria and Doha, Qatar. That is, flights without call signs or aircraft IDs. Qatar, moreover, is facilitating the reopening of the Kabul airport. Connect the dots.

What is on those flights? Guns? Money? Not likely lawyers (too bad!), but perhaps human cargo approved by lawyers? Apparently just as United hubs out of Houston, the CIA runs a hub out of Sofia. Why? For what purpose?

Afghanistan’s current overlords have substantial leverage over the US. No doubt they are exploiting it to the hilt. If we gave up so much for Bowe Bergdahl, consider what we would–and likely have–given up for Taliban forbearance during our withdrawal, and will give up for continued forbearance and future human exchanges.

Once upon a time “millions [update to ‘trillions’] for defense, not one cent for tribute” was an American battle cry. Once upon a time. No more. We are almost certainly paying massive tribute to entities far more sinister than the Bey of Algiers or the revolutionary government of France. In secret–secret from the citizens of the US, that is.

The humiliation continues and will continue.

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