Revisiting the USA, part 4

Spent a few days in The Big Apple.

Worked — most mornings and some afternoons —in The Bean On Broadway where the latte was embarrassingly weak (even with extra shot) but the wifi was stable. Trade-offs are everywhere. Customers were asked to limit one’s stay during busy times but, understanding that exhortations of that kind rarely work, timed you out after two hours. Gotta love incentive-compatible solutions.

Saw a few of the World Cup games. Watched Germany play Spain to a draw, under extra-ordinary pressure. For a change, Flick made some inspired substitutions.

My US phone stopped working during the previous weekend; so Monday I made a trip to a Verizon store on 2nd Ave (useless), from there to another Verizon store on Union Square (more useful since the customer service guy confirmed that it was not a data problem, or for that matter a problem with a faulty sim card), from there to a Best Buy nearby (right, also useless, as I have come to expect from these folks), and from there to the Samsung center on Washington Street (near 8th Ave) where one of the geeks claimed that it was a problem with a Verizon software update that effectively shut me, and my Aussie-bought phone, out from US Verizon services. Spent more than 3 hours chasing up that particular problem, without success. Annoying. Service in the USA is about as bad as it is in Australia. Easily.

The day after I walked with my friend from high school, and fab host, Michel all the way from 8th street to Central Park. I wanted to see the pencil tower at 432 Park Avenue (near Central Park) … quite an impressive building it is, although not sure I would want to live in there. (Not that I could afford it.)

Another long stroll it was and my legs were hurting good. So I took the metro back to The Bean for another shift of answering emails while Michel added plenty of additional steps to his count for the day (more than 20,000). Not bad for an old geezer.

My legs might also have been hurting from the long walks down memory lane that Michel and I did pretty much every evening over beer and cigarettes (him) and wine (me). I did plunder his wine cellar good.

Ordered with apprehension another Flixbus ticket to Washington and got spooked when, after I paid, it was revealed that this particular bus, leaving from New York Midtown (31st St & 8th Ave), was operated by Eastern Bus, Adventure Tours, Skyliner Travel, A Ace Charter, and Bus4Hire as Flixbus. Wtaf. Turns out, for a change I got what I bargained for. A good driver who, although she did not know the name of the on-bus wifi network, got me and the other four paying customers to Washington just fine in seriously bad conditions. The Flixbus had stable wifi, functioning outlets, and comfortable seats. Glad I chose a bus …

Checked into the hotel in Washington which turned out to be in a good location (NoMA) and part of a world-wide chain that I know from Paris. It was there that I watched the Germany — Costa Rica soccer game. Once again, Flick made some inspired substitutions (Havertz, again, two goals, Fuellkrug, another one) but they could ultimately not compensate for the (completely unnecessary) loss against Japan and for that matter for his questionable starting elevens. Time to kick out of the team people like Mueller and Neuer who are way past their prime.

Needless to say, there were many opinions voiced after that loss and after the elimination of Germany in yet another group phase. One of the more silly ones was an article in The New York Times, by some “German football journalist” whose author argued that Germany’s coach is out of his depth, and so is its chancellor.

The author states correctly, “[Mr. Flick] became the boss at Bayern, guiding the club to a Champions League title, and then replaced his former boss Mr. Löw as the head of the national team. From understudy, Mr. Flick has become the leading man.” Well, in fact Flick won in those 18 months at Bayern 6 other titles. Out of this depth? Also, many people believe that Flick was the architect of the 2014 WC win.

As to Scholz, Merkel has very similar attributes (being deliberate, non-adventurous, etc.) Nevermind the fact that Scholz party won the Federal election convincingly, not sure what alternative there currently is. Habeck and Baerbock sell their politics better, for sure. But they do not (have to) run a red-green-liberal government

Chances are that the Germany — Costa Rica soccer game, as exciting and topsy-turvy as it was, will be most likely remembered as the first featuring an all-women refereeing team in men’s World Cup history. Chapeaux off for Stéphanie Frappart, the French lead official, and her team.

It was another bad week for Trump. First there was the controversy about his dinner with Ye and Fuentes which Milo Yiannopoulos (remember: Ye’s newly hired presidential-campaign manager) claims he set up ‘to make Trump’s life miserable’. Then the House Ways and Means Committee managed to get its hands on Donald Trump’s federal tax returns from IRS. (At long last. It is an interesting question what the Committee can do with these documents in the little time it has left.) Finally, an appeals court halted the special master review of documents seized at Mar-a-Lago which should make the special counsel’s work so much easier and make Donnie quite nervous. (If you are confused about the roles of the special master and the special counsel, here is a good primer.)

Another important related development were the verdicts in the Oath Keepers trial where two of the accused were in fact convicted of 6 January 2021 seditious conspiracy charges, among other charges. A brilliant win for Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice. The Oath Keepers might be put away for a couple of decades. While the acquittal of defendants on 11 of the 28 counts was not a clean sweep for DoJ, it validates its basic strategy which will undoubtedly play out nicely in future prosecutions. The interesting question is which of these convictions will be able to support the special counsel’s investigations.

It seems that Trump’s, and his cronies’, long-standing strategy of using the courts to delay or jam up cases against him in endless litigation has reached the end of the road. Actions might have consequences after all. (Almost 1,000 people have been charged in the Capitol insurrection so far.)

In parallel, Trump is increasingly becoming a hot potato, even among Republicans … Trump, however, seems unteachable and unrepentant and in fact has just doubled up:

“Do you throw the Presidential Election Results of 2020 OUT and declare the RIGHTFUL WINNER, or do you have a NEW ELECTION? A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution,” Trump wrote in a post on the social network Truth Social and accused “Big Tech” of working closely with Democrats. “Our great ‘Founders’ did not want, and would not condone, False & Fraudulent Elections!”

Now spending a few days here in Washington. More trips down memory lane were had already and are planned, last but not least with a friend I know from kindergarden. Also looking forward to some research conversations, over wine no less.

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Andreas Ortmann

EconProf: I post occasionally on whatever tickles my fancy: Science, evidence production, the Econ tribe, Oz politics, etc. Y’all r entitled to my opinions …