52 Comments

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Sykes: "That nominee —Saule Omarova — has proven to a be disastrous miscalculation by the Administration. . . Omarova may be a respected scholar and a wonderful person who is being unfairly maligned. But her nomination undermines Biden’s claim to govern as a centrist, while providing the GOP with mountains of grist."

Perhaps Omarova is a cunning head fake by foxy Joe Biden

WaPo: "For example, Biden initially favored Michael Barr, an aide to former treasury secretary Tim Geithner, as comptroller of the currency; when Warren and other progressives objected, Biden instead nominated Saule Omarova, a vocal critic of Wall Street whose confirmation is in jeopardy."

Biden's first pick is foiled so he nominates an un-confirmable second pick with the intention of sliding his first pick back in after the second pick's inevitable rejection by the Senate

Avoids an intraparty clash with Warren et al

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/11/22/bidens-choice-fed-chair-is-smart-overdue-break-with-left-his-party/

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I read Tim's piece and while I usually find myself in almost 100% agreement with what he wrotes, this piece was ....puzzling, to say the least. After outlining the three asserions Charlie quoted here, it goes on to say - "If we set aside everything we knew about the events of January 6, I have to imagine the vast majority of those in the broad small-l liberal(tarian) middle would generally agree with these three statements.". That is a really really odd framing. I'm trying to imagine that sentence in any other setting. 'If we set aside everything we know about <insert catastrohic event here>, I have to imagine....those in the broad middle would have to agree that someone who glaringly and willingly participated in said event should not not receive the recommended punishment'. Makes no sense. Why would we set aside everything about the Jan-6 catastrophy while considering sentencing for a willing participant in it? The fact that the instigators of the siege should receive a harsh punishment does not take away the necessity of justice being handed down to those who acted brazenly and shamelessly in - as he says - 'their right-wing violence internet cosplay in real life'!

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Read Charlie this morning. Tim a little later. Just finished JVL a few minutes ago.

I dunno'..sort of thinking a BULWARK STEEL CAGE MATCH might be in order.

Charlie The Bull(wark) Sykes vs. Tim Not My Party Miller vs. Jonathan...uh, Jonathan...uh...???

Well, the guy's always right...maybe one of y'all out there in comment land can do something with that.

Anyway. If Biden were to pardon Chansley, The Shaman could be the Ref.

The ultimate throw down, no?

Just think of the merch possibilities in the Bulwark Store.

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It's a very tough call! I agree with Tim's larger point that (paraphrasing) the bad parts of the system aren't made better just because someone on the "other side" is victimized by them. Even when I thought of myself as a Republican I was very defense-oriented, largely because I didn't trust the state's ability to act fairly and competently when depriving people of their liberty and property (let alone their life).

I agree with Charlie that 41 months for *a fucking insurrection* is not out of line, but I agree with Tim that if he had dressed more like Don Jr he would have gotten a much shorter sentence.

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The Achnecarry Agreement was a plot by the 7 major oil companies to turn global oil into a cartel. They succeeded. There is no tackling climate change with the money they procure. The agreement itself is anti-democratic. It states, that if a smaller oil company threatens that As-Is system. Then the other 7 will summarily purchase the company and incorporate them into the system. This is under the guise that they are technologically advancing the company to improve the system. You can only find one book to ever source The Achnecarry Agreement. And I only found it in a San Francisco library. A book titled the "Iran Oil Wars". Altho, it has been 14 years since I wrote the thesis. Who doesn't have a conspiracy theory about banks? Heck, the far-right has been shouting to end the banking institutions and replace them with gold for over a decade. I can't wait for them to start pounding Ms. Omarova over her words. She is naive in her thinking no matter how well thought out but the right will once again confirm my belief in the detrimental hypocrisy. The right is producing vigilantes that storm Capitals and murder rioters under the guise of self-defense. The worsts the left is doing is making me put him/his in my email signature.

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I'm actually really glad you're speaking to Lukianoff today, Charlie. I think the Bulwark needs to pay more attention to problems on the Left.

