• Donald Trump Is Worried About . . . The Stock Market

    CDC/Planet Pix via ZUMA

    Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States on the coronavirus outbreak:

    Trump is highly concerned about the market and has encouraged aides not to give predictions that might cause further tremors….In a Twitter post, he misspelled the word “coronavirus” as “caronavirus” and wrote that two cable news stations “are doing everything possible to make the Caronavirus look as bad as possible, including panicking markets, if possible. Likewise their incompetent Do Nothing Democrat comrades are all talk, no action. USA in great shape!”

    ….Privately, Trump has become furious about the stock market’s slide, according to two people familiar with the president’s thinking, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share internal details. While he has spent the past two days traveling in India, Trump has watched the stock market’s fall closely and believes extreme warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have spooked investors, the aides said. Some White House officials have been unhappy with how Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has handled the situation, they said.

    The good news, I guess, is that at least Trump is concerned about something. Eventually, he might decide that happy talk won’t save his bacon and he actually needs to do something substantive about the spread of the virus. The big questions are (a) how long this will take and (b) whether he can find someone competent to run this effort. I can’t think of any previous president that I’d be worried about on this score, but there you have it.

    Trump has a simple—and surprisingly effective—approach to marketing: When someone else is in charge, everything is in terrible shape. When he’s in charge, everything is perfect. This is fairly benign when it applies to things that Trump has no control over—which is nearly everything—but not so benign when it interferes with things that Trump really does need to address. That’s what’s happening now. On the bright side, at least he hasn’t yet appointed Jared Kushner as our new coronavirus czar.

  • Only the Fist Bump Can Defeat the Coronavirus

    Via Alex Tabarrok, here is today’s news you can use:

    In these days of coronavirus anxiety, it’s important to greet strangers in the safest way possible. Short of adopting the Japanese bow, it turns out that the fist bump is our best bet. In fact, perhaps we’ll now evolve to new versions of the fist bump that become progressively lighter until they stop just short of actual skin contact. Perhaps our germaphobe president can lead the way?

  • We Are Debating in South Carolina

    CBS News

    Let’s close things out with capsule reviews of each candidate.

    Biden: He keeps getting more aggressive, but it’s mostly just endless repetitions of “I’m the only one on this stage that’s actually done _____ .” It’s a little hard to see this helping him a lot.

    Buttigieg: Still mostly vague platitudes.

    Warren: Her performance was fine, but not much different from past debates. I doubt that she did much to stop her downward slide.

    Sanders: He took more hits than he did last time, but not as many as I thought he would. Warren still pulled her punches, saying only that she could get things done better than Bernie. Klobuchar said pretty much the same thing. Bloomberg hit Bernie hard early on, but I’m not sure anyone noticed.

    Bloomberg: He did much better than last time. Partly that was because he wasn’t attacked as much, and partly because he seems to have learned how to give better answers. I don’t know if he helped his cause much, but he probably stopped the bleeding.

    Klobuchar: Meh.

    Steyer: Who cares?

    I would not say that any of the candidates had a breakout moment or a great zinger, but none of them suffered a huge mistake either. I don’t expect that anyone will move up or down in the polls very much based on their performance tonight.


    Normally, debate performances have only a modest effect on public support for presidential candidates. This is lucky for Mike Bloomberg, who bungled his first debate last week but suffered only a 3-point drop in the polls. But that luck won’t last forever. With Bernie Sanders surging, a second weak debate performance could put Bloomberg out of the race for good.

    So how will Bloomberg do? Will everyone attack Bernie, now that he’s the frontrunner? Will Elizabeth Warren regain some of her early mojo? Will Joe Biden get through the night without a senior moment? Answers are coming soon!

    9:56 pm – And that’s it. Now it’s time to vote.

    9:55 pm – Gayle King wants mottos that each candidate lives by. Steyer: Always tell the truth. Klobuchar: Politics is about improving people’s life. Biden: Everyone is entitled to decent treatment. Sanders: Everything is impossible until it happens. Warren: It’s all about lifting people up. Buttigieg: If you would be a leader, you must first be a servant. Bloomberg: I’ve trained for this job for a long time, and when I get it I’m going to do something, not just talk about it.

