Late Night QFT Open Thread: “Trump’s GOP, Party of Corruption”

Tina Nguyen, at Vanity Fair“In the witch-hunt era, a criminal indictment has become a mark of pride for Republicans”:

If there’s anyone who can sympathize with Rep. Chris Collins, the first congressman to support Donald Trump, who is currently facing indictment for insider trading, it’s Michael Grimm. “He’s going to have a really, really difficult emotional time,” the retired Republican congressman, who was himself indicted on 20 counts of various crimes, told The New York Times on Thursday, when asked what he’d say to Collins. “He’s going to have to swallow every bit of it. And smile.” He went on, “Washington, as long as you’re riding high, they want to be your friend. And when you’re not, they don’t want to be anywhere near you. . . . And whether he knows it or not, a lot of Washington is going to look at him as a pariah.”

They might also look at him as unelectable, a realistic concern in a potential wave election that threatens to wipe out the Republican hold on Congress, particularly if Collins refuses to bow out of the race. But fear not, Grimm said—he himself had done what Collins aspires to do, running for re-election under indictment in 2012, and winning…“If I were him, I would double down on the president needing us,” Grimm suggested….

But could anyone in the Serious Grown-Up Business-Friendly Party actually defend stock market fraud?

Heeerrre comes MCARGLEBARGLE!

To be fair — to the Washington Post, who paid her this time — McArdle eventually gets around to explaining that, well, insider trading might be offensive, but it’s really all the fault of Government Overregulation:

It’s surprisingly hard to pin down an actual harm from insider trading. And yet we have a stubborn intuition that it ought to be illegal because it just doesn’t seem fair. That’s a reasonable response: Insiders such as the sons of congressmen and board members should have to take the same losses as anyone else on speculative investments.

There is no evident problem with confidence in the markets today, but there is an obvious problem with confidence in our institutions. That’s the harm of insider trading — and all sorts of other self-dealing, self-interested practices by networks of folks with cultural, economic or political power. Occupational licensing, building restrictions that make it impossible for disadvantaged families to gain access to better schools, professional networks and degree requirements that help “people like us” climb the ladder into the best jobs — all of these look, from the outside, like more insider trading. They’re also often defended by people who regard the allegations against Chris Collins with horror…

Look, regulations only serve to encourage law-breaking, knowhutimean? As J.P. Morgan said, during our first Gilded Age, “Anything not nailed down is mine. Anything I can pry loose, was not nailed down.” It’s not the plundering, it’s the nails!



Our Failed Meritocracy / Media: “OMGarosa!!!

(This was scheduled to pop up at 10am this morning, but FYWP… )


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Late-Night Horror-Farce Open Thread: Orange Is the New “Glow”

If there *is* a tanning bed — I’m agnostic on the topic — my bet would be it was a bargaining chip for Melania: I can’t possibly leave New York for exile in D.C. until… It’s the sort of just-this-side-of-reasonable demand common to any diplomatic negotiation between the corteges of a medieval baron and his third royal princess, a delaying tactic to test the sympathies of the new court. (And to make an aging monarch look slightly ridiculous, whether or not he complied.) Wasn’t there a media kerfuffle, right after the inauguration, about “Melania’s people” wanting to install an expensive professional-media-quality hair salon / makeup room in the West Wing?


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Banana Republicans Open Thread: The War Between the Snakes

I’ve been reading about this Oligarch Feud for the past few days, wondering just where the levers were…

Most of the media coverage of the “ugly public feud,” as the New York Times called it, between President Trump and the Koch brothers has taken the Kochs at their word that they may have to give up on the Republican Party of Trump and start backing Democrats, so disgusted are they with the President’s protectionist trade policies. But history suggests that the Kochs’ threat is about as believable as that of a parent threatening to “just plain leave” if a balky toddler doesn’t behave.

