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Krugman: On Economic Arrogance

According to press reports, the Trump administration is basing its budget projections on the assumption that the U.S. economy will grow very rapidly over the next decade — in fact, almost twice as fast as independent institutions like the Congressional Budget Office and the Federal Reserve expect. There is, as far as we can tell, no serious analysis behind this optimism; instead, the number was plugged in to make the fiscal outlook appear better.

I guess this was only to be expected from a man who keeps insisting that crime, which is actually near record lows, is at a record high, that millions of illegal ballots were responsible for his popular vote loss, and so on: In Trumpworld, numbers are what you want them to be, and anything else is fake news. But the truth is that unwarranted arrogance about economics isn’t Trump-specific. On the contrary, it’s the modern Republican norm. And the question is why.

(via On Economic Arrogance - The New York Times)

Math has a liberal bias.

Why Rural America Voted for Trump

Why Rural America Voted for Trump:

“The difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans believe people are fundamentally bad, while Democrats see people as fundamentally good,” said Mr. Watts, who was in the area to campaign for Senator Rand Paul. “We are born bad,” he said and added that children did not need to be taught to behave badly — they are born knowing how to do that. “We teach them how to be good,” he said. “We become good by being reborn — born again.” He continued: “Democrats believe that we are born good, that we create God, not that he created us. If we are our own God, as the Democrats say, then we need to look at something else to blame when things go wrong — not us.”

That’s not actually what Democrats believe.

To Stop Trump, Democrats Can Learn From the Tea Party

It’s a simple playbook: organize locally and play defense.

(via To Stop Trump, Democrats Can Learn From the Tea Party - The New York Times)

This is the correct thing to learn. Look at the Tea Party, Dean’s 50 State Plan and even the Gingrich contract for America. The plan should be to get the 7.5 million people who voted for Obama and didn’t vote for Hillary to vote in the mid-terms and turn out in 2020.

Obama Says U.S. Will Retaliate for Russia’s Election Meddling - The New York Times

“We need to take action,” the president said. “And we will — at the time and place of our choosing.”

(via Obama Says U.S. Will Retaliate for Russia’s Election Meddling - The New York Times)

Does Trump see the trap here? If he ends the investigation and reverses the sanctions he will be sending a clear signal that he is Putin’s puppet. If he doesn’t then Putin will want to pressure him to reverse leading people to ask if he owns Putin something.

Seduced and Betrayed by Donald Trump - The New York Times

by looking at Census data from 2013 to 2015, which show the impact of the full implementation of Obamacare. Over that period, the number of uninsured Americans dropped by 13 million; whites without a college degree, who voted Trump by around two to one, accounted for about eight million of that decline. So we’re probably looking at more than five million Trump supporters, many of whom have chronic health problems and recently got health insurance for the first time, who just voted to make their lives nastier, more brutish, and shorter.

(via Seduced and Betrayed by Donald Trump - The New York Times)

Krugman does the math.

Donald Trump Meeting Suggests He Is Keeping Up His Business Ties - The New York Times

The meeting, with Indian executives linked to an apartment tower bearing Mr. Trump’s name, raises questions about how he will separate his business dealings from his politics.

(via Donald Trump Meeting Suggests He Is Keeping Up His Business Ties - The New York Times)

He isn’t. Or he won’t unless congress forces him. He will use the office for financial gain for himself and his children.

How the ‘Stupid Party’ Created Donald Trump

How the ‘Stupid Party’ Created Donald Trump:

Many Democrats took all this at face value and congratulated themselves for being smarter than the benighted Republicans. Here’s the thing, though: The Republican embrace of anti-intellectualism was, to a large extent, a put-on. At least until now.

Eisenhower may have played the part of an amiable duffer, but he may have been the best prepared president we have ever had — a five-star general with an unparalleled knowledge of national security affairs. When he resorted to gobbledygook in public, it was in order to preserve his political room to maneuver. Reagan may have come across as a dumb thespian, but he spent decades honing his views on public policy and writing his own speeches. Nixon may have burned with resentment of “Harvard men,” but he turned over foreign policy and domestic policy to two Harvard professors, Henry A. Kissinger and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, while his own knowledge of foreign affairs was second only to Ike’s.

There is no evidence that Republican leaders have been demonstrably dumber than their Democratic counterparts. During the Reagan years, the G.O.P. briefly became known as the “party of ideas,” because it harvested so effectively the intellectual labor of conservative think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation and publications like The Wall Street Journal editorial page and Commentary. Scholarly policy makers like George P. Shultz, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick and Bill Bennett held prominent posts in the Reagan administration, a tradition that continued into the George W. Bush administration — amply stocked with the likes of Paul D. Wolfowitz, John J. Dilulio Jr. and Condoleezza Rice.

Wrath of the Conned

Wrath of the Conned:

Both parties make promises to their bases. But while the Democratic establishment more or less tries to make good on those promises, the Republican establishment has essentially been playing bait-and-switch for decades. And voters finally rebelled against the con.

One possible explanation is the decadence of the G.O.P. establishment, which has become ingrown and lost touch. Apparatchiks who have spent their whole careers inside the bubble of right-wing think tanks and partisan media may suffer from the delusion that their ideology is actually popular with real people. And this has left them hapless in the face of a Trumpian challenge.

Worth a read.

Fear and Friends

Fear and Friends:

nobody in the GOP field wants to say anything positive about the strength of Western democracy, or make a remark about the nature of a cause that has nothing going for it except the ability to kill innocent civilians. Instead, we have Jeb! insisting that we’re looking at a plan to destroy Western civilization, and Ted Cruz declaring that what we need to do is abandon our own scruples aboutkilling innocent bystanders.

The Minimum Wage: How Much Is Too Much?

Research suggests that a minimum wage set as high as $12 an hour will do more good than harm for low-wage workers, but a $15-an-hour national minimum wage would put us in uncharted waters, and risk undesirable and unintended consequences.

(via The Minimum Wage: How Much Is Too Much? - The New York Times)

Krueger and Card are the authors of the seminal study that suggests that raising the minimum wage doesn’t necessarily reduce employment. He thinks $15/hr is too high. Too many people quoting that study are unaware the authors think $15/hr is too high.

Paul Krugman:Trump Is Right on Economics

all indications are that Mr. Bush’s attacks on Mr. Trump are falling flat, because the Republican base doesn’t actually share the Republican establishment’s economic delusions.

(via Trump Is Right on Economics - The New York Times)

When Trump came out for raising income taxes on the rich, like him for saving social security and for increased spending on domestic infrastructure I was sure that he was going to lose his Tea Party base. But he didn’t. Krugman’s explanation actually makes some sense.

Krugman on Gravity and Trade

that the volume of trade between Kanesh and various trading partners seems to fit a gravity equation: trade between any two regional economies is roughly proportional to the product of their GDPs and inversely related to distance. Neat.

But what does the seemingly universal applicability of the gravity equation tell us?

It’s the law!

(via Gravity)

Krugman on trade is always worth a read.

Tea and Trumpism

the conservative explanation of the GOP’s onset of DTs is, as best I can figure, that base voters are victims of celebrity; what they really want is a true conservative, but they’re being hijacked and hoodwinked by someone who makes good TV.

Meanwhile, the liberal version, as I’ve seen it, seems to be that Trump is appealing to resentment that ultimately rests on economic failure: working-class whites have been left behind by soaring inequality, but they mistakenly blame immigrants taking their jobs.

But are Trumpists being hoodwinked? Are they members of the suffering working class who don’t understand why they’re hurting? OK, here’s my guess: they look a lot like Tea Party supporters

(via Tea and Trumpism - The New York Times)

The Campaign of Deception Against Planned Parenthood

The full video of the lunch meeting, over two hours long and released by the Center for Medical Progress after complaints by Planned Parenthood, shows something very different from what these critics claim. Clearly, the shorter version was edited to eliminate statements by Dr. Nucatola explaining that Planned Parenthood does not profit from tissue donation, which requires the clear consent of the patient. Planned Parenthood affiliates only accept money — between $30 and $100 per specimen, according to Dr. Nucatola — to cover costs associated with collecting and transporting the tissue. “This is not something with any revenue stream that affiliates are looking at,” she said.

(via The Campaign of Deception Against Planned Parenthood - The New York Times)

The video is a fraud but it doesn’t matter. Few if any of the people who were outraged by the story when it was posted will every post a correction. It will now be a fact in the edges of the right wing universe that planned parenthood profits from abortions by selling fetus parts. And that was the plan from the start.

Trump Is the Poison His Party Concocted

Trump is a byproduct of all the toxic elements Republicans have thrown into their brew over the last decade or so — from birtherism to race-based hatred of immigrants, from nihilists who shut down government to elected officials who shout “You lie!” at their commander in chief.

It was fine when all this crossing-of-the-line was directed at President Obama or other Democrats. But now that the ugliness is intramural, Trump has forced party leaders to decry something they have not only tolerated, but encouraged.

(via Trump Is the Poison His Party Concocted - The New York Times)

As Shootings Rise in New York, Police Focus on a Small Number of Young Men - The New York Times

The strategy of targeting those believed to be behind the violence, born of years studying the origins of shootings, has intensified this year. Officers on the street, who are recording far fewer arrests and a still plummeting number of stops, are now focusing on a few hundred people who are believed to fuel rounds of retaliatory shootings. At a recent City Council hearing, Mr. Bratton called it “quality policing, not quantity policing.”

(via As Shootings Rise in New York, Police Focus on a Small Number of Young Men - The New York Times)

It’s becoming clear that stop and frisk was an obstacle to police work.

Homegrown Extremists Tied to Deadlier Toll in U.S. Since 9/11 - The New York Times

the breakdown of extremist ideologies behind those attacks may come as a surprise. Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims

(via Homegrown Extremists Tied to Deadlier Toll in U.S. Since 9/11 - The New York Times)

The lack of reporting of the problem of right wing extremism should be called out for what it is. Political correctness.

Slavery’s Long Shadow

the political scientist Larry Bartels, analyzed the move of the white working class away from Democrats, a move made famous in Thomas Frank’s “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” Mr. Frank argued that working-class whites were being induced to vote against their own interests by the right’s exploitation of cultural issues. But Mr. Bartels showed that the working-class turn against Democrats wasn’t a national phenomenon — it was entirely restricted to the South, where whites turned overwhelmingly Republican after the passage of the Civil Rights Act and Richard Nixon’s adoption of the so-called Southern strategy.

Only one former member of the Confederacy has expanded Medicaid, and while a few Northern states are also part of the movement, more than 80 percent of the population in Medicaid-refusing America lives in states that practiced slavery before the Civil War. And it’s not just health reform: a history of slavery is a strong predictor of everything from gun control (or rather its absence), to low minimum wages and hostility to unions, to tax policy.

(via Slavery’s Long Shadow - The New York Times)

Krugman on veiwing the modern, post-Nixon GOP as the neo-Confederacy.

'Wingnut welfare is an important, underrated feature of the modern U.S. political scene. I don’t know...'

Wingnut welfare is an important, underrated feature of the modern U.S. political scene. I don’t know who came up with the term, but anyone who follows right-wing careers knows whereof I speak: the lavishly-funded ecosystem of billionaire-financed think tanks, media outlets, and so on provides a comfortable cushion for politicians and pundits who tell such people what they want to hear. Lose an election, make economic forecasts that turn out laughably wrong, whatever — no matter, there’s always a fallback job available.

Obviously this reality has important incentive effects. It encourages conservatives to espouse ever-cruder positions, because they don’t need to be taken seriously outside their closed universe.



- Wingnut Welfare and Work Incentives - NYTimes.com

Liberals, Conservatives, and Jobs

Liberals, Conservatives, and Jobs:

If creating “millions” of jobs means adding 2 million or more in a given year, then we did that in three of Jimmy Carter’s four years in office, and 13 times since Reagan left the White House — 8 times under Bill Clinton, twice under George W. Bush, and three times so far under Barack Obama. Actually, the only times we haven’t added millions of jobs under Democrats have been in the aftermath of severe shocks — the oil shock of 1979 and the financial crisis of 2008. Am I claiming that Democratic presidents were responsible for all this job creation? No, not at all, nor do I need to. The point, instead, is that their policies didn’t prevent a lot of employment growth. That is, what you learn from both national experience and the California story is that you can raise taxes on the rich and expand access to health care without killing the economy.

China’s Middle Class Chafes Against Maze of Red Tape

China’s Middle Class Chafes Against Maze of Red Tape:

China’s middle class — wired, ambitious and worldly — is increasingly unwilling to tolerate such obstacles, the vestiges of a capricious Mao-era bureaucracy that still holds sway over most of the important aspects of people’s personal lives. For many educated city dwellers, it is red tape, more than news media censorship and heavy-handed propaganda, that serves as a grinding reminder of the Communist Party’s dominion over their lives. “The government isn’t there to make our lives easier,” Ms. Li said. “They’ve set up all those rules so the people are easier to control.”

The venn diagram of oligarchy and police state is pretty much a circle. And Oligarchs only care about restrictions on capital. Now that China is developing a middle class, heavy handed bureaucracy is far more unwelcome.

Leading Climate-Denier Caught Accepting Bribes from Fossil-Fuel Corporations

Leading Climate-Denier Caught Accepting Bribes from Fossil-Fuel Corporations:

Historians and sociologists of science say that since the tobacco wars of the 1960s, corporations trying to block legislation that hurts their interests have employed a strategy of creating the appearance of scientific doubt, usually with the help of ostensibly independent researchers who accept industry funding.

Yep. If we had a functioning independent media, this would be called Climategate.

Though often described on conservative news programs as a “Harvard astrophysicist,” Dr. Soon is not an astrophysicist and has never been employed by Harvard. He is a part-time employee of the Smithsonian Institution with a doctoral degree in aerospace engineering.

Though he has little formal training in climatology, Dr. Soon has for years published papers trying to show that variations in the sun’s energy can explain most recent global warming. His thesis is that human activity has played a relatively small role in causing climate change.

You can make a lot more money being a climate denier than being a climate scientist. You don’t even have to be a climate scientist. Just someone who can be described as credible.

Naked Came The Class Warriors

Naked Came The Class Warriors:

If you look for an overarching theme for overall conservative policy these past four decades, it definitely isn’t liberty — by and large the GOP has been enthusiastic about expanding the security and surveillance state. Nor is it in a consistent fashion smaller government, unless you define military and homeland security as not government. Instead, it has been about making the tax-and-transfer system harsher on the poor and easier on the rich. In short, class warfare.

Those Radical VSPs

Those Radical VSPs:

although many of the press reports describe Syriza as “far-left”, it’s actually preaching fairly conventional economics, while the supposedly responsible officials of Brussels and Berlin have been relying on radical doctrines like expansionary austerity and a growth cliff at 90 percent. The same has to a certain extent been true in the US context. Once again: textbook macroeconomics says that focusing on deficit reduction in a depressed economy, where the zero lower bound constrains the effectiveness of monetary policy, is a very bad idea. And although nobody will believe it, textbook macro has actually been a very good guide to the economy since the financial crisis, as Jared Bernstein also emphasizes.

Krugman points out how current right of center economic theory isn’t based on conservative economic or on textbook mainstream economics. Its based on very radical and very untested ideas that aren’t working out.

The Strange Tale of a New Species of Lizard

The Strange Tale of a New Species of Lizard:

In the 1960s, scientists noticed that some whiptail lizard species had a strange genetic makeup. They have two copies of each chromosome, just as we do, but each copy is very different from its counterpart. The genes look as if they come from different species. Perhaps stranger, many species produce no males. The eggs of the females hatch healthy female clones, a process known as parthenogenesis. Normally, unfertilized animal eggs have only one set of chromosomes. The second set is derived from a male’s sperm following fertilization. But parthenogenic female whiptail lizards can duplicate the chromosomes in their offspring without males. These findings led scientists to a hypothesis for how these strange species came about: Sometimes individuals from two different species of whiptail lizards interbreed, and their hybrid offspring carry two different sets of chromosomes.

Conspicuous Consumption? Yes, but It’s Not Crazy

Conspicuous Consumption? Yes, but It’s Not Crazy:

One common claim is that the wealthy routinely violate the economist’s law of demand. A bedrock principle of economic rationality, this law holds that as the price of a good rises, consumers buy less of it. Many analysts, however, portray the rich as people who lust after what are known as “Veblen goods” — commodities whose sales actually increase when their prices rise

The Business Tycoons of Airbnb

The Business Tycoons of Airbnb:

Getting ahead on Airbnb is much more simple: just sign multiple leases in desirable locations. Of course, that requires upfront investment and financial savvy. But once it’s up and running, an Airbnb rental network can become seriously lucrative. One operation of 272 listings booked $6.8 million in revenue from 2010 through June of this year, according to the attorney general. The economic forces at play are similar to what the French economist Thomas Piketty discusses in his recent blockbuster book, ‘’Capital in the Twenty-First Century,’’ only in miniature. In a slow-growth economy, Piketty argues, wealth delivers better returns than labor, so those with wealth to invest in things (like, for example, rent-earning apartments) will tend to get wealthier; those without probably won’t. Listing a spare room on Airbnb might keep you current on your always-climbing Manhattan rent, but real entrepreneurship (as always) requires real dough.

AirBnB is literally a platform for wealthy people to engage in rent seeking.

In Front Of Your Macroeconomic Nose

In Front Of Your Macroeconomic Nose:

at this point we’ve been at the zero lower bound for six years; we’ve seen a 400 percent rise in the monetary base without a takeoff in inflation; we’ve seen record peacetime deficits go along with record low long-term interest rates. Liquidity trap economics aren’t a speculative hypothesis at this point, they’re the world we’ve been living in for years. How can that go unnoticed?

It’s not unnoticed. There is plenty of people who noticed. But since the truth isn’t the right wing approved talking point, it isn’t being talked about.

The Wisdom of Peter Schiff

The Wisdom of Peter Schiff:

what Schiff says very clearly is that according to his worldview, rolling the printing presses should cause inflation (by the normal definition) even in a depressed economy, and that high unemployment should in fact make inflation higher, not lower. He has that exactly right: the central dispute is between those who see depressions as the result of inadequate demand, implying that inflation will fall and that printing money does nothing unless it boosts employment, and those who see depressions as the result of maladapation of resources or something — anyway, something on the supply side — who predict that running the printing presses will lead to runaway inflation. How could you test those rival views? Why, how about having a huge slump, to which central banks respond with aggressive monetary expansion? And that is, of course, the test we’ve just run. And everywhere you look, inflation is low, verging on deflation. So we’ve just run the Schiff test — and his brand of economics, by his own criteria, loses with flying colors. And that goes for just about all anti-Keynesian doctrines: we ran as close to a clean experiment as you’re ever going to get, and the answer is no.

And it isn’t just the US economy. The same experiment was run across Europe and in Japan. Schiff’s theory is zero for twelve. In no economy did we get results they his theory would demand.

Inflation Derp Abides

Inflation Derp Abides:

Jim Rogers declared that “we are all going to pay a terrible price for all this money-printing and debt.” And I asked the obvious question: How long has Rogers been predicting a printing-press-and-deficits disaster? The answer is, a very, very long time. Here he is in October 2008 — six full years ago — declaring that we were setting the stage for a “massive inflation holocaust.”

What I expect is that inflation will be slightly higher than normal and the people claiming inflation holocaust for the past six years will act as if they were right all along.

California Will Allow Family Members to Seek Seizure of Guns

California Will Allow Family Members to Seek Seizure of Guns:

The law will allow law enforcement officials, family members and some others to seek a gun restraining order from a judge. That order would authorize officials to temporarily seize any firearm owned by someone deemed potentially violent, who would also be placed on a list of people prohibited from purchasing weapons.

I think this is a good idea but I can already hear the crazy slippery slope arguments coming.

Tax Burden in U.S. Not as Heavy as It Looks, Report Says

Tax Burden in U.S. Not as Heavy as It Looks, Report Says:

We’ve been told repeatedly that the United States has the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world — 35 percent — which is higher than the nominal tax rates in places like Ireland (12.5 percent), Britain (21 percent) and the Netherlands (25 percent) and the 24.1 percent average rate of all countries that are part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

All of that’s true, but Professor Kleinbard contends that most United States multinational companies don’t pay anywhere near 35 percent. Companies paid, on average, 12.6 percent,

Cutting those rates will not get companies to bring more money into the US economy. They would still keep the money were it could be moved more easily. And that is in commonwealth nations that can easily do business with London banks.

Web Trolls: It’s like playing Whac-a-Mole with a sociopathic Hydra

Web Trolls: It’s like playing Whac-a-Mole with a sociopathic Hydra:

“As long as the Internet keeps operating according to a click-based economy, trolls will maybe not win, but they will always be present,” said Whitney Phillips, a lecturer at Humboldt State University and the author of “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” a forthcoming book about her years of studying bad behavior online. “The faster that the whole media system goes, the more trolls have a foothold to stand on. They are perfectly calibrated to exploit the way media is disseminated these days.”

This is so true. It is a huge amount of effort to keep trolls away.

C.I.A. Hires Yossarian to Censor Torture Report

C.I.A. Hires Yossarian to Censor Torture Report:

In Joseph Heller’s anti-war satire, “Catch 22,” the hero, Yossarian, is assigned to a censorship detail. He amuses himself by deleting all the adverbs and adjectives from soldiers’ letters, then all the articles, then everything but the articles, and so on. His job was to delete details that threatened operational security. The result was gibberish. It seems the Central Intelligence Agency was inspired by Yossarian’s example.

This will eventually come out and like always, the coverup will be worse than the crime.

Build We Won’t

Build We Won’t:

We can’t simply write a check to the highway fund, we’re told, because that would increase the deficit. And deficits are evil, at least when there’s a Democrat in the White House, even if the government can borrow at incredibly low interest rates. And we can’t raise gas taxes because that would be a tax increase, and tax increases are even more evil than deficits. So our roads must be allowed to fall into disrepair.

Charlatans, Cranks and Kansas

Charlatans, Cranks and Kansas:

the Kansas debacle shows that tax cuts don’t have magical powers, but we already knew that. The real lesson from Kansas is the enduring power of bad ideas, as long as those ideas serve the interests of the right people.

People who want those tax cuts the most, care the least that they don’t actually work.

High Plains Moochers

High Plains Moochers:

Suppose he had been grazing his cattle on land belonging to one of his neighbors, and had refused to pay for the privilege. That would clearly have been theft — and brandishing guns when someone tried to stop the theft would have turned it into armed robbery. The fact that in this case the public owns the land shouldn’t make any difference.

So, what happens if two ranchers want to use that land? Or if some rancher wants to graze his herd on land that Mr. Bundy owns and isn’t using?

The Koch Attack on Solar Energy

The Koch Attack on Solar Energy:

For the last few months, the Kochs and other big polluters have been spending heavily to fight incentives for renewable energy, which have been adopted by most states. They particularly dislike state laws that allow homeowners with solar panels to sell power they don’t need back to electric utilities. So they’ve been pushing legislatures to impose a surtax on this increasingly popular practice, hoping to make installing solar panels on houses less attractive.

Not surprised.

Is David Brooks an idiot?

Is David Brooks an idiot?:

If you are a young professional in a major city, you experience inequality firsthand. But the inequality you experience most acutely is not inequality down, toward the poor; it’s inequality up, toward the rich.

You go to fund-raisers or school functions and there are always hedge fund managers and private equity people around.

Is Mr. Brooks an idiot? Does he realize that for 98% of the population, this is simply not true.

The inequality problem is not between the 90->99% and the 1%. To think that is to basically discount 90% of the population. The 90% plus of the population that simply doesn’t see the inequality first hand and his eyes, isn’t even worth bringing into the discussion.

emphasize that the historically proven way to reduce inequality is lifting people from the bottom with human capital reform, not pushing down the top. In short, counter angry progressivism with unifying uplift.

Piketty argues that r > g, that return from financial capital is greater than overall economic growth. Brooks totally ignores this point in his criticism of Piketty.

He argues for unifying uplift; a phrase that sounds like it comes from an American Apparel bra ad. What exactly is unifying uplift? If he is talking about increasing social spending, why not actually say that? Is he really just saying we can stop the formation of vast oligarchies if we come up with the right platitudes?

Red-biating Rises Again

Red-biating Rises Again:

Piketty himself is a social democrat who abjures the Marxist label. But as his title suggests, he is out to rehabilitate and recast one of Marx’s key ideas: that so-called “free markets,” by their nature, tend to enrich the owners of capital at the expense of people who own less of it.

On the right, being insufficiently worshipful of capitalism as they define it is now the same as being a Marxist. It doesn’t matter how you reach your conclusions, it doesn’t matter if you disagree with 90% of Marx. If you do not follow the right-wing party line on capital, it’s the same as being a devoted Marxist.

