Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Want extra stupid with that?

It is not a simple thing to select the stupidest statement of the day from the rightwing. The competition is fierce.

But on some days, the fog clears. Such a day was last Friday. The defense ministers of the United States and South Korea met in Hawaii. The American, Mattis, said something so spectacularly stupid that it is hard to imagine anything stupider:

“The international pressure campaign [against North Korea] must continue,” Mattis declared, adding that “our aim remains a complete and verifiable and irreversible de-nuclearization (CVID) of the Korean Peninsula.”
I think it is adorable of the general to enshrine his stupidity in an acronym. 

You're cute when you're stupid

It should not be necessary to state what is so stupid about this, but since the statement seems to have been received complacently, perhaps it is.

The North Koreans could scrap their atomic bombs, and the South Koreans are not supposed to have any.

Now, it happens that by official county policy, Maui County is a nuclear-free zone (not that the national government pays any attention). But as we saw with the missile alert, the point of being safe from atom bombs lies not in the launching point but the landing point. The North Koreans are aware that the CVID of Korea itself means zip, since the United States has thousands of missiles in America and on submarines that are just as much a threat as if they were parked at Osan, (the big American air base in South Korea).
Perfectly safe here

What the North Koreans heard Mattis say was, "Our policy is that North Korea must disarm unilaterally." 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Drunk and disorderly

The Financial Times, of all people, reports on bad behavior at a London charity fundraiser for men only.

I have a number of things to say about it, but all inside baseball, if my readers will indulge me.

First, this shocking behavior is no more than what the women at Maui's hostess bars experience all the time. (Aside: I have been told that Maui's Korean bars are slowly expiring for lack of business. My informant could not tell me if the customers have found something new or whether they are just dying of old age, without the younger men's being inclined to spend money drinking that way.)

Second, if anyone is going to lose his (or her) job over this, it ought to be the editors of Britain's famously salacious tabloids, who somehow missed this juicy story.

Third, the Financial Times surely needed some tabloid help in presentation. The racy bits were buried many paragraphs deep.

Fourth, I am astonished that the lineup of hostesses was all hostesses. Is there a like event for presidents who prefer good-looking boys? In England, I would think that would attract more donors.

Monday, January 22, 2018

All you need to know about Republicans in 13 words

Republicans think that allowing sick children to receive medical treatment is a concession.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Live free or die

The New York Times has a piece on a drug addict in New Hampshire. The live free or die state. So this is ironic:

 In Patrick’s home state of New Hampshire, which leads the country in deaths per capita from fentanyl, almost 500 people died of overdoses in 2016. The government estimates that 10 percent of New Hampshire residents — about 130,000 people — are addicted to drugs or alcohol. The overall burden to the state, including health care and criminal justice costs and lost worker productivity, has ballooned into the billions of dollars.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Maybe the Russians have it

Another NSA screw-up, unless it was deliberate.

The National Security Agency destroyed surveillance data it pledged to preserve in connection with pending lawsuits and apparently never took some of the steps it told a federal court it had taken to make sure the information wasn’t destroyed, according to recent court filings.
Long ago, in Esquire, Malcolm Muggeridge wrote about beng offered a job in British intelligence during World War II. He said he turned it down because intelligence never attracts really first-rate people. That isn't always true. Alan Turing was as good as you get, and R.V. Jones probably nearly as good.

(These happen to be English examples. Despite Britain's much more stringent spy laws, we know more about Britain's intelligence work than we do about America's, thanks [I think] to Britain's clubby and gossipy old-boy network.)

The evidence, as far as we know it,  does not suggest that U.S. intelligence agencies are,  by and large, run by competent people. It is impossible to say whether on balance it would have been better not to have had them at all or not,  but they have unquestionably done enormous damage to us.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Unguarded comments

Just when the Trumpeters were, somewhat languidly, pushing back against their fuehrer's latest racist imbroglio, out tumbles the audio record of one of WBD's appointees, in this case a spokesman for the agency that runs AmeriCorps.

Not the highest gift within the presidential patronage portfolio, but a frontman is necessarily a bit elevated in his public role. This one, Carl Higbie, was known for, well, his known-ness; he was one of several appointees (the Sam Clovis affair leaps to mind) whose only apparent accomplishment is having opinions and blurting them out.