On the one hand, it's great that there are all of these Never Trump conservatives and anti-woke liberals trying to "clean up their own house", so to speak. The problem is that those people tend to focus either heavily or exclusively on "their own house" to the point where one can be forgiven for wondering which "house" they actually claim membership in. And to the extent that they are forming communities of listeners/readers around podcasts or Substack subscriptions, those communities often end up seemingly composed primarily of people from the other side of the aisle who are attracted mostly to the validation of hearing their views come from people they wouldn't normally think of as "one of them".

Seriously, go look at the comment section of Bari Weiss's "Common Sense" Substack. You'd think it was Tucker Carlson's blog with the number of Trump supporters you'll find there, even though Weiss generally presents as a traditional liberal. And rarely does she seem to take on issues that the right wouldn't sympathize with; her piece promoting getting vaccinated, for one example, brought the anti-vax crazies out of the woodwork. All of which causes me to worry that, much as I like her, she's perhaps inadvertently cultivated a strongly right-wing readership, and set up strong financial incentives for herself to avoid alienating them.

Needless to say, if these heterodox thinkers on both sides of the aisle are serving mainly as gourmet alternatives to the junk food dished out by the other side's radicals, and mostly being ignored by the people they're purportedly trying to reach, they're not "cleaning up" anything. This is why we so badly need people who, while challenging their own side, are still willing to firmly hold the line against the worst of what they have traditionally opposed.

For the record, I think the Bulwark does a pretty good job of that, certainly better than most. But at times I think they've been a little bit too willing to downplay the threat of left-wing illiberalism because - and I agree with this - the Right is the far more immediate threat. So I always smile when Charlie gives one of his "tough love to our progressive friends" disclaimers. We need more of it.

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This week I learned that black or trans people aren't the only ones who might be threatening or dangerous, costumed people are equally scary. It's easy to target or blame those who appear different, whether it's kidding them a bit too long for their haircut or making sure they are the named and blamed as representative of a group.

That Jacob Chansley is the 'face of the insurrection' is due primarily to the biases of some people and the media, when the truth is thr face looks more like a middle-aged middle-class white man costumed in off-the-shelf combat gear. The Shaman is a convenient way to pretend that the evil doesn't look like you and me.

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You don't want to go to prison? Then don't do the crime. They all find God after they are caught. There was a time he would have been tried for treason against the United States. All of them would have been judged as traitors. But since it's 2021, Chansley's white and a Mama's boy who needs a vegan diet, he only received 41 months.

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This is in response to JVL's article about Biden pardoning the Shaman in an attempt to get some sort of dialog going.

My response is: what segment of the GoP has demonstrated that it is interested in a dialog (no, sorry, Liz Cheney and the very few other no-longer-GoP politicians really count)? What segment of the MAGA right has demonstrated an inclination to dialog?

Dialog requires the willing and sincere participation of the various groups/people on the various sides. We have kept holding out our hands for that dialog and the other side keeps doubling down on what they are doing. When do you come to the realization that you are wasting your time?

This seems like another misguided attempt to restore a "politics as usual" dynamic in a a time where it is already far too late to do so. The time for this stuff was a couple of decades ago.

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Yeah, I like the idea of JVL's article, but as JVL concedes, it's not really practical. Pence would never agree to do it, because he's a coward. But I'm kind of torn about the 41 months Chansley was sentenced to serve. There is some value in making an example of the face of the insurrection, but it's not exactly just (as in justice/injustice) that he's the face of the insurrection. The face of the insurrection should be Trump, Mo Brooks, Steve Bannon, John Eastman, Lyn Wood, Josh Hawley, all the rest. Chansley is not the problem; the leaders of the Republican party are the problem, the cynics poisoning the internet with disinformation are the problem, and Chansley is getting scapegoated.

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I am not particularly torn. Sometimes (rarely these days it seems) stupid has a price. if stupid had a price more often, maybe we would see less of it.

Is it just? No. That ship sailed a LONG time ago--if it ever actually made port ITFP. I don't think it ever did.

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“Must I shoot a simple-minded soldier-boy who deserts, while I must not touch a hair of the wily agitator who induces him to desert?” - Lincoln

This quote, that Bill Kristol often uses, came to mind as I read this debate about the shaman sentence.