The Piketty Panic

The Piketty Panic:

what’s really new about “Capital” is the way it demolishes that most cherished of conservative myths, the insistence that we’re living in a meritocracy in which great wealth is earned and deserved.

In the warped little minds of the hard right, the real problem isn’t capitalism (which they redefine as needed) but crony capitalism (which they also redefine as needed) where the very wealthy use the state to steal wealth. But we also can’t tax those people because that’s theft and will reduce the incentive for them to work hard. And pointing out the contradiction is Marxism.

Southerners Don’t Like Obamacare. They Also Don’t Want to Repeal It.

Southerners Don’t Like Obamacare. They Also Don’t Want to Repeal It.:

Despite strong dislike of President Obama’s handling of health care, a majority of people in three Southern states – Kentucky, Louisiana and North Carolina – would rather that Congress improve his signature health care law than repeal and replace it, according to a New York Times Upshot/Kaiser Family Foundation poll.

I can’t wait until i start reading about red states where they want government to stay out of their obama-care.

A Nation of Takers?

A Nation of Takers?:

I worry about those tycoons sponging off government. Won’t our pampering damage their character? Won’t they become addicted to the entitlement culture, demanding subsidies even for their yachts?

Obama to Call for End to N.S.A.’s Bulk Data Collection

Obama to Call for End to N.S.A.’s Bulk Data Collection:

Under the proposal, they said, N.S.A. would end its systematic collection of data about Americans’ calling habits. The records would stay in the hands of phone companies, which would not be required to retain the data for any longer than they normally would. And the N.S.A. could obtain specific records only with permission from a judge, using a new kind of court order.

So lets see if congress can demand and get proper oversight. This assumes they can take a brief pause from voting to repeal Obamacare and so something useful.

Paul Ryan’s Irish Amnesia

Paul Ryan’s Irish Amnesia:

What infuriated Mitchel was that the Irish were starving to death at the very time that rich stores of grain and fat livestock owned by absentee landlords were being shipped out of the country. The food was produced by Irish hands on Irish lands but would not go into Irish mouths, for fear that such “charity” would upset the free market, and make people lazy.

….

“We have this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work.” In other words, these people are bred poor and lazy. Where have I heard that before? Ah, yes — 19th-century England. The Irish national character, Trevelyan confided to a fellow aristocrat, was “defective.” The hungry millions were “a selfish, perverse, and turbulent” people, said the man in charge of relieving their plight.

Worth a read. The inference to suffering on the right is amazing.

Work Like a German

Work Like a German:

Germany suffered a more precipitous drop in gross domestic product than the United States, but it experienced almost no change in unemployment. Here, it doubled. Today, unemployment in Germany is actually lower than it was pre-crisis, and long-term unemployment is negligible.

Rather than enforce austerity on the population, German reformed and improved its social safety net during the crisis and is better for it.

We have a growing problem with disability insurance. But because its whiter, more southern and more male than the nation as a whole, no one dare call it welfare. When white southern men get paid to not work it’s not welfare.

The Real Poverty Trap

The Real Poverty Trap:

the evidence suggests that welfare-state programs enhance social mobility, thanks to little things like children of the poor having adequate nutrition and medical care. And conversely,of course, when such programs are absent or inadequate, the poor find themselves in a trap they often can’t escape, not because they lack the incentive, but because they lack the resources.

The stats make the article worth a read. Basically, if you make it easier for people to be less poor, people will be less likely to be poor. No surprise there.

Krugman: Envy Versus Anger

Krugman: Envy Versus Anger:

But the polling data don’t say anything about envy: when people say that they have lost their belief that hard work will be rewarded, they aren’t saying that they are envious of the rich; they’re saying that they have lost their belief that hard work will be rewarded. To the extent that people have negative feelings about the one percent, the emotion involved isn’t envy — it’s anger, which isn’t at all the same thing. Envy is when you have negative feelings about rich because of what they have; anger is when you have negative feelings about the rich because of what they do.

The standard defense is to dismiss criticism of 1% by the 99% as envy and criticism of the 1% by the 1% as hypocrisy. How convenient that literally no one is able to criticize the 1% without that being proof that there is something wrong with them.

Federal Budget Deficit Falls to Smallest Level Since 2008

Federal Budget Deficit Falls to Smallest Level Since 2008:

In nominal terms, that is the smallest deficit since 2008, and signals the end of a five-year stretch beginning with the onset of the recession when the country’s fiscal gap came in at more than $1 trillion each year. As a share of the nation’s economy, the budget deficit fell to about 4.1 percent, from a high of more than 10 percent during the depths of the Great Recession.

So can we talk about issues other than cutting social programs now? At what point can we start talking about policy that does’t involve cutting taxes for the wealthy and gutting programs for the poor?

The Undeserving Rich

The Undeserving Rich:

conservatives seem fixated on the notion that poverty is basically the result of character problems among the poor. This may once have had a grain of truth to it, but for the past three decades and more the main obstacle facing the poor has been the lack of jobs paying decent wages. But the myth of the undeserving poor persists, and so does a counterpart myth, that of the deserving rich.

I’m waiting on the right wing responses to this. I’m guessing the same old crap about taxation and gubmint.

Derp Pirate Roberts

Derp Pirate Roberts:

Mr. Green had “died of asphyxiation/heart rupture” while being tortured, nob explained. Dread Pirate Roberts replied that he found the images disturbing, but that he did not have any other choice. “I just wish more people had some integrity,” D.P.R. wrote.

DPR was acting exactly how critics of far-right libertarians suggest people in his position would act.

What Happens When the Poor Receive a Stipend?

What Happens When the Poor Receive a Stipend?:

What precisely did the income change? Ongoing interviews with both parents and children suggested one variable in particular. The money, which amounted to between one-third and one-quarter of poor families’ income at one point, seemed to improve parenting quality.

That “helps parents be better parents,” she said.

Turns out that giving poor people money helps then escape poverty.

Enemies of the Poor

Enemies of the Poor:

our patchwork, uncoordinated system of antipoverty programs does have the effect of penalizing efforts by lower-income households to improve their position: the more they earn, the fewer benefits they can collect. In effect, these households face very high marginal tax rates. A large fraction, in some cases 80 cents or more, of each additional dollar they earn is clawed back by the government.The question is what we could do to reduce these high effective tax rates.

That’s Friedman’s argument for a negative income tax.

Mankiw makes an argument against raising the minimum wage

Mankiw makes an argument against raising the minimum wage:

Mankiw makes an argument against raising the minimum wage.

My two big issues with this is that the EITC acts as a de-facto subsidy to those who hire low wage workers. This subsidy would, (using Mankiw’s logic) dis-incentivize productivity gains via automation and advantage industries that are built around low-wage, low skill work.

So, why should the income tax system be used to subsidy low-wage, low-skill, low productivity workers and the industries that require them rather than advantage higher-skill, higher-wage higher productivity work?

A War on the Poor

A War on the Poor:

I still sometimes see pundits claiming that the Tea Party movement is basically driven by concerns about budget deficits. That’s delusional. Read the founding rant by Rick Santelli of CNBC: There’s nary a mention of deficits. Instead, it’s a tirade against the possibility that the government might help “losers” avoid foreclosure. Or read transcripts from Rush Limbaugh or other right-wing talk radio hosts. There’s not much about fiscal responsibility, but there’s a lot about how the government is rewarding the lazy and undeserving.

The tea party merges the prosperity gospels with Ayn Rand and walks away with a belief that economics is nothing more than a morality play where the wealthy are wealthy because of virtue and the poor are poor because of vice. 

The Debt Ceiling and the Housing Bust

The Debt Ceiling and the Housing Bust:

You can argue that these spending cuts wouldn’t have as much impact as the housing bust, because payment would be delayed, not cancelled, and at least some players would continue to expect eventual payment. On the other hand, as I pointed out in my last post, this time around we would have disconnected the automatic stabilizers — as GDP fell, revenues would fall, forcing another round of spending cuts, and so on.


GOP seems to prefer vicious cycles to virtuous ones. 

Krugman: Automatic Destabilizers

Krugman: Automatic Destabilizers:

The immediate question is whether Treasury can, in fact, “prioritize” — pay interest on the debt while stiffing everyone else, from vendors to Social Security recipients. If they can, they might choose to do this to avoid financial meltdown.

My worry s that once people stop getting paid the GOP will decided that they have more leverage and make greater demands. 

The Rational Choices of Crack Addicts

The Rational Choices of Crack Addicts:

“They didn’t fit the caricature of the drug addict who can’t stop once he gets a taste,” Dr. Hart said. “When they were given an alternative to crack, they made rational economic decisions.”


At some point we will have to come to terms with the fact that addiction, poverty and violence are related social ills that can only be solved together and only by collective action.

Rich Man's Recovery

Rich Man's Recovery

>These numbers should (but probably won't) finally kill claims that rising inequality is all about the highly educated doing better than those with less training. Only a small fraction of college graduates make it into the charmed circle of the 1 percent. Meanwhile, many, even most, highly educated young people are having a very rough time. They have their degrees, often acquired at the cost of heavy debts, butmany remain unemployed or underemployed

The Rational Choices of Crack Addicts

The Rational Choices of Crack Addicts

> "They didn't fit the caricature of the drug addict who can't stop once he gets a taste," Dr. Hart said. "When they were given an alternative to crack, they made rational economic decisions."


At some point we will have to come to terms with the fact that addiction, poverty and violence are related social ills that can only be solved together and only by collective action.

How to Charge $546 for Six Liters of Saltwater

How to Charge $546 for Six Liters of Saltwater

as the tale of the humble IV bag shows all too clearly, it is secrecy that helps keep prices high: hidden in the underbrush of transactions among multiple buyers and sellers, and in the hieroglyphics of hospital bills. At every step from manufacturer to patient, there are confidential deals among the major players, including drug companies, purchasing organizations and distributors, and insurers. These deals so obscure prices and profits that even participants cannot say what the simplest component of care actually costs, let alone what it should cost.

The term is information asymmetry. And it is one of the reasons why health care in the US is so damn costly and everyone claims that they are not the ones making money on health care.

NYT: Welcome to the Age of Denial

NYT: Welcome to the Age of Denial

Today, however, it is politically effective, and socially acceptable, to deny scientific fact. Narrowly defined, "creationism" was a minor current in American thinking for much of the 20th century. But in the years since I was a student, a well-funded effort has skillfully rebranded that ideology as "creation science" and pushed it into classrooms across the country. Though transparently unscientific, denying evolution has become a litmus test for some conservative politicians, even at the highest levels.

Meanwhile, climate deniers, taking pages from the creationists' PR playbook, have manufactured doubt about fundamental issues in climate science that were decided scientifically decades ago. And anti-vaccine campaigners brandish a few long-discredited studies to make unproven claims about links between autism and vaccination.

This is the age of truthiness. We have an industry that promotes truthiness and employes people to provide fact-like quotes to balance out arguments.

Moment of Truthiness

Moment of Truthiness

Do people like Mr. Cantor or Mr. Paul know that what they're saying isn't true? Do they care? Probably not. In Stephen Colbert's famous formulation, claims about runaway deficits may not be true, but they have truthiness, and that's all that matters.

And please stop saying both sides are just as bad. MSNBC is not reporting we are running a surplus. The NYT isn’t reporting there is no deficit. Its isn’t the same.

John Galt and the Theory of the Firm

John Galt and the Theory of the Firm

We may live in a market sea, but that sea is dotted with many islands that we call firms, some of them quite large, within which decisions are made not via markets but via hierarchy - even, you might say, via central planning. Clearly, there are some things you don't want to leave up to the market - the market itself is telling us that, by creating those islands of planning and hierarchy.

Dementia Rate Is Found to Drop Sharply due to health care and education improvements?

Dementia Rate Is Found to Drop Sharply due to health care and education improvements?

experts on aging said the studies also confirmed something they had suspected but had had difficulty proving: that dementia rates would fall and mental acuity improve as the population grew healthier and better educated. The incidence of dementia is lower among those better educated, as well as among those who control their blood pressure and cholesterol, possibly because some dementia is caused by ministrokes and other vascular damage. So as populations controlled cardiovascular risk factors better and had more years of schooling, it made sense that the risk of dementia might decrease. A half-dozen previous studies had hinted that the rate was falling, but they had flaws that led some to doubt the conclusions.

Defending the Coup

Defending the Coup

members of the Muslim Brotherhood are defined by certain beliefs. They reject pluralism, secular democracy and, to some degree, modernity. When you elect fanatics, they continue, you have not advanced democracy. You have empowered people who are going to wind up subverting democracy. The important thing is to get people like that out of power, even if it takes a coup.

Replace Muslim Brotherhood with Conservative Movement and it is oddly accurate.

Krugman: Where Are The Deficit Celebrations?

Krugman: Where Are The Deficit Celebrations?

For three years and more Beltway politics has been all about the deficit. Urgent action was needed to avert crisis. A Grand Bargain absolutely had to be reached. Fix the Debt, now now now!

So where are the celebrations now that the debt issue looks, if not solved, at least greatly mitigated? And it's not just recovering revenues: health costs, the biggest driver of long-run spending, have slowed dramatically

Maybe they didn’t actually care about debt and deficit? Maybe the people who said nothing while W grew the debt don’t care about fiscal issues at all. They care about cutting the parts of the state that provide services for the bottom 99% and transferring that wealth to the top 1%

Krugman: Not Everything Is Political

Krugman: Not Everything Is Political

in practice it turns out that many conservatives are unwilling to concede that Keynesian macro has any validity to it, or that you can sometimes run the printing presses without unleashing runaway inflation, because they fear that any such admission would open the doors to much wider government intervention. But that's exactly my point! They're letting their views about how the world works be dictated by their vision of the kind of society they want; they're politicizing their economic analysis. And that's why they keep getting everything wrong.

This is why we can not have a policy discussion. Because one side doesn’t care about how the world actually works, only the kind of world they wish to live in.

Bush brought an unprecedented level of systematic dishonesty to American political life

Bush brought an unprecedented level of systematic dishonesty to American political life, and we may never recover. Think about his two main "achievements", if you want to call them that: the tax cuts and the Iraq war, both of which continue to cast long shadows over our nation's destiny. The key thing to remember is that both were sold with lies.
Krugman: Bush brought an unprecedented level of systematic dishonesty to American political life

Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin's Post-Scandal Playbook

Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin's Post-Scandal Playbook

At breakfast, Weiner quickly put all the speculation to rest: he is eyeing the mayor's race. He told me that his political committee spent more than $100,000 on polling and research by Obama's longtime pollster, David Binder …. The focus of the poll, Binder says, was the question "Are voters willing to give him a second chance or not, regardless of what race or what contest?"

I say give him a second chance. What he did was an awful lapse in judgment but not something that should end his life.

it's hard to think of a proposition that has been more thoroughly refuted by history than the notion that social insurance undermines a free society. Almost 70 years have passed since Friedrich Hayek predicted (or at any rate was understood by his admirers to predict) that Britain's welfare state would put the nation on the slippery slope to Stalinism; 46 years have passed since Medicare went into effect; as far as most of us can tell, freedom hasn't died on either side of the Atlantic.

it's hard to think of a proposition that has been more thoroughly refuted by history than the notion that social insurance undermines a free society. Almost 70 years have passed since Friedrich Hayek predicted (or at any rate was understood by his admirers to predict) that Britain's welfare state would put the nation on the slippery slope to Stalinism; 46 years have passed since Medicare went into effect; as far as most of us can tell, freedom hasn't died on either side of the Atlantic.
Krugman: Insurance and Freedom

with Hayek, as with Reagan, the truly amazing thing is that we have people citing as a source of wisdom someone who has been as thoroughly refuted by history as anyone can be. Three generations into the modern welfare state, and western democracies look less Stalinist than ever.

with Hayek, as with Reagan, the truly amazing thing is that we have people citing as a source of wisdom someone who has been as thoroughly refuted by history as anyone can be. Three generations into the modern welfare state, and western democracies look less Stalinist than ever.
Jack-booted Insurance-bringing Thugs

When Europe began its infatuation with austerity, top officials dismissed concerns that slashing spending and raising taxes in depressed economies might deepen their depressions. On the contrary, they insisted, such policies would actually boost economies by inspiring confidence. But the confidence fairy was a no-show. Nations imposing harsh austerity suffered deep economic downturns; the harsher the austerity, the deeper the downturn. Indeed, this relationship has been so strong that the International Monetary Fund, in a striking mea culpa, admitted that it had underestimated the damage austerity would inflict.

When Europe began its infatuation with austerity, top officials dismissed concerns that slashing spending and raising taxes in depressed economies might deepen their depressions. On the contrary, they insisted, such policies would actually boost economies by inspiring confidence. But the confidence fairy was a no-show. Nations imposing harsh austerity suffered deep economic downturns; the harsher the austerity, the deeper the downturn. Indeed, this relationship has been so strong that the International Monetary Fund, in a striking mea culpa, admitted that it had underestimated the damage austerity would inflict.

Austerity, Italian-Style - NYTimes.com

And the response is always the same. It wasn’t enough austerity! They didn’t go far enough! Cut more!

Economics 101 tells us to be very cautious about attempts to legislate market outcomes. Every textbook - mine included - lays out the unintended consequences that flow from policies like rent controls or agricultural price supports. And even most liberal economists would, I suspect, agree that setting a minimum wage of, say, $20 an hour would create a lot of problems. But that's not what's on the table. And there are strong reasons to believe that the kind of minimum wage increase the president is proposing would have overwhelmingly positive effects.

Economics 101 tells us to be very cautious about attempts to legislate market outcomes. Every textbook - mine included - lays out the unintended consequences that flow from policies like rent controls or agricultural price supports. And even most liberal economists would, I suspect, agree that setting a minimum wage of, say, $20 an hour would create a lot of problems. But that's not what's on the table. And there are strong reasons to believe that the kind of minimum wage increase the president is proposing would have overwhelmingly positive effects.

Raise That Wage - NYTimes.com

All the people claiming that those in favor of raising the minimum wage are ignorant of, or not considering basic econ101 are clearly wrong. But they will keep making that claim anyway.

High Taxes Are Not a Prime Reason for Relocation

High Taxes Are Not a Prime Reason for Relocation

The Myth of the Rich Who Flee From Taxes "It's very clear that, over all, modest changes in top tax rates do not affect millionaire migration," he told me this week. "Neither tax increases nor tax cuts on the rich have affected their migration rates."

The idea that rich people are more concerned about money they pay in taxes rather than the money they make or the services they utilize seems counterintuitive to anyone looking at marginal utility of income at the high end.

Disco-era Macroeconomics

Disco-era Macroeconomics

People on the right tend to use "Keynesian" to mean "liberal stuff I don't like", but aside from that definition, the 70s tell us nothing about the issues we're discussing right now. You can argue that monetary policy was too loose, that the Fed was too expansionary in 1972 (when Arthur Burns was trying to reelect Richard Nixon) and that it failed to tighten in the face of oil-shock-driven inflation. But again, the idea that this experience has any relevance to expansionary fiscal policy in the face of a liquidity trap is totally bogus.

Worth a read.

The haters love to claim that people like me view more demand, more money printing, as the solution to all problems. But of course that's not true. Aggregate demand won't solve a problem of low productivity, or inadequate productive capacity, or for that matter extreme inequality due to technology or market power. But it can solve certain problems, which happen to be the problems we have now.

The haters love to claim that people like me view more demand, more money printing, as the solution to all problems. But of course that's not true. Aggregate demand won't solve a problem of low productivity, or inadequate productive capacity, or for that matter extreme inequality due to technology or market power. But it can solve certain problems, which happen to be the problems we have now.
Money, Wealth, and Models - NYTimes.com

Outside that bubble, a fair number of people have noticed that Keynesian economics has performed spectacularly in the crisis - it successfully predicted that deficits wouldn't drive up interest rates, that monetary expansion wouldn't be inflationary, that austerity policies in Britain and elsewhere would hit economic growth. And no, don't tell me that Keynesians predicted that the Obama stimulus would produce full employment; serious Keynesians, like me, were more or less frantically warning back in early 2009 that the stimulus was too small. But in Ryan's world everyone knows that Keynesian economics has failed.

Outside that bubble, a fair number of people have noticed that Keynesian economics has performed spectacularly in the crisis - it successfully predicted that deficits wouldn't drive up interest rates, that monetary expansion wouldn't be inflationary, that austerity policies in Britain and elsewhere would hit economic growth. And no, don't tell me that Keynesians predicted that the Obama stimulus would produce full employment; serious Keynesians, like me, were more or less frantically warning back in early 2009 that the stimulus was too small. But in Ryan's world everyone knows that Keynesian economics has failed.
Failures - NYTimes.com

we have a situation in which a terrorist may be about to walk into a crowded room and threaten to blow up a bomb he's holding. It turns out, however, that the Secret Service has figured out a way to disarm this maniac - a way that for some reason will require that the Secretary of the Treasury briefly wear a clown suit. (My fictional plotting skills have let me down, but there has to be some way to work this in). And the response of the nervous Nellies is, "My god, we can't dress the secretary up as a clown!" Even when it will make him a hero who saves the day?

we have a situation in which a terrorist may be about to walk into a crowded room and threaten to blow up a bomb he's holding. It turns out, however, that the Secret Service has figured out a way to disarm this maniac - a way that for some reason will require that the Secretary of the Treasury briefly wear a clown suit. (My fictional plotting skills have let me down, but there has to be some way to work this in). And the response of the nervous Nellies is, "My god, we can't dress the secretary up as a clown!" Even when it will make him a hero who saves the day?
Rage Against the Coin - NYTimes.com

The key thing to remember - and what the GOP hopes you won't understand - is that raising the debt ceiling only empowers the president to spend money that he's authorized to spend by Congressional legislation; nothing more. Conversely, a party that refuses to raise the debt limit is saying that it's prepared to inflict vast damage on America in order to achieve things that it couldn't achieve through actual legislation - in effect, that it's prepared to use vandalism to subvert the constitutional process.

The key thing to remember - and what the GOP hopes you won't understand - is that raising the debt ceiling only empowers the president to spend money that he's authorized to spend by Congressional legislation; nothing more. Conversely, a party that refuses to raise the debt limit is saying that it's prepared to inflict vast damage on America in order to achieve things that it couldn't achieve through actual legislation - in effect, that it's prepared to use vandalism to subvert the constitutional process.
The Hostage Drama Begins - NYTimes.com

How Costco Became the Anti-Wal-Mart

How Costco Became the Anti-Wal-Mart

Costco’s average pay, for example, is $17 an hour, 42 percent higher than its fiercest rival, Sam’s Club. And Costco’s health plan makes those at many other retailers look Scroogish. One analyst, Bill Dreher of Deutsche Bank, complained last year that at Costco “it’s better to be an employee or a customer than a shareholder.” Mr. Sinegal begs to differ. He rejects Wall Street’s assumption that to succeed in discount retailing, companies must pay poorly and skimp on benefits, or must ratchet up prices to meet Wall Street’s profit demands. Good wages and benefits are why Costco has extremely low rates of turnover and theft by employees, he said. And Costco’s customers, who are more affluent than other warehouse store shoppers, stay loyal because they like that low prices do not come at the workers’ expense. “This is not altruistic,” he said. “This is good business.”

the deficit-scold movement was never really about the deficit

Recent events have also demonstrated clearly what was already apparent to careful observers: the deficit-scold movement was never really about the deficit. Instead, it was about using deficit fears to shred the social safety net. And letting that happen wouldn't just be bad policy; it would be a betrayal of the Americans who just re-elected a health-reformer president and voted in some of the most progressive senators ever.
—Krugman on the deficit scolds Deficit Hawks and Hypocrites - NYTimes.com

Egyptian Vigilantes Crack Down on Abuse of Women

Egyptian Vigilantes Crack Down on Abuse of Women

The young activists lingered on the streets around Tahrir Square, scrutinizing the crowds of holiday revelers. Suddenly, they charged, pushing people aside and chasing down a young man. As the captive thrashed to get away, the activists pounded his shoulders, flipped him around and spray-painted a message on his back: "I'm a harasser."

Mixed feelings on this. I normally do not support vigilante justice. But in this case, where the police are not doing their job, this might be justified.

