January 2019 Archives


The best thing for America will be if one side or the other decisively wins the government shutdown. Politicians and journalists are shocked and confused that Trump is pushing for a victory instead of yet another indecisive compromise, which is how our elites are used to doing business.

The standstill also underscored the dysfunction that has gripped Washington since divided government began this month. Overtures to Trump's core voters have dominated the White House's strategy as Democrats have looked on in confusion, after the last round of talks between Trump and congressional leaders collapsed last week when Trump walked out.

No matter what Democrats and independents think about the shutdown Trump simply can't win reelection without his core voters, and his core voters will reject him if he caves on the wall. It doesn't matter how low his approval rating goes with anyone else. This is the same equation that Democrats face on, e.g., abortion, where they have no political room to compromise.

A group led by Graham worked last week to stitch together a bipartisan immigration deal that would trade wall funding for protections for unauthorized immigrants brought to the United States as children. But the group disbanded after Vice President Mike Pence announced that Trump wasn't interested in such a deal.

Graham, speaking later on "Fox News Sunday," urged Trump to "open up the government for a short period of time, like three weeks before he pulls the plug, see if we can get a deal" on the wall.

This is the kind of compromise that our elites love to make because both sides can "claim victory" without anything actually being decided. The can gets kicked down the road for a few weeks, a few years, a few terms, whatever. Voters on both sides get further entrenched, and politicians leverage their own failure to win to rile up their base for the next election.

"We do need to have a Plan B," said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. "It looks like both sides are pretty well dug in. I don't like the dysfunction in Washington, D.C., so I'm trying to alleviate that dysfunction."

Johnson is one of many GOP senators straining to balance their alliance with Trump with their desire to end the impasse. His plan involves "opening up the essential parts of government and making sure that people who are working are being paid," while keeping some agencies shut down.

Senator Johnson is eager for an indecisive stalemate. The pain of the shutdown is what could eventually force the two political armies into a decisive battle, instead of just endless maneuvering. If you remove the pain, there's no motivation for a conclusive resolution. Maybe Republicans are cowards and/or don't believe they can win a battle -- but who can tell before you actually fight? They'd have had a better chance if they had forced this conflict to a resolution 15 years ago, but now they're stuck in the present with a weaker hand.

No matter who wins, it will be better for America if we can reach a decisive conclusion instead of prolonging the agony for another few decades.


Despite being opposed to Obamacare and other federal schemes for universal health care coverage, I'm excited to see smaller units of government (e.g., cities and states) experiment with such systems. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced a city-paid comprehensive coverage plan and I'm excited to see how it goes:

New York City will begin guaranteeing comprehensive health care to every single resident regardless of someone's ability to pay or immigration status, an unprecedented plan that will protect the more than half a million New Yorkers currently using the ER as a primary provider, Mayor de Blasio said Tuesday.

It's not health insurance, his spokesman clarified after the surprise announcement on MSNBC.

"This is the city paying for direct comprehensive care (not just ERs) for people who can't afford it, or can't get comprehensive Medicaid -- including 300,000 undocumented New Yorkers," spokesman Eric Phillips tweeted.

New York City is one of the richest places in the history of mankind, so there's no reason this system should fail unless it's mismanaged. I hope the results are positive, and that we all learn a lot about how to successfully run such an ambitious health care program.

De Blasio said the plan will provide primary and specialty care, from pediatrics to OBGYN, geriatric, mental health and other services, to the city's roughly 600,000 uninsured. ... The program is estimated to cost about $100 million, Politico said. The mayor said there will be no tax hikes to fund it.

That estimate seems... optimistic. I'm very interested to see how they provide health care at the annual cost of only $167 per person.


I'm not a huge fan of Elon Musk -- he has fascinating ideas, but his successes are highly dependent on government subsidies. He's right about at least one thing however: traffic sucks. Smith Henderson writes:

Musk tells us later that it all came to him fuming in L.A. traffic. Truth. You can feel yourself dying in L.A. traffic. My tactic is to stay home, stay in my 'hood. I got my coffee places, my Trader Joe's. I will not do Los Angeles things simply because of what havoc traffic does to my mood. I feel Musk's pain.

The problem isn't just the traffic, but how we've conceived it. We live in three dimensions, but we travel in two. It's stupid. And our flying-car fetish has been a bogus panacea all along--every crash would be an air disaster. The mythic draw of flight was maybe too dazzling for us to appreciate another direction: underground. Well, until now.

Traffic is one of the main reasons I left my native land of Los Angeles. Traffic drains your soul.

I'm just not confident that tunnels are the way to go. There's no doubt that cheaper, better tunnels will be fantastic for some applications, but "flying cars" will require much less infrastructure and be far more flexible. There's no reason we can't have both... and I'm not sure that tunnels will win out in earthquake-prone Los Angeles.

I also think Henderson's and my approaches will be parts of the solution to traffic: thanks to telecommunication, people will travel less in cities and be more free to leave them altogether without splitting from the modern information economy.


Copyright terms haven't been extended to protect Mickey Mouse like they were in 1998, but it's hard to celebrate this passive victory for the public domain when the duration is set to 95 years!

As the ball dropped over Times Square last night, all copyrighted works published in 1923 fell into the public domain (with a few exceptions). Everyone now has the right to republish them or adapt them for use in new works.

It's the first time this has happened in 21 years.

In 1998, works published in 1922 or earlier were in the public domain, with 1923 works scheduled to expire at the beginning of 1999. But then Congress passed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. It added 20 years to the terms of older works, keeping 1923 works locked up until 2019.

Many people--including me--expected another fight over copyright extension in 2018. But it never happened. Congress left the existing law in place, and so those 1923 copyrights expired on schedule this morning.

And assuming Congress doesn't interfere, more works will fall into the public domain each January from now on.

That's better than nothing, I guess. Personally, I think a term of 20 or 30 years would be far more reasonable than 95.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2019 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2018 is the previous archive.

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