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I totally agree about the sentencing guidelines not being flexible enough and the criminal justice system not handing out justice equally. But, If the sentence is at the minimum for what he was convicted, the judge had no choice. Even if the judge had discretion to give him a shorter sentence, I disagree with Tim that one would be appropriate. He walks into the Capitol carrying a weapon. He issues verbal and written threats of violence. I don't buy that his conduct though shows he's mentally ill. His actions prove he is gullible and is easily conned. But there are many people like the Shaman out there. How many people voted for Trump in the last election?

The FMG could have pardoned all these people before he left office. Trump didn't do so because he doesn't give a rat's ass about his followers, even ones so fervent that they stormed the Capitol upon his behalf. You would think Trump supporters would figure it out that they were just pawns sent out for slaughter on January 6th. Figure out that they were duped. You would think they would turn upon him by now. But most haven't.

Despite being a conservative who is a dyed in the wool Republican, I have never at any point supported Trump. I knew Trump's history and have always known he was a laughably bad businessman and a rather obvious con man. What gets me is that the FMG is not even a good con man. I watch American Greed, and there are so many more talented con men (and women) out there. Trump's a rather obvious con man and yet he fools so many people. I don't get it.

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They WANT to be fooled. A con relies on the WILLING participation of the mark. The con man does not persuade or fool the mark so much as they give the mark an opportunity to engage in behavior or actions which they then feel justified in engaging in... or have been given license to engage in.

They feed a pre-existing narrative that the mark already participates in and accepts. This justifies the mark's (usually flawed) perception of reality, allowing them to excuse out-of-norm behavior.

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Oh, I totally agree with you. I don't know though that explains why they are like that. I want to think they're just stupid, and while many are, there are many people in the Trump orbit who are smart and should know better.

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Charlie quotes the WSJ Editorial Board:

"Ms. Omarova thinks asset prices, pay scales, capital and credit should be dictated by the federal government. In two papers, she has advocated expanding the Federal Reserve’s mandate to include the price levels of “systemically important financial assets” as well as worker wages. As they like to say at the modern university, from each according to her ability to each according to her needs…"

The Federal Reserve's mandate now is to control inflation and produce full employment. Where has this mandate taken us? Well, asset price inflation didn't violate the Fed's mandate to control consumer inflation, so the Fed embarked on a policy of making the holders of assets richer on the theory that this would produce full employment. Yesterday I wrote about how good irrigated farm land where I live went from roughly $2000/acre to $10000 over a few years as a result of Fed policy. So the economic power of the owners of the land expanded greatly relative to the economic power of, say, the hired man who actually farms the land.

Bottom line: It is not crazy to recognize that the inflation rate and the unemployment rate are far from the only measures of economic well-being. Making policy under the current mandate where these two measures is all that matters, leads to perverse results like I tried to communicate with my farm land example.

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Here is some food for thought WRT inflation (from Krugman over at NYT--this is from a newsletter I get:

Early this year some prominent economists warned that President Biden’s American Rescue Plan — the bill that sent out those $1,400 checks — might be inflationary. People like Larry Summers, who was Barack Obama’s top economist, and Olivier Blanchard, a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, aren’t unthinking deficit hawks. On the contrary, before Covid hit, Summers advocated sustained deficit spending to fight economic weakness, and Blanchard was an important critic of fiscal austerity in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

But Summers, Blanchard and others argued that the rescue plan, which would amount to around 8 percent of gross domestic product, was too big, that it would cause overall demand to grow much faster than supply and hence cause prices to soar. And sure enough, inflation has hit its highest level since 1990. It’s understandable that Team Inflation wants to take a victory lap.

When you look beyond the headline number, however, you see a story quite different from what Summers, Blanchard et al. were predicting. And given the actual inflation story, calls for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates to cool off the economy look premature at best.

First, overall demand hasn’t actually grown all that fast. Real final domestic demand (“final” means excluding changes in inventories) is 3.8 percent higher than it was two years ago, in an economy whose capacity normally expands about 2 percent a year:

It’s true that the Great Resignation — the unwillingness of many Americans idled by Covid-19 to return to the labor force — means that labor markets seem very tight, with high quit rates and rising wages, even though G.D.P. is still below its prepandemic trend. So supply is lower than most economists (including Team Inflation) expected, and the economy may indeed be overheated.

But everything we thought we knew from the past said that while overheating the economy does lead to higher inflation, the effect is modest, at least in the short run. As the jargon puts it, the slope of the Phillips curve is small. And those rising wages aren’t the main driver of inflation; if they were, average wages wouldn’t be lagging consumer prices.