I mean, when the reviewers reviewed Higbie's resume, what what on it? He's never done anything.

Query: Trump minions do review appointees before recommending them? Don't they?

So, how did they overlook Higbie's baroque racism?

Two possibilities come to mind.

One, the reviewers are just as racist as Higbie so it did not occur to them that anyone would find anything to object to.

This is the kind of "tell," in the current Beltway lingo, that allowed RtO to refer to the Tea Party as 100% racist. Numerous TP leaders sent out email blasts including the vilest kind of racist jokes. Now, that doesn't make the recipients racists, but it does prove that the leaders assumed that all their members are racists. You never send out an email blast unless you think everyone on the mailing list is on board.

And if they stay on board afterward, then you, the sender, were right. And that is how RtO can say without chance of contradiction that the TP was and is 100% racist. If it ever had any non racist adherents (which I doubt), they are gone.

Possibility two is that Higbie's record never was reviewed, that the same care was taken over his appointment as punters give to tips about a sure thing in the third at Pimlico.

I am unable to choose between these alternatives. There's  lots of evidence for pervasive racism in the Trump coterie.

But there's lots of evidence for the Trumpeters acting without checking, too.

The missing tweet

Several polls purport to find that even WBD's supporters wish he would tweet less. Yet there was one tweet we were more or less promised that has not been sent.

That would be the one that calls out Gregory Hayes, CEO of United Technologies, for sending jobs offshore. We were told that Trump would use what Politico calls his "Twitter cannon" to discipline executives who killed off American jobs in order to improve their bottom line.

Hayes in particular should have been called out because he made WBD look like a chump by promising to keep Carrier jobs in Indianapolis but instead sending them to Mexico.

Hayes is crying all the way to the bank. UTX stock is up 12.5% since the election he helped WBD to win, and the market value of UTX is over $13 billion higher than it wa s then.

The $7 million deal worked out by WBD and Pence to fleece the taxpayers was change lost in the sofa cushions for Hayes, and a few hundred jobs -- who cares?

It does show how stupid Trump voters were and, it appears, still are.

I used to have a saying when I was a reporter, a saying that I used even more often after I became a pawnbroker: some people are hard to help.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Book Review 408: The Whiskey Rebellion

THE WHISKEY REBELLION: Frontier Epilogue to the American Revolution, by Thomas G. Slaughter. 291 pages, Oxford

In 1794, just six years after it began, just about everyone expected the strange American political experiment to fail. President Washington, the British and the Spanish governments, most of the Federalists, at least some of the Antifederalists, and, above all, Alexander Hamilton.

About the only ones who did not share this opinion were the people widely viewed as being against the national union — the western pioneers.

The Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 was not much of an affair and has been viewed as a sort of hiccup. I remember it was presented in schoolbooks in the ‘50s as an assertion by the national government of resolve and firmness that squelched disunionist sentiment more or less forever. This despite the occurrence of the Civil War.

Thomas Slaughter sees it differently. It was  big deal then, and the issues that drove it  — liberty or order, localism or nationalism, big government or small — are still lively among us, even if the factional actors have switched ideological sides more than once in the past 225 years. However, the geographical locale of the dissent has stayed quite stable. The opponents of central government are still concentrated around the Ohio Valley.

In 1794, Pittsburgh was the only real urban place on the frontier, and the writ of national or state government barely ran in the West.

The westerners were full of grievances: they wanted protection from the Indians, the right to trade at New Orleans and no internal taxes.

Hamilton, the villain of the piece, had schemed to enrich himself and his friends by simultaneously flimflamming the veterans of the Continental army out of their bonuses and assuming the state debts. To pay the debts, he needed new taxes, and his preferred method was an excise, a tax on internal production.

Since this was the flashpoint of the Revolution, Hamilton’s political acumen needs to be called int oquestion, unless, of course, he had a more nefarious intention than raising a revenue.

Thomas Slaughter does not say he did, but although he disclaims any intent to take sides, he finds most of the errors that led to an army’s being marched against American citizens to have risen in the capital (then Philadelphia) and much of that advice coming from Hamilton.

My view, coming into this book, was that Hamilton was a scoundrel and a con artist. Nothing in “The Whiskey Rebellion” causes me to change my mind.

In Slaughter’s estimation, the western grievances were practical, not jus ideological. There was no cash in the West to pay taxes with and nothing to trade except whiskey, which Hamilton was emboldened to tax.

