Trump’s first 100 Days

I could write my own treatise on Trump’s first 100 days, or I could just link to one that already says exactly what I think written by an eminent University of Chicago trained economist and Hoover Institute fellow named  John Cochrane instead.

For today, I choose the latter option. The only addition I would make is that he should look no further than Cochrane when appointing a Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors.

http://johnhcochrane.blogspot.com/2016/11/no-100-days-please.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed:+TheGrumpyEconomist+(The+Grumpy+Economist)&m=1

Advertisements

Russian Government – a New Dog using Old Tricks

images

Whether from the hands of Comrades Lenin and Stalin or the modern day Tsar of a kleptocracy in Vladimir Putin, there has been one thing that has remained constant in Russian ‘justice’ over the last century, and that is the vicious and cynical tool of oppression of a political show trial. Putin has racked up several of these by now, including high profile cases of eventually jailed oil tycoon and would be politician Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the political activist  Alexei Navalny. These show trials are meant to create fictitious enemies so as to justify emergency and arbitrary rule by decree, intimidate potential enemies, whip up the fervor of the committed supporters, and distract the population of the corruption and ineffectiveness of the regime in improving the lives of its citizens. Show trials were perfected under Stalin, a topic I commented on in a recent post. While the outcomes may no longer result in a death sentence in the Siberian gulags, the underlying means and desired political outcomes under Putin are much the same as in Stalin’s day.

The recent case of a show trial of Ukrainian pilot Lieutenant Nadezhda Savchenko seems particularly pernicious, cynical, and captures my enhanced attention and respect. The entire story is equally horrifying for the banality of evil that Russia continues to treat as a normal course of action as well as the surface level laughability (if indeed it were a laughing matter) of the case against her – which involves accusations that she is responsible for killing two journalists by directing a mortar attack on them and that she illegally entered Russia. First of all, one does not direct a mortar attack in the way one points a gun, so any journalists killed, while certainly tragic, is an expected collateral casualty of war and the justice of the battlefield would not expect a combatant in a fight to be able to separate civilian from enemy troops when those civilians are embedded with the enemy force. One suspects the real Russian anger here is not over journalists killed but over the deaths of Russian soldiers the journalists were with and for which Russia denies are in Ukraine. As most media is under the thumb of the Russian state these days, I have to imagine that these journalists were there under Russian state direction in the first place embedded with the unmarked Russian soldiers (“little green men” as many in the region have taken to calling them) that have invaded and occupied Eastern Ukraine. The other incredibly hard to believe aspect of the story is that Lt. Savchenko would willingly cross into Russia. Far more likely is that she was abducted with the intention of holding her captive.

The other aspect of this story that I find fascinating is the the Russian evil revanchist menace contrasted with the defiant courage of Lt. Savchenko. She has brought international attention to her plight by going on hunger strikes, acting defiant in court, and more recently, singing a Ukrainian national song when her trumped up sentence was read out, forcing the judge to clear the courtroom. Add this to the fact that Lt. Savchenko was fighting on the front lines in Eastern Ukraine effectively as an infantryman of her own free will while not in use as a pilot makes her courage in defense of her homeland all the more remarkable.

 

“There Are No Heroes Inside the Bundy Standoff in Oregon”

 

Bundy.jpg
Getty Images

There are times when two idiots get into a fistfight that it is impossible to choose sides. You only hope they don’t succeed in creating damage to anyone but each other. Alas, that is the seeming case in the Bundy standoff in Oregon, where in great theater a small group of hotheads are taking refuge in a bird sanctuary in their words, in defense of the constitution. The irony of a group breaking the law to defend the constitution seems to be lost on the group of malcontents.

But a review of the history of the Hammond case that is a component of the “militia” list of complaints (it should be noted that the Hammond family has not vocalized support for the militia) also reveals a heavy-handed and hamfisted government and Department of Justice, as the author of this Cato Institute Commentary quickly documents.

The best outcome would be for the government to avoid another Ruby Ridge militarized storming of the compound and for those holed up on a remote federally owned sanctuary to get bored, face their charges, and then get on with life while. At the same time, perhaps the wrongheaded attempt at fame and martyrdom will at least raise awareness of the abuses of government and the Department of Justice and inspire frank conversations on the role of government ownership of land and the disproportionate use of prosecution using arcane legal frameworks that citizens can’t possibly know in advance of their trials.