The Breakfast Club (Fear And Hate)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Thomas Paine publishes Common Sense; London’s Underground opens; The Beatles first album released in US hits store shelves; Rod Stewart born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Fear of something is at the root of hate for others, and hate within will eventually destroy the hater. George Washington Carver
Read more at: Fear of something is at the root of hate for others, and hate within will eventually destroy the hater.

George Washington Carver

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Unindicted Co-conspirator Bottomless Pinocchio Holds Breath, Stomps Feet

And in other news, dog bites man. Film at 11.

Sigh. I was hoping to spare you any further discussion of last night’s pitiful performance but this afternoon Unindicted Co-conspirator Bottomless Pinocchio, during a meeting with Pelosi and Schumer to discuss “compromise” on his Vanity Project Penis Wall O’ Racism, sat down, turned to Pelosi and said-

“So, if I restart Government tomorrow will you give me my Vanity Project Penis Wall O’ Racism (another one I really like and will repeat at every opportunity)?”

No.

“Well then there’s no point in further discussion.”

And with that he stood up and slunk back into the bowels of the West Wing to throw a Twit Tantrum about how unfair it is that he can’t eat cake and ice cream all the time.

And the usual suspect toadies and liars came out and said- ‘Ooh, Nancy was so belligerent and shrill.’

Screw you say I.

Fact– Polling shows an overwhelming majority of voters don’t want his Vanity Project Penis Wall O’ Racism.

Fact– Polling shows an overwhelming majority of voters blame him and the Republican Congress for the Government Shutdown.

Fact– Pitiful does not begin to describe the awful lameness of his presentation last night (though Ma and Pa Kettle need to drag out another lectern and pound some Red Bull before the next time).

Fact– He is hemorrhaging Republican support with 4 Senators and counting publicly committing to vote in favor of the House package to re-open Government.

Now, if you want to keep us from talking about your treason by pummeling us with outrages I suppose this has some momentary ‘shiny object’ effect on the Corporatist Media (though it is rapidly sinking like a stone).

It will certainly not move Pelosi or Schumer who are winning, nor should it.

Why won’t you give me any monies for my Vanity Project Penis Wall O’ Racism?

Well, because it’s morally repugnant and a stupid waste that won’t work and you can hold your breath until you pass out.

Be my guest.

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Krugman: Melting Snowballs and the Winter of Debt

Do you remember the winter of debt?

In late 2010 and early 2011, the U.S. economy had barely begun to recover from the 2008 financial crisis. Around 9 percent of the labor force was still unemployed; long-term unemployment was especially severe, with more than 6 million Americans having been out of work for 6 months or more. You might have expected the continuing employment crisis to be the focus of most economic policy discussion.

But no: Washington was obsessed with debt. The Simpson-Bowles report was the talk of the town. Paul Ryan’s impassioned (and, of course, hypocritical) denunciations of federal debt won him media adulation and awards. And between the capital’s debt obsession, the Republican takeover of the House, and a hard right turn in state governments, America was about to embark on a period of cutbacks in government spending unprecedented in the face of high unemployment.

Some of us protested bitterly against this policy turn, arguing that a period of mass unemployment was no time for fiscal austerity. And we were mostly right. Why only “mostly”? Because it’s becoming increasingly doubtful whether there’s any right time for fiscal austerity. The obsession with debt is looking foolish even at full employment.

Margaret Sullivan: Trump’s Oval Office address was a pure propaganda opportunity. Networks shouldn’t allow it next time.

After Tuesday night’s debacle in the Oval Office, television network executives should be spending the day in their spacious offices practicing a simple word: No.

No, Mr. President, you may not break into prime-time programming to fundraise and mislead.

They’ll need to practice because you can be sure that the request will come again. And again.

Let’s be clear: There was no — zero — news in President Trump’s address to the nation last night. [..]

I wouldn’t suggest, for a moment, that network television and the rest of the mainstream media should ignore what the president says. That would be irresponsible, not to mention impossible.

Especially with 800,000 federal workers bearing the brunt of an unnecessary government shutdown, there is inherent news value in what’s going on. News organizations are rightly focused on that, including on the president’s attempts to justify it.