It is hard to believe Hamilton thought the tax would be received quietly. Slaughter suggests he was anxious for a demonstration of force to teach the lower orders their place.

Washington, too, had long experience of the western farmers and a low opinion of them. He also had huge financial interests. The outcome of the rebellion — really more of a tax strike — raised the value of those lands by 50% over night.

Slaughter finds many, many competing influences that led to a breakdown of public order but class divisions were at the forefront. It was the landless, impoverished, sometimes actually starving pioneers who — with nothing to lose — had most reason to rebel.

What they did not have were arms, leadership, organization, plans or prospects.

Probably a genuinely conciliatory policy in Philadelphia could have settled the west without turmoil, but that would not have suited either Hamilton or Washington, who both thought the common herd needed a sharp lesson.

The rebellion was widespread but mild — excise officers were  tarred and feathered or run out of town, houses or bans were burned, collaborators were threatened. But there was no jacquerie and the amount of additonal violence on an already extremely violent frontier was barely noticeable.

Still, eventually a huge (by Revolutionary standards) militia army marched. Like the militia before and since, it was notable for drunkenness, indiscipline, robbery, violence, jealousy and deep incompetence.

Resistance collapsed at nice.

The fervid imaginations of governors of Canada and Louisiana and of a few get-rich-quick artists among the Americans proved to be just that, imaginary.

Just because the so-called rebellion ended as a damp squib does not mean it was not significant. Slaughter summarizes:

“The Rebellion and the government’s response thus exacerbated rather than cured the political conflict that rent America in the 1790s. It contributed as much as any single event to widening the breach between selfstyled friends of liberty and friends of order, and to the birth of the Republican and Federalist parties in the years following 1794. And this was only one effect of the Rebellion on the transforming political scene. It was only one of the consequences of this  last violent battle over the meaning of the Revolution.”

Our brilliant chief magistrate

The Washington Post reports

Trump was not particularly upset by the coverage of the meeting and his vulgarity after it was first reported by The Washington Post, calling friends and asking how they expected it to play with his political supporters, aides said.

“Everyone was saying it would help with the base,” which would agree with his characterization, one person who spoke with the president said.
And why not? Consider what he accomplished by what the Post says was a spur-of-the-moment meeting on the most significant piece of legislation currently before the Congress:

1. He got everyone to quit talking about "Fire and Fury"

2. He forced his prim opponents, such as the New York Times and NPR, to say a naughty word

3.  He reassured his supporters that, yes, indeed, he is a stone-cold racist, just like them.

And wait, there's more. He emasculated rightwing senators Cotton and Perdue (emergency attendees, according to the Post's account) who will never again be able to negotiate with the Democratic leadership after being maneuvered into calling Durbin a liar.

It's a win-win-win-win-win . . . so much winning.

It is remarkable how many ducks he brought down with one shot.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Going two directions at once

I find it interesting, but not at all surprising, to watch Trumpeters, especially the overtly religious kind, simultaneously embrace incompatible positions.

Interesting because it destroys all their credibility but unsurprising because I grew up among holy rollers, and this is their constant mode of -- if you can call it that -- thought.

Perhaps some insight can be derived from watching the exact same phenomenon in a far different culture, with different actors, different issues and exactly the same mindset among believers.

I am thinking of Russia and its holy rollers, the Orthodox church. On successive days, the New York Times has published articles about how the Russian Christians excoriate the Bolsheviks and deprecate reports of their crimes.

It is a sign of power madness, which is all evangelical religion is about when you get down to it. Practically everybody has religion, so there is no earthly reason to go out and recruit newbies to your cult, is there?

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Self-defense, NRA style

If you set out to write a script that exposed every last NRA argument for guns for the pluperfect nonsense that they are, you could not top this real-life example.

Now, I don't know that the dead gun-owner kept a Chicago piano in his house for defense. Sure as shootin', though, his dead friend did not.

 Cummings and Lively have accused Richardson of shooting Brown twice in the chest and once in the right hand. Crawford grabbed a .38 caliber revolver that Brown kept on his nightstand and went where McKoy lay sleeping and shot him in the face, prosecutors said.

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/crime/article194070489.html#storylink=cpy
And the Kalashnikov in the previous robbery, don't know about the tempoerary owner's thoughts there either. Maybe he kept it for interior decoration.