Mr. Romney Reinvents History

Mr. Romney Reinvents History

The truth, rarely heard this week in Tampa, Fla., is that the Republicans charted a course of denial and obstruction from the day Mr. Obama was inaugurated, determined to deny him a second term by denying him any achievement, no matter the cost to the economy or American security - even if it meant holding the nation's credit rating hostage to a narrow partisan agenda.

anyone who believes that the gold standard era was marked by price stability, or for that matter any kind of stability, just hasn't looked at the evidence. The fact is that prices have been far more stable under that dangerous inflationist Ben Bernanke than they ever were when gold ruled.

anyone who believes that the gold standard era was marked by price stability, or for that matter any kind of stability, just hasn't looked at the evidence. The fact is that prices have been far more stable under that dangerous inflationist Ben Bernanke than they ever were when gold ruled.
Golden Instability - NYTimes.com

The Ryan Role

The Ryan Role

Ryan hasn't "crunched the numbers"; he has just scribbled some stuff down, without checking at all to see if it makes sense. He asserts that he can cut taxes without net loss of revenue by closing unspecified loopholes; he asserts that he can cut discretionary spending to levels not seen since Calvin Coolidge, without saying how; he asserts that he can convert Medicare to a voucher system, with much lower spending than now projected, without even a hint of how this is supposed to work. This is just a fantasy, not a serious policy proposal.

The Ryan plan is snake oil. I’m starting to think that Romney picked him to divert from his tax disclosure problems.

What does it say about Romney's campaign that to run against a sitting president, one with a three and a half year track record, they have to lie about what he said to find a point of attack?

What does it say about Romney's campaign that to run against a sitting president, one with a three and a half year track record, they have to lie about what he said to find a point of attack?

They Didn’t Build That - NYTimes.com

Once again, reality has a liberal bias.

Reagan Was a Keynesian

Reagan Was a Keynesian

Reagan, not Obama, was the big spender. While there was a brief burst of government spending early in the Obama administration - mainly for emergency aid programs like unemployment insurance and food stamps - that burst is long past. Indeed, at this point, government spending is falling fast, with real per capita spending falling over the past year at a rate not seen since the demobilization that followed the Korean War. Why was government spending much stronger under Reagan than in the current slump? "Weaponized Keynesianism" - Reagan's big military buildup - played some role. But the big difference was real per capita spending at the state and local level, which continued to rise under Reagan but has fallen significantly this time around. … if you want to see government responding to economic hard times with the "tax and spend" policies conservatives always denounce, you should look to the Reagan era - not the Obama years.

The current GOP is so far removed from the GOP under Reagan it is almost unrecognizable.

The New Political Correctness

The New Political Correctness

Today, however, the big threat to our discourse is right-wing political correctness, which - unlike the liberal version - has lots of power and money behind it. And the goal is very much the kind of thing Orwell tried to convey with his notion of Newspeak: to make it impossible to talk, and possibly even think, about ideas that challenge the established order. Thus, even talking about "the wealthy" brings angry denunciations; we're supposed to call them "job creators". Even talking about inequality is "class warfare".

Krugman is 100% on the mark here. The real epidemic of political correctness is from the right not the left.

one thing I've noticed is that everyone on the right, and a fair number of people who should know better, basically believes that Gordon Gekko was right. Before the Gekkos came along, they assert, American business was sluggish, unproductive, and uncompetitive. Then came the LBOs and all that, and our economic energy was unleashed. As I said, everyone on the right knows that this happened. Needless to say, none of it is at all true.

one thing I've noticed is that everyone on the right, and a fair number of people who should know better, basically believes that Gordon Gekko was right. Before the Gekkos came along, they assert, American business was sluggish, unproductive, and uncompetitive. Then came the LBOs and all that, and our economic energy was unleashed. As I said, everyone on the right knows that this happened. Needless to say, none of it is at all true.

Was Greed Good? - NYTimes.com

Krugman looks at the numbers.

Japan, which is spending heavily for post-tsunami reconstruction, is growing quite fast, while Italy, which is imposing austerity measures, is shrinking almost equally fast. There seems to be some kind of lesson here about macroeconomics, but I can't quite put my finger on it If austerity worked, the bars for the UK and Italy would be positive. It spending didn't work, the bars for Japan would look like Italy's bar. (via Spending and Growth - NYTimes.com)

Bruce Bartlett: What Rule Should the Federal Reserve Follow?

Bruce Bartlett: What Rule Should the Federal Reserve Follow?

Representative Paul is here reciting the "Austrian" theory of the Great Depression. It says that even though there was no inflation during the 1920s, somehow or other inflation nevertheless caused the Great Depression. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices were either flat or falling throughout the 1920s - i.e., deflation. But the Austrian school believes there was actually some sort of double-secret inflation because the money supply increased. They believe the same thing is happening right now.

Bruce Bartlett explaining Austrian views and how they get basic facts wrong.

In New York, Neglected Trees Prove Deadly

In New York, Neglected Trees Prove Deadly

There are roughly 2.5 million trees in the city's parks and on its streets. Adrian Benepe, the parks commissioner, noted that his department administered care to more than 70,000 of those trees a year with procedures that he said "prioritize public safety" while preserving and expanding the urban forest. "Unfortunately," he said, "nature is unpredictable and limbs can fall even from healthy and well-pruned trees.

The number of trees that look ready to collapse in prospect park is pretty high. For the most part, they are off trail and deeper into the park, but there is on on a hill off Prospect Park Southwest that I know is going to fall outside the park and onto the sidewalk at some point.

I didn't believe in the liquidity trap and was pretty down on old-fashioned Keynesianism until 1998, when a hard look at Japan and an attempt to understand what was happening there led me to change my mind.

I didn't believe in the liquidity trap and was pretty down on old-fashioned Keynesianism until 1998, when a hard look at Japan and an attempt to understand what was happening there led me to change my mind.

Krugman on Japan and Keynes.

Macroeconomic Morality - NYTimes.com

People in my camp have repeated until we're blue in the face that the case for fiscal expansion is very specific to circumstance - it's desirable when you're in a liquidity trap, and only when you're in a liquidity trap.

People in my camp have repeated until we're blue in the face that the case for fiscal expansion is very specific to circumstance - it's desirable when you're in a liquidity trap, and only when you're in a liquidity trap.

Structural Flashbacks - NYTimes.com

Keynesian Economics 101

Venezuela Faces Shortages in Grocery Staples

Venezuela Faces Shortages in Grocery Staples

By 6:30 a.m., a full hour and a half before the store would open, about two dozen people were already in line. They waited patiently, not for the latest iPhone, but for something far more basic: groceries. "Whatever I can get," said Katherine Huga, 23, a mother of two, describing her shopping list. She gave a shrug of resignation. "You buy what they have." Venezuela is one of the world's top oil producers at a time of soaring energy prices, yet shortages of staples like milk, meat and toilet paper are a chronic part of life here, often turning grocery shopping into a hit or miss proposition.

If the economy is this messed up with oil at historic highs, what happens if oil drop by 10% or 20%? Price controls don’t work. As far as I can tell, Chavez's has turned to really radical and awful price controls to reign in inflation. They should be raising interest rates to control inflation and opening up to free trade.

Mr. Romney constantly talks about job losses under Mr. Obama. Yet all of the net job loss took place in the first few months of 2009, that is, before any of the new administration's policies had time to take effect. So the Ohio speech was a perfect illustration of the way the Romney campaign is banking on amnesia, on the hope that voters don't remember that Mr. Obama inherited an economy that was already in free fall.

Mr. Romney constantly talks about job losses under Mr. Obama. Yet all of the net job loss took place in the first few months of 2009, that is, before any of the new administration's policies had time to take effect. So the Ohio speech was a perfect illustration of the way the Romney campaign is banking on amnesia, on the hope that voters don't remember that Mr. Obama inherited an economy that was already in free fall.
The Amnesia Candidate - NYTimes.com

Europe has had several years of experience with harsh austerity programs

Europe has had several years of experience with harsh austerity programs, and the results are exactly what students of history told you would happen: such programs push depressed economies even deeper into depression. And because investors look at the state of a nation's economy when assessing its ability to repay debt, austerity programs haven't even worked as a way to reduce borrowing costs.
Europe's Economic Suicide - NYTimes.com

what the money of rich cranks does is ensure that bad ideas never go away - indeed, they can gain strength even as they fail in practice again and again. The notion that wonderful things happen if you cut taxes on the rich and terrible things happen if you raise them has a stronger hold than ever on the GOP, despite the experience of the Clinton tax hike and the Bush tax cut.

what the money of rich cranks does is ensure that bad ideas never go away - indeed, they can gain strength even as they fail in practice again and again. The notion that wonderful things happen if you cut taxes on the rich and terrible things happen if you raise them has a stronger hold than ever on the GOP, despite the experience of the Clinton tax hike and the Bush tax cut.

Crankocracy - NYTimes.com

Crankocracy. Its a thing now.

when the rating agencies upgraded the UK outlook, the Cameron government hailed this as proof that austerity was working; when they downgraded it due to poor economic performance, the Cameron government declared that this showed the need for even more austerity.

when the rating agencies upgraded the UK outlook, the Cameron government hailed this as proof that austerity was working; when they downgraded it due to poor economic performance, the Cameron government declared that this showed the need for even more austerity.

It’s Always Time For Austerity - NYTimes.com

The beatings will continue until moral improves.

They roam by night, picking cornstalks clean, making off with apple crops. They have almost no natural predators, but they have razor-sharp tusks and a seemingly bottomless appetite for plants and animals. Their population can triple in one year.

They roam by night, picking cornstalks clean, making off with apple crops. They have almost no natural predators, but they have razor-sharp tusks and a seemingly bottomless appetite for plants and animals. Their population can triple in one year.
Feral Pigs Plaguing Upstate New York - NYTimes.com

Mankiw: Capital Gains vs. Ordinary Income, a little puzzle on policy.

Mankiw: Capital Gains vs. Ordinary Income, a little puzzle on policy.

If you have a job, the money you are paid for your work is ordinary income. If you buy an asset at one time and sell it later for a higher price, the profit you made from holding it is a capital gain. But is it really that easy? Consider five examples, and see if you can identify what is ordinary income and what is a capital gain.

Really great explanation. A must read.

Pundits in good standing have been expected to make calls for bipartisanship that involve pretending that Republican politicians are actually the kind of statesmen the party used to contain, but no longer does.

Pundits in good standing have been expected to make calls for bipartisanship that involve pretending that Republican politicians are actually the kind of statesmen the party used to contain, but no longer does.
Looking Back With Shrillness - NYTimes.com

Less than 1 percent of registered voters turned out for Maine's caucus. In Nevada, where Republican turnout was down 25 percent from 2008, only 3 percent of total registered voters participated. This is not majority rule by any measure; it barely qualifies as participatory democracy.

Less than 1 percent of registered voters turned out for Maine's caucus. In Nevada, where Republican turnout was down 25 percent from 2008, only 3 percent of total registered voters participated. This is not majority rule by any measure; it barely qualifies as participatory democracy.
The Electoral Wasteland - NYTimes.com

To pass through Grand Central Terminal, one of New York's exalted public spaces, is an ennobling experience, a gift. To commute via the bowels of Penn Station, just a few blocks away, is a humiliation. What is the value of architecture? It can be measured, culturally, humanely and historically, in the gulf between these two places.

To pass through Grand Central Terminal, one of New York's exalted public spaces, is an ennobling experience, a gift. To commute via the bowels of Penn Station, just a few blocks away, is a humiliation. What is the value of architecture? It can be measured, culturally, humanely and historically, in the gulf between these two places.
A Proposal for Penn Station and Madison Square Garden - NYTimes.com

At 102%, His Tax Rate Takes the Cake

At 102%, His Tax Rate Takes the Cake

That doesn't mean Mr. Ross pays more in taxes than he earns. His total tax as a percentage of his adjusted gross income was 20 percent, which is much lower than mine. That's because Mr. Ross has so many itemized deductions. Since taxable income is what's left after itemized deductions like mortgage interest, charitable contributions, and state and local taxes are subtracted, it will nearly always be smaller than adjusted gross income and demonstrates how someone can pay more than 100 percent of taxable income in tax.

His tax rate is 102% His total tax on his adjusted gross income was at 20% So…does it make sense to cut his taxes when he rate he actually pays is only 20%?

we have become a society in which less-educated men have great difficulty finding jobs with decent wages and good benefits. Yet somehow we're supposed to be surprised that such men have become less likely to participate in the work force or get married, and conclude that there must have been some mysterious moral collapse caused by snooty liberals.

we have become a society in which less-educated men have great difficulty finding jobs with decent wages and good benefits. Yet somehow we're supposed to be surprised that such men have become less likely to participate in the work force or get married, and conclude that there must have been some mysterious moral collapse caused by snooty liberals.
Money and Morals - NYTimes.com

you never do find conservatives arguing that we shouldn't worry about higher tax rates on the rich, because they'll just work harder to be able to afford those luxury goods; or that a higher inheritance tax probably expands work effort, because it would force the Paris Hiltons of this world to go out and get real jobs.

you never do find conservatives arguing that we shouldn't worry about higher tax rates on the rich, because they'll just work harder to be able to afford those luxury goods; or that a higher inheritance tax probably expands work effort, because it would force the Paris Hiltons of this world to go out and get real jobs.
Different Slopes for Different Folks - NYTimes.com

fact-checking should be about checking facts - not about trying to impose some sort of Marquess of Queensbury rules on how you're allowed to use facts. Aside from undermining the mission, this makes the whole thing subjective - notice that Politifact wasn't even analyzing what Obama said, they were analyzing their impression about what he might have been trying to imply.

fact-checking should be about checking facts - not about trying to impose some sort of Marquess of Queensbury rules on how you're allowed to use facts. Aside from undermining the mission, this makes the whole thing subjective - notice that Politifact wasn't even analyzing what Obama said, they were analyzing their impression about what he might have been trying to imply.
Finding the Truth - NYTimes.com

Say's Law For Thee But Not For Me

Say's Law For Thee But Not For Me

Mark Thoma notes a double standard in the conservative outcry over the Keystone XL decision. As he notes, when it comes to the question of whether government spending can create jobs, the usual suspects claim that it's logically impossible: income has to be spent somewhere, so all the government can do is divert funds from other uses. But when it's a private investment, somehow that logic no longer applies.

They also fail to connect tax cuts and tax credits to Say’s Law. The larger point is that they don’t care if the argument is true. It doesn’t have to be true for them to benefit from it.

The great era of US economic growth was the postwar generation

The great era of US economic growth was the postwar generation; even during the good years of the 90s we didn't achieve comparable growth, and overall, the post-Reagan era was marked by slower growth than the equivalent period of time pre-Reagan. And I haven't even gotten into the income distribution thing. All of which makes me wonder: what goes on in these peoples' minds? Do they never even think of actually looking at the numbers, because they know that Reagan ushered in a great boom?
Reaganite Delusions - NYTimes.com

is there anything at all in Romney's stump speech that's true? It's all based on attacking Obama for apologizing for America, which he didn't, on making deep cuts in defense, which he also didn't, and on being a radical redistributionist who wants equality of outcomes, which he isn't. When the issue turns to jobs, Romney makes false assertions both about Obama's record and about his own. I can't find a single true assertion anywhere.

is there anything at all in Romney's stump speech that's true? It's all based on attacking Obama for apologizing for America, which he didn't, on making deep cuts in defense, which he also didn't, and on being a radical redistributionist who wants equality of outcomes, which he isn't. When the issue turns to jobs, Romney makes false assertions both about Obama's record and about his own. I can't find a single true assertion anywhere.
Untruths, Wholly Untrue, And Nothing But Untruths - NYTimes.com

The story of Romney and the auto bailout

what the story of Romney and the auto bailout actually shows is something we already knew from health care: he's a smart guy who is also a moral coward. His original proposal for the auto industry, like his health reform, bore considerable resemblance to what Obama actually did. But when the deed took place, Romney - rather than having the courage to say that the president was actually doing something reasonable - joined the rest of his party in whining and denouncing the plan.
Romney and the Bailout - NYTimes.com

I'm trying to make it as absurd and useless as possible," Mr. Herscher said of the contraption, which will turn off the lights behind him when he leaves the room. It is the first in a series he calls Ecomachines, which will perform simple, energy-saving tasks in elaborately wasteful ways.

I'm trying to make it as absurd and useless as possible," Mr. Herscher said of the contraption, which will turn off the lights behind him when he leaves the room. It is the first in a series he calls Ecomachines, which will perform simple, energy-saving tasks in elaborately wasteful ways.
Man Embraces Useless Machines, and Absurdity Ensues - NYTimes.com

Harder for Americans to Rise From Lower Rungs

Harder for Americans to Rise From Lower Rungs

Americans enjoy less economic mobility than their peers in Canada and much of Western Europe. The mobility gap has been widely discussed in academic circles, but a sour season of mass unemployment and street protests has moved the discussion toward center stage.

Low taxes and anemic public services haven’t made for a more dynamic meritocracy so of course the right wants to fix this with lower taxes and fewer services.

right now, there are people declaring that our best days are behind us, that the economy has suffered a general loss of dynamism, that it's unrealistic to expect a quick return to anything like full employment. There were people saying the same thing in the 1930s! Then came the approach of World War II, which finally induced an adequate-sized fiscal stimulus - and suddenly there were enough jobs, and all those unneeded and useless workers turned out to be quite productive, thank you.

right now, there are people declaring that our best days are behind us, that the economy has suffered a general loss of dynamism, that it's unrealistic to expect a quick return to anything like full employment. There were people saying the same thing in the 1930s! Then came the approach of World War II, which finally induced an adequate-sized fiscal stimulus - and suddenly there were enough jobs, and all those unneeded and useless workers turned out to be quite productive, thank you.
The Defeatism of Depression - NYTimes.com

The bill does not require military custody for American citizens suspected of membership with Al Qaeda or an allied group, as it more or less does for foreigners. (Note, by the way, that this is all about suspicion, not proof.) But neither does it prohibit military trial or detention of American citizens. It's stunning that the president is willing to sign a bill that might effectively turn the right of habeas corpus into a mere privilege-even for citizens.

The bill does not require military custody for American citizens suspected of membership with Al Qaeda or an allied group, as it more or less does for foreigners. (Note, by the way, that this is all about suspicion, not proof.) But neither does it prohibit military trial or detention of American citizens. It's stunning that the president is willing to sign a bill that might effectively turn the right of habeas corpus into a mere privilege-even for citizens.

Does the NDAA Apply to American Citizens? - NYTimes.com

What’s also shocking is that the guy was a constitutional law professor. He must have covered the 6th amendment and habeas corpus in class.

the Austrian/Ron Paul types made some very strong predictions about inflation - and rightly, given their model of how the world works. In their version of reality, it really isn't possible to triple the monetary base without dire effects on the price level. In my version of reality, of course, that's not only possible but what the model predicts in a liquidity trap. So since we did indeed triple the monetary base with nothing much happening to inflation, the right lesson to draw is that their model is all wrong. Unfortunately, I see no hint that anyone in that camp is prepared to consider that possibility.

the Austrian/Ron Paul types made some very strong predictions about inflation - and rightly, given their model of how the world works. In their version of reality, it really isn't possible to triple the monetary base without dire effects on the price level. In my version of reality, of course, that's not only possible but what the model predicts in a liquidity trap. So since we did indeed triple the monetary base with nothing much happening to inflation, the right lesson to draw is that their model is all wrong. Unfortunately, I see no hint that anyone in that camp is prepared to consider that possibility.
Inflation Predictions - NYTimes.com

a bunch of people got together, with each group bringing what it could - the Wampanoag brought deer, the Pilgrims apparently shot some birds, etc.. Then everyone shared equally in the feast - regardless of how much they brought to the table. Socialism!

a bunch of people got together, with each group bringing what it could - the Wampanoag brought deer, the Pilgrims apparently shot some birds, etc.. Then everyone shared equally in the feast - regardless of how much they brought to the table. Socialism!
Thanksgiving Is Un-American - NYTimes.com

In Democrat-world, up is up and down is down. Raising taxes increases revenue, and cutting spending while the economy is still depressed reduces employment. But in Republican-world, down is up. The way to increase revenue is to cut taxes on corporations and the wealthy, and slashing government spending is a job-creation strategy. Try getting a leading Republican to admit that the Bush tax cuts increased the deficit or that sharp cuts in government spending (except on the military) would hurt the economic recovery.

In Democrat-world, up is up and down is down. Raising taxes increases revenue, and cutting spending while the economy is still depressed reduces employment. But in Republican-world, down is up. The way to increase revenue is to cut taxes on corporations and the wealthy, and slashing government spending is a job-creation strategy. Try getting a leading Republican to admit that the Bush tax cuts increased the deficit or that sharp cuts in government spending (except on the military) would hurt the economic recovery.
Failure Is Good - NYTimes.com

The first problem is that higher status for the wealthy can easily lead to crony capitalism. In public discourse social status judgments are often crude. Critical differences are lost, like the distinction between earning money through production for consumers, as Apple has done, and earning money through the manipulation of government, which heavily subsidized agribusinesses have done. The relevant question, in my view, is not about how much you have earned but about how you have earned it.

The first problem is that higher status for the wealthy can easily lead to crony capitalism. In public discourse social status judgments are often crude. Critical differences are lost, like the distinction between earning money through production for consumers, as Apple has done, and earning money through the manipulation of government, which heavily subsidized agribusinesses have done. The relevant question, in my view, is not about how much you have earned but about how you have earned it.
Turning the Dialogue From Wealth to Values
Great quote from Tyler Cowen.

This is the way the euro ends - not with a bang but with bunga bunga.... if you look around the world you see that the big determining factor for interest rates isn't the level of government debt but whether a government borrows in its own currency. Japan is much more deeply in debt than Italy, but the interest rate on long-term Japanese bonds is only about 1 percent to Italy's 7 percent. Britain's fiscal prospects look worse than Spain's, but Britain can borrow at just a bit over 2 percent, while Spain is paying almost 6 percent. What has happened, it turns out, is that by going on the euro, Spain and Italy in effect reduced themselves to the status of third-world countries that have to borrow in someone else's currency, with all the loss of flexibility that implies.

This is the way the euro ends - not with a bang but with bunga bunga…. if you look around the world you see that the big determining factor for interest rates isn't the level of government debt but whether a government borrows in its own currency. Japan is much more deeply in debt than Italy, but the interest rate on long-term Japanese bonds is only about 1 percent to Italy's 7 percent. Britain's fiscal prospects look worse than Spain's, but Britain can borrow at just a bit over 2 percent, while Spain is paying almost 6 percent.

What has happened, it turns out, is that by going on the euro, Spain and Italy in effect reduced themselves to the status of third-world countries that have to borrow in someone else's currency, with all the loss of flexibility that implies.

Legends of the Fail - NYTimes.com

Rule 1 is that Krugman is usually right. Rule 2 is that if you find yourself disagreeing with Krugman, refer back to rule 1.

it's worth pointing out that special treatment for fracking makes a mockery of free-market principles. Pro-fracking politicians claim to be against subsidies, yet letting an industry impose costs without paying compensation is in effect a huge subsidy. They say they oppose having the government "pick winners," yet they demand special treatment for this industry precisely because they claim it will be a winner.

it's worth pointing out that special treatment for fracking makes a mockery of free-market principles. Pro-fracking politicians claim to be against subsidies, yet letting an industry impose costs without paying compensation is in effect a huge subsidy. They say they oppose having the government "pick winners," yet they demand special treatment for this industry precisely because they claim it will be a winner.

Here Comes Solar Energy - NYTimes.com

I’ve been calling these subsidies for fossil fuels Carbon Socialism.

the way to understand the "Barney Frank did it" school of thought about the crisis is that it's an attempt to turn a huge defeat for conservative ideas into a win. The reality of the financial crisis was that deregulation - which was part of a broader rightward shift in policies that played a large role in creating rapid growth in income inequality - led to an economic catastrophe of the kind that just didn't happen during the 50 years or so when we had effective bank regulation. So the right's answer is to claim not just that the government did it, but that it caused the crisis by its attempts to reduce inequality! It's kind of a masterstroke, in an evil way.

the way to understand the "Barney Frank did it" school of thought about the crisis is that it's an attempt to turn a huge defeat for conservative ideas into a win. The reality of the financial crisis was that deregulation - which was part of a broader rightward shift in policies that played a large role in creating rapid growth in income inequality - led to an economic catastrophe of the kind that just didn't happen during the 50 years or so when we had effective bank regulation. So the right's answer is to claim not just that the government did it, but that it caused the crisis by its attempts to reduce inequality! It's kind of a masterstroke, in an evil way.
Financial Big Lies - NYTimes.com

Can Science and Faith Exist Together?

Accepting the Bible as God's literal truth doesn't mean that we discount science. It does mean that we interpret scientific evidence from the biblical viewpoint. We evaluate the same evidence as evolutionists, but they interpret it from their viewpoint. Evidence isn't labeled with dates and facts; we arrive at conclusions about the unobservable past based on our pre-existing beliefs. This exercise also involves reason.

From Can Science and Faith Exist Together? - NYTimes.com

Confirmation bias turned into pseudo-science.