    9:48 pm – Commercial break! When we return, we’re going to ditch all this boring policy talk and get personal with the candidates. How exciting.

    9:43 pm – Warren says we need to be an honest broker in the Middle East. I can’t say that this has accomplished much over the past few decades.

    9:37 pm – Steyer says that 21st century warfare is cyberwarfare. There are many dead Iraqis and Yemenis and Syrians and Ukrainians and Afghans who would disagree.

    9:35 pm – Klobuchar says that Sanders alienates too many voters. Vote Amy 2020!

    9:34 pm – I propose a ban on the word “actually” in debates.

    9:31 pm – Sanders says we need to acknowledge that the United States has overthrown regimes in the past: Chile, Guatemala, and Iran.

    9:28 pm – Warren turns a question about China into an attack on Bloomberg for not releasing his taxes so we can see if he’s invested in China. That strikes me as pretty weak.

    9:20 pm – Gayle King chastises Pete Buttigieg for going over time. “A minute fifteen is a long time.”

    9:13 pm – Commercial break! It features a long ad from Mike Bloomberg that features women who have worked for him. That’s smart, but a little late in the program.

    9:10 pm – Klobuchar and Bloomberg want to go slowly on marijuana legalization. Sanders wants to legalize it on Day One and give the marijuana business to black entrepreneurs instead of big corporations. I’m not sure how Sanders plans to change the drug schedule on his own, or how he plans to restrict marijuana sales to certain types of people and businesses. I’ll have to look into that.

    8:57 pm – Bloomberg on bipartisanship: “You can work across the aisle, you just need to know how to deal with people.” Huh.

    8:54 pm – “A question from our partner Twitter.” Just shoot me now.

    8:52 pm – Bloomberg, Biden, and Klobuchar are competing for the “I can get it done, unlike all those other dreamers” vote.

    8:49 pm – We’re sure spending a lot of time on gun violence considering how little influence a president has on it.

    8:40 pm – Biden talks about “carnage on our streets” because Sanders voted against gun legislation. This whole “carnage” line was untrue when Trump used it and it’s untrue when Biden uses it. I’m all in favor of sensible gun control, but the fact is that the murder rate today is as low as it’s been anytime in the past 50 years.

    8:36 pm – Commercial break! I gotta say, Elizabeth Warren is probably my favorite candidate up there, but her mini-speeches sure do sound the same every time. She could use a little variety.

    8:35 pm – Bloomberg looks consistently disgusted whenever Sanders speaks. He probably needs to rein that in.

    8:33 pm – Bloomberg says that if Democrats nominate Sanders, they’ll lose and lose big. That’s four more years of Trump and four more years of Trump judges.

    8:28 pm – How much will Bernie’s health care plan cost? I’m here to tell you the actual answer: $3.8 trillion. That’s how much we spent on health care last year. If we switched to a different system—pretty much any system—we’d spend the same amount. The only thing that would change is which middleman pays the bills. The net cost to individuals, however, would stay pretty much the same no matter what anyone says.

    8:26 pm – Buttigieg is barging into a lot of conversations tonight. For that matter, everyone else is trying to barge into every conversation too.

    8:23 pm – We just finished a huge fight between Warren and Bloomberg after Warren accused Bloomberg of telling a pregnant employee to “kill it.” Bloomberg says that’s a lie. Warren tells him to prove it by releasing everyone from their nondisclosure agreements. Bloomberg says he did that but that Warren is never satisfied with anything. I’m not sure who won this exchange.

    8:16 pm – Everyone agrees that Bloomberg’s implementation of stop-and-frisk was racist. Everyone but Bloomberg, that is.

    8:10 pm – Sanders says that many of the issues they’re discussing tonight were things he brought up in 2016. This is quite true. Whatever else you can say about him, there’s not much question that Sanders has done a lot to set the agenda of the progressive movement over the past four years.

    8:03 pm – Bloomberg goes there: he says Vladimir Putin wants Sanders to win the Democratic nomination so that Donald Trump will win the general election.