But I do know that if they were keeping firearms for self-protection, it not only didn't work, it made them targets for bad guys.

A note on the story. I have been to the scene of the crimes, Fuquay-Varina, many times. It is a bigger place now than it was when I was in Cow College nearby. The place sticks in my mind because my architectural history professor, Larry Wodehouse, made a point of comparing Fuquay-Varina n 1966 with Chartres, France, in the 13th century. The two places had similar populations.

Dissimilar cultures.

Bringing the world's respect back to America

I urge you to read the entire Washington Post story about Ambassador Hoekstra and the Dutch reporters.

It would only be restating the obvious to list the important clues contained in the appointment of ex-congresscritter Hoeksta. But let's do it anyway:

1. Deliberate lying.

2. Multiplication of fake news.

3. Ignorance of a nearly subhuman order.

4. Arrogance.

5. Deliberate insult to a faithful ally, first by the appiuntment, second by not withdrawing it when Hoekstra insulted the Dutch.

6. Rewarding stupidity.

Hoekstra is quoted as saying, "It's not about me," which is true in the sense that he is Trump's and Tillerson's man.

Of course, it is also about him -- a small, ignorant, arrogant fool.

It is impossible to imagine any previous administration keeping an envoy after such a performance.

I greatly admire the Dutch reporters or their coolth and persistence:

“A lot of Dutch people have seen the press conferences of the White House and seen how some questions are not answered,” he said. “Everybody knows about ‘alternative facts.' And this fits that picture.”

He said that the press corps' unwillingness to let the question go was a spontaneous response, adding that he had seen a similar tactic employed on a smaller scale when Dutch politicians gave evasive answers to direct questions. But he said politics in the Netherlands differs a bit from the current situation in the United States.

“In the Netherlands, you don’t get a straight-up answer if you ask straight-up questions,” he said. “But you hardly get false answers.”

Finally, the stupidity of Tillerson is revealed and his humiliation is completed:

 The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.

Do not be Florida Woman either

COCOA BEACH -- A Florida woman is recovering from serious injuries after a cat jumped into her car and attacked her, causing her to be run over by her own vehicle.
. . . Authorities said she jumped out of the car to escape the feline, forgetting it was in reverse and was run over by her own vehicle. . . . The woman suffered critical injuries.

(From Florida Today)

Friday, January 5, 2018

High finance

I have for many years said that the real divide in America is not north/south,  or urban/rural, or right/left or white/colored or any of the usual categories by which the political demographers split us up.

The real divide is between those who have too much to do and those who have nothing to do. And it's getting worse, with estimates I have seen for open tech jobs around 600,000.

But there is another one, the split between those who aspire to a fixer-upper without running water in Park Slope (a leafy district in Brooklyn) but are priced out at $2.3 million; or who open a restaurant that grosses $17 million a year but still cannot make the rent, and everybody else.

It is not easy to think that people who struggle to buy a house in the Midwest at $200,000 and those who spend $250,000 on custom dentiling for a second home on Maui can, even with good will on both sides, understand each other's daily concerns.

This is hardly an original thought. The New York Times ran a story in 2009 about how difficult it is to struggle by on $2 million or $3 million a year. Several congressmen of both parties have said they cannot make it on $174,000 a year. But they are right, at least if they want private living quarters.

Congresscritters did not always aspire to such opulence. For most of our history they tended to live in boarding houses.

I have been looking at real estate within commuting distance of DC, and the congressmen are right.

So, to policy: raise the bridge or lower the river?

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Grifter, racist, despot

It is often said, by liberals --who don't know any more about the history of their own country than rightwingers -- that Trump is unique among presidents for using his office to promote his private fortune.

Washington not only used the office of president to line his own pockets, he also used the office to turn violent militias against citizens who -- to put it mildly -- disagreed not only with his policies but  resented his personal business methods.

It is not easy to find this record. The most complete I know is in Thomas  Slaughter's "The Whiskey Rebellion," published as late as 1986.

