Archive for May 2017


How United Airlines critics are ruining air travel

People sometimes feel like they are being treated unfairly by airlines—often for good reason.  In the past, fear of being dragged off an airplane and arrested has prevented most people from taking the law into their own hands and engaging in “sit-down strikes.”

When United Airlines was heavily criticized for dragging someone off one of their airplanes, I warned that this sympathy for the “victim” would encourage more such unruly behavior.  And that is exactly what has happened:

But at one point, passengers said, he also dared the flight crew to cuff him and drag him off the plane — reminding other passengers of last month’s infamous deplaning, amid a barrage of in-plane horror stories that have plagued United and the rest of the airline industry in recent years.

But the United crew in Shanghai remained polite and patient throughout Sunday’s ordeal, said Clark Gredoña, another passenger.

“He was trying to explain to the crew and captain … because he had points, he felt he deserved an upgrade,” he said. “So this was his way of getting it.”

I wish the United Airlines crew had dragged him off the plane, so that hundreds of other passengers did not have to suffer through a 3 1/2 hour delay.  Unfortunately, United Airlines has become soft, afraid of being criticized for being a bully.

Who do I blame for this?  The commenters who criticized my earlier defense of United.

By the way, I am running out of adjectives to describe our sick, disgusting, evil President:

President Trump praised Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte for his handling of drug problems in his country, which has included the extrajudicial killings of thousands.

The Washington Post reports that Trump complimented Duterte during their phone call last month. The Post obtained a transcript of the call from a source who asked not to be identified because the transcript was labeled “confidential” by the Philippines government and is not intended to be publicized.

Trump told Duterte he was doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.”

“Many countries have the problem, we have the problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that,” Trump said, according to the Post. . . .

Trump invited Duterte to the White House after that call, reportedly without notifying or consulting the State Department or the National Security Council. . . .

Since he took office last year, Duterte has encouraged the extrajudicial killings of thousands of citizens accused of dealing or using drugs. He also compared his campaign to kill criminals to the Holocaust.

“Hitler massacred 3 million Jews. Now, there are 3 million drug addicts [in the Philippines] … I’d be happy to slaughter them,” he said in September.

And there are libertarians that defend Trump.  Unreal.

Requesting donations for a new Hypermind NGDP prediction market

Several years ago, I raised money for two experimental prediction markets, one at Hypermind and the other at iPredict. The iPredict market ran into problems and was unable to continue. The donated money was returned. Based on what I learned from that experiment, I’m ready to try again.

This time there will be only one market—Hypermind—and only one contract, a one-year growth rate contract, the growth rate of nominal GDP from Q1 2017 to Q1 2018. Because the one-year contract is of more macroeconomic interest, this time around I’d like to focus all our resources on that single contract. It will be called “U.S. Nominal GDP: Trump’s 1st year”, as it will be one way of thinking about the “reflation trade”, that is, the idea that Trump’s policies would boost both RGDP growth and inflation.

Mercatus has a bit over $10,000 to start the ball rolling. This will be sufficient to pay $5,000 to Hypermind to set up the prediction market, with the remaining $5,000 going to a prize fund to incentivize people to participate.

Our goal is to have many, many more participants than last time in order to really boost liquidity in what is an admittedly niche market. I think that a significant prize pool would bring people onboard, and would establish this kind of market as a credible mechanism going forward.

This is where you come in. The more money raised, the bigger the prizes offered to winners, and the more liquidity in the markets.

We need to raise money for this project because Hypermind traders cannot invest any of their own money. That aspect of the prediction market allows it to avoid running afoul of either SEC or anti-gambling regulations. No money is gambled, and no money is invested. Instead, money is donated, and through successful predictions, traders are able to win money. And the more money we can raise, the more and bigger prizes we can offer to participants.

People interested in donating money can send it to the (non-profit) Mercatus Center at the following address:

Mercatus Center at George Mason University
Attn: Dan Butler
3434 Washington Blvd, 4th Floor
Arlington, VA 22201

And of course we’ll accept wire transfers and the like. If people want to give online, they can go to and put “POMP” in the “Gift Instructions” box. Paypal donations can be made by making a gift to the email Bitcoin donations can be made through the button below.