But broadcasting him live and unfiltered — whether in an Oval Office speech, or an impromptu news conference, or at a campaign rally — has been a bad idea for quite some time.

Instead, whatever news is produced can be presented in context with facts woven in from the start: Truth first.

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Manafort Unredacted

Yesterday Paul Manafort’s lawyers released the filing they made to contend that Manafort didn’t violate his co-operation agreement with Bob Mueller (it is overall an incredibly weak argument that basically asserts that Manafort didn’t actually lie, he simply said he did not remember).

What makes it significant is that they incompletely redacted the document and with trivial persuasion the complete text was readily available and it reveals that Manafort transferred internal campaign polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik, his business partner in Manafort’s Ukrainian political consulting enterprise, with specific instructions that the information be transmitted to Oleg Deripaska, a sanctioned Russian businessman who is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin in part payment of a debt Manafort owed. Obviously Manafort thought it had value The utility of the information is hard to discern unless it was used to target the Internet Research Agency’s 2016 disinformation effort to influence the Election.

This. For. That.

Even now Unidicted Co-conspirator Bottomless Pinocchio (What? You thought I was going to give up on that? In your dreams.) has moved through Steve Mnuchin and the Treasury Department to vacate Oleg Deripaska’s sanctions. Better lawyer up Steve.

Rachel Maddow summarized the current developments last night including the indictment against Natalia Veselnitskaya and the rejection by the U.S. Supreme Court of the motion to stay or remove the fines imposed on Company A of Country A for Contempt of Court in refusing to respond to a Subpoena ($50,000 a day which is nothing really). Most people are sure Country A is Russia but I think it more likely to be The House of Saud, Russia would not receive such deference in the Courts.

One more Russian contact: Here’s why it matters
By Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post
January 9, 2019

The Post reports, “Paul Manafort shared 2016 presidential campaign polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik, an associate the FBI has said has ties to Russian intelligence, according to a court filing.” We learned about the confab between Donald Trump’s then-campaign chief Manafort and a Russian intelligence-connected oligarch because Manafort’s attorney apparently does not know how to black out a document. (“The information is in a filing that appears to inadvertently include details not intended to be made public and indicates a pathway by which the Russians could have had access to Trump campaign data.”)

Even more intriguing, the filing by Manafort’s attorneys indicates that Manafort and Kilimnik discussed a Ukrainian peace plan, the first explicit reference to a discussion of Ukraine policy between the Trump campaign and a Russian-linked figure in the special counsel investigation:

You will recall that while Manafort was in charge of the Trump campaign in summer 2016 the Republican National Committee platform was changed to remove support for weapons for Ukraine, a dramatic about-face for Republicans and a position that would please Russia and its Ukrainian puppets.

This is not the first piece of evidence of collusion between the Trump camp and Russian figures, to be sure. The Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 between Manafort, Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr., and Russians promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton has been known for some time. But here we see Manafort giving something of value (insider polling data) to a Russian. What is not clear is how much Donald Trump knew.

As my colleague Philip Bump put it, “It’s worth asking why Manafort might have passed polling to Kilimnik. If he wanted Kilimnik to share that information with Russia to influence the campaign, it’s hard to see that as anything less than an effort to collude with Russia.” What we cannot say at this stage is how valuable the polling data was and what if anything Kilimnik and/or Russian intelligence did with it.

“The most innocent possible explanation here is that Trump hired an international criminal who was trying to give campaign information to a Russian oligarch in exchange for debt relief, and using a Russian intelligence asset as his go between,” says former Department of Justice spokesman Matthew Miller. “But it’s hard to see what good polling data would be to a Russian oligarch, so it raises the question of whether Manafort’s actual goal was to get the information to the Russian government itself.” Whether this was all about Manafort and his finances or whether this was part of a larger quid quo pro between Trump and the Russians isn’t yet clear.

“There are important issues of proof, particularly involving intent and of course, you can’t assume Manafort briefed others on his activities in the absence of proof,” cautions former federal prosecutor Joyce White Vance. “But, the fact that Mueller believed lies about these matters were so material that they constituted breach of his plea agreement, makes it logical to expect that this is leading into proof of cooperation between at least the campaign manager and the Russian government.”