The point is that I know technocrats, and these people aren't - they're faith healers who are making stuff up to suit their prejudices. You can say something similar, although a bit less pointed, about the Obama administration. The line from people there, including the president, has been that it was too technocratic. But the real technocrats - people like Christy Romer and, well, me - were saying right from the beginning that the stimulus was too small, etc.; people like Geithner who opposed stronger action were basing their position on gut feelings about confidence, not number-crunching.

The point is that I know technocrats, and these people aren't - they're faith healers who are making stuff up to suit their prejudices. You can say something similar, although a bit less pointed, about the Obama administration. The line from people there, including the president, has been that it was too technocratic. But the real technocrats - people like Christy Romer and, well, me - were saying right from the beginning that the stimulus was too small, etc.; people like Geithner who opposed stronger action were basing their position on gut feelings about confidence, not number-crunching.

Crats, Maybe, But Not Much Techno - NYTimes.com

They’re avoiding the math because it has a liberal bias. Better to cater to prejudices than reality.

Republicans - who normally insist that the government can't create jobs, and who have argued that lower, not higher, federal spending is the key to recovery - have rushed to oppose any cuts in military spending. Why? Because, they say, such cuts would destroy jobs.

Republicans - who normally insist that the government can't create jobs, and who have argued that lower, not higher, federal spending is the key to recovery - have rushed to oppose any cuts in military spending. Why? Because, they say, such cuts would destroy jobs.

Krugman calls out the “weaponized Keynesians” in the GOP.

Bombs, Bridges and Jobs - NYTimes.com

Rawls on Wall Street

to move forward and make a difference, Occupy Wall Street needs specific goals backed by a more coherent, more inspiring vision for American democracy. To their credit, protestors have recently begun debating which specific demands the movement should make, but their conversations appear to be unguided by any deeper wisdom. A perfect intellectual touchstone would be the work of John Rawls, the American political philosopher who was one of the 20th century's most influential theorists of equality. Rawls named his theory "justice as fairness," and emphasized in his later writings that its premises are rooted in the history and aspirations of American constitutionalism. So it's a home-grown theory that is ripe for the picking.

From Rawls on Wall Street


Worth a read. I’d love it if the crowd at OWS was more Rawls and less Chomsky. Or at the very least was more focused on policy than complaints.

We cannot find qualified hourly production people, and, for that matter, many technical, engineering service technicians, and even welders, and it is hurting our manufacturing base

Doug Oberhelman, the C.E.O. of Caterpillar, which is based in Illinois, was quoted in Crain's Chicago Business on Sept. 13 as saying: "We cannot find qualified hourly production people, and, for that matter, many technical, engineering service technicians, and even welders, and it is hurting our manufacturing base in the United States. The education system in the United States basically has failed them, and we have to retrain every person we hire.

So if the job creators think we should spend more on social goods, does that make them evil socialists too? What a paradox. Both a job creator and a evil Marxist.

A Progressive in the Age of Austerity - NYTimes.com

what Britain needs is for everyone to pay down debt, said in obvious obliviousness to the fact that if everyone cuts spending at the same time, income must fall. But then, this kind of obliviousness is very widespread, and my experience is that if you try to point out the problem - if you try to explain that my spending is your income and vice versa - you get a belligerent response. Y=E is seen as a political statement, which in a way it is if one side of the political spectrum insists on believing things that can't be true.

what Britain needs is for everyone to pay down debt, said in obvious obliviousness to the fact that if everyone cuts spending at the same time, income must fall. But then, this kind of obliviousness is very widespread, and my experience is that if you try to point out the problem - if you try to explain that my spending is your income and vice versa - you get a belligerent response. Y=E is seen as a political statement, which in a way it is if one side of the political spectrum insists on believing things that can't be true.
Arithmetic Has A Well-Known Keynesian Bias - NYTimes.com

In the first act, bankers took advantage of deregulation to run wild (and pay themselves princely sums), inflating huge bubbles through reckless lending. In the second act, the bubbles burst - but bankers were bailed out by taxpayers, with remarkably few strings attached, even as ordinary workers continued to suffer the consequences of the bankers' sins. And, in the third act, bankers showed their gratitude by turning on the people who had saved them, throwing their support - and the wealth they still possessed thanks to the bailouts - behind politicians who promised to keep their taxes low and dismantle the mild regulations erected in the aftermath of the crisis. Given this history, how can you not applaud the protesters for finally taking a stand?

In the first act, bankers took advantage of deregulation to run wild (and pay themselves princely sums), inflating huge bubbles through reckless lending. In the second act, the bubbles burst - but bankers were bailed out by taxpayers, with remarkably few strings attached, even as ordinary workers continued to suffer the consequences of the bankers' sins. And, in the third act, bankers showed their gratitude by turning on the people who had saved them, throwing their support - and the wealth they still possessed thanks to the bailouts - behind politicians who promised to keep their taxes low and dismantle the mild regulations erected in the aftermath of the crisis. Given this history, how can you not applaud the protesters for finally taking a stand?

Krugman on the Occupy Wall Street protest.

Confronting the Malefactors - NYTimes.com

after three years in which Very Serious People refused to hold the financial industry accountable

it's becoming clear that there's something important happening: finally, after three years in which Very Serious People refused to hold the financial industry accountable, there's a real grass-roots uprising against the Masters of the Universe.

Unsavvy People - NYTimes.com

Anyone else remember that the Tea Party started as a protest against the bank bailouts?

Part of what has always fascinated me about the Civil War is that like World War II, it was a war in which the basically non-military culture of modern America - which at that point didn't include the South - used its mastery of the arts of peace and production to overcome more warlike adversaries.

Part of what has always fascinated me about the Civil War is that like World War II, it was a war in which the basically non-military culture of modern America - which at that point didn't include the South - used its mastery of the arts of peace and production to overcome more warlike adversaries.
Mapping Through Georgia - NYTimes.com

What Tom describes as the centrist position both parties know they should adopt, but refuse to do because of partisanship on both sides, is in fact the actually existing position of the Democratic party - a position that Republicans denounce as "socialist." I know that admitting that Barack Obama is already the candidate of centrists' dreams would be awkward, would make it hard to adopt the stance that both sides are equally at fault. But that is the truth.

What Tom describes as the centrist position both parties know they should adopt, but refuse to do because of partisanship on both sides, is in fact the actually existing position of the Democratic party - a position that Republicans denounce as "socialist." I know that admitting that Barack Obama is already the candidate of centrists' dreams would be awkward, would make it hard to adopt the stance that both sides are equally at fault. But that is the truth.
Hidden in the Middle - NYTimes.com

The Buffett Rule

President Obama on Monday will call for a new minimum tax rate for individuals making more than $1 million a year to ensure that they pay at least the same percentage of their earnings as middle-income taxpayers, according to administration officials. … Mr. Obama, in a bit of political salesmanship, will call his proposal the "Buffett Rule," in a reference to Warren E. Buffett, the billionaire investor who has complained repeatedly that the richest Americans generally pay a smaller share of their income in federal taxes than do middle-income workers, because investment gains are taxed at a lower rate than wages.

From NYT I’m looking forward to the explanation on why the GOP is for increasing taxes on the middle class but not for millionaires.

What happened after 9/11 - and I think even people on the right know this, whether they admit it or not - was deeply shameful. The atrocity should have been a unifying event, but instead it became a wedge issue. Fake heroes like Bernie Kerik, Rudy Giuliani, and, yes, George W. Bush raced to cash in on the horror. And then the attack was used to justify an unrelated war the neocons wanted to fight, for all the wrong reasons.

What happened after 9/11 - and I think even people on the right know this, whether they admit it or not - was deeply shameful. The atrocity should have been a unifying event, but instead it became a wedge issue. Fake heroes like Bernie Kerik, Rudy Giuliani, and, yes, George W. Bush raced to cash in on the horror. And then the attack was used to justify an unrelated war the neocons wanted to fight, for all the wrong reasons.
The Years of Shame - NYTimes.com

What's so striking about all this, from an economist's point of view, is the absence of anything that sounds like a model. It's all about virtue and vice, with just the assumption that virtue will be rewarded.

What's so striking about all this, from an economist's point of view, is the absence of anything that sounds like a model. It's all about virtue and vice, with just the assumption that virtue will be rewarded.

The Beatings Must Continue - NYTimes.com

The first rule of austerity club is…

Krugman being grouchy in the NYT

Zero job growth, with unemployment still at nosebleed levels. Meanwhile, the interest rate on 10-year US bonds is down to 2.04%, and it's negative on inflation-protected securities.

Aren't you glad we pivoted from jobs to deficits a year and a half ago?

Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, Is austerity killing Europe's recovery?

After more than a year of aggressive budget cutting by European governments, an economic slowdown on the continent is confronting policymakers from Madrid to Frankfurt with an uncomfortable question: Have they been addressing the wrong problem?

Yah think?

Too bad there weren't any prominent economists warning that the obsession with short-term deficits was a terrible mistake, that austerity would undermine hopes of recovery. Oh, wait.


From Krugman being grouchy in the NYT


This is Krugman’s fault for spending all him time arguing for alien invasions and breaking windows rather than a fact based analysis of the economy to guide practical, implementable public policy. Oh, wait.

Not long ago, a political party seeking to change U.S. policy would try to achieve that goal by building popular support for its ideas, then implementing those ideas through legislation. That, after all, is how our political system was designed to work. But today's G.O.P. has decided to bypass all that and go for a quicker route. Never mind getting enough votes to pass legislation; it gets what it wants by threatening to hurt America if its demands aren't met. That's what happened with the debt-ceiling fight, and now it's what's happening over disaster aid. In effect, Mr. Cantor and his allies are threatening to take hurricane victims hostage, using their suffering as a bargaining chip.

Not long ago, a political party seeking to change U.S. policy would try to achieve that goal by building popular support for its ideas, then implementing those ideas through legislation. That, after all, is how our political system was designed to work.

But today's G.O.P. has decided to bypass all that and go for a quicker route. Never mind getting enough votes to pass legislation; it gets what it wants by threatening to hurt America if its demands aren't met. That's what happened with the debt-ceiling fight, and now it's what's happening over disaster aid. In effect, Mr. Cantor and his allies are threatening to take hurricane victims hostage, using their suffering as a bargaining chip.

Eric and Irene - NYTimes.com

Bush Says Dwindling Surplus Will Halt Government Growth - NYTimes.com

CRAWFORD, Tex., Aug. 24 - President Bush said today that there was a benefit to the government’s fast-dwindling surplus, declaring that it would create “a fiscal straitjacket for Congress.” He said that was “incredibly positive news” because it would halt the growth of the Federal government.

From Bush Says Dwindling Surplus Will Halt Government Growth - NYTimes.com

From 2001. Why anyone thinks the laws of supply and demand don’t apply to public goods is beyond me. If you make government appear cheaper by reducing taxes you’ll likely always increase the demand for government services.

Tweets for 2011-09-01

  1. pathogenic bugs influence the brain by releasing toxins or stimulating the immune system #Science http://t.co/I4mByTe
  2. "The National Flood Insurance Program Reextension Act of 2010 was sponsored by a bipartisan group, it…" http://t.co/9r3MwOY
  3. Bush Says Dwindling Surplus Will Halt Government Growth #NYT 2001 http://t.co/G0XffzK
  4. sdenaro: RT @badbanana: Can’t a man curl up in the fetal position behind a copy machine without everyone assuming something is wrong?
  5. sdenaro: RT @BorowitzReport: The American institutions al-Qaeda tried to destroy 10 years ago are the same ones the Tea Party is working on now.
  6. sdenaro: RT @badbanana: An eleventh foot has washed up on the shores of British Columbia. Canadian authorities can’t explain it because they use …
  7. sdenaro: RT @ezraklein: Obama shouldn’t speak to Congress at all. He should speak to an audience of the unemployed, then take their questions.

I may be wasting my time doing any kind of rational analysis of Eric Cantor's demand that any disaster aid in the wake of Irene be offset by spending cuts elsewhere. Cantor is, of course, being totally hypocritical; where were the demands for offsets to the cost of invading Iraq?

I may be wasting my time doing any kind of rational analysis of Eric Cantor's demand that any disaster aid in the wake of Irene be offset by spending cuts elsewhere. Cantor is, of course, being totally hypocritical; where were the demands for offsets to the cost of invading Iraq?
Disaster Relief Economics - NYTimes.com

Krugman: Republicans Against Science

Mr. Perry suggests; those scientists are just in it for the money, "manipulating data" to create a fake threat. In his book "Fed Up," he dismissed climate science as a "contrived phony mess that is falling apart."

I could point out that Mr. Perry is buying into a truly crazy conspiracy theory, which asserts that thousands of scientists all around the world are on the take, with not one willing to break the code of silence. I could also point out that multiple investigations into charges of intellectual malpractice on the part of climate scientists have ended up exonerating the accused researchers of all accusations. But never mind: Mr. Perry and those who think like him know what they want to believe, and their response to anyone who contradicts them is to start a witch hunt.


From Republicans Against Science

This is normal practice for pseudo intellectual flat-earthers and creation-science folk. When science isn’t on their side, they pick at the way the science is being done. Never mind that the same techniques are being used elsewhere without controversy.

Gov. Rick Perry's Cash Machine

The exchange of campaign contributions for government contracts, favors or positions is all too common in Washington and around the country. It has been developed to an especially high art - or more to the point, a low art - by Gov. Rick Perry in Texas.

From NYTimes

The Texas Taliban loves crony capitalism.

Tweets for 2011-08-26

  1. #ThinkProgress Fox News: 'Facts Are Certainly' On The Side O f Global Warming, But 'It Doesn't Matter ' http://t.co/c8F6aa8
  2. Not fully prepared for hurricane season. Back up plan is daiquiris. http://t.co/x7i4K6P
  3. Preparing for hurricane by boarding up neighbor's windows. Keeping boards up until neighbor buys blinds… http://t.co/PkXgVny
  4. Gov. Rick Perry's Cash Machine #cronycapitalism #NYT #RickPerry http://t.co/JzL6NhD

NYTimes: Heavy Fighting Reported in Tripoli; Rebels Encircle City http://nyti.ms/nbSoKn

This is the end game. Good luck guys. A republic if you can keep it.

The Cracked Conservative Mirror

Whenever you read conservatives trying to critique what they think the other side believes, you find them assuming that their opponents must be mirror images of themselves. The right believes that less government spending is always good, regardless of circumstances, so it assumes that the other side must always favor more government spending. The right says that deficits are always evil (unless they're caused by tax cuts), so they assume that the center-left must favor deficits in all conditions.

From The Cracked Conservative Mirror - NYTimes.com

GOP strategy is to find a policy that failed, declare it Keynesian and therefore proof that Keynes was wrong.

Tweets for 2011-08-17

  1. #NYT Tea Party less popular than much maligned groups like atheists and Muslims. http://t.co/w1ZVSFI
  2. Pigeons Perform Optimally on a Version of the Monty Hall Dilemma http://t.co/UoTU97B
  3. sdenaro: RT @PIMCO: None of us are Keynesians now (well maybe a few - an endangered species for sure).

Poll Shows Negative View of Tea Party on the Rise

The percentage of people with an unfavorable view of the Tea Party in a New York Times/CBS News Poll this week was higher than it has been since the first time the question was asked, in April 2010. Forty percent of those polled this week characterized their view as "not favorable," compared with 18 percent in the first poll.

From Poll Shows Negative View of Tea Party on the Rise

Maybe they can improve their image with another even larger intransigent stance thats blocks congress from accomplishing a basic task.

Spain, which markets now posit has about a three-in-ten chance of default or restructuring, also had a AAA rating, which it maintained until January 2009. Today it still has a AA rating, one notch higher than Japan's.

Spain, which markets now posit has about a three-in-ten chance of default or restructuring, also had a AAA rating, which it maintained until January 2009. Today it still has a AA rating, one notch higher than Japan's.
Why S. & P.’s Ratings Are Substandard and Porous - NYTimes.com

S&P declared that US debt is no longer a safe investment; yet investors are piling into US debt, not out of it, driving the 10-year interest rate below 2.4%. This amounts to a massive market rejection of S&P's concerns.

S&P declared that US debt is no longer a safe investment; yet investors are piling into US debt, not out of it, driving the 10-year interest rate below 2.4%. This amounts to a massive market rejection of S&P's concerns.

Aaauuuggghhh! Market Commentary Edition - NYTimes.com

Tea Party manages to hurt private sector while helping push investors into public debt market. Heckofajob.

The point here is not so much the $2 trillion, which makes very little difference to real US fiscal prospects; it's the fact that S&P stands revealed as not understanding basic analysis of budget estimates. I mean, I don't think I would have made that mistake; real budget experts, like the people at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, certainly wouldn't have. So what we just saw was amateur hour. And these people are pronouncing on US credit-worthiness?

The point here is not so much the $2 trillion, which makes very little difference to real US fiscal prospects; it's the fact that S&P stands revealed as not understanding basic analysis of budget estimates. I mean, I don't think I would have made that mistake; real budget experts, like the people at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, certainly wouldn't have.

So what we just saw was amateur hour. And these people are pronouncing on US credit-worthiness?

—Krugman on S&P
I Heard It Through The Baseline - NYTimes.com

As Chait says, the first thing you need to understand is that modern Republicans don't care about deficits. They only pretend to care when they believe that deficit hawkery can be used to dismantle social programs; as soon as the conversation turns to taxes, or anything else that would require them and their friends to make even the smallest sacrifice, deficits don't matter at all.

As Chait says, the first thing you need to understand is that modern Republicans don't care about deficits. They only pretend to care when they believe that deficit hawkery can be used to dismantle social programs; as soon as the conversation turns to taxes, or anything else that would require them and their friends to make even the smallest sacrifice, deficits don't matter at all.
Very Serious Suckers - NYTimes.com

The deal itself, given the available information, is a disaster, and not just for President Obama and his party. It will damage an already depressed economy; it will probably make America's long-run deficit problem worse, not better; and most important, by demonstrating that raw extortion works and carries no political cost, it will take America a long way down the road to banana-republic status.

The deal itself, given the available information, is a disaster, and not just for President Obama and his party. It will damage an already depressed economy; it will probably make America's long-run deficit problem worse, not better; and most important, by demonstrating that raw extortion works and carries no political cost, it will take America a long way down the road to banana-republic status.
Paul Krugman - The President Surrenders on Debt Ceiling - NYTimes.com

Conservative Origins of Obamacare

Romneycare, is a three-legged stool of regulation and subsidies: community rating requiring insurers to make the same policies available to everyone regardless of health status; an individual mandate, requiring everyone to purchase insurance, so that healthy people don't opt out; and subsidies to keep insurance affordable for those with lower incomes.

The original Heritage plan from 1989 had all these features.

These days, Heritage strives mightily to deny the obvious


From NYTimes.com

Heritage declares we have always been at war with Eastasia.

What Eurosclerosis? "More detailed analysis shows that the remaining gap comes from lower employment rates in Europe for the young and old; prime-age workers, especially men, are if anything more likely to be working in Europe. And you should note that this European performance comes despite the fact that tax levels and levels of social benefits are vastly higher than they are here. Any US politician proposing even a partial move in Europe's direction would be accused of being a job-killer. Somehow, though, the jobs survive." (via The End of Eurosclerosis - NYTimes.com)

Debt and Forgetfulness

Between 1993 and 2001, federal debt held by the public fell from 49.2 percent of GDP to 32.5 percent of GDP. What stopped the paydown of debt wasn't liberal big spending; it was demands from conservatives that the surplus be used to cut taxes. George Bush said that a surplus means that the government is collecting too much money; Alan Greenspan warned that we were paying off our debt too fast.

Oh, and I was very much against those tax cuts, arguing that we should pay down the debt to prepare for future needs. As a reward, I now get accused of inconsistency, for saying that deficits were bad under Bush but good now.


From Debt and Forgetfulness

What critics of Keynes don’t understand is that it isn’t about deficit spending. Ideally, it is about saving when times are good and spending when times are bad. Counter-cyclical spending to keep the highs from getting too high and the lows from being too low.

A Pop-Up Paris Picnic Is Coming to New York

For the first time, New York will have its own Diner en Blanc, on Aug. 25, rain or shine. A thousand people - half invited, the others drawn from an online waiting list (newyork.dinerenblanc.info) - will participate in this refined flash-mob feast, at an as-yet undisclosed location in Manhattan.

From NYT


Interesting.

Getting to Crazy

the modern G.O.P. fundamentally does not accept the legitimacy of a Democratic presidency - any Democratic presidency. We saw that under Bill Clinton, and we saw it again as soon as Mr. Obama took office.

As a result, Republicans are automatically against anything the president wants, even if they have supported similar proposals in the past.


From Getting to Crazy

Sad but true.

David Brooks realizes GOP no longer a "normal" political party

A normal Republican Party would seize the opportunity to put a long-term limit on the growth of government. It would seize the opportunity to put the country on a sound fiscal footing. It would seize the opportunity to do these things without putting any real crimp in economic growth.

The party is not being asked to raise marginal tax rates in a way that might pervert incentives. On the contrary, Republicans are merely being asked to close loopholes and eliminate tax expenditures that are themselves distortionary.

This, as I say, is the mother of all no-brainers.

But we can have no confidence that the Republicans will seize this opportunity. That's because the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative.


From NYT

David Brooks realizes that the GOP no longer a normal political party, something many of us realized a decade ago.

The Obama-Keynes Mystery

here's an unprofessional speculation: maybe it's personal. Maybe the president just doesn't like the kind of people who tell him counterintuitive things, who say that the government is not like a family, that it's not right for the government to tighten its belt when Americans are tightening theirs, that unemployment is not caused by lack of the right skills. Certainly just about all the people who might have tried to make that argument have left the administration or are leaving soon.

And what's left, I'm afraid, are the Very Serious People. It looks as if those are the people the president feels comfortable with. And that, of course, is a tragedy.


From The Obama-Keynes Mystery


Maybe. But I wonder how much of this is just the Washington bubble.

Hedge Fund Hippies

Mr. Biggs, former chief global strategist for U.S. investment banking powerhouse Morgan Stanley, demanded the U.S. government temporarily return to ideas used in the Great Depression as a way to get the country back to higher growth.

"What the U.S. really needs is a massive infrastructure program ... similar to the WPA back in the 1930s," he says.

The plan would be to employ some of the many unemployed people, jump start the economy, as well as help catch up with Asia, which is building state-of-the-art infrastructure from new mechanized port facilities to high-speed trains.

He suggested financing such building through the sale of U.S. Treasuries.


From Hedge Fund Hippies


Must be one of those left-wing commie-pinko hedge fund traders.

Friendship of Justice and Magnate Puts Focus on Ethics

That friendship is important to determining whether Justice Thomas's interactions with Mr. Crow conflict with the code, said Raymond J. McKoski, a retired state judge in Illinois who wrote a law review article on charitable fund-raising by judges. If Justice Thomas did not "misuse the prestige of office" in getting Mr. Crow to take on the project, it should not be a concern, he said.

"Some of it depends on the conversations that took place," Mr. McKoski said. "Who brought up the idea? How willing was Mr. Crow to do it? What exact questions were asked by Justice Thomas?"


From NYTimes.com

It is to early to ask what did he know and when did he know it. Plus I doubt he would take any criticism as anything other that liberal partisanship. But this is really creepy and there should be in investigation.

My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant

Over the past 14 years, I've graduated from high school and college and built a career as a journalist, interviewing some of the most famous people in the country. On the surface, I've created a good life. I've lived the American dream.

But I am still an undocumented immigrant. And that means living a different kind of reality. It means going about my day in fear of being found out. It means rarely trusting people, even those closest to me, with who I really am. It means keeping my family photos in a shoebox rather than displaying them on shelves in my home, so friends don't ask about them. It means reluctantly, even painfully, doing things I know are wrong and unlawful. And it has meant relying on a sort of 21st-century underground railroad of supporters, people who took an interest in my future and took risks for me.


From NYT

He was brought here as a child and was unaware that he was undocumented. Shouldn’t we consider this fact rather than attacking him as a criminal?

People Argue Just to Win, Scholars Assert

Now some researchers are suggesting that reason evolved for a completely different purpose: to win arguments. Rationality, by this yardstick (and irrationality too, but we'll get to that) is nothing more or less than a servant of the hard-wired compulsion to triumph in the debating arena. According to this view, bias, lack of logic and other supposed flaws that pollute the stream of reason are instead social adaptations that enable one group to persuade (and defeat) another. Certitude works, however sharply it may depart from the truth.

From NYTimes

Interesting.

Thoughts on Voodoo

In short, there's a very good case to be made that austerity now isn't just a bad idea because of its impact on the economy and the unemployed; it may well fail even at the task of helping the budget balance.