  • Lunchtime Photo

    This is one of my favorite slot canyon pictures. I have others that are more panoramic or do a better job of showing the surface swirls, but none that display more colors in a single shot. This one has intense reds, bright oranges, delicate roses, and deep purples all crowding up next to each other. It’s not quite every color you see in the slot canyons, but it’s close.

    January 27, 2020 — Navajo Nation, Highway 98, Arizona
  • New Survey Suggests Bernie Can Win Only With Enormous Youth Turnout

    I understand that the cool kids are not supposed to talk about electability right now, since everyone understands that this is just code for “I hate Bernie.” So far I’ve been a good boy and stayed away from this, but I’ve long had one very specific problem with Bernie Sanders’ electability. It has nothing to do with his socialist views, though. It has to do with his supporters.

    As we all know, support for Sanders is highest among the young, and Sanders has explicitly said that his election strategy depends on generating high turnout among the young. But here’s the thing: every four years, for as long as I can remember, I’ve heard promises that this is the year we’ll finally get young people to turn out for us. But they never do. Overall turnout goes up and down depending on the election, but 18-29 year olds always make up 17-19 percent of the voting population. Always.

    In a new paper, David Broockman and Joshua Kalla use the detailed results of a huge new survey and conclude that Sanders can indeed do as well against Trump as more moderate candidates, but only if he makes up for lost votes among older voters by motivating young voters to turn out in unprecedented numbers:

    If this is true, it’s a real problem. Sanders hasn’t increased turnout in the primaries and caucuses so far, and to have a chance in the general election he’d need youth turnout to be well over 50 percent. That’s never happened in recent history. Even Barack Obama in 2008 couldn’t quite manage it.

    I’ve never been a big fan of Sanders, but I try to remain fairminded about measurable quantities. Youth turnout is just such a thing, and it’s one that I’m sensitive to since I long ago became cynical about promises of getting young people to vote in larger numbers than usual. Maybe Bernie can finally do it. But I wouldn’t bet the ranch on it.

  • Progressives Are Short on Popular Campaign Promises This Year

    Over at Vox, Matt Yglesias shares a new survey from Data for Progress about public support for various progressive policies. Yglesias is able to find a silver lining here, but I sure don’t. Here’s a breakdown of all the issues that scored at least 55 percent support:

    DFP read each respondent an argument for and against each policy, and as you can see this tanked the results: not a single one polled higher than 61 percent. Even vague, feel-good no-brainers like clean air, lead paint cleanup, and “stopping Wall Street looting” couldn’t break the 61 percent barrier, and that’s crazy. I mean, who’s against any of that?

    Of the other five, two are pretty small bore: allowing the feds to broaden the licensing of generic drugs and allowing police or family to petition a judge to take away guns from someone who presents a danger. So that leaves a grand total of three policy proposals that are both meaningful and poll above 55 percent:

    • Limiting interest rates on credit cards.
    • Guaranteeing 12 weeks of family leave for childbirth or serious medical problems.
    • Legalizing marijuana.

    Credit card interest rates are, in practice, governed by a Supreme Court decision from 1978, so there’s little that a president could do about that. Legalizing marijuana would be hard since it’s governed by international treaties.

    So there’s only one thing left: guaranteeing 12 weeks of family leave. This is popular, and as far as I know, it’s also constitutional.

    The DFP list is pretty thorough, which means that this is it. There’s precisely one issue that’s (a) popular, (b) feasible, and (c) big enough to be a campaign issue. Medicare for All polls below 50 percent. Canceling student loans polls below 50 percent. A carbon tax polls below 50 percent. The Green New Deal polls below 50 percent. Border decriminalization polls way below 50 percent.

    There’s really not much to work with here. I chose 55 percent as a cutoff because I was being generous: the truth is that almost anything below 60 percent is likely to be a loser once Republicans start going after it. I just don’t see any progressive issues that look like sure campaign winners.

    But this isn’t as bad as it looks. There are plenty of issues that are on the edge and might be a net positive with suburban voters that Democrats need. What’s more, policies like this aren’t likely to be what wins or loses the 2020 election anyway. November is going to be a referendum on Donald Trump, and what Democrats really need is good ways to convince folks on the center right that Trump is even worse than they think. Maybe DFP will poll that next.