It is also noteworthy that we have, at the very least, yet another previously undisclosed contact between the Trump campaign and Russians. We’ve come a long way since Trump claimed neither he nor anyone on the campaign had contacts with Russians. Before the latest revelation, the Moscow Project had discovered “97 contacts between Trump’s team and Russia linked operatives, including at least 28 meetings. And we know that at least 28 high-ranking campaign officials and Trump advisers were aware of contacts with Russia-linked operatives during the campaign and transition.” Furthermore, “None of these contacts were ever reported to the proper authorities. Instead, the Trump team tried to cover up every single one of them.”

It’s hard to describe how bizarre this many contacts between a campaign and a hostile foreign government — one trying to influence the campaign to that side’s favor — truly is. Keep in mind that no major party presidential campaign of which we are aware ever had a single contact with the Russians.

Finally, the latest discovery should remind us that we know a fraction of what special counsel Robert S. Mueller III knows. Claims that there is no evidence of collusion or that the investigation is wrapping up are based on nothing but speculation or, in many cases, wishful thinking. The only thing we can say definitively is that there is plenty we don’t yet know.

Well, I think it’s a little more damning than that, but Jennifer Rubin is a Conservative Republican, though staunchly anti-Unidicted Co-conspirator Bottomless Pinocchio.

Cartnoon

The Internet Was A Mistake

The Breakfast Club (Expert Guess)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Former U.S. President Richard Nixon is born, Howard Hughes identifies fake biography, Unmanned probe lands on moon, the Phantom of the Opera becomes the longest running Broadway show.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Expert: a man who makes three correct guesses consecutively.

Laurence J. Peter

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Natalia Veselnitskaya: Adoption Lawyer

I mean seriously, why isn’t representation knocking down my door? This is Hollywood gold!

Those pesky Pottsylvanians Russians keep coming back to haunt Trump
By Paul Waldman, Washington Post
January 8, 2019

This case doesn’t have anything directly to do with the president or his family, but it does serve as more evidence of Veselnitskaya’s close Kremlin ties. She’s being charged with presenting to the court a supposedly independent Russian government report exonerating her clients, when in fact she “had participated in drafting those supposed independent investigative findings in secret cooperation with a senior Russian prosecutor.”

Which reinforces the likelihood that when Veselnitskaya sat down with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort in June 2016, she was there as a representative of the Russian government.

That, of course, was how she was privately presented to the Trump campaign. You’ll recall that when the meeting was proposed in an email to Trump Jr. by his acquaintance Rob Goldstone, the latter wrote that dirt on Hillary Clinton would be forthcoming from Russia, and “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Don Jr. replied, “If it’s what you say, I love it,” and quickly arranged the meeting with the campaign’s top officials.

What has never been clear is why Veselnitskaya was unable to deliver the goods. We may never know; she’s back in Russia and will probably not be coming back to face questioning by U.S. prosecutors. That meeting, from both the Russian and Trump campaign sides, shows that conspiracies are seldom as neat and efficient as Hollywood would have us believe. They’re more likely to be full of incompetence and miscommunication, with everyone pursuing their own agendas and often unable to coordinate in the way they’d like.

That has been the basis of the Trump defense in all this, which basically comes down to the assertion that while they may have been trying to collude with Russia, the collusion never quite came together, and so they’re innocent. That isn’t completely false (except the innocent part), but the most important fact about the Trump Tower meeting may be that just about everyone involved has either been proven to have lied about it, or has said things about it that are impossible to believe.

To review: When the story of the meeting broke, Don Jr. first said it was for the purpose of discussing Russian adoptions and had nothing to do with the campaign, a lie that lasted all of one day. President Trump personally dictated a false statement for Don Jr. to release to the media, then had his representatives deny that he had done so. Kushner omitted mention of the meeting on his security clearance forms, and claimed he had no idea what the meeting was about despite the fact that he had been sent the email explaining that it was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

Rudy Giuliani then said that Don Jr., Kushner and Manafort didn’t even know Veselnitskaya was Russian. (“She didn’t represent the Russian government, she’s a private citizen. I don’t even know if they knew she was Russian at the time,” Giuliani said.) It may also turn out that President Trump knew in advance about the Trump Tower meeting, which would mean that both he and Don Jr. have lied about that, too.