It's important to realize that I'm not saying that government spending always pays for itself, and that saving money is always counterproductive. These kinds of effects are specific to a liquidity trap situation. But that's the situation we're in.


From NYT

More detail in the article.

Lysenkoism as economic policy in the Diamond nomination

I think the rejection of a Nobel laureate for a seat at the Fed is tied, in a fundamental way, to the willingness of economists with decent professional reputations to sign on to the increasingly crazy proclamations issued by Republican politicians. Whether they are honest with themselves or not, what they've realized is that they face a loyalty test - or maybe that's an apparatchik test; if they have any ambitions of serving in a policy position, they have to prove themselves willing to follow the party line wherever it goes.

From Everything Is Political

Lysenkoism as economic policy.

The Rentier Regime

What explains this opposition to any and all attempts to mitigate the economic disaster? I can think of a number of causes, but Kuttner makes a very good point: everything we're seeing makes sense if you think of the right as representing the interests of rentiers, of creditors who have claims from the past - bonds, loans, cash - as opposed to people actually trying to make a living through producing stuff. Deflation is hell for workers and business owners, but it's heaven for creditors.


From NYT

Borders on conspiracy theory but interesting point.

LAST October, I won the Nobel Prize in economics for my work on unemployment and the labor market. But I am unqualified to serve on the board of the Federal Reserve - at least according to the Republican senators who have blocked my nomination. How can this be?

LAST October, I won the Nobel Prize in economics for my work on unemployment and the labor market. But I am unqualified to serve on the board of the Federal Reserve - at least according to the Republican senators who have blocked my nomination. How can this be?
—Peter A Diamond When a Nobel Prize Isn't Enough - NYTimes.com

New York's Papaya King Makes Its Hollywood Debut

It is tucked in a storefront a block from the Walk of Fame, walking distance from the annual Academy Awards ceremonies, and steps from the hubbub of tourists, hucksters and celebrity hunters that is Hollywood: a Papaya King hot dog stand, in all its garish yellow and orange glory, selling hot dogs imported straight from the Bronx.

From New York's Papaya King Makes Its Hollywood Debut


We gave you a Papaya King, now send us an In-And-Out burger.

Viva the back nine! Luxury Golf Resorts Heading to Cuba

50 years later, foreign developers say the Cuban government has swung in nearly the opposite direction, giving preliminary approval in recent weeks for four large luxury golf resorts on the island, the first in an expected wave of more than a dozen that the government anticipates will lure free-spending tourists to a nation hungry for cash.

The four initial projects total more than $1.5 billion, with the government's cut of the profits about half. Plans for the developments include residences that foreigners will be permitted to buy - a rare opportunity from a government that all but banned private property in its push for social equality.


From NYTimes.com

Viva the back nine!

Religion and Sex Quiz

Think you know what the Bible says about social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage? Take this quiz and let's see.


From NYT


Kristof on the gap between what the bible says and what the bible also says. Or why the bible is an awful political policy guide.

Gold is not an investment, it's a speculation

Investments are made by evaluating underlying value. Speculative bets are made by looking at the price of something and simply hoping the price goes up. Investing is about value; gambling is about price.

Gold has no real underlying value. I know there is a market for it. I know it is real, just like real estate was real in 2007.

But what is the value of a bar of gold?

It has no value except the one assigned by a herd of speculators. This is true for most commodities. They don't actually produce anything. They are raw material. No value. No dividend. No cash flow.


From NYT

When you’re on the same side as Beck and TV pitchmen and there is GS and Soros on the other side of the bet, you are the dumb money.

We're All Rationers

Certainly telling seniors to buy all their own health care is a complete political (and ethical) non-starter. But telling seniors to pay for more of their own health care - well, it's hard to see how else we can hope to reduce Medicare's fiscal burden. Maybe the premium support/voucher model that the Ryan budget proposes isn't the optimal way to do it. But every other mechanism for serious cost containment leads inexorably to a similar place.

This is obvious when you think seriously about the main Obama administration proposal for Medicare reform - the famous IPAB plan, which would put a board of experts in charge of deciding which treatments Medicare will and won't cover. If it had any deficit-cutting teeth at all, such a board would constantly end up asking seniors to pay for their own health care (or else go without it), by refusing to pay for treatments that doctors would otherwise prescribe.


From We’re All Rationers


Mr Douthat is right here. There is no form of cost control that is not also a form of rationing. Anyone that is pro-cost-control but anti-rationing doesn’t understand the problem.

It's hard to see that too much democracy was the problem.

Whenever I read pieces like David Brooks's column this morning - pieces that attribute our budget deficits to the public's irresponsibility and lack of realism - I find myself wondering how so much recent history went down the memory hole.

Remember, we had a budget surplus in 2000. Where did it go? The two biggest policy changes responsible for the swing into deficit were the big tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, and the war of choice in Iraq.

And neither of these policy changes was in any sense a response to public demand. Americans weren't clamoring for a tax cut in 2000; Bush pushed his tax cuts to please his donors and his base. And the decision to invade Iraq not only wasn't a response to public demand, Bush and co. had to spend months selling the idea to the public.

In fact, the only budget-busting measure undertaken in recent memory that was driven by popular demand as opposed to the agenda of a small number of powerful people was Medicare Part D. And even there, the plan was needlessly expensive, not because that's the way the public wanted it - it could easily have been simply an addition to traditional Medicare - but to please the drug lobby and the anti-government ideologues.


From Krugman: It's hard to see that too much democracy was the problem.


Correcting the record.

Who's the Dog Hero of the Raid on Bin Laden?

"Dogs are very good at detecting people inside of a building," Major Roberts said.

Another use may have been to catch anyone escaping the compound in the first moments of the raid. A shepherd or a Malinois runs twice as fast as a human.

Tech Sgt. Kelly A. Mylott, the kennel master at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, called dogs ideal for getting someone who is running away without having to shoot them. "When the dogs go after a suspect, they're trained to bite and hold them," Sergeant Mylott said.

Some dogs are big enough that, when they leap on a suspect, the person tends to drop to the ground, Sergeant Mylott said. Others bite arms or legs. "Different dogs do different things," she said. "But whatever they do, it's very difficult for that person to go any further."


From Who's the Dog Hero of the Raid on Bin Laden?


Wonder if future terror suspects will try to dog proof their compounds now that this is publicly known.

Who Benefits From Bubbles?

in several years during the last decade the top 400 accounted for more than 10 percent of all capital gains income in America. Just 400 people!

Conservatives often try to sell the notion that reducing the capital gains tax is about helping small business people. But you really want to think of the fact that a significant chunk of that tax break is going to just 400 people.


From Who Benefits From Bubbles?

Interesting factoid. Turns out that hypothetical question has an answer.

Atheists Seek Chaplain Role in the Military

Groups representing atheists say they are hoping to give voice to what they say is a large - and largely underground - population of nonbelievers in the military.


From NYT

Can they make Dawkins the Atheist Pope?

I used to Atheist Minister as a joke job title on forms for tech magazines because I thought it was funny.

An Insurance Company With An Army

When you talk about federal spending, you're overwhelmingly talking about Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and defense. And the bulk of the insurance - all of Social Security and Medicare, about 2/3 of Medicaid - is for the elderly and disabled.

Put it this way: Whenever someone talks about making government smaller, he should be asked which of these big four he proposes cutting, and how. If he responds with generalities, he's faking it.


From An Insurance Company With An Army


Calling it as it is.

European and US Employment

Lots of people have an image of Europe as an economic pit of doom, with millions of prime-age workers sitting idle thanks to the welfare state. And there was some truth to that image 15 years ago. But things got better over there even as they got worse here: Even before the Great Recession struck, people in the prime of life were equally likely to be employed on either side of the Atlantic, and at this point Europe has a better prime-age employment situation than we do.


From European and US Employment - NYTimes.com

The Psychology of Cheating

"Cheating is especially easy to justify when you frame situations to cast yourself as a victim of some kind of unfairness," said Dr. Anjan Chatterjee, a neurologist at the University of Pennsylvania who has studied the use of prescription drugs to improve intellectual performance. "Then it becomes a matter of evening the score; you're not cheating, you're restoring fairness."


From The Psychology of Cheating - NYTimes.com


Interesting.

Financial Crisis With Few Prosecutions

It is a question asked repeatedly across America: why, in the aftermath of a financial mess that generated hundreds of billions in losses, have no high-profile participants in the disaster been prosecuted?

Answering such a question - the equivalent of determining why a dog did not bark - is anything but simple. But a private meeting in mid-October 2008 between Timothy F. Geithner, then-president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and Andrew M. Cuomo, New York's attorney general at the time, illustrates the complexities of pursuing legal cases in a time of panic.

At the Fed, which oversees the nation's largest banks, Mr. Geithner worked with the Treasury Department on a large bailout fund for the banks and led efforts to shore up the American International Group, the giant insurer. His focus: stabilizing world financial markets.

Mr. Cuomo, as a Wall Street enforcer, had been questioning banks and rating agencies aggressively for more than a year about their roles in the growing debacle, and also looking into bonuses at A.I.G.


From NYTimes.com

Presented without comment.

Let's Not Be Civil

Whenever there's something the G.O.P. doesn't like - say, environmental protection - Heritage can be counted on to produce a report, based on no economic model anyone else recognizes, claiming that this policy would cause huge job losses. Correspondingly, whenever there's something Republicans want, like tax cuts for the wealthy or for corporations, Heritage can be counted on to claim that this policy would yield immense economic benefits.

The point is that the two parties don't just live in different moral universes, they also live in different intellectual universes, with Republicans in particular having a stable of supposed experts who reliably endorse whatever they propose.


From Let's Not Be Civil


Calling it as it is.

Insincerely Yours

Look, we've been here before. The obvious parallel in my mind is what happened after 9/11, when more or less the same people declared themselves totally focused on fighting terrorism - but unwilling to give up anything they wanted, and in fact eagerly using the terrorist threat as an excuse to grab even more goodies. I mean, within 48 hours of the attack Congressional Republicans were preparing their response: a cut in the capital gains tax; in the immediate aftermath, the Bush administration fought hard to keep airport security in private hands. Somehow, responding to terrorism only involved doing things the administration wanted to do anyway: invading Iraq, torturing people, tapping our phones, etc..


From Insincerely Yours


He nails it.

Ludicrous and Cruel

the Congressional Budget Office estimates that by 2030 the value of a voucher would cover only a third of the cost of a private insurance policy equivalent to Medicare as we know it. So the plan would deprive many and probably most seniors of adequate health care.

And that neither should nor will happen. Mr. Ryan and his colleagues can write down whatever numbers they like, but seniors vote. And when they find that their health-care vouchers are grossly inadequate, they'll demand and get bigger vouchers - wiping out the plan's supposed savings.

From Ludicrous and Cruel - NYTimes.com

What if the point of privatization is simply to optimize the profitability of rent-seeking activity in the health care industry?

Ryan and Taxes

The Ryan plan calls for cutting the top marginal rate to 25 percent - lower than it has been at any time in the past 80 years. That in itself should tell you that this is a deeply unserious proposal: anyone who tells you that we have to face hard truths, that everyone must sacrifice, and by the way, rich people will pay lower taxes than they have at any time since the 1930s, is just engaged in a power grab.

From Ryan and Taxes

The Ryan plan should not be viewed as a budget. It should be looked at as a statement of ideological principals. If it were really serious about the budget, it would trim the military budget and corporate subsidies.

David Brooks: Democrats unwilling to ask voters to pay for popular programs

Democrats seem to believe that most Americans want to preserve the 20th-century welfare state programs. But they are unwilling to ask voters to pay for them, and they are unwilling to describe the tax increases that would be required to cover their exploding future costs.

Raising taxes on the rich will not do it. There aren't enough rich people to generate the tens of trillions of dollars required to pay for Medicare, let alone all the other programs. Democrats, thus, face a fundamental choice. They can either reverse President Obama's no-new-middle-class-taxes pledge, or they can learn to live with Paul Ryan's version of government.

From The Ryan Journey

Just looking at the numbers and Brooks is right. You need to undo all the Bush tax cuts. You need to undo all the new Bush spending increases to the military and you need to do a full accounting of medicare/medicaid costs and make realistic decisions of what the the programs should not pay for.

The economic beatings will continue until economic morale improves

The GOP prescription for higher employment is actually quite spectacular - it's a thing of many levels, an ignorance wrapped in a fallacy.

The idea is this: we'll lay off government workers; this will raise unemployment, putting downward pressure on wages; and lower wages will lead to higher employment.

So, for this to work you first have to have a downward-sloping demand for labor as a function of the nominal wage rate. There's no reason to believe that's the case: in a liquidity trap, falling wages probably reduce the demand for labor, because they worsen the burden of debt.

And even if you somehow bypass this objection, the argument is still nonsense: it says that by reducing demand, you cut the price, which increases demand, which means that you end up selling more than before. Um, no - that's the kind of answer that, in Econ 101, has you suggesting that the student get special tutoring.


From Worse Is Better


The economic beatings will continue until economic morale improves.

Krugman on William Cronon and the American Thought Police

Recently William Cronon, a historian who teaches at the University of Wisconsin, decided to weigh in on his state's political turmoil. He started a blog, "Scholar as Citizen," devoting his first post to the role of the shadowy American Legislative Exchange Council in pushing hard-line conservative legislation at the state level. Then he published an opinion piece in The Times, suggesting that Wisconsin's Republican governor has turned his back on the state's long tradition of "neighborliness, decency and mutual respect."

So what was the G.O.P.'s response? A demand for copies of all e-mails sent to or from Mr. Cronon's university mail account containing any of a wide range of terms, including the word "Republican" and the names of a number of Republican politicians.

If this action strikes you as no big deal, you're missing the point. The hard right - which these days is more or less synonymous with the Republican Party - has a modus operandi when it comes to scholars expressing views it dislikes: never mind the substance, go for the smear. And that demand for copies of e-mails is obviously motivated by no more than a hope that it will provide something, anything, that can be used to subject Mr. Cronon to the usual treatment.

From Paul Krugman

Call this what it is, right wing political correctness.

The Austerity Delusion

Portugal's government has just fallen in a dispute over austerity proposals. Irish bond yields have topped 10 percent for the first time. And the British government has just marked its economic forecast down and its deficit forecast up.

What do these events have in common? They're all evidence that slashing spending in the face of high unemployment is a mistake. Austerity advocates predicted that spending cuts would bring quick dividends in the form of rising confidence, and that there would be few, if any, adverse effects on growth and jobs; but they were wrong.


From The Austerity Delusion


This would be a case against austerity measures if those advocating austerity were interested in fact based policy arguments.

Economics as a Science: A Bad Example

Yes, the old Keynesian Phillips curve was abandoned in the face of evidence. But while real business cycle theory has indeed been "invalidated by reality", as far as I can tell it's still going strong in freshwater departments.

The point is that while economics certainly did have some of the characteristics of a science three decades ago, you can make a good case that significant parts of the field have lost those characteristics since then.


From Economics as a Science: A Bad Example - NYTimes.com


That’s the problem with faith based science. When invalidated by reality, they simply declare reality broken or the methodology used to invalidate tainted by socialists.

Is Thomas F. Steyer the anti-Koch?

For years, Mr. Steyer, a billionaire San Francisco hedge fund manager, assiduously maintained a low profile while becoming a major donor to Democratic candidates. That changed in 2010 when he led the successful fight to defeat Proposition 23, a California ballot measure backed by two Texas oil companies and a company controlled by Charles G. and David H. Koch, the secretive billionaire brothers and bankrollers of conservative causes.


From Is Thomas F. Steyer the anti-Koch?


The existence of Mothra doesn’t make the actions of Godzilla moral. The public debate shouldn’t be happening in a public square that looks like monster island.

Millions saved in Japan by good engineering and government building codes

Had any other populous country suffered the 8.9 magnitude earthquake that shook Japan on Friday, tens of thousands of people might already be counted among the dead. So far, Japan’s death toll is in the hundreds, although it is certain to rise somewhat.

Over the years, Japan has spent billions of dollars developing the most advanced technology against earthquakes and tsunamis. The Japanese, who regularly experience smaller earthquakes and have lived through major ones, know how to react to quakes and tsunamis because of regular drills — unlike Southeast Asians, many of whom died in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami because they lingered near the coast despite clear warnings to flee.

From Millions saved in Japan by good engineering and government building codes

Anyone want to argue that Japan would have been better off without building codes?

The Rationing Switcheroo

reformers argue that Medicare needs to make choices about what it will pay for; people like Huckabee then scream that the government is going to tell people that they can't get medical care it disapproves of.

But nobody is proposing that the government deny you the right to have whatever medical care you want at your own expense. We're only talking about what medical care will be paid for by the government. And right-wingers, of all people, shouldn't believe that everyone has the right to have whatever they want, at taxpayers' expense.

From NYTimes.com

Krugman on the cynical death panel arguments.

the signature initiatives of Republican presidents - the Reagan tax cut, the Bush tax cut, the Medicare drug benefit - have all been unfunded deficit-raisers; the signature initiatives of Democratic presidents - the Clinton tax hike, Obamacare - have all been deficit-reducing. (Yes, the stimulus - but that was intended to be temporary, and has in fact proved too temporary; and Bush I's tax increase was an exception, but the GOP has made it clear that nothing like that will ever happen again.)

the signature initiatives of Republican presidents - the Reagan tax cut, the Bush tax cut, the Medicare drug benefit - have all been unfunded deficit-raisers; the signature initiatives of Democratic presidents - the Clinton tax hike, Obamacare - have all been deficit-reducing. (Yes, the stimulus - but that was intended to be temporary, and has in fact proved too temporary; and Bush I's tax increase was an exception, but the GOP has made it clear that nothing like that will ever happen again.)
Turning a Blind Eye to the Obvious - NYTimes.com

Deja vu all over again

I don't watch cable news, or actually any kind of TV news. But I gather that there's a virtual blackout on the huge demonstrations in Wisconsin, except on Fox, which portrays them as thuggish and violent.

What that makes me think of is January-February 2003, when anyone watching cable news would have believed that only a few kooks were opposed to the imminent invasion of Iraq. It was quite spooky, realizing that hundreds of thousands of people could march through New York, and by tacit agreement be ignored by news networks whose headquarters were just a few blocks away.

And it's even more spooky to see it happening all over again.


From That Iraq Feeling - NYTimes.com

Monkeys Fattened Up to Study Human Obesity

They also drink a fruit-flavored punch with the fructose equivalent of about a can of soda a day. In all, they might consume about twice as many calories as a normal-weight monkey.

Dr. Grove and researchers at some other centers say the high-fructose corn syrup appears to accelerate the development of obesity and diabetes.

"It wasn't until we added those carbs that we got all those other changes, including those changes in body fat," said Anthony G. Comuzzie, who helped create an obese baboon colony at the Southwest National Primate Research Center in San Antonio.


From Monkeys Fattened Up to Study Human Obesity


HFCS makes monkeys fat too.

Monopoly, Milton Friedman's Way

Mr. Zelenty owned the greatest of treasures any of us could imagine because it combined those two passions. He had asked Mr. Friedman to sign his Monopoly board at one of those sherry hours. The Nobel laureate did so, writing, "Down with" above the game's name. We didn't play on that board. No one ever played on that board.


From Monopoly, Milton Friedman's Way - NYTimes.com


Simulated housing bubble in a game of Monopoly.

The Egyptian revolution is only the latest example of how people can bring down tyrants without firing a shot. A century of successful nonviolent mass movements, in fact, makes the case that America's bloody insurrection against British rule was the anomaly, and perhaps not worthy of emulation.

The Egyptian revolution is only the latest example of how people can bring down tyrants without firing a shot. A century of successful nonviolent mass movements, in fact, makes the case that America's bloody insurrection against British rule was the anomaly, and perhaps not worthy of emulation.
There Won’t Be Blood - NYTimes.com

Wisconsin Power Play

There's a bitter irony here. The fiscal crisis in Wisconsin, as in other states, was largely caused by the increasing power of America's oligarchy. After all, it was superwealthy players, not the general public, who pushed for financial deregulation and thereby set the stage for the economic crisis of 2008-9, a crisis whose aftermath is the main reason for the current budget crunch. And now the political right is trying to exploit that very crisis, using it to remove one of the few remaining checks on oligarchic influence.


From NYTimes.com


The takeway quote.

Realism on Defense Spending

if we're talking about fiscal issues, you have to bear the arithmetic in mind. We're not living in the 1950s, when defense was half the federal budget. Even a drastic cut in military spending wouldn't release enough money to offset more than a small fraction of the projected rise in health care costs.


From Realism on Defense Spending


Good point.

Krugman: Republicans have a mandate to repeal the laws of arithmetic

Pew on public fiscal views isn't really all that surprising, but it's still striking: people want spending cut, but are opposed to cuts in anything except foreign aid:

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And they want state governments to balance their budgets without cutting spending or raising taxes:

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The conclusion is inescapable: Republicans have a mandate to repeal the laws of arithmetic.


From Don’t Cut You, Don’t Cut Me

Japan's Pour-Over Coffee Wins Converts

One of the most important coffee markets in the world, Japan imports more than 930 million pounds of it each year - more than France, less than Italy. It's not a fad. There are coffee shops in Japan that date to at least the 1940s and traditions that reach back even further; it's a culture that prizes brewed coffee over espresso (although that's changing) and clarity over body. Coffee is as Japanese as baseball and beer.

Until just a few years ago, much of the coffee gear that made it to the United States from Japan was brought here in suitcases. It wasn't contraband, just obscure, a trickle of kettles and cones picked up by coffee obsessives or their well-traveled friends who didn't mind lugging the extra bulk.

One adopter - and importer - of Japanese gear was James Freeman of Blue Bottle Coffee in Oakland, San Francisco and now Brooklyn. Freeman and his wife, the pastry chef Caitlin Williams Freeman, recounted a visit to Chatei Hatou, a Tokyo coffee shop where brewing coffee isn't exactly a ceremony but is ceremonious. They said beans were weighed, ground, emptied into a filter and preinfused with a little bit of water that let the coffee bloom and release carbon dioxide. Cups and saucers were warmed, a slice of chiffon cake was set in the fridge to firm up. Only then was the coffee brewed, slowly.


From Japan's Pour-Over Coffee Wins Converts - NYTimes.com


Who knew?

Gradual Trends and Extreme Events

I've spent a lot of the last several days reading about climate change, extreme weather events, food prices, and so on. And one thing that became clear to me is that there's widespread misunderstanding of the relationship between the gradual trend of rising temperatures and the extreme weather events that have become so much more common.

From Krugman

Professor Krugman does a good job explaining probability distribution and how it relates to climate change predictions. Worth a read.

Ideas Are Not The Same As Race

And it's not just the fact that you can choose your ideology, but not your race. Ideologies have a real effect on overall life outlook, which has a direct impact on job choices. Military officers are much more conservative than the population at large; so?

It's particularly troubling to apply some test of equal representation when you're looking at academics who do research on the very subjects that define the political divide. Biologists, physicists, and chemists are all predominantly liberal; does this reflect discrimination, or the tendency of people who actually know science to reject a political tendency that denies climate change and is broadly hostile to the theory of evolution?


From Krugman


On bias and head counts. Good point.

Krugman on Bloomberg on the Icelandic Miracle

Today, Iceland is recovering. The three new banks had combined profit of $309 million in the first nine months of 2010. GDP grew for the first time in two years in the third quarter, by 1.2 percent, inflation is down to 1.8 percent and the cost of insuring government debt has tumbled 80 percent. Stores in Reykjavik were filled with Christmas shoppers in early December, and bank branches were crowded with customers.

To be fair, real GDP is still about 14 percent down from its 2007 peak, so Iceland hardly got off unscathed. But the human and social damage appears to have been much lighter than many expected.

From Bloomberg on the Icelandic Miracle - NYTimes.com

But I thought austerity works? So why are the austerity economies stagnant?

Inquiry and Intimidation

What the GOP wants is to make people afraid even to do research that produces conclusions they don't like. And they don't stop at trying to undermine the research - they go after the researchers personally. The goal is to create an environment in which analysts and academics are afraid to look into things like financial-industry malfeasance or climate change, for fear that some subcommittee will either dig up or invent dirt about their private lives.

McCarthy had nothing on these guys.

From Inquiry and Intimidation - NYTimes.com

Awful

Obama's Bid to End Oil Subsidy Revives Debate

When he releases his new budget in two weeks, President Obama will propose doing away with roughly $4 billion a year in subsidies and tax breaks for oil companies, in his third effort to eliminate federal support for an industry that remains hugely profitable.

From Obama's Bid to End Oil Subsidy Revives Debate - NYTimes.com

So, who is going to come out in favor of giving oil companies taxpayer money? Anyone want to bet if this gets an anonymous hold?