  • I Get a Visit In the Night

    It’s 3 am here on the mean streets of Irvine. It’s a dex night, so I’m wide awake. Suddenly the cats start wailing.

    I stand up. Wham! Hilbert and Hopper nearly bowl me over running to the patio door. Their tails are bushy. They are hissing. I look outside.

    It’s a cat wearing the damnedest fur coat I’ve ever seen. There are three of them and they want to come inside. Naturally I’m too smart to fall for that old trick: I keep the door closed while I take my pictures. Unfortunately we removed our patio lighting a few months ago and never replaced it, so it’s dark and the photos turn out blurry and grainy. But it’s enough. They know I’m on to them and eventually they go away.

    According to my wildlife guide, this is a breed of cat known as “raccoon.” Elsewhere in Southern California, mountain lions are roaming backyards and bears are ambling down the streets of Monrovia. Here, we just have hungry raccoons.

  • Now Playing at the Guggenheim: “The perfect representation of hogwash masquerading as reason”

    David Heald, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

    Many years ago—at least 20, maybe 25—I went to an exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. I didn’t do this because the exhibition especially grabbed me, but because I was in New York and wanted to see the museum building itself. So a friend and I bought tickets and went in to see what was there.

    It turned out to be a collection of very contemporary art indeed. One of the artworks, for example, was a pile of dirt. There was a toilet too, because every modern artist has to have his or her take on the toilet. And just in case the artworks weren’t ridiculous enough on their own, they were accompanied by signage that sounded like a parody of every unfathomable explanation of modern art you’ve ever laughed at. And laugh we did until making our exit before anyone started staring at us.

    I mention this only because Justin Davidson has a review this week of a new exhibition at the Guggenheim. It turns out that noted Dutch urbanist Rem Koolhaas, after a lifetime of studying cities, suddenly decided that no one had ever studied the countryside so perhaps he should do it himself. After having this peculiar epiphany, he spent quite some time doing just that:

    The fact-finding mission stretched over years and returned with some truly headache-inducing conclusions, such as this gem: “The farmer is like us — a flex worker, operating on a laptop from any possible location.” That statement is 100 percent accurate — so long as you confine the term “farmer” to a handful of degree-laden techno-botanists in the Netherlands and exclude, say, migrant grape pickers, indigenous coca growers in Colombia, or East African goat herders, to name a few agricultural workers who can’t do their jobs from a café table at Starbucks.

    ….Given that the countryside is a site of radical reinvention, how is it possible that there are, as one wall text suggests, virtually no books about it? That’s a profound mystery, or would be if you ignored the tens of thousands of volumes published in recent years about, say, wilderness, farming, fishing, nature, the environment, small towns, communes, rural populism, folk cultures, indigenous peoples, land management, wildlife management, hunting, water, winemaking, and deserts … not to mention suburbs.

    ….The lower galleries are festooned with captions that mostly make sense, even if they’re as shallow as topsoil in a dust bowl. By the time we reach the upper levels, language has abandoned the walls and splintered into gnomic epigrams printed on strips and arranged at right angles on the floor — the perfect representation of hogwash masquerading as reason.

    This is how I felt about that long-ago exhibition I myself saw at the Guggenheim. But I’m a philistine when it comes to this stuff, so who cares what I think? I’m merely happy to see that even sophisticates sometimes feel the same way I did.

  • “Anybody But Bernie” Has Come Too Late

    Bob Daemmrich/ZUMA

    In 1972 we had ABM—Anybody But McGovern. In 1976 we had ABC—Anybody But Carter. In 1992 we had another ABC. In 2016 Republicans staged an ABT. You might notice a trend here: these movements always start too late. Every one of these folks went on to win their party’s nomination.

    In the past week, we’ve finally started to see the rise of a serious ABB—Anybody But Bernie. But if history is any guide, this is a strong indication that it’s already too late for the anti-Bernie forces. He’s gonna win the Democratic nomination.

    I’ll admit that in the aftermath of 2016 I no longer trust history as a guide as much as I used to. Still, it’s not nothing.