This is simply not how innocent people act.

At some point in the near future, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s final assessments will be made public in some form. There will no doubt be a good deal of discussion of the Trump Tower meeting and how it relates to the rest of the well-documented campaign waged by the Russian government to help Donald Trump get elected. At that point, Trump and his surrogates will insist that none of it means anything.

Here’s a suggestion, though, for an argument they can make. Sure, Trump and his family have associations with shady Russians, including some under indictment. But they have associations with shady Americans, too! So there’s nothing to see here.

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Lawrence Lessig: Trump’s border wall demand is constitutionally illegitimate

It feels quaint – maybe a bit absurd – to remark the fact that Donald Trump has no constitutionally moral justification for his demand that Congress fund the building of a wall on the Mexican border. Such an argument feels absurd when made against this president. Yet it should not be insignificant to Congress.

The president ran on a promise to build a wall “paid for by Mexico”. No majority of Americans has ever voted to support that idea. But that idea is not the notion that is now shutting down the government. A wall paid for by taxpayers is. That wall certainly was a central issue in the 2018 midterm elections. Overwhelmingly, the public rejected it as well. Thus has the president earned public support for neither version of his Mexican wall. Yet he is using his veto power to demand that Americans pay for a wall before he will allow the government to reopen.

Paul Krugman: Elizabeth Warren and Her Party of Ideas

Almost 40 years have passed since Daniel Patrick Moynihan — a serious intellectual turned influential politician ­— made waves by declaring, “Of a sudden, Republicans have become a party of ideas.” He didn’t say that they were good ideas; but the G.O.P. seemed to him to be open to new thinking in a way Democrats weren’t.

But that was a long time ago. Today’s G.O.P. is a party of closed minds, hostile to expertise, aggressively uninterested in evidence, whose idea of a policy argument involves loudly repeating the same old debunked doctrines. Paul Ryan’s “innovative” proposals of 2011 (cut taxes and privatize Medicare) were almost indistinguishable from those of Newt Gingrich in 1995.

Meanwhile, Democrats have experienced an intellectual renaissance. They have emerged from their 1990s cringe; they’re no longer afraid to challenge conservative pieties; and there’s a lot of serious, well-informed intraparty debate about issues from health care to climate change.

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AOC

If you’re like me (and nobody is, I am unique!) when you think of AOC you think of Computer Monitors of which I’ve owned several, some of which are still in service. My last acquisition was a 15.6″ 1920 x 1080 Portable USB unit (AOC I1659FWUX 15.6″). It’s not the best one I have but it’s a ton easier to cart around than my 32″ Vizio which I bought back when I had cataracts and macular degeneration (both under control now, thank you for your concern). To me it’s primary utility is the 1920 x 1080 Desktop (my HP 6475b’s 1366 x 768 is extremely cramped for the way I work), the image quality is adequate but nothing special.

But I’m not here to hardware brag (ok, maybe a little), I’m here to talk about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D NY-14) and Political Economics.

The Economics of Soaking the Rich
By Paul Krugman, The New York Times
Jan. 5, 2019

The controversy of the moment involves AOC’s advocacy of a tax rate of 70-80 percent on very high incomes, which is obviously crazy, right? I mean, who thinks that makes sense? Only ignorant people like … um, Peter Diamond, Nobel laureate in economics and arguably the world’s leading expert on public finance. (Although Republicans blocked him from an appointment to the Federal Reserve Board with claims that he was unqualified. Really.) And it’s a policy nobody has ever implemented, aside from … the United States, for 35 years after World War II — including the most successful period of economic growth in our history.

To be more specific, Diamond, in work with Emmanuel Saez — one of our leading experts on inequality — estimated the optimal top tax rate to be 73 percent. Some put it higher: Christina Romer, top macroeconomist and former head of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, estimates it at more than 80 percent.

Where do these numbers come from? Underlying the Diamond-Saez analysis are two propositions: Diminishing marginal utility and competitive markets.