Donations will be invested in this Mercatus project with Hypermind. All contributions are tax-deductible, and you will receive the appropriate receipt for your records. Note that a donation is not required to participate in the Hypermind market, nor does a contribution confer any special privileges. But you would be helping us attract more traders, hopefully leading to a more efficient and dynamic market.

Thank you in advance for your support.

Donate Bitcoins

When an open minded reporter receives new information

Back in February, Matthew Continetti wrote an article complaining that the Washington establishment (both parties) was attempting to thwart the populist change that Trump was trying to bring to Washington.  Here is the conclusion:

So unlikely did the election of Donald Trump seem to Washington and its denizens that the reality of it still has not sunk in. All of the city’s worst traits—the self-regard, the group think, the obsessions with trivia, the worship of credentials, the virtue signaling, the imperiousness, the ignorance of perspectives and people from outside major metropolitan centers and college towns—not only persist. They have been magnified with Trump’s arrival. There is so much negative energy coursing through the city that circuits are overloaded. That the president still draws support from the coalition that brought him to office, that a fair number of people see his policies as commonsensical, seems not to affect any of Trump’s critics in the least. They will press on until Trump behaves like they want him to behave.

Which means the war between the president and the Washington establishment may last a very, very long time.

Many of my commenters made the same complaint.

Today anyone with half a brain can see that Trump is an incompetent buffoon.  So Continetti has a new piece in the National Review, which trashes Trump for incompetence, paragraph after paragraph after paragraph.  I’d like to excerpt the whole thing, but here’s the conclusion:

No staff shakeup that leaves unresolved or unmanaged the flaws of the principal, that does not address Donald Trump’s penchant for self-immolation, will have any positive effect on this White House. You cannot blame your communications staff for flawed messaging when they are afraid to leave you alone in a room with visitors and shake in their boots when they see you walk toward the residence at the end of the day. You cannot lament the disorganization of the West Wing when you refuse to establish and adhere to clear lines of authority. You cannot bemoan the lack of recognition you receive for your achievements when you create distractions for the media to latch on to. Until someone in the White House is willing or able to tell the president no, until the president listens to that person and respects them to such a degree that he does not turn against them within 24 hours, the atmosphere of paranoia and hysteria that has enveloped Washington will not subside.

Note to commenters: I love it when people have an open mind.

Today I read that Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia was quite dignified.  If he keeps this up I may be defending him a few months from now.  Let’s hope so.

Meanwhile, David Brooks points out that qualified people are not going to want to serve in the madhouse on Pennsylvania Avenue:

Few people of any quality or experience are going to want to join a team that is toxic. Nobody is going to want to become the next H.R. McMaster, a formerly respected figure who is now permanently tainted because he threw his lot in with Donald Trump. Nobody is going to want to join a self-cannibalizing piranha squad whose main activity is lawyering up. . . .

[O]ver the past 10 days the atmosphere has become extraordinary. Senior members of the White House staff have trained their sights on the man they serve. Every day now there are stories in The Times, The Washington Post and elsewhere in which unnamed White House officials express disdain, exasperation, anger and disrespect for their boss. . . .

Trump, for his part, is resentfully returning fire, blaming his underlings for his own mistakes, complaining that McMaster is a pain, speculating about firing and demoting people. This is a White House in which the internal nickname for the chief of staff is Rancid.

The organizational culture is about to get worse. People who have served in administrations under investigation speak eloquently about how miserable it is. You never know which of your friends is about to rat you out. No personal communication is really secure. You never know which of your colleagues is going to break ranks and write the tell-all memoir, and you think that maybe it should be you. . . .

As current staff leaves or gets pushed out, look for Trump to try to fill the jobs with business colleagues who also have no experience in government. It’s striking that the only person who this week seems excited to take a Trump administration job is Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke, who made his name as a TV performance artist calling the Black Lives Matter movement “black slime,” and who now claims he has been hired to serve in the Department of Homeland Security.

I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t see how this ends well for the GOP.

As usual, if you want non-Trump material you need to read my Econlog posts.

PS.  I will have a big announcement tomorrow about an NGDP prediction market.

Where are the Trump supporters?