Despite the brothers’ record as among the country’s largest and most consistently partisan financial sponsors, the Kochs’ pique at their own party is nothing new. For decades they have complained bitterly about Republican politicians whose fealty to their libertarian agenda has rarely, in their view, been absolute enough. This dissatisfaction with the Grand Old Party was evident as far back as 1980…

… In fact, it was the Kochs’ disappointment with George W. Bush’s expansion of prescription-drug benefits, among other issues, that inspired them, in 2003, to form their political-fund-raising network with like-minded conservatives. Since then, the group has grown into a private political machine that arguably rivals, and by some estimates overpowers, the Republican Party itself. Earlier this year, the network announced that it planned to spend four hundred million dollars in the coming midterm-election cycle, to help preserve the Republican majority in both houses of Congress. But last weekend, somewhat unexpectedly, at a meeting in Colorado Springs, of some five hundred members of this group, all of whom have pledged to contribute at least a hundred thousand dollars annually to the cause, Koch officials attacked Trump, in all but name, as “divisive,” and threatened to start backing Democrats in some midterm races….

On the surface, the cause of the rift is their opposition to Trump’s protectionist trade and immigration policies, which clash with their free-market preferences—and Koch Industries’ bottom line. The policy fight runs deep, reflecting a larger rift in the Republican Party on these issues. Exacerbating tensions, Trump and Charles Koch are both headstrong billionaires who are accustomed to buying, and then getting, their ways. Both were sent to military schools by their parents, after having disciplinary problems at home, and both have high regard for themselves as self-made men, despite both inheriting vast fortunes from their fathers.

Beyond this, both appear to think that the Republican Party in particular, and American politics in general, should be theirs to dominate. Yet, if you parse last weekend’s complaint from Charles Koch carefully, what you see is that his ire wasn’t so much directed at Trump, whom he didn’t name, as at the Republicans in Congress for having fallen in line with the President instead of with him….
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Shifting Fashions Open Thread: Ivanka Trump Will Not Be Missed

Robin Givhan, Washington Post fashion expert: STOP TRYING TO MAKE ‘TRUMP STYLE’ HAPPEN! IT’S NEVER GONNA HAPPEN!……

The womenswear brand, founded in 2011, was built around the public persona of Ivanka: the tall, blonde corporate executive with the famous last name, a mother of three with a lifestyle glamorously — no, adorably — curated for Instagram. The label was aimed at young, white-collar working women, and so the collections were filled with sheath dresses, simple silhouettes in feminine floral prints and office-ready shoes. There was nothing particularly unique about the products. Indeed, the company was accused of knocking off other brands. But there was nothing wrong with the clothes, either. And that, along with the price and the marketing, was what made them sell…

The gloss peeled away when Ivanka, the daughter, came to Washington as an adviser to her father, the president, who said he wanted to put America first and who touted the importance of manufacturing in the United States. Because her brand was no mere vanity project, and making money was the point, her name was licensed to manufacturers, who did the work overseas, where labor was cheap. Business wasn’t pretty, but it was profitable. In 2017, she published a book offering women advice on how to be their own best advocates and fight for their interests in the workplace, while the company that bore her name failed to offer the kind of work-life benefits that her book was telling women that they deserved.

Politics, with all of its hot air and bluster, made Ivanka Trump a walking contradiction. By extension it made her company’s sins plain. Shoppers boycotted it. Social media trolls attacked it. Department stores dropped the brand…

Intertwined with the fashion narrative of tasteful work attire, accessible pricing and woman-friendly rhetoric was the political story line. She was supposed to be the gleaming beacon for women in the new administration, the voice of the family, the Trump-whisperer. It’s hard to say which made people angrier: the fashion company that shunned American workers or the company’s founder who disappointed a contingent of American voters.

Ultimately, the two grievances became one. And a fashion lie became a political one.

Vanity Fair, infotainment generalist, is more jaded — “She’s Not Going Anywhere“:
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Rococo ‘Conservatism’ Open Thread: The Ultimate Ross Doubthat Column

As someone who was actually educated by the Church, Doubthat’s “I’m a devout Catholic, but defend libertarianism, because freedom!” makes as much sense to me as would “I’m a strict vegetarian, but I defend cannibalism, because long pig is so delicious!” But this *particular* divertissement should be preserved under a glass vitrine, as an exemplar of how “American Thought Leadership” collapsed at the beginning of the new millenium:

Like most interesting churches, libertarianism is a diverse and fractious faith, and FreedomFest brings together all its different sects: the think-tankers with their regulatory-reform blueprints, the muckraking journalists taking on government abuses, the charter city backers and Burning Man attendees, the Ayn Rand fans wearing dollar signs on their lapels, the eccentric-genius businessmen and pot legalizers — and the converts eager to tell you how everything changed when I got really into gold.

