Category: Uncategorized

The Seeds of Trump’s Victory Were Sown the Moment Obama Won

Joy-Ann Reid on NBC:

President Barack Obama read to a certain portion of white America as an unending attack on white Christian identity, centrality and cultural relevance. In their minds, he was seeking to end their right to bear arms and the right of conservatives to speak freely.

For this group of Americans, Trump has been the corrective. As Ta-Nehisi Coates points out in his brilliant Atlantic essay, “The First White President,” for Trump’s supporters, his election was itself the point. Putting a human wrecking ball against political correctness, feminism, multiculturalism and even decency was the ballgame.

Obama’s election masked this fierce racial schism for only a few short months. That ended the moment he declared, in July of his first year in the Oval Office, that a white Cambridge police officer acted “stupidly” for arresting a black college professor — and long-time Obama friend and mentor — outside his own home.

In that moment, the pleasant fiction of a “post-racial America” exploded. Police groups and Republican lawmakers pounced. Obama’s approval rating with white Americans dropped 8 points immediately, according to a Pew Research Center poll, from 53 percent to 46 percent. (Though his overall approval held steady at 54 percent.) It never recovered. Not even after a hastily staged “beer summit,” at which Vice President Joe Biden, Obama’s white working-class whisperer, played peacemaker.

Obama’s reaction to the incident dominated race-related discussions that summer, both in the mainstream media and, especially, right-wing talk radio. It joined health-care reform as a topic of intense racial polarization. And the decline in Obama’s popularity was particularly acute among working-class whites.

The evidence of our divided racial self was all over the Obama presidency from the beginning: from the shouts of “you lie” from the well of Congress as he spoke to a joint session, to the unprecedented spectacle of American conservatives rooting against their own country being awarded the Olympic Games.

Nowhere was the acidity more evident than each time the black man in the White House talked about race — whether empathizing with a dead black teenager, Trayvon Martin, or elaborating on our often cruel racial history in his eulogies for nine slain slain Emanuel AME Church parishioners in South Carolina or five slain police officers in Dallas.

What White America and Black America wanted and expected from Obama were fundamentally different and opposite things. Speaking broadly, Black America waited eagerly for him to speak to Black pain — to articulate the ongoing sorrow and impatience of black men and women amid the struggle for full humanity in a country that desired our labor but never wanted us.

White America, again broadly, wanted absolution. It wanted the man who was equal parts black and white — and whose blackness felt external to the America of slavery and Jim Crow and Red. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — to wave a wand over the country and declare its past racial sins forgiven by virtue of his election alone. That act, in the minds of many, had wiped the racial slate clean. There should be no more complaining from black folk.

My emphasis.

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The Republican’s Guide to Presidential Etiquette

New York Times:

Republicans used to care a lot about how a president comports himself, and whether he acts at all times with the dignity his station demands.

“Is President Obama Disrespecting the Oval Office?” Fox News asked in 2010, with a link to images of Mr. Obama and his aides tossing a football, or eating apples just inches from the Resolute desk.

“Wear a suit coat and tie,” said Andrew Card Jr., President George W. Bush’s former chief of staff, in reaction to pictures of Mr. Obama in shirtsleeves in 2009.

“I do expect him to send the message that people who are going to be in the Oval Office should treat the office with the respect that it has earned over history,” Mr. Card said.

But hey, that was then! In 2017, there’s a whole new bar for tolerable conduct by the commander in chief. Our original guide cataloged several dozen examples. Almost five months later, it’s clear that an update is necessary. This expanded list is meant to ensure that Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and other congressional Republicans never forget what they now condone in a president.

What follows is a useful roundup of examples of the republican president Trump’s behaviour.

Standing at the pick-and-mix counter in a sweetshop, only choosing the fizzy snakes

Iain Rowan’s letter in The Guardian:

Jacob Rees-Mogg justifies his opposition to gay marriage and abortion even in cases of rape on the basis of his firmly held Christian beliefs (Report, 7 September). Fine. One can admire people with principles based on profound belief. So where is his opposition to welfare cuts on the grounds that Jesus went out of his way to demonstrate his compassion for the poor and the lame, the lepers and the prostitutes? When Jesus says “blessed are the peacemakers”, how does that fit with Rees-Mogg’s record of consistently voting for military intervention? Where are his statements on debates about executive pay, reminding other MPs that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven? I’m confused: I thought being a committed Christian meant following the teachings and actions of Jesus, rather than standing at the pick-and-mix counter in a sweetshop, only choosing the fizzy snakes.

 

Warren Buffett wins $1M bet made a decade ago that the S&P 500 stock index would outperform hedge funds

American Enterprise Institute:

Specifically, Buffett offered to bet that over a ten-year period from January 1, 2008 to December 31, 2017, the S&P 500 index would outperform a portfolio of funds of hedge funds when performance is measured on a basis net of fees, costs and all expenses.

A lot of very smart people set out to do better than average in securities markets. Call them active investors. Their opposites, passive investors, will by definition do about average. In aggregate their positions will more or less approximate those of an index fund. Therefore, the balance of the universe—the active investors—must do about average as well. However, these investors will incur far greater costs. So, on balance, their aggregate results after these costs will be worse than those of the passive investors.

Costs skyrocket when large annual fees, large performance fees, and active trading costs are all added to the active investor’s equation. Funds of hedge funds accentuate this cost problem because their fees are superimposed on the large fees charged by the hedge funds in which the funds of funds are invested.

A number of smart people are involved in running hedge funds. But to a great extent their efforts are self-neutralizing, and their IQ will not overcome the costs they impose on investors. Investors, on average and over time, will do better with a low-cost index fund than with a group of funds of funds.

 

David Davis: “no-one pretended Brexit would be simple and easy”

In response to David Davis telling the House of Commons that “no-one pretended Brexit would be simple and easy”, a quick twitter round-up.

That feeling you have?  Yes, that’s despair.

House flippers triggered the US housing market crash, not poor subprime borrowers

Gwynn Guilford in Quartz:

The grim tale of America’s “subprime mortgage crisis” delivers one of those stinging moral slaps that Americans seem to favor in their histories. Poor people were reckless and stupid, banks got greedy. Layer in some Wall Street dark arts, and there you have it: a global financial crisis.

Dark arts notwithstanding, that’s not what really happened, though.

Mounting evidence suggests that the notion that the 2007 crash happened because people with shoddy credit borrowed to buy houses they couldn’t afford is just plain wrong. The latest comes in a new NBER working paper arguing that it was wealthy or middle-class house-flipping speculators who blew up the bubble to cataclysmic proportions, and then wrecked local housing markets when they defaulted en masse.

Analyzing a huge dataset of anonymous credit scores from Equifax, a credit reporting bureau, the economistsStefania Albanesi of the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Geneva’s Giacomo De Giorgi, and Jaromir Nosal of Boston College—found that the biggest growth of mortgage debt during the housing boom came from those with credit scores in the middle and top of the credit score distribution—and that these borrowers accounted for a disproportionate share of defaults.

As for those with low credit scores—the “subprime” borrowers who supposedly caused the crisis—their borrowing stayed virtually constant throughout the boom. And while it’s true that these types of borrowers usually default at relatively higher rates, they didn’t after the 2007 housing collapse. The lowest quartile in the credit score distribution accounted for 70% of foreclosures during the boom years, falling to just 35% during the crisis.