Archive for February 2022


The Manafort “hoax”

Apparently there’s a hoax going around that Putin stooge Paul Manafort actually managed Trump’s 2016 campaign. Matt Yglesias has the goods.

Where’s Senator Joe McCarthy when you need him? We need a new HUAC to flesh out all these Putin sympathizers in Trump World. Perhaps he could start with this “hoax” from 2016:

The Trump campaign worked behind the scenes last week to make sure the new Republican platform won’t call for giving weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces, contradicting the view of almost all Republican foreign policy leaders in Washington.

Throughout the campaign, Trump has been dismissive of calls for supporting the Ukraine government as it fights an ongoing Russian-led intervention. Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, worked as a lobbyist for the Russian-backed former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych for more than a decade.

Still, Republican delegates at last week’s national security committee platform meeting in Cleveland were surprised when the Trump campaign orchestrated a set of events to make sure that the GOP would not pledge to give Ukraine the weapons it has been asking for from the United States.

PS. Here’s a good article on the American right’s love affair with people like Putin.

PPS. What are America’s young conservatives up to? For those who missed the 1939 pro-Nazi rally in NYC, check out this video.

Cancel culture comes to Money Illusion?

Censoring a blog is a no-win game. Wherever you draw the line, people will complain. I’ve been reluctant to cancel people for most infractions, with exceptions such as use of the N-word or particularly offensive remarks directed at fellow commenters. (I don’t care what they say about me.) But wherever you draw the line people will say, “I notice you ban for X, but allow Y. So you think Y is acceptable?”. No I don’t think Y is acceptable. I’m just too lazy to censor everything.

I recently decided to weed out a few Russian trolls, mostly because commenters kept saying they found them annoying. But like a hardy weed, I have no doubt they will grow back.

The Russian trolls (troll?) were a weird lot, oddly disconnected from the actual blog. They accused me of being a communist, even though I was far more supportive of free markets than they were. (They support regulation in all sorts of areas.) Roughly 90% of the time when they said that I believe X, I actually believe not X. I was even accused of being a Vietnam War draft dodger—LOL. They were also stupid, insulting, hysterical, mean, pro-Putin, nationalistic, racist, authoritarian—hmm, I wonder if Trump was using a burner account?

They were also really bad at prediction—assuring me just a few weeks back that rumors of a Russian invasion were unfounded.

In my defense, I did allow the Russian trolls to post about 1000 comments. (You should see some of the stuff that I have not allowed, often far worse than what gets through .) And no doubt the few remaining Russia trolls will continue to defend Putin.

Nature is kind to us in one respect—we don’t see ourselves the way others see us. At an intellectual level, I understand that superior minds see that much of what I say is kind of stupid. But in my day to day life I am oblivious to that fact, just as when I’m at a party I’m mercifully aware unaware of how others regard my appearance, or my feeble attempt at witty conversation. God help us if we could see ourselves the way that others see us. Life would become unbearable.

I suspect that many commenters do not understand that they are hurting their own cause by writing comments that seem stupid. Not stupid in the sense of being wrong—brilliant people like Paul Krugman can be wrong—stupid in the sense of looking like they were written by a low IQ person. That really hurts their cause.

About 90 years ago, Pessoa had this to say about people pushing theories of the occult:

What I find most shocking about those teachers and connoisseurs of the invisible is that, when they write about and describe their mysteries, they write really badly. It offends me that a man can master the Devil, but not the Portuguese language. Why should tackling devils be easier than tackling grammar? Why is it that, after all these prolonged exercises in concentration and willpower, someone can, or so he says, experience astral visions, but cannot, with far less investment of concentration and willpower, have a clear vision of syntax.

Given that grammar isn’t my strong suit, I’m more bothered by people who haven’t mastered logic. If you cannot understand logic, then why should I care about your views on the nuances of foreign policy or monetary policy?

Here’s a question to think about. If you tell me that an obviously brilliant person is “stupid”, then what should I infer about your intelligence?

PS. For those who don’t read the comment section, check out this comment from a Russia troll named Nick, for a flavor of what you’re missing.

Plus ça change . . .

This is from a 1946 Life magazine article written by Joseph Kennedy:

As I keep saying, this isn’t about NATO expansion. Putin knows that NATO is no threat to Russia. He’s using it as an excuse to recreate Greater Russia. He’s not afraid of NATO, he’s afraid of democracy. Appeasing Putin will only make him greedy for more.

PS. The same issue quoted Churchill as stating that an “Iron Curtain” had descended across Europe.

Give them what they want

Case 1: A company cafeteria

The company had a cafeteria that served nutritious food. Lunch might consist of a salad with grilled fish on top, with a side of whole wheat bread. All washed down with a glass of water.

Then the dining area was opened up to competition. The cafeteria was replaced with a vast food court, where multiple vendors competed to attract workers to their business. They gave the workers the food they actually wanted. Now workers dined on yummy foods, such a juicy steaks, potatoes soaked in butter, burgers with bacon on top. For dessert there was cherry pie, ice cream, and chocolate cake. All washed down with bottles of wine, mugs of beer, and shots of whiskey.

And they lived happily ever after.

Case 2: The news media

TV stations offer three bland news shows—CBS, NBC and ABC. Each provided a half hour of exactly the same sort of news, at precisely 6:30 in the evening.

Then cable came along and opened the news media to competition. Then the internet arrived, and there was even more competition. They gave the public the news they actually wanted. The public wanted to believe that they were virtuous and those on the other side were evil. They wanted to believe that their goals were being thwarted by nefarious conspiracies organized by powerful interests. They stopped dating people with different political views. They stopped speaking with family members who disagreed with them. They stopped hiring people that supported the other candidate. They stopped using the medicine used by people on the other side.

And they lived happily ever after.

Trump loves Putin

As Russia begins invading another sovereign European country, let’s not forget that Trump has a longstanding infatuation with Putin.

The Republican presidential nominee told the forum the Russian president “has been a leader far more than our president [Obama] has been”. . . .

Quizzed by NBC host Matt Lauer on his previous complimentary remarks about Mr Putin, Mr Trump responded: “He does have an 82% approval rating.”

“I think when he calls me brilliant I’ll take the compliment, ok?” added the businessman.

He said Mr Putin had “great control over his country”. . . .

It is not the first time Mr Trump has made admiring comments about the Russian leader.

Last December he said it was “a great honour” when Mr Putin called him “a talented person”.

It’s no surprise that they like each other—both are authoritarian strongmen with a contempt for democracy. They even share a childish obsession with looking macho.

I’ve received a lot of criticism in the comment section for arguing that Russia is the greatest threat to world peace. Yes, China has an authoritarian nationalist government that is a threat to Taiwan. But Russia has an authoritarian nationalist regime that is a threat to many different independent nations. If there is a nuclear war in the next 50 years, it’s much more likely to be started by Russia than China (even if only accidentally, as Russia has far more nukes.)

Ever since WWII, there’s been widespread agreement that it’s not OK to invade another sovereign country and annex its territory. Almost all countries accept this basic tenet of international law—even China. Indeed, since Iraq’s failed 1990 attempt to annex Kuwait, only Russia refuses to abide by this rule.

Russia is a rogue nation with the world’s second most powerful military. And yet significant segments of our GOP are effectively pro-Putin. They see him as a protector of “Christian culture”, even though Russia is not even a Christian nation.