Diminishing marginal utility is the common-sense notion that an extra dollar is worth a lot less in satisfaction to people with very high incomes than to those with low incomes. Give a family with an annual income of $20,000 an extra $1,000 and it will make a big difference to their lives. Give a guy who makes $1 million an extra thousand and he’ll barely notice it.

What this implies for economic policy is that we shouldn’t care what a policy does to the incomes of the very rich. A policy that makes the rich a bit poorer will affect only a handful of people, and will barely affect their life satisfaction, since they will still be able to buy whatever they want.

So why not tax them at 100 percent? The answer is that this would eliminate any incentive to do whatever it is they do to earn that much money, which would hurt the economy. In other words, tax policy toward the rich should have nothing to do with the interests of the rich, per se, but should only be concerned with how incentive effects change the behavior of the rich, and how this affects the rest of the population.

But here’s where competitive markets come in. In a perfectly competitive economy, with no monopoly power or other distortions — which is the kind of economy conservatives want us to believe we have — everyone gets paid his or her marginal product. That is, if you get paid $1000 an hour, it’s because each extra hour you work adds $1000 worth to the economy’s output.

In that case, however, why do we care how hard the rich work? If a rich man works an extra hour, adding $1000 to the economy, but gets paid $1000 for his efforts, the combined income of everyone else doesn’t change, does it? Ah, but it does — because he pays taxes on that extra $1000. So the social benefit from getting high-income individuals to work a bit harder is the tax revenue generated by that extra effort — and conversely the cost of their working less is the reduction in the taxes they pay.

Or to put it a bit more succinctly, when taxing the rich, all we should care about is how much revenue we raise. The optimal tax rate on people with very high incomes is the rate that raises the maximum possible revenue.

And that’s something we can estimate, given evidence on how responsive the pre-tax income of the wealthy actually is to tax rates. As I said, Diamond and Saez put the optimal rate at 73 percent, Romer at over 80 percent — which is consistent with what AOC said.

An aside: What if we take into account the reality that markets aren’t perfectly competitive, that there’s a lot of monopoly power out there? The answer is that this almost surely makes the case for even higher tax rates, since high-income people presumably get a lot of those monopoly rents.

So AOC, far from showing her craziness, is fully in line with serious economic research. (I hear that she’s been talking to some very good economists.) Her critics, on the other hand, do indeed have crazy policy ideas — and tax policy is at the heart of the crazy.

You see, Republicans almost universally advocate low taxes on the wealthy, based on the claim that tax cuts at the top will have huge beneficial effects on the economy. This claim rests on research by … well, nobody. There isn’t any body of serious work supporting G.O.P. tax ideas, because the evidence is overwhelmingly against those ideas.

America used to have very high tax rates on the rich — higher even than those AOC is proposing — and did just fine. Since then tax rates have come way down, and if anything the economy has done less well.

Why do Republicans adhere to a tax theory that has no support from nonpartisan economists and is refuted by all available data? Well, ask who benefits from low taxes on the rich, and it’s obvious.

And because the party’s coffers demand adherence to nonsense economics, the party prefers “economists” who are obvious frauds and can’t even fake their numbers effectively.

Which brings me back to AOC, and the constant effort to portray her as flaky and ignorant. Well, on the tax issue she’s just saying what good economists say; and she definitely knows more economics than almost everyone in the G.O.P. caucus, not least because she doesn’t “know” things that aren’t true.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a self identified Socialist which actually is a good thing for the .01%. She’d let you keep the money you’ve already stolen. I’m an Anarcho-Syndicalist and I’d call for confiscatory Wealth Taxes.

Yeah, that $500+ Million Golden Parachute? Forget about it. Pick any 5 Houses (residences, not investments). Millage on financial transactions. Corporate Accountability (yup, jail time) and meaningful fines and vigorous anti-Monopoly enforcement. Corporate Officer pay tied to the salary of the lowest wage worker. Active redistribution baby!

Now that’s radical.

As a believer in Modern Monetary Theory (to a certain extent) I also realize that these debates are essentially meaningless. The only measure of whether there is too much money in the Economy is Inflation and what we have right now is entirely the result of the Federal Reserve’s desire to regain the illusion of fiscal control by raising interest rates. If we needed to win WW II today we’d print the money to do it and nothing bad would happen. Deficits are a joke and Democrats who buy the Debt/Deficit Hawk propoganda are idiots or thieves themselves.

