Gongol.com Archives: April 2019

Brian Gongol

April 12, 2019

Threats and Hazards Did the President really offer to pardon officials for breaking the law?

CNN's report quotes "senior administration officials" as saying that "President Donald Trump told Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan he would grant McAleenan a pardon if he were sent to jail for having border agents block asylum seekers from entering the US in defiance of US law". If true, it's a remarkable violation of the notions of checks and balances. In Margaret Thatcher's words: "The rule of law is the basis of a civilized society. It must not be bent and twisted for political ends."

Business and Finance "No nation was ever ruined by trade"

Benjamin Franklin's words seem to need repetition more than ever these days

Threats and Hazards Congress hasn't passed a required budget

Oh, so you say you don't want to talk about the Federal budget? Apparently, neither does Congress: "The deadline for Congress to complete action on a budget is April 15, and Congress has only hit that mark four times" Ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away.

Iowa Rep. Dave Loebsack won't seek re-election

He will leave the office after seven terms. Sen. Chuck Grassley, a member of the opposing party within the same delegation, shared words of goodwill, living up to the standard that people who disagree with us aren't our enemies.

News "Nominations of individuals to key administration posts"

The White House publicizes the nominations of a Deputy Secretary of the VA and an Undersecretary of Commerce. But we have been without a Senate-confirmed Secretary of Defense for more than 100 days. That's a "key administration post", if ever there was one. One might think the UN Ambassador -- also a position that has remained unfilled since January 1st -- would also be considered a priority role for speedy replacement, whether or not it remains in the Cabinet.

Weather and Disasters Financial markets signal belief in anthropogenic climate change

Don't believe what people say; believe the revealed preferences of where they put their money. The framing of this issue has gone completely sideways: It has become less a debate and more a battleground between two warring cults. Meanwhile, there should be some easy consensus wins to be found around basic ideas of conservation and community- and state-level resilience. Too many people have invested too much identity in the topic for a wholesale conversion of a lot of hearts and minds. It's instead a case where change will come about through people making small commitments at the outset and reinforcing their commitment in escalating fashion over time.

The United States of America An unusually satisfying accidental Twitter roundtable

In which a set of people who generally really aren't all that far apart from one another go around and around on a pretty high-impact question: Are improvements to the American standard of living enough to make up for highly tangible intergenerational economic rivalries? One can do much worse than to get competing perspectives from Megan McArdle, Will Wilkinson, Tom Nichols, and Michael Brendan Dougherty on a single topic.

Computers and the Internet When machines learn what the Federal Reserve Board is thinking

Highly interesting: A student uses machine learning to examine Federal Reserve statements, figuring out what connection the language in the statements might have reflected or predicted in actual policy. It's like Alexa "learning" your buying preferences...if you're the Fed.

News 11-year-old child ordered into deportation without her family

Words matter: Some would dismiss her case instantly as "illegal", but the sensible person reading her account would find good reason to see her as a refugee. From the Houston Chronicle: "Her home in a rural area of El Salvador's La Paz region became a death trap when a relative testified against a local gang member, Alvarado said. Uncles, nephews, classmates and others have been kidnapped or murdered in retaliation, she added."

News "Placing illegal immigrants in sanctuary cities only..."

The President threatens it on Twitter, but nobody ever knows when to take him seriously on such matters. There may quite well be places that wouldn't object to an influx of immigrants, regardless of status: Perhaps we should allocate state-based visas that could be exchanged among states, cap-and-trade style. It ought to be recalled that anyone who seeks to profit politically by turning Americans against one another needs to answer to Publius: "Had the Greeks [...] been as wise as they were courageous, they would have been admonished by experience of the necessity of a closer union [...]" (Federalist Paper 18).

The United States of America A more equitable society is likely a more productive one

It definitely improves the odds of answering tough questions if we commit to using all of our brainpower -- instead of neglecting or ignoring their contributors because of indefensible prejudices.

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