The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

About as well as expected

NPR's Steve Inskeep worked for six years to land a 15-minute interview with the XPOTUS, and yet no one felt any shock or surprise when it ended abruptly:

Trump and his team have repeatedly declined interviews with NPR until Tuesday, when he called in from his home in Florida. It was scheduled for 15 minutes, but lasted just over nine.

After being pressed about his repeated lies about the 2020 presidential election, Trump abruptly ended the interview.

When pressed, it was excuse after excuse — it was "too early" to claim fraud, his attorney was no good, things just seem suspicious.

But it all comes back to the same place: He has no evidence of widespread fraud that caused him to lose the election.

The tone of the interview changed. Trump then hurried off the phone as he was starting to be asked about the attack on the Capitol, inspired by election lies.

Philip Bump rolls his eyes at "the eternal lure of reasoning with the irrational:"

Many or most of us like to consider ourselves rational, considering the evidence before us and reaching reasoned conclusions based on what we see. Presented with a refutation of a belief, we like to think, we would change our minds and acknowledge our errors. Ergo: Present Trump with refutations of his claims, and he’d crumble.

The problem, of course, is that this isn’t how it works. Humans are emotional more robustly than they are rational, and when a belief is rooted in emotion — desire, fear, anger — you can’t reason your way around it. Put succinctly, you can’t combat irrationality with reason.

This pattern repeated a few times. Inskeep would offer a rational, accurate, indisputable point about the election results, and Trump — uninterested in rationality or accuracy but very interested in disputes — would wave them away.

Why bother even trying to convince Trump of reality when it’s not going to make a dent?

The answer, I think, is in keeping with the spirit of this article. Emotionally, I and others in the media think it’s important to confront falsehoods with accurate information. Rationally, I know it won’t make a difference; rationally, I’m sure Steve Inskeep understood it was unlikely that Trump would suddenly cop to simply making things up. But the virtue of combating misinformation holds an appeal that rational consideration can’t uproot.

I refuse to believe that it’s unimportant to tell the emperor that he’s not wearing clothes, even if it doesn’t prompt him to put on pants.

I listened to the first few minutes of it this morning, and marveled at Inskeep's ability not to laugh in the XPOTUS's face. Inskeep, of course, is a professional, unlike the interviewee. And Bump has a good point: when arguing with a fantasist, there is no middle ground.

The most important stories of the day

Washington Post columnist Megan McArdle read through a week of newspapers to understand the hot topics of 100 years ago:

First, there is news of the great Washington Naval Conference, which has commanded half of the front page since opening in mid-November. The idea of the conference is for the great powers to jointly reduce their armaments, so everyone can spend the money on better things.

Inside the paper, we may spend some time browsing the ads, perhaps pausing over the homage to the REO Speed Wagon — still a modern commercial vehicle in 1921, rather than an elderly rock band. We find predictions that Russia will soon be forced to abandon communism and embrace capitalism to feed its people.

Once you imagine your descendants peering back in surprise across the centuries, chuckling at the sight of you passionately arguing some historical irrelevancy, it gets easier to relax and stop shouting at each other. Or heck, maybe even put down our phones and attend to the biggest story most of us will ever live through — not what’s happening in the news but in the homes where we read it.

Somehow, though, I think the storming of the US Capitol a year ago, and the likelihood of more political violence this year, might be remembered.

Inflated importance

The Times reported last night that the Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) price index had its highest rate of increase since 1982 in November, and yet they (and most other news outlets) completely missed the bigger story:

The data came as a rising number of Omicron infections makes the inflation and economic outlook hazier. On one hand, the virus could slow the growth of the economy and of prices if it prompts furloughs at a time when the government is no longer stepping in to fill the void, costing households and hurting demand. On the other hand, surging global caseloads could push prices up as they close factories and keep cars, furniture, toys and other goods in short supply.

Even before the new variant surfaced, consumer spending failed to eke out a gain last month after adjusting for inflation, the Thursday data showed. Economists said the lack of growth might simply reflect that people shopped for the holidays earlier this year to guard against shortages — spending surged in October. But the blip underscores how challenging it is to understand incoming data about consumption, growth and prices in a pandemic-stricken economy.

James Fallows expressed the same frustration I feel whenever I read one of these "OMG inflation!" stories. Because, you see, households are much better off now than they have been for the last several years, for a simple and obvious reason:

I contend that [news stories like this] fit a general recent pattern of emphasis from the “serious” media: placing vastly more stress on the threat of inflation, which indeed is getting worse, than on the evil of unemployment, which is getting much better. (For more about this pattern of coverage, see Eric Boehlert among others.)