Cartnoon

Conflict – Off The Air

The Breakfast Club (One Of Us)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

 photo stress free zone_zps7hlsflkj.jpg

This Day in History

Elvis Presley born; President Lyndon Johnson declares war on poverty; Ramzi Yousef sentenced to life in prison for first World Trade Center bombing. Physicist Stephen Hawking born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

All the pain and the poverty. Hypocrisy fuels my truth. Ain’t no stopping me.

Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-NY)

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We’ve Known This For a Long Time

The Dunning-Kruger Effect.

What’s behind the confidence of the incompetent? This suddenly popular psychological phenomenon.
By Angela Fritz, Washington Post
January 7, 2019

In their 1999 paper, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, David Dunning and Justin Kruger put data to what has been known by philosophers since Socrates, who supposedly said something along the lines of “the only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing.” Charles Darwin followed that up in 1871 with “ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”

Put simply, incompetent people think they know more than they really do, and they tend to be more boastful about it.

To test Darwin’s theory, the researchers quizzed people on several topics, such as grammar, logical reasoning and humor. After each test, they asked the participants how they thought they did. Specifically, participants were asked how many of the other quiz-takers they beat.

Dunning was shocked by the results, even though it confirmed his hypothesis. Time after time, no matter the subject, the people who did poorly on the tests ranked their competence much higher. On average, test takers who scored as low as the 10th percentile ranked themselves near the 70th percentile. Those least likely to know what they were talking about believed they knew as much as the experts.

There’s also “much more research activity” about the effect right now than immediately after it was published, Dunning said. Typically, interest in a research topic spikes in the five years following a groundbreaking study, then fades.

“Obviously it has to do with Trump and the various treatments that people have given him,” Dunning said, “So yeah, a lot of it is political. People trying to understand the other side. We have a massive rise in partisanship and it’s become more vicious and extreme, so people are reaching for explanations.”

Even though President Trump’s statements are rife with errors, falsehoods or inaccuracies, he expresses great confidence in his aptitude. He says he does not read extensively because he solves problems “with very little knowledge other than the knowledge I [already] had.” He has said in interviews he doesn’t read lengthy reports because “I already know exactly what it is.”

He has “the best words” and cites his “high levels of intelligence” in rejecting the scientific consensus on climate change. Decades ago, he said he could end the Cold War: “It would take an hour and a half to learn everything there is to learn about missiles,” Trump told The Washington Post’s Lois Romano over dinner in 1984. “I think I know most of it anyway.”

“Donald Trump has been overestimating his knowledge for decades,” said Brendan Nyhan, a political scientist at the University of Michigan. “It’s not surprising that he would continue that pattern into the White House.”

Dunning-Kruger “offers an explanation for a kind of hubris,” said Steven Sloman, a cognitive psychologist at Brown University. “The fact is, that’s Trump in a nutshell. He’s a man with zero political skill who has no idea he has zero political skill. And it’s given him extreme confidence.”

Dunning says the effect is particularly dangerous when someone with influence or the means to do harm doesn’t have anyone who can speak honestly about their mistakes. He noted several plane crashes that could have been avoided if crew had spoken up to an overconfident pilot.

“You get into a situation where people can be too deferential to the people in charge,” Dunning explained. “You have to have people around you that are willing to tell you you’re making an error.”

What happens when the incompetent are unwilling to admit they have shortcomings? Are they so confident in their own perceived knowledge that they will reject the very idea of improvement? Not surprisingly (though no less concerning), Dunning’s follow-up research shows the poorest performers are also the least likely to accept criticism or show interest in self improvement.

So, Evil or Stupid? I vote for Evil. Not all Republicans are Stupid, many act transparently in their own personal self-interest in ways that are canny, effective, and persistent. The fact that they are wrong for the general population, morally abhorrent, and hypocritical is simply the tribute vice pays to virtue. If one considered their lack of empathy, disregard for the general welfare, and limited perception of time, indications of intellectual deficit then one might charitably assign them a category of lower than normal intelligence, say “Moron” or “Idiot”. Certainly when I label them that way it is with more compassion than I truly think they deserve.

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