a carefully measured degree of surprise: 179-T7
"people power" fails in Tunisia and Sri Lanka. And, unfortunately, more news about Andrew Yang.
Once again, we are writing at Substack.
The various flaws of the platform are more tolerable at a nineteen-day cadence. This new perspective has come as something of a surprise1.
What are those flaws? Roughly: there are important differences between a “blog” and a “newsletter”. Substack exists somewhere in the middle. But it still struggles to be both at the same time2.
In any event: the tisatsar’s news, some parts of which will be more surprising than others.
The Tisatsar’s News
Son of the Bill Identified By Its Cost: Build Back Better is dead, long live (checks notes) the Inflation Reduction Act. There is a one page summary of the goals from the Democrats.
Unlike some of its predecessors, this bill only spends substantial money on two things. First, it extends certain health-insurance subsidy programs for three years. Second, “climate change” spending, most notably extending various tax credits. The 26% solar energy refundable tax credits would become 30%, and extend for up to a decade.
A New York Post op-ed hates it, which is completely predictable, and also a sign that maybe the bill is written well.
Surprise rating: 3 - the Bill Identified By Its Cost has died and revived so many times this isn’t particularly surprising. Also, Congress is supposed to pass a budget every year. However, this attempt is more modest than some of the others, and appears to have a credible plan towards passage.
Tunisia Referendum: After a self-coup last year, Tunisia president Kais Saied’s constitutional referendum passed with roughly 95% of voters supporting the changes. The opposition, for inexplicable3 reasons, boycotted the referendum.
There are various elegies for Tunisian democracy in the mass media, but I won’t bother to link them. More interesting are the various takes on the “gridlock” that doomed the 2014 constitution. Chief among them: the Constitutional Court, after 7 years, still did not have enough appointments to constitute a quorum to do business.
the Newslettr has no particular expertise on Tunisian affairs, and declines to comment further on the specifics.
Surprise rating: 1 - the “dictator/coup” political model, common throughout Africa, appears to have emerged in Tunisia. While this may have been surprising last year, it is now on a well-trod political path.
Pope in Canada: Pope Francis visited Canada, as part of an apology tour related to abuses at 20th century residential schools for indigenous people. Quite predictably, state media (BBC, CBC) has said the apology tour didn’t go far enough.
Surprise rating: 0 - this has proceeded exactly per script.
Chaos in Sri Lanka: after nineteen days, the situation in Sri Lanka is not resolved in any way. Protesters succeeded in forcing Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign as president … but he was replaced by close ally Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Wickremesinghe then sent in the army to disperse protestors. Now protest leaders are being arrested.
The underlying fuel shortages, food shortages, money shortages, etc. have still not been resolved. Sri Lankan officials are promising at least 12 months of fuel rationing.
The IMF and China are still arguing over who is at fault for the debt situation, and who will make the first move towards resolving it.
Surprise rating: 3 - the most surprising thing here is how unsurprising the events are. The protesters never stood for anything other than “being angry at the authorities”; after some catharsis they have been swept away. Solving the underlying issues will be more difficult.
Drama on the Hautacam: Tadej Pogacar’s quest for a third consecutive victory in the Tour de France was disrupted by Jonas Vingegaard. After Pogacar lost time on Stage 11 due to successful tactics by Vingegaard and teammate Primoz Roglic, he still seemed posed for a comeback. But on the decisive Stage 18, Vingegaard once again bested Pogacar, while climbing the Hautacam summit.
Also, tomorrow, the revived Tour de France femmes will conclude. Apart from a few amateur moments (a rider taking a wrong turn in the closing kilometer of a race), it has been surprisingly compelling viewing, from our perspective.
Surprise rating: 6 - I am still surprised Pogacar lost.
Some Lighter Fare
Elon Musk In The Tabloids: the media circus surrounding Mr. Musk may have become too much for even the man himself:
This, after a series of ludicrous news stories involving Mr. Musk, some of which were true.
Surprise rating: 4 - the truly surprising thing would be if this remains the party line for more than a few weeks.
Andrew Yang Redux: Disappointed by the response to the announcement of the Forward Party made during last year’s book tour, Andrew Yang has announced a second time that he is forming a new political party.
Fortunately for our editorial staff, we can mostly re-run our take from last year. There is one line that needs updating:
if at all possible, I expect Yang will endorse whatever the Supreme Court rules on abortion in June 2022. If it is too extreme (for example, if it implements a complete nationwide ban on abortion), Yang will oppose it. Until then, Yang will say he is focused on other issues.
There are two ways to finesse this for Mr. Yang. First, he can say “I am a lawyer, and I hate to admit it, but Alito is right. The constitution is clear that it’s a question for the states. Now let’s put in the effort to make abortion legal in all 50 states”.
The second way is to support and endorse a nationwide 12-14 week abortion ban. That would make neither party’s partisans happy … but when you are starting a third party, that is a good thing.
Surprise rating: 1 - salesmen never quit, they only engage in tactical retreats.
Bad Take of the Tisatsar: on Twitter, we live in a world governed by mad libs4. Every short argument will be made, and the worst ones will prosper. Thus, we have this:
This, from a Princeton alumna with over 200k followers. For the historical record: no, nobody is pro-life because of their “deep financial ties to the adoption industry”. I’m not sure if the thousands of people liking/re-tweeting this believe that, or not. Also not sure if it’s worse if they are re-tweeting because they do believe it, or because they don’t believe it.
Surprise rating: 0. “Somebody is wrong on Twitter” is just about as un-surprising as it gets.
the Newslettr appeals to a more erudite audience than average; I can at least dream that a majority of you know what the photoelectric effect is. Your thoughts are welcome … by email reply.
At a certain point, one learns to expect surprises. This may make them less surprising.
As the copy-pasta goes, “Running was invented in 1748 by Thomas Running when he tried to walk twice at the same time.” The inanity is the point.
In this case, “inexplicable” means “the explanations are pushed to the footnotes”. Perhaps the Tunisian opposition knew they would lose, and felt that creating a fig-leaf of illegitimacy for the changes was better for their cause than actually fighting against them. Perhaps they are just incompetent, and actually think their actions will create illegitimacy. And perhaps it is because the opposition is comprised of various factions that hate each other more than Saied.
No, not mad libs as in “angry liberals”, mad libs as in “a game where you fill-in-the-blanks in formulaic sentences, with amusing results”.