Clinton Sees An Early Payoff of U.S. Debt

Mr. Clinton, in an announcement from the White House, called on Republican leaders in Congress to “put politics aside and join me” in a budget proposal that would pay off dollars 3.6 trillion in debt by 2013. This, he said, would leave the United States debt-free for the first time since 1835.

"What we’re doing by taking this position," Mr. Clinton said, "is maximizing the choices the next president and the next Congress will have."

From Consumer Confidence Hits an All-Time High - Jobs Called ‘Plentiful’ - Clinton Sees An Early Payoff of U.S. Debt - NYTimes.com

Remember when?

Few Students Show Proficiency in Science

On the most recent nationwide science test, about a third of fourth graders and a fifth of high school seniors scored at or above the level the federal Department of Education calls proficient, according to resultsreleased on Tuesday.

Only one or two students out of every 100 displayed the level of science mastery that the department defines as advanced, the government said.


From Few Students Show Proficiency in Science


This is really sad.

Krugman proposes interstellar free trade zone

It's true that we'd have more jobs if we exported more and imported less. But the same is true of Europe and Japan, which also have depressed economies. And we can't all export more while importing less, unless we can find another planet to sell to.

From The Competition Myth - NYTimes.com

What makes this funny is that Krugman wrote a paper on interstellar trade. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Theory_of_Interstellar_Trade http://improbable.com/ig/winners/

Krugman defends our socialist sewer system

Joe Romm has some fun with the Texas Attorney General, who declares himself opposed to regulation of CO2 on the grounds that

It is almost the height of insanity of bureaucracy to have the EPA regulating something that is emitted by all living things.

As Joe points out, this argument says that we should adopt an equally laissez-faire attitude toward sewage.

But hey, there was a time when conservatives did, in fact, argue for doing nothing about effluent of any kind. In the years leading up to the Great Stink of 1858, which finally got the British to build a London sewer system, The Economist editorialized against any such foolish notion (pdf):

suffering and evil are nature's admonitions-they cannot be got rid of.

Or, to put it (almost) in the modern vernacular, stuff happens.

From Krugman

Myth of the Hero Gunslinger

Back to Tucson. On the day of the shooting, a young man named Joseph Zamudio was leaving a drugstore when he saw the chaos at the Safeway parking lot. Zamudio was armed, carrying his 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistol. Heroically, he rushed to the scene, fingering his weapon, ready to fire.

"When everyone is carrying a firearm, nobody is going to be a victim," said Arizona state representative Jack Harper, after a gunman had claimed 19 victims.

"I wish there had been one more gun in Tucson," said an Arizona Congressman, Rep. Trent Franks, implying like Harper that if only someone had been armed at the scene, Jared Lee Loughner would not have been able to unload his rapid-fire Glock on innocent people.

In fact, several people were armed. So, what actually happened? As Zamudio said in numerous interviews, he never got a shot off at the gunman, but he nearly harmed the wrong person - one of those trying to control Loughner.


From Myth of the Hero Gunslinger

Can someone on the more guns side point to an incident where a person with a concealed weapon prevented a crime or prevented escalation of violence? That’s the claim people keep making; clearly there should be ample evidence that this does occur. Right?

The Texas Omen

Texas is where the modern conservative theory of budgeting - the belief that you should never raise taxes under any circumstances, that you can always balance the budget by cutting wasteful spending - has been implemented most completely. If the theory can't make it there, it can't make it anywhere.

The point, however, is that just the other day Texas was being touted as a role model (and still is by commentators who haven't been keeping up with the news). It was the state the recession supposedly passed by, thanks to its low taxes and business-friendly policies. Its governor boasted that its budget was in good shape thanks to his "tough conservative decisions."

From The Texas Omen - NYTimes.com

The basic approach clearly doesn’t work.

House Republican Rule Changes Pave the Way For Major Deficit-Increasing Tax Cuts, Despite Anti-Deficit Rhetoric

House Republican leaders yesterday unveiled major changes to House procedural rules that are clearly designed to pave the way for more deficit-increasing tax cuts in the next two years. These rules stand in sharp contrast to the strong anti-deficit rhetoric that many Republicans used on the campaign trail this fall. While changes in congressional rules rarely get much public attention, these new rules - which are expected to be adopted by party-line vote when the 112th Congress convenes on January 5 - could have a substantial impact and risk making the nation's fiscal problems significantly worse.

I hear that a lot of journalistic insiders were annoyed when I began calling out self-styled deficit hawks like Paul Ryan as flim-flammers. But they are; nobody, and I mean nobody, in a position of influence within the GOP cares about deficits when tax cuts for the affluent are on the line. Deficit hawkery is just a stick with which to beat down social programs.


From House Republican Rule Changes Pave the Way For Major Deficit-Increasing Tax Cuts, Despite Anti-Deficit Rhetoric


And in other news, there is gambling going on at Rick’s

The Texas Omen

Texas is where the modern conservative theory of budgeting - the belief that you should never raise taxes under any circumstances, that you can always balance the budget by cutting wasteful spending - has been implemented most completely. If the theory can't make it there, it can't make it anywhere.

The point, however, is that just the other day Texas was being touted as a role model (and still is by commentators who haven't been keeping up with the news). It was the state the recession supposedly passed by, thanks to its low taxes and business-friendly policies. Its governor boasted that its budget was in good shape thanks to his "tough conservative decisions."

From The Texas Omen - NYTimes.com

The basic approach clearly doesn’t work.

Wall Street Whitewash

Last week, reports Shahien Nasiripour of The Huffington Post, all four Republicans on the commission voted to exclude the following terms from the report: "deregulation," "shadow banking," "interconnection," and, yes, "Wall Street."

From Wall Street Whitewash - NYTimes.com

They don’t want to mention Wall Street in a report on the financial crisses. WTF? This should have been a bigger story.

Wall Street Whitewash

Last week, reports Shahien Nasiripour of The Huffington Post, all four Republicans on the commission voted to exclude the following terms from the report: "deregulation," "shadow banking," "interconnection," and, yes, "Wall Street."

From Wall Street Whitewash - NYTimes.com

They don’t want to mention Wall Street in a report on the financial crisses. WTF? This should have been a bigger story.

House Republican Rule Changes Pave the Way For Major Deficit-Increasing Tax Cuts, Despite Anti-Deficit Rhetoric

House Republican leaders yesterday unveiled major changes to House procedural rules that are clearly designed to pave the way for more deficit-increasing tax cuts in the next two years. These rules stand in sharp contrast to the strong anti-deficit rhetoric that many Republicans used on the campaign trail this fall. While changes in congressional rules rarely get much public attention, these new rules - which are expected to be adopted by party-line vote when the 112th Congress convenes on January 5 - could have a substantial impact and risk making the nation's fiscal problems significantly worse.

I hear that a lot of journalistic insiders were annoyed when I began calling out self-styled deficit hawks like Paul Ryan as flim-flammers. But they are; nobody, and I mean nobody, in a position of influence within the GOP cares about deficits when tax cuts for the affluent are on the line. Deficit hawkery is just a stick with which to beat down social programs.


From House Republican Rule Changes Pave the Way For Major Deficit-Increasing Tax Cuts, Despite Anti-Deficit Rhetoric


And in other news, there is gambling going on at Rick’s

When Zombies Win

It's also worth pointing out that everything the right said about why Obamanomics would fail was wrong. For two years we've been warned that government borrowing would send interest rates sky-high; in fact, rates have fluctuated with optimism or pessimism about recovery, but stayed consistently low by historical standards. For two years we've been warned that inflation, even hyperinflation, was just around the corner; instead, disinflation has continued, with core inflation - which excludes volatile food and energy prices - now at a half-century low.

From NYTimes.com

Sadly, being wrong doesn’t effect the career of a right of center pundit.

When Zombies Win

It's also worth pointing out that everything the right said about why Obamanomics would fail was wrong. For two years we've been warned that government borrowing would send interest rates sky-high; in fact, rates have fluctuated with optimism or pessimism about recovery, but stayed consistently low by historical standards. For two years we've been warned that inflation, even hyperinflation, was just around the corner; instead, disinflation has continued, with core inflation - which excludes volatile food and energy prices - now at a half-century low.

From NYTimes.com

Sadly, being wrong doesn’t effect the career of a right of center pundit.

Post-Meltdown, Banks Still Rule Derivatives Trade

In theory, this group exists to safeguard the integrity of the multitrillion-dollar market. In practice, it also defends the dominance of the big banks.

The banks in this group, which is affiliated with a new derivatives clearinghouse, have fought to block other banks from entering the market, and they are also trying to thwart efforts to make full information on prices and fees freely available.

Banks' influence over this market, and over clearinghouses like the one this select group advises, has costly implications for businesses large and small, like Dan Singer's home heating-oil company in Westchester County, north of New York City.

This fall, many of Mr. Singer's customers purchased fixed-rate plans to lock in winter heating oil at around $3 a gallon. While that price was above the prevailing $2.80 a gallon then, the contracts will protect homeowners if bitterly cold weather pushes the price higher.

But Mr. Singer wonders if his company, Robison Oil, should be getting a better deal. He uses derivatives like swaps and options to create his fixed plans. But he has no idea how much lower his prices - and his customers' prices - could be, he says, because banks don't disclose fees associated with the derivatives.

"At the end of the day, I don't know if I got a fair price, or what they're charging me," Mr. Singer said.


From Post-Meltdown, Banks Still Rule Derivatives Trade - NYTimes.com


Why regulation maters.

The SPECTRE of Inequality

there's a scene early in the movie when the minions of SPECTRE, the evil conspiracy, are shown reporting on their profits from dastardly activities. And the numbers are ... ludicrously small. I know that's a running gag in Austin Powers, But it's true, it's true!

Even the big one - demanding a ransom for two stolen nuclear warheads - is 100 million pounds, $280 million. Adjusted for inflation, that's about $2 billion - or one-eighth of the Goldman Sachs bonus pool.

It's just an indicator of how huge top incomes have become that what were once viewed as impressive numbers, the kind of thing only arch-villains might demand, now look trivial. Or maybe the other way to look at it is that we have a lot more arch-villains around than we used to.


From The SPECTRE of Inequality - NYTimes.com


But do that have sharks with freaking laser beams?

The SPECTRE of Inequality

there's a scene early in the movie when the minions of SPECTRE, the evil conspiracy, are shown reporting on their profits from dastardly activities. And the numbers are ... ludicrously small. I know that's a running gag in Austin Powers, But it's true, it's true!

Even the big one - demanding a ransom for two stolen nuclear warheads - is 100 million pounds, $280 million. Adjusted for inflation, that's about $2 billion - or one-eighth of the Goldman Sachs bonus pool.

It's just an indicator of how huge top incomes have become that what were once viewed as impressive numbers, the kind of thing only arch-villains might demand, now look trivial. Or maybe the other way to look at it is that we have a lot more arch-villains around than we used to.


From The SPECTRE of Inequality - NYTimes.com


But do that have sharks with freaking laser beams?

Hive-minds and Kleptocrats

Stross is a spectacularly good contemporary science-fiction author, brimming with ideas, who also has a stimulating blog, where his latest entry asks why things are so messed up. His proposed answer is that we've been invaded by alien organisms - namely, corporations:

Corporations do not share our priorities. They are hive organisms constructed out of teeming workers who join or leave the collective: those who participate within it subordinate their goals to that of the collective, which pursues the three corporate objectives of growth, profitability, and pain avoidance. (The sources of pain a corporate organism seeks to avoid are lawsuits, prosecution, and a drop in shareholder value.)

Corporations have a mean life expectancy of around 30 years, but are potentially immortal; they live only in the present, having little regard for past or (thanks to short term accounting regulations) the deep future: and they generally exhibit a sociopathic lack of empathy.

I like it; it's fun (although William Gibson said much the same thing, I think); but it's so 1960s, if you know what I mean.


From Hive-minds and Kleptocrats


Odd and interesting.

Post-Meltdown, Banks Still Rule Derivatives Trade

In theory, this group exists to safeguard the integrity of the multitrillion-dollar market. In practice, it also defends the dominance of the big banks.

The banks in this group, which is affiliated with a new derivatives clearinghouse, have fought to block other banks from entering the market, and they are also trying to thwart efforts to make full information on prices and fees freely available.

Banks' influence over this market, and over clearinghouses like the one this select group advises, has costly implications for businesses large and small, like Dan Singer's home heating-oil company in Westchester County, north of New York City.

This fall, many of Mr. Singer's customers purchased fixed-rate plans to lock in winter heating oil at around $3 a gallon. While that price was above the prevailing $2.80 a gallon then, the contracts will protect homeowners if bitterly cold weather pushes the price higher.

But Mr. Singer wonders if his company, Robison Oil, should be getting a better deal. He uses derivatives like swaps and options to create his fixed plans. But he has no idea how much lower his prices - and his customers' prices - could be, he says, because banks don't disclose fees associated with the derivatives.

"At the end of the day, I don't know if I got a fair price, or what they're charging me," Mr. Singer said.


From Post-Meltdown, Banks Still Rule Derivatives Trade - NYTimes.com


Why regulation maters.

All we wanted was to be left alone to govern ourselves

the Sons of Confederate Veterans and some of its local chapters are preparing various television commercials that they hope to show next year. "All we wanted was to be left alone to govern ourselves," says one ad from the group's Georgia Division.

From NYTimes.com

Can we reduce the transfer of money from blue states to red states by saying that we just want to leave you alone to govern yourselves?

Learned Helplessness

It's true that if you bought completely into rational-expectations macroeconomics, the crisis in the economy should be causing a crisis in your faith - although as far as I can tell, the freshwater types remain smugly convinced of their rightness. But those of us who hadn't forgotten Keynes, who paid attention to things like Japan's lost decade and developing-country financial crises, aren't feeling all that at sea.

More specifically, we knew all about liquidity traps, and had at least thought about balance-sheet crises, a decade ago. Remember, I wrote the first edition of The Return of Depression Economics in 1999. The world we're now in isn't that different from the world I suspected, back then, we'd find ourselves in.


From Learned Helplessness - NYTimes.com


So at what point will the gold bug, inflationistas and other econo-cranks be subject to tough questions on why they are wrong? My guess never.

There Will Be Blood

There's a legal limit to federal debt, which must be raised periodically if the government keeps running deficits; the limit will be reached again this spring. And since nobody, not even the hawkiest of deficit hawks, thinks the budget can be balanced immediately, the debt limit must be raised to avoid a government shutdown. But Republicans will probably try to blackmail the president into policy concessions by, in effect, holding the government hostage; they've done it before.

Now, you might think that the prospect of this kind of standoff, which might deny many Americans essential services, wreak havoc in financial markets and undermine America's role in the world, would worry all men of good will. But no, Mr. Simpson "can't wait." And he's what passes, these days, for a reasonable Republican.

From There Will Be Blood

What GOP Nihilism looks like.

The Great American Cleaving

this is the first time in the history of exit polling that moderates were not the largest ideological voting block. They were trumped by conservatives.

Instead of moving toward the middle, we are drifting toward the extremes.


From The Great American Cleaving


The problem is that ideology is easy and policy is hard. Partisan media makes ideology even easier and the dearth of policy discussion in the media makes the idea of actually solving problems seem almost unimportant. Thats why so many people were willing to vote for people who campaigned on cutting the size of government without specifics. And why so many of the left are disappointed in Obama’s inability to racially shift policy.

A Mechanical Manifesto

it's conservative economists who insist that people are always rational and utility-maximizing; liberal economists are the ones willing to invoke bounded rationality, animal spirits, etc.. The whole salt-water fresh-water split was about which you were going to believe: the assumption of perfect maximization, or your own lying eyes. And the Keynesians were the ones who preferred to believe their eyes.


From A Mechanical Manifesto - NYTimes.com


Take away quote of the day.

The Politics of Erskine-Bowles

I think that this is a blueprint that conservatives should regard favorably, all things considered. But let's be clear: The cuts it proposes don't even remotely "slash the size of government"; they merely slow its future growth. By my back-of-the-envelope calculations, federal revenue has hovered around 18.3 percent of G.D.P. since 1980, breaking 20 percent only during the halcyon days of the dot-com boom. Under Simpson-Bowles, it would stick at 21 percent, a solid 10-15 percent boost over how the American government taxed its citizens in the Reagan and Clinton eras.

From The Politics of Erskine-Bowles - NYTimes.com

I finally found someone else sort-of-happy with the Erskine-Bowels report.

The sad fact is that for all the high-minded blathering about the size of government and its overreach, the right has demonstrated that people want big government most when they can effectively get other people to pay for it.

Frankly, you are not going to cut spending without raising taxes. Unless there is some connection between the cost of government and the services it provides, you are not going to have any consensus to decrease the demand for government services. This is just basic behavioral economics.

The Triumph Of Reagan Over Friedman

this is a point I think conservatives who believe they can remain reasonable about macro fail to grasp - this is about philosophy of government. If your bedrock faith is that government is always the problem, never the solution, then you're not, ultimately, going to be willing to draw a line around the central bank and say that it's OK for that semi-autonomous part of the government to engage in active problem-solving.

From The Triumph Of Reagan Over Friedman

There used to be a time when the right was pro-markets rather than nihilistically anti-government and anti-policy. The only acceptable policy is deregulation and tax cuts, irregardless of the problem.

The Great Cyberheist

Gonzalez was tired of working for the Secret Service. "He wasn't showing up on time," according to Agent Michael, who began talking with other agents about cutting Gonzalez loose. "He didn't want to be there." He was also tired of war driving. He wanted a new challenge. He found one in a promising technique called SQL injection.

From The Great Cyberheist - NYTimes.com

Great article on how black hats operate. In this case, they were really talented script kiddies with great professionalism and discipline.

The Hijacked Commission

The goals of reform, as Mr. Bowles and Mr. Simpson see them, are presented in the form of seven bullet points. "Lower Rates" is the first point; "Reduce the Deficit" is the seventh.

So how, exactly, did a deficit-cutting commission become a commission whose first priority is cutting tax rates, with deficit reduction literally at the bottom of the list?


From The Hijacked Commission


A must read.

QE Is Not CM

QE is basically expansionary monetary policy, no different in its effects (if it works) from reducing the policy interest rate. Yes, it tends to weaken the exchange rate; but it also increases domestic demand.

China is engaged in currency manipulation, that is, buying foreign currency to keep the yuan weak; meanwhile, it is actually moving to reduce domestic demand, among other things raising interest rates.

So the United States is moving to expand world demand, with a policy that may weaken the dollar; China is moving to reduce world demand, with a policy of deliberately weakening the yuan. America's policy may annoy its trading partners, but they are not the target; China's policy is predatory, pure and simple.

No equivalence here.

From QE Is Not CM - NYTimes.com

Clear explanation on differences between QE2 and China’s yuan manipulation.

Harry Gave 'Em Hell

Reid did something Democrats almost never do: instead of apologizing for his party, he ran against a person with a habit of making crazy statements by hitting hard, again and again, with ads calling her a crazy person. It was very rude and uncivil. And it worked.


From Harry Gave ‘Em Hell


Now if we can get Reid to do that in the Senate.

Nobody Cares About Process, except Democrats

If Obama had used fancy footwork and 2 AM sessions to pass a big public works program, and this program had brought unemployment down, Republicans would be screaming about the process - and Democrats would have comfortably held control of Congress. Remember the voter backlash against the way Medicare drug benefits were passed? Neither do I.

Oh, by the way - nobody cares about the deficit, either.


From Nobody Cares About Process, except Democrats


Krugman is right about this.

Five Thirty Eight

Five Thirty Eight

ntang:

I read this blog religiously during the last election cycle. It used to be independent, now it's part of the NY Times. His claim to fame is his detailed statistical analysis and resulting accuracy - he doesn't just look at poll results, he actually looks at the historical accuracy and bias of each pollster and takes that into account when determining what the likely result of the election is.

The end result: in 2008, he correctly predicted 49 of the 50 states for the Presidential election and was 100% accurate for the Senate results. Not bad.

538 is worth reading on just about any polling data.

How to Turn the Taliban Against Al Qaeda

Washington's goals officially remain those stated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: to strengthen Afghan Army forces and to "reintegrate" the supposedly "moderate" Taliban, that is, fighters who will consent to lay down arms and respect the Afghan Constitution, including its Western-inspired provisions to respect human rights and equality of women in the public sphere. Yet in nine years of war, no significant group of Taliban has opted for reintegration (a few individuals have come in, only to return to the Taliban when it again was in their interest). Moreover, coalition military personnel know that there isn't a single Afghan Army brigade that can hold its own against Taliban troops.

From How to Turn the Taliban Against Al Qaeda - NYTimes.com

Of course, the best thing we could do is promote a war between the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Possibly pulling Pakistan into it. That’s awful. And many people would suffer. But it would be in the US interest to do so.

Friedman On Japan

…staring in 2000, the BOJ nearly doubled monetary base over a period of 3 years. And the money just sat there. Banks did not, in fact, expand loans. In fact, Japan's experience is a key element of the case against monetarism. Just printing notes does not work when you're in a liquidity trap.


From Friedman On Japan - NYTimes.com

And it also doesn’t create the type of hyperinflation some worry about.

Predictable bad advice from David Brooks

President Obama is likely to suffer a pummeling defeat on Tuesday. But the road map for his recovery is pretty straightforward.

From The Next Two Years

Mr Brooks gives President Obama the typical bad advice people give the president on an off year election. When the GOP suffers a loss, the advice is that they turn to their core and rebuild. When the Dems suffer losses, the advice is to abandon the core in pursuit of some mythical center.

Did the GOP gain independents by being more centrist? Would anyone credibly look at the rise of the Tea Party in the past two years and and call that a centrist coalition designed to attract independents? Is the current slate of GOP candidates a portrait of centrism and moderation? Second, off-year elections are base elections with significantly reduced participation from independents. The 13 point GAP between registered voters and likely voters is the source of likely GOP victory. If more independents voted a GOP takeover of the house would be less likely.

My advice to Obama is to let the GOP be as extreme as possible. Let the GOP debate be about repealing the 14th amendment, investigating the non-existent black panther party and Roe V Wade. Let them overreach. Then count on more independents voting in 2012.

A Home in the Pyramid Atop Seattle Tower

Petra Franklin Lahaie ushers her two young daughters and their girly bikes through a set of heavy bronze doors, greets the 24-hour elevator operator in the Prussian blue uniform, rides up 35 stories past mostly vacant office suites, debarks next to an observation deck and Chinese-themed banquet room, passes through a portal marked "private residence," climbs two stories into a neo-gothic pyramid and enters a penthouse apartment.


From A Home in the Pyramid Atop Seattle Tower


Worth a read just for the pictures

Malpractice Methodology

The traditional way to reform medical malpractice law has been to impose caps on liability - for example, by limiting punitive damages to something like $500,000. A far better strategy would be to provide safe harbor for doctors who follow evidence-based guidelines. Anyone who could demonstrate that he has followed the recommended course for treating a specific illness or condition could not be held liable.

From Malpractice Methodology - NYTimes.com

Great idea.

A Far Away Country Of Which We Know Nothing

I've been getting a lot of correspondence lately that runs something like this:

You're an idiot. Give me one example in all of history of a country that spent its way out of a depressed economy

Ahem. There's this country - people may not have heard of it - called the United States of America:

DESCRIPTION

The blue line is total debt, public plus private, in billions of dollars; the red line debt as a percentage of GDP


From A Far Away Country Of Which We Know Nothing - NYTimes.com

But the axioms say it isn’t possible! How could this ugly facts be true when my beautiful theory says it is false?

Reforming Medicare's Payment System

Three-dimensional radiation costs roughly $10,000. A somewhat newer treatment, I.M.R.T., initially cost $42,000. And an even more recent treatment, proton radiation therapy, costs $50,000. The newer treatments do not seem to be more effective at keeping patients alive than three-dimensional radiation, so under the proposal all three treatments would be reimbursed (after the three-year trial period for the new ones) at $10,000.

Despite some of its downsides, this is a good idea - and precisely the type of shift in our reimbursement system than needs to happen if we are to reduce cost growth over time.


From Reforming Medicare’s Payment System - NYTimes.com


Orszag’s plan makes sense but the health care industry is going to fight anything that will reduce the use of expensive therapy and medications.

Activism of Thomas's Wife Could Raise Judicial Issues

It is the most partisan role ever for a spouse of a justice on the nation's highest court, and Mrs. Thomas is just getting started. "Liberty Central will be bigger than the Tea Party movement," she told Fox News in April, at a Tea Party rally in Atlanta.

But to some people who study judicial ethics, Mrs. Thomas's activism is raising knotty questions, in particular about her acceptance of large, unidentified contributions for Liberty Central.

From Activism of Thomas's Wife Could Raise Judicial Issues - NYTimes.com

What would the right say if a Liberal judge’s spouse took money from some undisclosed donor for a blatantly political purpose?