In principle I am not a libertarian: The teenage nerd enters conservatism through either Atlas Shrugged or Lord of the Rings, and between Tolkienists like myself and the Randians a great gulf is often fixed. But even if libertarianism seems an insufficient philosophy of human flourishing, its defense of individuals and markets can be a crucial practical corrective to all manner of liberal and conservative mistakes…

Just a little while ago journalists were talking about a “libertarian moment” in American politics, with Rand Paul as its avatar — an entitlement-cutting, prison-reforming, drug-legalizing, intervention-opposing, drone-strike-filibustering politics that was supposed to build bridges between Republicans and millennials. But then Paul, like other Republicans, was steamrolled by Trumpism in 2016. So what exactly happened to his moment?…

How could that fun guy, Rand Paul, allow himself to fall under the wheels of some trash-talking newbie like Donald Trump? SAD!

To Ross, politics is just another fantasy role-playing game — a gang of enthusiasts sharing the fun of theoretical world-building and weekend bullshit sessions. There are those who make a nice career out of their chosen fantasy… writing the fanfic, making the cosplay accessories, running the LARPs… even graduating into the professional tier, working for Hollywood or a big gaming company… but the Savvy among the crowds never forget that it’s all just performance. They may resent the ‘mundanes’ who don’t understand how *fun* their little societies can be, but they save their real contempt for the losers who actually believe it makes a difference whether Team Red or Team Blue wins an election, like those sad basement-dwellers who obsess over Boba Fett or ST:OS vs ST:NG.

It’s not as though Ross, or the people Ross socializes with, are ever going to be affected by this ‘politics’ stuff; they’ll never have to worry about getting deported, losing their liberty, being jailed or beaten for the color of their skin or their choice of partners (although they can dream up some very vivid fanfic scenarios). Their version of ‘economic anxiety’ is not being able to find a decent-sized apartment in the “right” zip code. The worst punishment they can imagine is being ostracized on Martha’s Vineyard, and there’s plenty of other places to get a good cocktail on a summer weekend. Why must some people suck all the fun out of the game?, Ross asks his fellow NYT opinioneers, as they nod in agreement…



‘New Media’ Open Thread: When the Monkey’s Paw Grants Your Wish


 
Or then again, Haberman could just hire someone to tweet in her name. (Assuming we & the platform survive, I give it three years before ‘Twitter spokesperson’ is a recognized occupation.) Let’s be honest, it’s not like the Oval Office Occupant could be bothered to spell ‘inconceivable’ correctly…


 
Both Haberman and Trump were breakout ‘serious’ Twitter stars, rewarded for their adept use of the new format…

The study, carried out at MIT’s Laboratory for Social Machines, showed this by examining every tweet sent between 2006 and 2017. The researchers used statistical models to classify tweets as false or true, by applying data taken from six independent fact-checking organisations. That allowed them to categorise over 4.5m tweets about 126,000 different stories. Those stories were then ranked according to how they spread among Twitter’s users.

The results were stark. False information was retweeted by more people than the true stuff, and faster to boot. True stories took, on average, six times longer than falsehoods to reach at least 1,500 people. Only about 0.1% of true stories were shared by more than 1,000 people, but 1% of false stories managed between 1,000 and 100,000 shares.

The reason false information does better than the true stuff is simple, say the researchers. Things spread through social networks because they are appealing, not because they are true. One way to make news appealing is to make it novel. Sure enough, when the researchers checked how novel a tweet was (by comparing it, statistically, with other tweets) they found false tweets were significantly more novel than the true ones. Untrue stories were also more likely to inspire emotions such as fear, disgust and surprise, whereas genuine ones provoked anticipation, sadness, joy and trust, leading to the rather depressing conclusion that people prefer to share stories that generate strong negative reactions. Perhaps not coincidentally, fake political news was the most likely to go viral…

Shorter: Everybody loves to watch a trainwreck!

Hey, NYTimes