So what is going on? The Bank for International Settlements — a Switzerland-based institution that is sort of the banker to the world’s bankers and has a formidable research team — argues that it’s largely about the bottlenecks, the now-famous supply-chain snarls that have ships steaming back and forth in front of Los Angeles and factories shut down for lack of chips.

What’s causing these bottlenecks? Overall demand still isn’t that high, but demand has been skewed: In the pandemic era, people have been consuming fewer services but buying a lot of durable goods — home appliances, exercise equipment, etc.:

This surge in demand for durable goods has overstressed the ports, trucking and warehouses that deliver durables to consumers, leading to rapidly rising prices for stuff whose prices normally fall over time as technology advances:

In other words, it seems to be the pandemic skew in demand, not excessive spending across the board, that’s driving current inflation.

Once you realize this, it has major implications both for our understanding of the recent past and for future policy.

First, because inflation reflects the huge surge in demand for durable goods, not the much slower growth in overall demand, a smaller Biden spending plan wouldn’t have made much difference. Even if demand had been a point or two lower, the rush to buy stuff as opposed to services would still have overwhelmed our logistical capacity.

Second, because inflation reflects bottlenecks rather than a general problem of too much money chasing too few goods, it should come down as the economy adjusts. Inflation hasn’t been as transitory as we hoped, but there is growing evidence that supply chains are getting unkinked, which should eventually provide some consumer relief.

Finally, even if inflation stays elevated for a while, do we really want to slow the whole economy because bottlenecks are causing some prices to rise? One way to describe the argument of inflation hawks is that they’re saying that we should eliminate hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of jobs because the docks at the Port of Los Angeles are congested. Does that make sense?

Now, matters would be quite different if we saw signs of a 1970s-type wage-price spiral. But so far we don’t. And for the time being, at least, policymakers should have the courage to ride this inflation out.

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Thanks for the analysis. All I can add is that my pandemic checks went straight to my landlady, as did many other people's. Infer from that what you will.

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That's the thing... how much of that pandemic money actually went simply to make ends meet?

I will admit that mine did not. I did not lose my job or get laid off. I live pretty cheap to begin with, despite my salary. My spending habits did not change, but a lot of people's did.

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Thanks for this. So Larry Summers and Paul Krugman are arguing about economics. What's the best course for me? "Better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt."

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Just a small side note here: FULL employment is NOT a goal of FED policy. MAXIMUM employment is--there is a substantive difference between the two.

Maximum employment doesn't mean 100% employment, which is not possible, but rather the level of employment that is likely in normal economic conditions when there is neither a boom or a recession.

The natural rate of unemployment (which is the general guideline) various over time and conditions, but tends to be in the 4% (+/-) range.

One of the major issues with economic policy is that it is GDP growth driven, which means that policy is formulated to increase growth. This has knock-on effects when determining things like interest rates and inflation rates. IOW, those rates (interest and inflation) are not goals in and of themselves, but goals set on the basis of aiming for particular growth figures.

Another problem with a GDP growth focus is that it only really cares about GDP growth. It doesn't care who benefits from that growth and who doesn't. That leads us into situations where the benefits of growth flow disproportionally to certain segments of the economy--those segments that are prioritized or privileged by discrete policy choices.

In the latest formulations of policy this has translated into asset inflation and the growth profits flowing predominantly to the upper economic echelons.

A problem with economics is that it: 1) Ignores a lot of actual human nature in favor of idealized human nature and it ignores real-world knock on effects in favor of its neat mathematical results.

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Do you think the Fed is capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time? Ie, if one mandate leads to adverse consequences, would adding another mandate (and then conceivably another, and another) address those consequences or might it not just create even more problems? From where I sit it sounds like a prescription for high level whackamole.

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I think the Fed has been remarkably successful in fulfilling it's mandate since 2008. But the side effect was to greatly increase the economic power of the asset holding class relative to the wage earner. Goals for the whole economy are often in tension as the goals of inflation control and full employment are often in conflict. See Paul Volcker's tenure.

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Not is the habit of commenting on my own comment, but I think The Bulwark's coverage of economic issues has been extremely weak. Following the WSJ Editorial Board's framing of the story as Capitalism vs. Communism is a piece of silliness when the problem Ms. Omarova points at in her work is so much more complex.