Plan to Ban Food Stamps for Sodas Faces Obstacles

Experts question the legality of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's proposal to bar New York City's food-stamp recipients from using them to buy sugared drinks.


From Plan to Ban Food Stamps for Sodas Faces Obstacles - NYTimes.com


Why doesn’t the debate over taxing junk food ever include discussion about ending the broken farm subsidies system that makes junk food cheap in the first place?

Activism of Thomas's Wife Could Raise Judicial Issues

It is the most partisan role ever for a spouse of a justice on the nation's highest court, and Mrs. Thomas is just getting started. "Liberty Central will be bigger than the Tea Party movement," she told Fox News in April, at a Tea Party rally in Atlanta.

But to some people who study judicial ethics, Mrs. Thomas's activism is raising knotty questions, in particular about her acceptance of large, unidentified contributions for Liberty Central.


From Activism of Thomas's Wife Could Raise Judicial Issues - NYTimes.com


What would the right say if a liberal judge took money from some undisclosed donor?

Railing Against Rail

people like me probably have a slight affinity for rail because it's a kind of socially provided good. But I don't think it's comparably irrational: rail just makes a lot of sense for densely populated regions, especially but not only the Northeast Corridor. New York could not function at all without commuter rail, and Amtrak even as it is is crucial to intercity traffic - it's not just a question of expanding airport capacity, we just don't have the airspace.

From Railing Against Rail

One thing I’ve never understood is why the GOP loves ear-mark driven national highways but insists that rail be a profit making venture. Other than historic accidents, why do we have socialist roads and capitalist trains?

Krugman : How The Other Half Thinks

While the other side was making these predictions, people like me were saying that classical economics was all wrong in a liquidity trap. Government borrowing did not confront a fixed supply of funds: we were in a paradox of thrift world, where desired savings (at full employment) exceeded desired investment, and hence savings would expand to meet the demand, and interest rates need not rise. As for inflation, increases in the monetary base would have no effect in a liquidity trap; deflation, not inflation, was the risk.

So, how has it turned out? The 10-year bond rate is about 2.5 percent, lower than it was when Ferguson made that prediction. Inflation keeps falling. The attacks on Keynesianism now come down to "but unemployment has stayed high!" which proves nothing - especially because if you took a Keynesian view seriously, it suggested even given what we knew in early 2009 that the stimulus was much too small to restore full employment.

The point is that recent events have actually amounted to a fairly clear test of Keynesian versus classical economics - and Keynesian economics won, hands down.

From How The Other Half Thinks - NYTimes.com

Krugman called it. Not only being among the first to identify the liquidity trap but the first to properly identify how the other side would respond, what errors they were making and what would be needed to restore the economy.

The development presents something of a chicken-and-egg situation: Corporations keep saving, waiting for the economy to perk up - but the economy is unlikely to perk up if corporations keep saving.

From Companies Borrow at Low Rates, but Don't Spend - NYTimes.com

So how much evidence of a liquidity trap is needed to get the other side to re-think their flawed premises?

Italian Town Has Wind at Its Back

Italian Town Has Wind at Its Back

More than 800 Italian communities now make more energy than they use because of the recent addition of renewable energy plants

It’s sad when Italy’s government is better able to create a functional energy policy than the US. The Italian government is less incompetent than ours.

Who You Gonna Believe?

Suppose you had spent the last five years actually believing what you read from the usual suspects the WSJ opinion pages, National Review, right-wing economists, etc.. Here s what would have happened:

In 2006 you would have believed that there was no housing bubble.

In 2007 you would have believed that the troubles of subprime couldn t possibly spread to the financial system as a whole.

In 2008 you would have believed that we weren t in a recession and that the failure of Lehman was unlikely to have bad consequences for the real economy.

In 2009 you would have believed that high inflation was just around the corner.

At the beginning of 2010 you would have believed that sky-high interest rates were just around the corner.

Now, we all make mistakes and get things wrong although it s striking how often the trolls on this blog feel the need to accuse yours truly of saying things I didn t. But after this string of errors, wouldn t you at least begin to suspect that the people you find congenial have a fundamentally wrong-headed view of how the world works?


From Who You Gonna Believe? - NYTimes.com

I’m amazed that Krugman has been right about almost everything almost all of the time and hasn’t gotten the respect he deserves. The forward to 2008’s The Return of Depression Economics is amazingly prescient.

America Goes Dark

Meanwhile, a country that once amazed the world with its visionary investments in transportation, from the Erie Canal to the Interstate Highway System, is now in the process of unpaving itself: in a number of states, local governments are breaking up roads they can no longer afford to maintain, and returning them to gravel.

In effect, a large part of our political class is showing its priorities: given the choice between asking the richest 2 percent or so of Americans to go back to paying the tax rates they paid during the Clinton-era boom, or allowing the nation s foundations to crumble literally in the case of roads, figuratively in the case of education they re choosing the latter.


From Op-Ed Columnist - America Goes Dark - NYTimes.com

Sad but true. This is what happens when the right-wing is allowed to undo the 20th century.

Op-Ed Columnist - The Marriage Ideal - NYTimes.com

What we think of as traditional marriage is not universal. The default family arrangement in many cultures, modern as well as ancient, has been polygamy, not monogamy. The default mode of child-rearing is often communal, rather than two parents nurturing their biological children.

The point of this ideal is not that other relationships have no value, or that only nuclear families can rear children successfully. Rather, it s that lifelong heterosexual monogamy at its best can offer something distinctive and remarkable a microcosm of civilization, and an organic connection between human generations that makes it worthy of distinctive recognition and support.


From Op-Ed Columnist - The Marriage Ideal - NYTimes.com

So this is a conservative case against marriage rights is to recognize traditional marriage as social engineering and is worthy of support because of the pretty genealogy diagrams? Huh? I wonder if Mr. Douthat would support asexual reproduction because you can use Venn Diagrams for genealogy. I generally like Mr. Douthat’s column but this is really an awful argument in what is his worst column of the year.

Is Anthony Weiner an Angry Loon?

In this age of cable and YouTube, millions of people evidently saw the one-minute-plus clip. But there has been relatively little focus on why the substantive debate that sparked it matters.
More broadly, while I appreciate the concern over the future of civility in politics, I believe a little raw anger right now is justified. Democrats make a mistake by pretending there is a bipartisan spirit in Congress these days, and would be better served by calling out Republican shams.

From Op-Ed Contributor - Anthony Weiner - Why I Was Angry - NYTimes.com

I wasn’t sure what I thought of his outburst so I asked myself a simple question. If he were a GOP member and was that passionate about tax cuts, would I call him out as an angry loon?
Sadly, yes. I would call him an angry loon. So I might agree with his politics but his attitude was totally uncalled for.

Myths of Austerity

This conventional wisdom isn t based on either evidence or careful analysis. Instead, it rests on what we might charitably call sheer speculation, and less charitably call figments of the policy elite s imagination specifically, on belief in what I ve come to think of as the invisible bond vigilante and the confidence fairy.

Bond vigilantes are investors who pull the plug on governments they perceive as unable or unwilling to pay their debts. Now there s no question that countries can suffer crises of confidence (see Greece, debt of). But what the advocates of austerity claim is that (a) the bond vigilantes are about to attack America, and (b) spending anything more on stimulus will set them off.

What reason do we have to believe that any of this is true? Yes, America has long-run budget problems, but what we do on stimulus over the next couple of years has almost no bearing on our ability to deal with these long-run problems. As Douglas Elmendorf, the director of the Congressional Budget Office, recently put it, There is no intrinsic contradiction between providing additional fiscal stimulus today, while the unemployment rate is high and many factories and offices are underused, and imposing fiscal restraint several years from now, when output and employment will probably be close to their potential.


From Myths of Austerity

If Krugman is right about the invisible bond vigilantes, then rates should be going down. And they are. If he is right about the confidence fairy, then there should be no (or week) correlation between economies in Austerity and growth. Right again.

I can’t help but think that the advocates of austerity would be in favor of all the same policies under a different name if the austerity argument wasn’t available. Notice how they focused on social spending and not corporate subsidies. Are any of the austerity advocates calling for an end to oil or farm subsidies? An end to the Bush tax cuts? Any tax increases at all?

Things We Already Knew - Ross Douthat

It isn t really surprising that if you take the marginal tax rate on labor from 29 percent to 38 percent, raise the tax burden dramatically for the middle and working classes, permanently slash physician reimbursements for Medicare and curb domestic discretionary spending growth as successfully as the Clinton-Gingrich deadlock did in the 1990s, you can dig your way out of the fiscal hole. But the whole reason our fiscal picture seems so grim is that it s hard to imagine lawmakers being willing to let those kind of changes take effect, or to imagine that voters would put up with them.

From Things We Already Knew - Ross Douthat Blog - NYTimes.com

I agree with some of that Mr. Douthat is saying, but I don’t think that tax increases and spending cuts won’t happen because of voter revolt. I don’t see any reason why voters would be against raising other people’s taxes or repealing other people subsidies. If anything, it will be easier to sell to voters than it will be to force these past the special interests groups that will object to any tax increase or any spending cut.

Is Apple a Victim of Sour Grapes?

People used to say, Apple is crazy, they are making a big mistake, said Paul Saffo, a veteran Silicon Valley technology forecaster. Now they are saying Apple is trying to kill competition.

From Is Apple a Victim of Sour Grapes? - NYTimes.com


I really disagree about this. This isn’t about sour grapes or jealously. These things are never about that. Its about Apple’s decision to limit what their devices can and can not do; after a person has purchased a device with a set of expectations. Its about Apple selling a device with a first class web experience and then purposefully crippling that experience.

The Renminbi Runaround

There have been all sorts of calculations purporting to show that the renminbi isn t really undervalued, or at least not by much. But if the renminbi isn t deeply undervalued, why has China had to buy around $1 billion a day of foreign currency to keep it from rising?

The effect of this currency undervaluation is twofold: it makes Chinese goods artificially cheap to foreigners, while making foreign goods artificially expensive to the Chinese. That is, it s as if China were simultaneously subsidizing its exports and placing a protective tariff on its imports.


From The Renminbi Runaround


Krugman explains it in four sentences. And this is why we need to lead the G8 into undoing any artificial Chinese advantage by imposing tariffs linked to the undervaluation of the Renminbi.

Oy, Canada - Paul Krugman Blog

I do feel a sense of despair here. Ever since the crisis began, some of us have been trying to get across the point that you have to be very careful with your historical precedents, that things work very differently when you have a synchronized severe financial crisis, with interest rates near zero everywhere. And here we are, two years in, and it s as if we ve been talking to a wall.
From Oy, Canada - Paul Krugman Blog - NYTimes.com

Krugman is right here. Concerns about inflation and debt need to take a back seat to concerns about unemployment and aggregate demand.

Down The Memory Hole

Basically, US postwar economic history falls into two parts: an era of high taxes on the rich and extensive regulation, during which living standards experienced extraordinary growth; and an era of low taxes on the rich and deregulation, during which living standards for most Americans rose fitfully at best.
From Down The Memory Hole - Paul Krugman Blog - NYTimes.com

While this doesn’t show causation; it does show that the claims on the right about the New Deal causing economic stagnation and Reaganomics creating a boom are unsupported.

The Principles of Rand Paul

No ideology survives the collision with real-world politics perfectly intact. General principles have to bend to accommodate the complexities of history, and justice is sometimes better served by compromise than by zealous intellectual consistency.

This was all that Rand Paul needed to admit, after his victory in Kentucky s Republican Senate primary, when NPR and Rachel Maddow asked about his views of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Like many outside-the-box thinkers, they re good at applying their principles more consistently than your average partisan, but lousy at knowing when to stop. (Hence the tendency to see civil rights legislation as just another unjustified expansion of federal power.)

From Op-Ed Columnist - The Principles of Rand Paul - NYTimes.com

Ross Douthat dissects Rand Pauls gaffe and demonstrates why libertarian ideologues do a disservice both to their cause and to open honest policy debate in general.

The Beauty of Diversity, and Sea Slugs

In the Philippines, Terry Gosliner of the California Academy of Sciences prepares for a week of diving to study nudibranchs, or sea slugs.

one of the few places in the western Pacific where you can say that the reefs are in better shape now than they used to be. That is in large measure due to concerted conservation efforts by heroic community leaders and recognition that having abundant marine life attracts the scuba divers who flock here each spring and infuse the local economy.

more than half the species we find here are new species. For a systematic biologist like myself, this is a dream come true. Where else can you find an average of one new species per dive?
From The Beauty of Diversity, and Sea Slugs - Scientist at Work Blog - NYTimes.com

If you read only one article about Sea Slugs, this should be the one.

Paul Krugman calls out Cantor on budget cuts

The real story here is that the sums involved are ludicrously trivial; eliminating everything on Cantor s list would amount to a rounding error on federal spending.

The truth is that it has always been like this. Ever since Reagan, the conservative approach has been to talk about the need for smaller government, but refuse to offer any serious proposals for spending cuts, pretending instead that there are large sums being wasted on things nobody wants.
From http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/05/12/unserious-people/

Krugman is right of course. This is about grandstanding not solutions. The GOP is simply not interested in any real cuts in spending. They just want to blast the Dems.

An Affordable Truth

Why should you believe that cutting emissions is affordable? First, because financial incentives work.

Action on climate, if it happens, will take the form of cap and trade : businesses won t be told what to produce or how, but they will have to buy permits to cover their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. So they ll be able to increase their profits if they can burn less carbon and there s every reason to believe that they ll be clever and creative about finding ways to do just that.

From Op-Ed Columnist - An Affordable Truth - NYTimes.com

I love it when Krugman schools free-marketers on basic free market principals. A while back I stated using the term Carbon-Socialism to describe the objection to the creation of markets for carbon emissions. I still think the term holds.

British Researcher Steps Down During E-Mail-Leak Inquiry

The head of the British research unit at the center of a controversy over the disclosure of thousands of e-mail messages among climate-change scientists has stepped down pending the outcome of an investigation.
From British Researcher Steps Down During E-Mail-Leak Inquiry - NYTimes.com

While embarrassing, this incident does nothing to change the physics of carbon in the atmosphere. A really good, politics free discussion is at popular mechanics.

The Nation of Futurity

The Chinese now have lavish faith in their scientific and technological potential. Newsweek and Intel just reported the results of their Global Innovation Survey. Only 22 percent of the Chinese believe their country is an innovation leader now, but 63 percent are confident that their country will be the global technology leader within 30 years. The majority of the Chinese believe that China will produce the next society-changing innovation, while only a third of Americans believe the next breakthrough will happen here, according to the survey.
From Op-Ed Columnist - The Nation of Futurity - NYTimes.com

David Brooks’ latest is a must read.

Treasury Invites Bloggers to Round Table

Mr. Geithner, the Treasury secretary, was among the senior officials who talked with bloggers at an outreach session on Nov. 2. The two-hour round table was held on background, meaning that the bloggers could describe the sessions, but not attribute quotes to specific officials. Lengthy posts about financial system reforms - and the bloggers' disagreements with the Treasury's strategies - ensued.
From Treasury Invites Bloggers to Round Table - NYTimes.com

Geithner deserves credit for opening up the normally cloistered FED. Even if this is just a tiny step toward openness, it is totally unprecedented.

If a deficit falls in the forest

The truth is that the truth about budgets plays almost no role in real politics. Right now, Meg Whitman is campaigning for Governor of California on the claim that state spending has exploded over the last decade - when the fact is that it has fallen drastically in real per capita terms. Will she pay a price for this? Probably not.
From If a deficit falls in the forest - Paul Krugman Blog - NYTimes.com

Krugman is right of course. This is to be accepted when you have a large portion of the population that work backwards from political philosophy rather than work forward from observations. If there is a budget crisis, then is must be because government has gotten too big and taxes are too high. The actual rate of growth being negative and the taxes rate being below the historic average are irreverent to people who view the sole purpose of facts are to corroborate pre-conceived notions. If the facts contradict your world view, ignore them while you look for other facts.

Krugman on Bush Derangement Syndrome

The symptoms of Bush Derangement Syndrome, in its fullest version, are that you believed

1. That the Bush tax cuts were sold on false pretenses, and were fiscally irresponsible

2. That the Iraq war was sold on false pretenses, and that invading Iraq was a mistake

3. That for all his posturing, Bush was actually doing a bad job of fighting Al Qaeda

4. That the use of torture was ineffective as well as immoral, and was hurting America

5. That the economic expansion of the middle Bush years, such as it was, was driven by an unsustainable housing bubble

6. That the Bush administration was distorting science to avoid taking action on climate change

Crazy stuff, with one common theme: it was all true.

URL: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/19/derangement/

Krugman: Nobody could have predicted

First, those who don’t want to nominate Hillary Clinton because they don’t want to return to the nastiness of the 1990s a sizable group, at least in the punditocracy are deluding themselves. Any Democrat who makes it to the White House can expect the same treatment: an unending procession of wild charges and fake scandals, dutifully given credence by major media organizations that somehow can’t bring themselves to declare the accusations unequivocally false (at least not on Page 1).
From Nobody could have predicted - Paul Krugman Blog - NYTimes.com

Don’t you hate it when he’s right like this?

The Town Hall Mob

There was a telling incident at a town hall held by Representative Gene Green, D-Tex. An activist turned to his fellow attendees and asked if they "oppose any form of socialized or government-run health care." Nearly all did. Then Representative Green asked how many of those present were on Medicare. Almost half raised their hands.
Now, people who don't know that Medicare is a government program probably aren't reacting to what President Obama is actually proposing. They may believe some of the disinformation opponents of health care reform are spreading, like the claim that the Obama plan will lead to euthanasia for the elderly.
URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/07/opinion/07krugman.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss

I am so glad there are brave people out there protesting Obama’s plan to take over Medicare and turn it into socialized, government-run health care.

Arthur Laffer is against government take over of Medicare

If you like the Post Office and the Department of Motor Vehicles and you think they’re run well, just wait till you see Medicare, Medicaid and health care done by the government.
URL: http://www.salon.com/politics/war_room/2009/08/04/qotd/index.html

I am so glad there are brave people out there like Arthur Laffer; of Laffer Curve fame; protesting Obama’s plan to take over Medicare and turn it into socialized, government-run health care.

Is the threat of speculation a reason to shun cap and trade?

Any time you have a market, there's some opportunity for speculation. Even if the good being traded isn't storable, there may be a futures market, so you can bet on the future price.

For example, the fact that wheat is traded means that there's also a wheat futures market; and because wheat can be stored, futures prices affect spot prices.
So, should fear of speculation lead us to ban trading in wheat?

Now substitute "emission permits" for wheat. It's exactly the same story.
From: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/21/is-the-threat-of-speculation-a-reason-to-shun-cap-and-trade/

The best defense of the use of market forces to control pollution comes from who else but Paul Krugman.

No Size Fits All

Over the past 35 years, college completion rates have been flat. Income growth has stagnated. America has squandered its human capital advantage. Students at these places are on self-directed missions to reverse that, one person at a time.
Community college enrollment has been increasing at more than three times the rate of four-year colleges. This year, in the middle of the recession, many schools are seeing enrollment surges of 10 percent to 15 percent. And the investment seems to pay off. According to one study, students who earn a certificate experience a 15 percent increase in earnings. Students earning an associate degree registered an 11 percent gain.
And yet funding lags. Most people in government, think tanks and the news media didn’t go to community college, and they don’t send their children to them. It’s a blind spot in their consciousness. As a result, four-year colleges receive three times as much federal money per student as community colleges.
From: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/17/opinion/17brooks.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Great article from David Brooks. Yes, that David Brooks.

The president is making sense

Why would it drive private insurance out of business? If private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality health care; if they tell us that they’re offering a good deal, then why is it that the government, which they say can’t run anything, suddenly is going to drive them out of business? That’s not logical.
URL: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/23/the-president-is-making-sense/

Somehow UPS and FedEx can compete against the post office for package delivery and express delivery. The latter can even compete against email and the dwindling number of Fax machines out there. But the health care companies are special. They must never be forced to compete. Or disclose. Or anything. Doing so would break the whole system.

Pot, Meet Kettle

the picture that those Republicans painted of Sotomayor doesn't seem to be supported by her actions. The Scotusblog examined her court of appeals decisions in race-related cases and found that she rejected claims of discrimination 80 percent of the time.
Op-Ed Columnist - Pot, Meet Kettle - NYTimes.com
Of the 96 cases, Judge Sotomayor and the panel rejected the claim of discrimination roughly 78 times and agreed with the claim of discrimination 10 times; the remaining 8 involved other kinds of claims or dispositions. Of the 10 cases favoring claims of discrimination, 9 were unanimous. (Many, by the way, were procedural victories rather than judgments that discrimination had occurred.) Of those 9, in 7, the unanimous panel included at least one Republican-appointed judge. In the one divided panel opinion, the dissent's point dealt only with the technical question of whether the criminal defendant in that case had forfeited his challenge to the jury selection in his case. So Judge Sotomayor rejected discrimination-related claims by a margin of roughly 8 to 1.
scotusblog: Judge Sotomayor and Race - Results from the Full Data Set

I’m waiting for the right wing and the libertarian spit-ballers to shift their arguments against Sotomayor. I’m guessing they’ll claim that the facts don’t actually demonstrate that she is able to be impartial but instead show that she is biased and incompetent at exercising her biases.

China Far Outpaces U.S. in Building Cleaner Coal-Fired Plants

But largely missing in the hand-wringing is this: China has emerged in the past two years as the world's leading builder of more efficient, less polluting coal power plants, mastering the technology and driving down the cost. While the United States is still debating whether to build a more efficient kind of coal-fired power plant that uses extremely hot steam, China has begun building such plants at a rate of one a month.
China Far Outpaces U.S. in Building Cleaner Coal-Fired Plants - NYTimes.com

China is switching to cleaner burning coal power plants. We can now retire the old canard that even if we lower carbon emissions, China won’t; therefore we shouldn’t.

Anti-green economics

Opponents of a policy change generally believe that market economies are wonderful things, able to adapt to just about anything - anything, that is, except a government policy that puts a price on greenhouse gas emissions. Limits on the world supply of oil, land, water - no problem. Limits on the amount of CO2 we can emit - total disaster.
From Anti-green economics - Paul Krugman Blog - NYTimes.com

Krugman sums most of the anti-regulation arguments succinctly.

Banking on the Brink

Lately the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has been seizing banks it deems insolvent at the rate of about two a week. When the F.D.I.C. seizes a bank, it takes over the bank's bad assets, pays off some of its debt, and resells the cleaned-up institution to private investors. And that's exactly what advocates of temporary nationalization want to see happen, not just to the small banks the F.D.I.C. has been seizing, but to major banks that are similarly insolvent.
From Op-Ed Columnist - Banking on the Brink - NYTimes.com

Krugman explains temporary Bank Nationalization as a business transaction. You may want to take notice of the fact that the plan does include the word temporary and doesn’t include the words gulag, re-education camp, or annexation of Sudetenland. This should comfort the people on the right but not the people on the far right.

Dry-Ice Martini and Electric Cake

But some professional scientists (and a few amateur lab rats) are taking the research in a different direction. Rather than scenting mozzarella cheese with rose petals, they're sticking metal forks into hot dogs and cooking them by electrocution. They're using Play-Doh extruders to make pixelated sugar cookies.
Dry-Ice Martini and Electric Cake - NYTimes.com

The pumpkin camera idea is amazing. And cakes with LEDs look interesting. But you can play with your food only so much before it turns into pringles, something edible that might have been food at some point.

Bloomberg Said to Seek Third-Term

Mr. Bloomberg, whose second term ends in 2009, is barred by law from running for re-election. So he will propose revising the city's 15-year-old term limits law, which restricts him and dozens of other elected leaders to two four-year terms, those people said.
In his appearance on Thursday, they said, Mr. Bloomberg, a former Wall Street trader and the founder of a billion-dollar financial data firm, will argue that the worldwide financial crisis - with its potentially severe impact on New York City - demands his steady hand and business experience.
From Bloomberg Said to Seek Third-Term Bid - NYTimes.com

This sounds suspiciously like Rudy’s post 9/11 argument for changing the rules so he could run for mayor again.

What could he do as mayor to help NYC deal with a worldwide financial crisis that he could not do as private citizen, paid or unpaid consultant to the mayor (or other elected officials) or in some other official or unofficial government position? As ex-mayor, ex-head of Bloomberg and private citizen he most certainly would have a larger bully pulpit on the same scale as say Warren Buffet or Bill Gates.

Hey Bloomy! Just admit you like being mayor and want them to let you run again.