Nut graf:

. . . Indeed, Washington now sought to use the influence of his office  in the same ways that he had always exploited personal connections in behalf of business enterprises. "I am about [to] give you a little trouble on my private account," the President informed a political appointee. His mixture of public and private affairs included solicitation of a customs collector's aid in selling some tobacco and wheat, an attempt to convince the commissioners of the District of Columbia to purchase rocks from his quarry, and the enlistment of a U.S. Senator to sell land in western Pennsylvania. . . . and there is evidence . . . that the President's private experiences influenced his pubic decisions about how to handle anti-excise unrest.

Which is not to say that WBD is not unique among American chief magistrates, though he follows a pattern well-known among foreign despots.

You do not have to be two Harvard political scientists to dope this out. RtO has been saying the same thing all year. Trump is not merely a fascist but a Nazi, because unlike garden-variety fascists, he is also a racist.

Fascism is not, essentially, racist, since its main orientation is religious. The original French version was anti-Jewish but on religious npt racial grounds. The first successful fascist regime, in Italy, was not originally racist, nor was the longest-surviving one, in Spain. It was the special quality of German fascism to make racism the fundamental ideological principle of what was otherwise a nationalist, xenophobic enterprise.

Without the racism, Trump is just another tinhorn despot, as the Harvard scholars discerned evn before he took office:

We have spent two decades studying the emergence and breakdown of democracy in Europe and Latin America. Our research points to several warning signs.

The clearest warning sign is the ascent of anti-democratic politicians into mainstream politics. Drawing on a close study of democracy’s demise in 1930s Europe, the eminent political scientist Juan J. Linz designed a “litmus test” to identify anti-democratic politicians. His indicators include a failure to reject violence unambiguously, a readiness to curtail rivals’ civil liberties, and the denial of the legitimacy of elected governments.

Mr. Trump tests positive. In the campaign, he encouraged violence among supporters; pledged to prosecute Hillary Clinton; threatened legal action against unfriendly media; and suggested that he might not accept the election results.

This anti-democratic behavior has continued since the election. With the false claim that he lost the popular vote because of “millions of people who voted illegally,” Mr. Trump openly challenged the legitimacy of the electoral process. At the same time, he has been remarkably dismissive of United States intelligence agencies’ reports of Russian hacking to tilt the election in his favor.

That would be something to see

I hope WBD does sue Bannon for libel. It would be a treat to see a federal judge opine that a man has to have a reputation before he can be libeled.

It's true, a well-settled principle of the law.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Book Review 407: My Opposition: The Diary of Friedrich Kellner

MY OPPOSITION: The Diary of Friedrich Kellner, edited by Robert Scott Kellner. 493 pages, illustrated. Cambridge, $34.99

It seems improbable that a World War II diary published as late as 2011 could have caused a sensation, but it did in Germany.  Now that Cambridge University Press is publishing an abridged English translation, we can see why.

Friedrich Kellner documents what we have all along believed must have been the case, that ordinary Germans were aware of the murders in Poland and Russia, and from as soon as they began.

They just didn’t care then and had every incentive to pretend that they were shocked by later revelations.


The stories of the Kellner family and of the diary’s very long wait for publication are as interesting as the diary, but I will not go into those details.

The focus is on Friedrich Kellner, although it ought also to be on his wife, Pauline, who shared his socialist politics, moral convictions and courage. Unfortunately, not so much is known about her.

Also, the editor, Kellner’s American grandson, does not tell us (if he knows) how the Kellners managed to listen to foreign radio all during the war. That was a hanging/shooting offense, as were distributing enemy leaflets and defeatist talk, both of which the Kellners also were guilty of.

They knew the danger. Kellner often pasted newspaper clippings about Germans who had been executed for defeatism.

The diary is not intensely personal. Kellner deliberately made it that way, intending primarily to leave a record of his own opposition to Hitlerism and of Germany’s indifference. He several times estimates that 99 out of 100 Germans supported Nazism.

This is a crucial point, because at this distance there is a strong tendency to emphasize the resistance to Hitler. There never was any.

Kellner’s brave but — as he himself acknowledged, ineffective — resistance was unusual. The so-called resistance that led to the July 20, 1944, bomb plot was mythical.

Its adherents did not, with few exceptions, object to Hitlerism, only to Hitler personally. They were mostly aristocrats who were offended by Hitler’s low birth, uncouth accent and manners. But they merely intended to replace him with someone more like them. It was never a part of their plot to give up Germany’s conquests or new status as the dominant power in Europe.