Polls show a stubborn 38% of the public is sticking with Trump, even as the disastrous leaks keep coming.  Where are these people?  I’m not sure, but they are certainly not among his White House staff:

Wait a minute—wasn’t I called “deranged” then I pointed out that Trump was a moron?  Did you Trumpistas expect his own White House staff to be admitting the same, less than 4 months into office?

Then there are those who deny the truth of these stories—even when they are based on eyewitness reports of meetings, written up into transcripts, circulated to dozens of White House officials, and not even denied by the White House!

Trumpistas now live a a post-logic world where the King can literally do no wrong, where any setback is due to some sort of dark conspiracy of the “deep state”, which is bound and determined to thwart “the will of the voters”.

Unfortunately that won’t work.  Trump ran as a sort of superman, who could cut through all the Washington bureaucracy and get stuff done.  He never once said he’d Make America Great Again if Paul Ryan cooperated, he said Paul Ryan would cooperate or he’d be gone.  Sorry, but when you run as superman there are no excuses for failure.

For the country’s sake I hope he resigns.  But for my own sake I hope he stays around for 8 years.  Trump has Made Blogging Fun Again.

Update:  This post suggests that I was wrong in assuming that Jared Kushner was less nutty than Steve Bannon. If true, this is really bad news for the GOP.

Somebody help me with this

So let’s see if I’ve got this right.  The President asks for the FBI director’s loyalty. Then he asks the FBI director to stop investigating Flynn.  When he refuses, Trump fires him.

The administration’s stated reason is the assistant AG’s report that pointed to flaws in the Hillary investigation.  Then the assistant AG takes umbrage, and indicates that he didn’t cause Flynn to be fired.  Then Trump says no, it was me all along, and cites unhappiness with the Russia investigation.

Then it comes out that Comey has a memo describing Trump’s attempt to stop the investigation.  People start talking about obstruction of justice.  So yesterday Trump goes back to the first story, it was the assistant AG’s report, not the Russia investigation.

Getting dizzy?  Trump’s just getting warmed up.

Then we find out that Trump met with some top Russian officials, including a top spy.  (Let’s not even get into leaking the secret intel from Israel.)  And at the meeting with America’s adversary, Trump brags that he fired the “nut job” FBI director who was investigating the Russian hacking of the 2016 election (that’ll discourage them from doing it in 2020!), and that this took the pressure off him. Now (by implication) he’ll be free to do more pro-Russia policies.

Let’s not even talk about the fact that while he was patting the Russians on the back and telling them he fired the FBI director over the Russia probe, he was telling the American public something completely different.  Or that he lied to the reporter who recently asked him whether he had ever tried to in any way impede the investigation.

And the White House doesn’t deny that he said this to the Russians.  Why?  After all, weren’t they denying that Trump tried to get Comey to stop the Flynn investigation?  So they deny the less serious charge, but then act like the more serious charge is nothing.

Didn’t they used to hang people for treason?

PS.  Trump says Comey is crazy person, a showboat, a grandstander, a liar and a nut job. Hmmm . . .

Psychological projection is a theory in psychology in which humans defend themselves against their own unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.

PPS.  As the end approached, Nixon was showing signs of being mentally unbalanced.  Here is the NYT:

In the days leading up to Nixon’s resignation in August 1974, Mr. Schlesinger, as he confirmed years later, became so worried that Nixon was unstable that he instructed the military not to react to White House orders, particularly on nuclear arms, unless cleared by him or Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger.

But of course Nixon was an idiot who knew nothing about foreign policy, whereas Trump has a sophisticated understanding of when it is appropriate to use nuclear bombs.  Trump is also not at all immature and impulsive, even when being attacked, and is very good at taking advice from experts when they tell him he is wrong.

Seriously, Schlesinger’s action was not legal, and we should not expect it to be repeated.  Here’s the sad truth:

When Trump takes office in January, he will have sole authority over more than 7,000 warheads. There is no failsafe. The whole point of U.S. nuclear weapons control is to make sure that the president — and only the president — can use them if and whenever he decides to do so. The one sure way to keep President Trump from launching a nuclear attack, under the system we’ve had in place since the early Cold War, would have been to elect someone else.

Have a nice weekend.