As a reminder: current U.S. job prospects are not simply “better” when judged on the historical curve, with these record-low unemployment claims. They are almost unbelievably better, in light of the sudden loss of more than 20 million U.S. jobs in just one month last year, as the pandemic took hold.

The over-emphasis on inflation numbers, relative to employment trends, blurs the fact that while both are problems, for the people living through it unemployment is much worse.

Inflation erodes a family’s purchasing power. Unemployment eliminates it.

That makes a huge difference.

Yes. We have mild inflation compared with what some of us remember in the 1970s and 1980s, but with miraculously low unemployment numbers which we did not have back then.

Who worries about inflation the most? People on fixed incomes, surely; but the Social Security Administration will give pensioners the highest cost-of-living adjustment in 40 years next Saturday.

No, the biggest victims of inflation are net creditors. As we get a bit of post-disaster price increases with concomitant wage increases, the debts we owe (mortgages, student loans, even credit cards) become easier to pay. In other words, their real value has declined in the past 12 months. So net creditors—big banks, hedge funds, the like—are losing money. Everyone: awwww.

Expect, therefore, to see more emphasis on inflation numbers and less on employment numbers as the economy re-adjusts after 20 months of pandemic-induced coma. And expect that your student loans and mortgages will be that much easier to pay off in the near future.

Visiting the remote bits of the world

I've just added two places to my shortlist of vacation spots once travel becomes a little easier.

On Tuesday, I saw Japan's entry for this year's Academy Award for best foreign film, Drive My Car (ドライブ・マイ・カー). Most of it takes place in Hiroshima, Japan. Clearly director Ryusuke Hamaguchi loves the city. For obvious reasons most of the central parts of Hiroshima only date back 70 years, but the hills and islands surrounding the postwar downtown look like the Pacific Northwest.

And this morning, the New York Times Canada Letter reported from Newfoundland. I've wanted to see the Maritime Provinces for years. Maybe Cassie and I can spend a couple of weeks some summer driving from Maine to Nova Scotia to PEI and then take a ferry to "The Rock?" (There's a ferry from North Sydney, N.S., to Channel-Port aux Basques, Nfld.)

For what it's worth, I think I'd fly to Western Japan...

Evening reading

Messages for you, sir:

I will now go hug my dog, who set a record yesterday for staying home alone (8 hours, 20 minutes) without watering my carpets.

Spicy poké

I swear, the local poké place used three shots of chili oil instead of one today. Whew. (Not that I'm complaining, of course.)

While my mouth slowly incinerates, I'm reading these:

On that last point, comedians Jimmy Carr and Emil Wakim lay down epic burns against anti-vaxxers:

Weekend reading

As the last workday in October draws to a close, in all its rainy gloominess, I have once again spent all day working on actually coding stuff and not reading these articles:

Finally, a 97-year-old billionaire has given $240 million to UC Santa Barbara on the condition they build a 4500-room dormitory so awful (think Geidi Prime) the school's consulting architect resigned.

First Monday of October

The United States Supreme Court began their term earlier today, in person for the first time since March 2020. Justice Brett Kavanagh (R) did not attend owing to his positive Covid-19 test last week.

In other news:

So how did facebook.com disappear from root DNS, the day after 60 Minutes aired a segment on Haugen?

Chicago Public Media buys the Sun-Times

Well, this took me by surprise:

The board of directors of Chicago Public Media, the parent of public radio station WBEZ-FM, voted late Wednesday to pursue an acquisition of the Chicago Sun-Times, the next step in a process that could lead to the combination of two city newsrooms.

Both organizations have signed a nonbinding letter of intent to hammer out a partnership. Chicago Public Media also announced that Chicago tech entrepreneur Matt Moog, who has served for a year as interim CEO of the local National Public Radio affiliate, will become the new CEO. Nykia Wright, meanwhile, will remain CEO of the Sun-Times.

The two newsrooms would “create one of the largest local nonprofit news organizations in the nation and be a national model for the future of local journalism,” a joint statement issued Wednesday evening stated, adding that the two organizations “would continue to serve their respective audiences.”

The potential arrangement seems a bit unusual, with a nonprofit journalism institution combining with a for-profit one, said Rick Edmonds, media business analyst for the Poynter Institute. But it is becoming more common for legacy newspapers to convert to nonprofit status.

Though questions remain about what a deal would look like between the Sun-Times and WBEZ, joining forces would make sense for both organizations, said Tim Franklin, senior associate dean at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. 

WBEZ could "tap into the breaking-news muscle of the Sun-Times," he said. The Sun-Times, in turn, could get more stability around its ownership structure.

I think this is fantastic. It would certainly change the tenor of the tabloid Sun-Times, and might make me reconsider my subscription to the Chicago Tribune. (I already contribute monthly to WBEZ.)

This is one to watch.