Hitlerism without Hitler was all they stood for. And when it came to it, they didn’t even stand for that. They might as well have, since most were hanged from meathooks anyway.

They could have had honorable deaths, but in the end theirs were merely sordid.

The Kellners somehow survived though without much praise until the publication of the diary. There is now a FriedrichKellner Strasse in Laubach, the tiny (population 1,800) town where the Kellners lived during the war.

They fled there to escape their reputation as socialist activists, and while some of that seems to have followed them, life in a tiny village was less tense than in a big city. The Nazis in Laubach tried their best to get Kellner, but their best was not good, and it seems the village Nazis lacked some of the ruthlessness of the urban kind.

However that may be, Kellner maintained through all six years of the war the white-hot resentment he felt for Hitler and Hitlerism. Unlike many Germans who disliked this or that aspect of Hitlerism but were stymied by nationalism, Kellner, the socialist, had no problem wishing for Germany’s defeat. He lamented her victories.

He recognized that in defeat Germany would pay a heavy price and that he and Pauline would also have to pay. It is the essence of his heroism that they accepted that fate.

Friedrich Kellner was the first in his family to get a white-collar job, a fact he was always aware of, and he hoped that his grandchildren would rise even further into the rarefied world of the intelligentsia.

He himself had only a gymnasium (high school) diploma, but it was a good education, supplemented, as was often the case in those times, by self-education under socialist auspices.

He was born in 1885 and fought in France until wounded. Throughout the diary he vents the disgust of the frontline old soldier for the dilettantes in politics, and he also (unusually) scorns the ineptitude of the generals. For him, Rommel was just a general who retreated and retreated.

In 1920, he and Pauline formally withdrew from the Lutheran Church, disgusted by its behavior during the war.

His profession of court administrator (he was a manager, notary and record-keeper, what we would call a clerk of the court) kept him in contact with more educated men, but they were not as clear thinkers as he was. Throughout the diary he scorns the failure of the German educated class to recognize Hitler for what he was.

In particular, Kellner recognized early that Nazism meant murder of Jews. He wrote about extermination as early as October 1939, before extermination was a policy.

Soon enough, he would hear from many sources, including stories told by soldiers on leave and letters from his senior court colleagues who were sent to Poland, about mass murders. He learned about what sounds like the famous murders at Babi Yar almost as soon as that was over (though it is possible from his description that what he was hearing about was one of the mass executions outside Riga).

Hadamar, where the Nazis murdered thousands of sick and mentally incapacitated people, was not far from Laubach, and Kellner was aware of those killings, too. He was able to discern something just by studying obituaries in the newspapers.

Throughout the diary, as he kept excoriating the Allies for their slowness in coming to free Germany from its regime, he makes remarkably astute projections about the military situation. He was only an ex-private but he had a good head on his shoulders.

And a temper. It was remarkable that he managed to keep that head.

30 reviews

During 2017, RtO reviewed 30 books. Only one, Timothy Snyder's "On Tyranny,"was newly published.

The rest were old books about subjects I either knew nothing about or wanted to know more about.

Two were about censorship, "Out of the Flames" about the burning of Servetus; and "The Holocaust and the Book."

Only two were about science and only four were even tangentially about economics.

In 2018, I hope to read more about those topics.

And the next review will be of a new book.

A positive story about Trumpery

From Bloomberg's Max Nisen, an apparently deeply-informed story about drug policy and a bureaucrat who is able to make decisive -- and perhaps mostly positive-- changes, from the point of view of consumers.

This is not an area I know anything about, so I am not firm in my evaluation of the reporting, but it sounds good and Bloomberg is more reliable on subjects like this than, say, The Wall Street Journal.

Interesting claim:

 Gottlieb seems to believe in the price-lowering power of competition. It sounds like a talking point. But it's already working in the generic-drug market. And a series of rapid hepatitis C drug approvals have lowered prices so significantly that it slowed the entire country's drug-spending growth.
This reinforces a point RtO has made several times: The United States spends so much on health -- and is so wasteful and stupid about it -- that wringing out useless spending would cost several hundred thousand jobs and put the economy into formal recession. In other words, the US has not shown any genuine economic expansion in about 40 years. It has grown simply by digging holes and refilling them.

Health and military spending have created a growth illusion.

I do not understand enough about how economies evolve to know how long fake growth is sustainable.