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The question I like to pose to radical Milton Friedman cultists is, "What do Adam Smith and Karl Marx agree on?" (One correct answer being, "quite a bit.")

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Just finished reading a similar conclusion about the Shaman's sentence from another writer north of the border. Will repeat here more or less the comment that I left there.

This guy is a first-order wackadoodle, but I've seen no evidence posted that he was not capable of discerning right from wrong in the normal everyday sense. The sentence to Club Fed isn't onerous. But I have to admit, I might be inclined to lighten up on it just a bit in light of the fact that this dude probably has some intelligence ( mental ) issues going on. But not much.

As to those that came to the Capitol both with the capacity and intent to commit violence - and there were plenty of them - and those who may not have, but shirked their consciences and joined right in...no excuses, no "caught up in the moment" bullshit. Let them rot for as long as the law will allow. And then some.

This is admittedly an emotional response, not coolly or calmly reasoned. I suppose it is just the American in me. And by that I mean a citizen who reacts instinctively and strongly when he sees his country threatened. Good thing I'm not a judge I suppose.

Tim's points all have merits, and I'll not strongly gainsay them. But Jan. 6 was serious, dangerous, and deadly business. For all of us. And serious consequences should and must follow for those deserving of them.

Sadly, as a couple of commenters have already mentioned here, those most deserving of the most serious consequences will never see the inside of a cell. And that truly is the American tragedy in all of this.

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Let me just add to what I wrote above. Not only was Jan. 6 a serious, dangerous and deadly business for all of us, to me it was in essence a crime committed against every single, individual American regardless of their political, religious, social, ethnic or racial stripe. Every single one. Period.

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I’m am still angry at the QANON Shaman for handing out hallucinogenic drugs at Trump rallies and making them like a fun festival. THAT’S OUR THING, MOTHERF@%KER!!!!!

In all seriousness, I completely agreed with Tim yesterday, but then reading Charlie’s POV, I completely agree with him today. Bulwark is tearing me apart!!!

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Supporting Trump means living your whole life in a hallucinogenic fog. (Thanks for the $10 word.)

You need to work on your commenting skills. This equivocation won't do. Don't you know we commenters are all great oracles laying down the Capital T Truth for all people for all time?

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I'm with Charlie but disagree with both his and Tim's assessment of the shaman being "mentally unstable" simply because of his costume. He and many hundreds of others knowingly invaded the Capitol building. Yes perhaps they were caught up in the moment but please don't attribute mental illness to their behavior; doing so diminishes the reality for those who deal with mental illness (depression, severe anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia). The insurrectionists knew what they were doing.

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FYI:

"His lawyer, Albert Watkins, told Reuters that the Federal Bureau of Prisons had diagnosed Chansley with transient schizophrenia,

bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety. But, he said, the agency did not determine that Chansley was mentally incompetent." (Business Insider)

Moreover:

" the series of consultations that [Chansley] received in 2006 produced a diagnosis of schizotypal personality disorder." (Law & Crime)

However:.

"Schizotypal personality disorder can easily be confused with schizophrenia, a severe mental illness in which people lose contact with reality (psychosis),” the [Mayo] clinic’s website notes. “While people with schizotypal personality disorder may experience brief psychotic episodes with delusions or hallucinations, the episodes are not as frequent, prolonged or intense as in schizophrenia.” Law & Crime)

It's fair to say that Chansley is a troubled individual, but not so troubled that he could reasonably claim a lack of personal agency. Assuming, arguendo, that he will not be thrown in with hard core criminals, and that his lengthy solitary confinement is in the past, I don't think the sentencing judge had much choice if the judge wanted to make the necessary point.

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Thanks for the background.

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As someone with a brother-in-law that worked at Attica, I concur with Charlie. The Shaman will be fine.

I agree with Tim that justice is meted out very unequally across the system but if being convinced to be a complete ass (with violent tendencies) by someone in power is the a standard that determines guilt or innocence, we better open the prison doors and let A LOT of people out.

I have little to no sympathy for any of the fools that have fallen under the Q-Anon spell, the MAGA spell, the insert insane conspiracy theory here spell. We have to hold destructive people accountable for their actions.

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