G-Phone

Above all, feature-listers will be in heaven. The G1 with Android is clearly intended to be an iPhone knockoff-with all the chronic complaints addressed. Here's your black slab, touch screen, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, slide your finger to unlock, icons on Home screen, over-the-air downloadable App store and music store, Google Maps, full-screen Web browsing, accelerometer that rotates the screen when you turn the phone 90 degrees, etc.
From NYT: David Pogue

Screw the iPhone. I’ve been looking forward to Android for a while now. Assuming T-Mob doesn’t screw the pooch and that its unlock-able and jail-breakable, I might dump my failing Treo for one.

Issue Isn't Faith and Family

It is not snobbish to recognize that the job of vice president of the United States at this point in history requires a broad understanding of our diverse, globalized world and ways to strengthen the weakened position in it that this country has suffered over the last eight years.
From With Palin, the Issue Isn't Faith and Family

A new acronym for this election, ITIS (pronounced it-is) for It’s The Incompetence Stupid. Palin is under a cloud of corruption, cronyism and abuse of power. She expects to avoid answering questions by demanding reverence. This should be a big red flashing warning sign of someone who could not, should not and must not be trusted with power.

Mississippi's Ballot Trick

Defying state law, they have decided to hide a hard-fought race for the United States Senate at the bottom of the ballot, where they clearly are hoping some voters will overlook it. Their proposed design is not only illegal. It shows a deep contempt for Mississippi's voters.
From Mississippi's Ballot Trick

Remember the good old days when elected officials used to try and hide their law breaking rather than flaunt their contempt for laws they find inconvenient?

Debunking an Autism Theory

Ten years ago, a clinical research paper triggered widespread and persistent fears that a combined vaccine that prevents measles, mumps and rubella - the so-called MMR vaccine - causes autism in young children. That theory has been soundly refuted by a variety of other research over the years, and now a new study that tried to replicate the original study has provided further evidence that it was a false alarm.
From Editorial - Debunking an Autism Theory - Editorial - NYTimes.com

Richard Feynman had a great saying “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.” I think of that quote whenever I think I might be treating information differently simply because I wish it to be true or wish it to be false.
I’ve tried really hard not to let comments accusing me of child abuse because my son has been getting his vaccinations, effect my opinions on vaccinations or on theories linking it to disease. But at this point, it is getting much harder to respect the beliefs of the anti-vaccine people. The facts are not with them and they are becoming more defensive about their objections the more the facts contradict them.

Sex, Drug Use and Graft Cited in Interior Department

the Interior Department agency that collects oil and gas royalties has been caught up in a wide-ranging ethics scandal - including allegations of financial self-dealing, accepting gifts from energy companies, cocaine use and sexual misconduct.
From Sex, Drug Use and Graft Cited in Interior Department - NYTimes.com

I bet there are a lot of record company executives that are upset that those dweebs in the Interior Department are getting all the best coke and whores.

Two Large Solar Plants Planned in California

Companies will build two solar power plants in California that together will put out more than 12 times as much electricity as the largest such plant today, a fresh indication that solar energy is starting to achieve significant scale.
The plants will cover 12.5 square miles of central California with solar panels, and in the middle of a sunny day will generate about 800 megawatts of power, roughly equal to the size of a large coal-burning power plant or a small nuclear plant. A megawatt is enough power to run a large Wal-Mart store.
Two Large Solar Plants Planned in California - NYTimes.com

I hope that doesn’t result in 800 more Wal-Marts. Solar looks to be a more practical for places with the most sun, cheap land and need energy most when the sun shines. If this works in California then it will be duplicatable in Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico, where the costs for land, labor and permits will be less.

China Presses Hush Money on Grieving Parents

The official came for Yu Tingyun in his village one evening last week. He asked Mr. Yu to get into his car. He was clutching the contract and a pen.

The contract had been thrust in Mr. Yu's face during a long police interrogation the day before. In exchange for his silence and for affirming that the ruling Communist Party "mobilized society to help us," he would get a cash payment and a pension.
Mr. Yu had resisted then. This time, he took the pen.
From China Presses Hush Money on Grieving Parents - NYTimes.com

Sad story but a must read. And a warning on what happens when government bureaucracy is run for the interests of the bureaucrats and not the people they serve.

The Miracle Fruit

The miracle fruit, Synsepalum dulcificum, is native to West Africa and has been known to Westerners since the 18th century. The cause of the reaction is a protein called miraculin, which binds with the taste buds and acts as a sweetness inducer when it comes in contact with acids, according to a scientist who has studied the fruit, Linda Bartoshuk at the University of Florida's Center for Smell and Taste. Dr. Bartoshuk said she did not know of any dangers associated with eating miracle fruit.
During the 1970s, a ruling by the Food and Drug Administration dashed hopes that an extract of miraculin could be sold as a sugar substitute. In the absence of any plausible commercial application, the miracle fruit has acquired a bit of a cult following.
The Miracle Fruit, a Tease for the Taste Buds - NYTimes.com

Looks like there is now a fruit to replace The Durian fruit cult.

Smarter Isn't Better

Dr. Kawecki and like-minded scientists are trying to figure out why animals learn and why some have evolved to be better at learning than others. One reason for the difference, their research finds, is that being smart can be bad for an animal’s health.
From Lots of Animals Learn, but Smarter Isn’t Better - New York Times

This leads to a question for the ID people. Why would an intelligent designer work against intelligence in their design?

David Brooks on McCain and Obama

I was writing columns criticizing the Republican Congress, but each time I’ d throw in a few sentences slamming the Democrats, subconsciously trying to make myself feel good. One morning I got an e-mail message from Obama that roughly said: David, if you want to critique us, fine. But you’ re just throwing in those stray sentences to make yourself feel good.
From McCain and Obama - New York Times

Best article from Mr. Brooks in months. Well written and fair. Somehow he manages to talk about both Obama and McCain without sounding like a fan boy. No easy task for a pundit this early in the campaign season. This article was good enough for me to take Brooks off my On Notice board.

Study Finds Vaccine Preservative Is Not Linked to Risks of Autism

LOS ANGELES (AP) Autism cases in California continued to climb even after a mercury-based vaccine preservative that some people blame for the neurological disorder was removed from routine childhood shots, a study has found.
Researchers from the State Public Health Department found that the autism rate in children rose continuously in the study period from 1995 to 2007. The preservative, thimerosal, has not been used in childhood vaccines since 2001, except for some flu shots.
From Study Finds Vaccine Preservative Is Not Linked to Risks of Autism - New York Times

I see two possible outcomes from this. Either the anti-vaccine people reevaluate their opinions in light of the new evidence or they become true believers and insist that any and all conflicting information must be part of a larger conspiracy to conceal the truth they want to share. I want to start a meme that tinfoil hats cause brain disorders just to screw with the conspiracy theorists.

The Burger King and The Tomato Serfs

In 2005, Florida tomato pickers gained their first significant pay raise since the late 1970s when Taco Bell ended a consumer boycott by agreeing to pay an extra penny per pound for its tomatoes, with the extra cent going directly to the farm workers. Last April, McDonald's agreed to a similar arrangement, increasing the wages of its tomato pickers to about 77 cents per bucket. But Burger King, whose headquarters are in Florida, has adamantly refused to pay the extra penny - and its refusal has encouraged tomato growers to cancel the deals already struck with Taco Bell and McDonald's.
From NYT

When I read this some things popped out at me. Why fight this much for the extra penny, especially if all your major competitors would also pay that penny? And why would Burger King object to its competitors paying more for the same commodity they purchase? The one answer that I kept coming back to was that to pay that extra penny is to legitimize the consumer boycott that forced the buyers to pay that extra penny.

It is interesting to note that the workers didn’t strike. They didn’t sue. They didn’t form a union. They didn’t go begging for public money. They instead went to the market and used market forces to persuade the companies. And it worked. Perhaps too well.

To stretch the metaphor, the Burger King is not going to accept the terms of an economic Magna Carta from the Tomato Serfs without a fight.

The tax cut ratchet

notice that everything that happens is good for tax cuts.
If the economy is growing, and tax receipts are rising, then it shows that past tax cuts achieved wonders, plus the Laffer curve is right so let’ s cut taxes some more!
If the economy is shrinking, well, it needs a boost and what better boost than another round of tax cuts!
See, cutting taxes is always good. It makes you wonder why we ever had taxes in the first place.
From The tax cut ratchet - Paul Krugman - Op-Ed Columnist - New York Times Blog

Krugman does a bang up job exposing the tax-cut ratchet. Or tax cut racket if you prefer.

A Nation of Christians Is Not a Christian Nation

The only acknowledgment of religion in the original Constitution is a utilitarian one: the document is dated "in the year of our Lord 1787." Even the religion clause of the First Amendment is framed dryly and without reference to any particular faith. The Connecticut ratifying convention debated rewriting the preamble to take note of God's authority, but the effort failed.
From A Nation of Christians Is Not a Christian Nation - New York Times

Must read article on the Freedom from Religion that is an absolute necessity to protect Freedom of Religion.

Conservatives Are Such Jokers

What’ s happening, presumably, is that modern movement conservatism attracts a certain personality type. If you identify with the downtrodden, even a little, you don’ t belong. If you think ridicule is an appropriate response to other peoples’ woes, you fit right in.
From Conservatives Are Such Jokers - New York Times

Great quote from Krugman. Bush has made the GOP less conservative, less republican and more autocratic. Downright feudal. It is really interesting to compare how angry the left of center is at what the Bushies have done to how angry the right wing is at liberals for who they are.

Off-Peak Discounts May Be Part of M.T.A. Fare Increase

Under this proposal, a person who buys a pay-per-ride MetroCard would be charged $2 to ride the subway or bus during the morning and evening peak periods. Travel during off-peak periods, including midday, would cost $1.50.
Off-Peak Discounts May Be Part of M.T.A. Fare Increase - City Room - Metro - New York Times Blog

I think that the MTA has figured out how to sell peak-pricing to the masses. Rather than start off by raising the peak-price; lower the non-peak price. Market forces will work to shift some peak use to non-peak use as well as increase non-peak use. I like this. And I’d like to see the MTA try this on the bridges. Or see NJ try this on the Turnpike and Garden State Parkway.

Hired Gun Fetish

the so-called private security contractors are mercenaries. They’ re heavily armed. They carry out military missions, but they’ re private employees who don ’t answer to military discipline. On the other hand, they don’ t seem to be accountable to Iraqi or U.S. law, either. And they behave accordingly.
From Hired Gun Fetish - New York Times

Krugman describes exactly what the root problem with Blackwater is. If you aren’t totally sick of Iraq news or the Blackwater story, this is a must read

Fed Chief Calls for New Mortgage Rules

In testimony this morning to the House Financial Services Committee, Mr. Bernanke said a full review of consumer protection regulations was under way under existing regulatory authority.
"The recent problems in subprime lending have underscored the need not only for better disclosure and new rules but also for more-uniform enforcement in the fragmented market structure of brokers and lenders," he said.
From Fed Chief Calls for New Mortgage Rules - New York Times

If you read only one article about mortgages, this should be that article.

Paul Krugman's Blog

I was born in 1953. Like the rest of my generation, I took the America I grew up in for granted - in fact, like many in my generation I railed against the very real injustices of our society, marched against the bombing of Cambodia, went door to door for liberal candidates. It's only in retrospect that the political and economic environment of my youth stands revealed as a paradise lost, an exceptional episode in our nation's history.
From Introducing This Blog - Paul Krugman - Op-Ed Columnist - New York Times Blog

Paul Krugman has a blog. And the whole Times Select non-sense is over.

Speed Freaks: The 10 Fastest Green Cars on the Planet

Toyota’s own Landspeed Prius cracked the hybrid speed record on a run at Bonneville. Starting with the car’s stock Hybrid Synergy Drive system — a 1.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and 50 kw permanent-magnet electric motor — the Toyota team gave the transmission a taller final-drive ratio and beefed up the inverter charge from 500 to 550 volts. With lowered suspension, roll cage and moon-disked wheels, the 130-mph Landspeed Prius looks, dare we say, almost sexy.
From Speed Freaks: The 10 Fastest Green Cars on the Planet

If NASCAR can consider Biofuels I wonder how long it will be before we see a Hybrid racing league? With the winner calculated by both M/H and M/G?

He plugged his Toyota Prius into the backup uninterruptible power supply unit in his house and soon the refrigerator was humming and the lights were back on.
From NYT

I think we’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to Hybrid vehicles. I’ve been thinking that the next killer app will be diesel-electric commercial vehicles. From cement trucks that power their mixers from the power generated on the drive to the site; to delivery trucks that turn off when idling.

Republicans Plan to Penalize States on Primaries

The Republican National Committee plans to penalize at least four states holding early primaries, including New Hampshire and Florida, by refusing to seat at least half their delegates at the party's national convention in 2008, a party official said Tuesday.
From: Republicans Plan to Penalize States on Primaries - New York Times

I like this. My opinion of the whole primary process has been degrading with each passing day. I think we should get rid of the whole primary and replace it with a national caucus. Each of the 435 congressional districts would have precinct by precinct caucuses. They would elect a local representative who is who would go to the national convention. Those local representatives would then get together for a week or two and then draft the party platform and pick a ticket that would be able to run on that platform.

There are some some obvious and not so obvious advantages. For one thing, 435 people from around the country would might better represent party than a sample of people in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Suspended Spitzer Aide Is Expected Back at Work

Gov. Eliot Spitzer's communications director, who was a central figure in an attempt to use the State Police to embarrass the governor's main rival, is expected to return to state government as early as this week, people briefed on the matter said yesterday.
From: Suspended Spitzer Aide Is Expected Back at Work - New York Times

Really not cool. This is going to hurt Gov. Spitzer's reputation and it should. To my admittedly cynical eyes; it looks as if Mr. Dopp was acting on Gov. Spitzer's behalf, was caught, slapped on the wrist and allowed to keep his job. The use of state law enforcement to carry out political goals is serious. It is not somthing that can be tolerated in any administration, Republican or Democratic. Its the reason why AG Alberto Gonzales was dragged in front of the Senate.

Armored Trucks' Delivery Delayed

The United States military said Wednesday that it would deliver less than half the number of blast-resistant trucks to Iraq by year's end than planned.
A Pentagon spokesman, Geoff Morrell, said 1,500 vehicles, rather than 3,500, would be delivered because of the time it takes to equip them with radios and armaments and then deliver them by sea. He said the Pentagon was now trying to cut that time to 30 days from 50.
From NYT

Three years into the insurgency and there is still a lag in getting the proper equipment. Sadly, it isn’t even on Waxman’s List.

Eliot Spitzer News

Though two independent investigations proved that no illegal activity occurred on my watch, it is crystal clear that what members of my administration did was wrong - no ifs, ands or buts.
I have apologized to Joe Bruno, the Senate majority leader, and now I want to apologize to all New Yorkers.
From An Apology From Albany - New York Times
More here Eliot Spitzer News - The New York Times

I hate to say this, but I don’t buy the governor’s story. Maybe I am a too much of a cynic; but I have a lot of trouble believing that anyone with Governor Spitzer’s reputation for detail and micromanagement would be unaware of actions against Majority Leader Bruno taken by his aides. I’ve seen what happens when then AG Spitzer investigated wrong doing at a bond desk I had worked on. This guy is not W. If someone in his circle switched to a Windsor Knot, he would know. I know people who work in government. I’ve met more than a few staffers. I’ve seen the way things work (or don’t work). And I don’t buy the story.

One thought in closing for my friends on the right. Would you trust Mr. Spitzer with W’s justice department? Would you be happy to grant his staff the same level of executive privilege? Would you want him to have the same wire tapping powers? Or have as little oversight as been granted W?

Giuliani Offers Health Care Plan

Critical to Giuliani’s plan is a $15,000 tax deduction for families to buy private health insurance, instead of getting insurance through employers. Any leftover funds could be rolled over year-to-year for medical expenses.
From Giuliani Offers Health Care Plan - New York Times

This is not a health care plan. This isn’t even a tax cut. It is a subsidy for the health insurance companies. You know that little box on your tax return that allows you to divert $1 or $5 to some special cause? This is just like that except that the money goes to an insurance company.

As far as Mr. Giuliani’s insistence that Government can not help; one is left to wonder why he has such a low opinion of the institution he wishes to be the head of. And why he has such a low opinion of his fellow American’s that he feels that we alone are unable to have a Government that can handle basic tasks like health care.

It would be one thing if he argued that the private sector can do it better. That’s a legitimate argument one can make. It is another to claim the private sector can not solve the problem when this is ample evidence to suggest that it can and has.

More on the topic on Slate.

Senate May End an Era of Cloakroom Anonymity

all three variations on the Senate hold one of the most secretive backroom weapons in Congress have been used to tie the chamber in knots by allowing senators to block legislation and nominations anonymously, and to do so for reasons as simple as pique or payback.
And
"Holds are good government," said Senator Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican who is not shy about putting himself between a bill and its passage
From Senate May End an Era of Cloakroom Anonymity - New York Times

I’m willing to concede the fact that in some cases, a hold can indeed be good government. What I doubt is that a secretive, anonymous hold can be good government. This is well demonstrated by the willingness of Senators from both sides of the aisle to trip all over themselves to take credit for any good idea that anyone has. And I will retract this statement if someone can give an example of a good idea (popular or unpopular) that no Senator was willing to take credit for. To put it even more bluntly, there is little that government does anonymously that turns out to have been a good idea, let alone good government.

Toyota to Test Plug-In Hybrid, Rivaling G.M.

Toyota's announcement is its first formal confirmation that it is ready to test plug-in hybrid vehicles, which environmentalists say may prove to be cleaner and more fuel-efficient than current hybrids.
From Toyota to Test Plug-In Hybrid, Rivaling G.M. - New York Times

I think everyone knew this would eventually happen. I predict that some early adopters will be charging their hybrids via solar for added smugness and/or energy efficiency. The plug-in is the perfect suburban car, designed for frequent short drives and the assumption that it will be parked in a garage.

Computer Checkers Program Is Invincible

Developed by computer scientists at the University of Alberta in Canada, Chinook vanquished human competitors at tournaments more than a decade ago. Now, in an article published today on the Web site of the journal Science, the scientists report that they have rigorously proved that Chinook, in a slightly improved version, cannot ever lose. An opponent, no matter how skilled, practiced or determined, can at best achieve a draw.
Computer Checkers Program Is Invincible - New York Times

Why am I reminded of the WOPR from wargames?

Olbermann: Even Richard Nixon knew it was time to resign

Were there any remaining lingering doubt otherwise, or any remaining lingering hope, it ended yesterday when Mr. Bush commuted the prison sentence of one of his own staffers.
Did so even before the appeals process was complete. Did so without as much as a courtesy consultation with the Department of Justice. Did so despite what James Madison — at the Constitutional Convention — said about impeaching any president who pardoned or sheltered those who had committed crimes “advised by” that president.
Did so without the slightest concern that even the most detached of citizens must look at the chain of events and wonder: To what degree was Mr. Libby told, “Break the law however you wish — the president will keep you out of prison”?
From Salon.com | “Even Richard Nixon knew it was time to resign”

Frankly, I’d be happy if Gonzales resigned. Let alone President Bush. But it is about time people started calling this exactly what it is. This administration has invoked Omerta with the specific intent to prevent justice from being served. They are doing everything they can to make sure that Mr. Libby will never see the inside of a jail cell and will never be pressured into talking to the prosecution.

But to truly understand the damage he is doing to our system of justice, you have to look at the legal debate.

"The Bush administration, in some sense following the leads of three previous administrations, has repeatedly supported a federal sentencing system that is distinctly disrespectful of the very arguments that Bush has put forward in cutting Libby a break," said Douglas A. Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University who writes the blog Sentencing Law and Policy.
From Bush Rationale on Libby Stirs Legal Debate - New York Times

Once again this administration has traded precedence for expedience. Policy for politics. Good faith for sort term gain.

Subpoenas Sent to White House on Wiretapping

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday issued subpoenas to the White House, Vice President Dick Cheney's office and the Justice Department after what the panel's chairman called "stonewalling of the worst kind" of efforts to investigate the National Security Agency's policy of wiretapping without warrants.
Subpoenas Sent to White House on Wiretapping - New York Times

So what happens now when the VP claims executive privilege a few scant days after claiming he isn’t in the Executive Branch?

Jihad Etiquette

This jihad etiquette is not written down, and for good reason. It varies as much in interpretation and practice as extremist groups vary in their goals. But the rules have some general themes that underlie actions ranging from the recent rash of suicide bombings in Algeria and Somalia, to the surge in beheadings and bombings by separatist Muslims in Thailand.
From Terrorism - Jihad Etiquette - Islam - Militants - Middle East - Iraq - Jordan - Lebanon - New York Times

Interesting yet disturbing story on the rules of Jihad. This is a wonderful example of how the letter of the law can be used to circumvent the spirit of the law as Jihadists turn prohibitions on violence against civilians into permission.

Doubts Grow as G.I.'s in Iraq Find Allies in Enemy Ranks

But now on his third deployment in Iraq, he is no longer a believer in the mission. The pivotal moment came, he says, this past February when soldiers killed a man setting a roadside bomb. When they searched the bomber's body, they found identification showing him to be a sergeant in the Iraqi Army.
"I thought, 'What are we doing here? Why are we still here?' " said Sergeant Safstrom, a member of Delta Company of the First Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division. "We're helping guys that are trying to kill us. We help them in the day. They turn around at night and try to kill us."
From New York Times

So what are we doing there? And why do we think it will be worse if we leave? And this is just the tip of the misery iceberg of what’s going on there.

sophisticated equipment

The militant group, Fatah al Islam, which is thought to have links to Al Qaeda, fired antiaircraft guns and mortars and had night vision goggles and other sophisticated equipment. The Lebanese Army does not have such gear.
From Lebanese Army and Islamists Battle for 2nd Day - New York Times

This is a really disturbing development. With insurgents using GPS to aid in targeting and terrorists using night vision goggles; the US Military is starting to lose its greatest advantage in the GWOT; high-tech weaponry and training.

Solar Flashlight

a Sudanese refugee, announced that his wife had just given birth, and the boy would be honored with the visitor’ s name. After several awkward translation attempts of “ Mark Bent,” it was settled. “ Mar,” he said, will grow up hearing stories of his namesake, the man who handed out flashlights powered by the sun.
Since August 2005, when visits to an Eritrean village prompted him to research global access to artificial light, Mr. Bent, 49, a former foreign service officer and Houston oilman, has spent $250,000 to develop and manufacture a solar-powered flashlight.
His invention gives up to seven hours of light on a daily solar recharge and can last nearly three years between replacements of three AA batteries costing 80 cents.
From New York Times

Great article on the transformative effects of technology.

Billions in Oil Missing in Iraq

Between 100,000 and 300,000 barrels a day of Iraqa s declared oil production over the past four years is unaccounted for and could have been siphoned off through corruption or smuggling, according to a draft American government report.
From New York Times

We are fighting a war where the American taxpayer finances both sides of the conflict. One directly via taxes and one indirectly via fuel purchases. Sad fact of the day.

Inca Bridges

Conquistadors from Spain came, they saw and they were astonished. They had never seen anything in Europe like the bridges of Peru. Chroniclers wrote that the Spanish soldiers stood in awe and fear before the spans of braided fiber cables suspended across deep gorges in the Andes, narrow walkways sagging and swaying and looking so frail.
From New York Times

Great article on Inca bridges.

Putin to Suspend Pact With NATO

The announcement, made in Mr. Putin’ s annual address to Parliament, underscored the Kremlin’ s anger at the United States for proposing a new missile defense system in Europe, which the Bush administration insists is meant to counter potential threats from North Korea and Iran.
Mr. Putin suggested that Russia would use its future compliance with the treaty as a bargaining point in that disagreement with the United States.
From Putin to Suspend Pact With NATO - New York Times

Then there is the kicker from Russia expert and SecState Rice.

These are treaty obligations, and everyone is expected to live up to treaty obligations.

Umm…like the anti-ballistic missile treaty we withdrew from so we could place the missile system there in the first place?

Bees Vanish, and Scientists Race for Reasons

As with any great mystery, a number of theories have been posed, and many seem to researchers to be more science fiction than science. People have blamed genetically modified crops, cellular phone towers and high-voltage transmission lines for the disappearances. Or was it a secret plot by Russia or Osama bin Laden to bring down American agriculture? Or, as some blogs have asserted, the rapture of the bees, in which God recalled them to heaven? Researchers have heard it all.
Honeybees - Bees Vanish, and Scientists Race for Reasons - New York Times

I just want to go on record that I don’t think it is cell phones. I’d rank the likely culprits as a new pesticide or some change in GMO crops. Oh, and the people who think heaven is full of bees are silly.

Bill to Let Medicare Negotiate Drug Prices Is Blocked

A pillar of the Democratic political program tumbled today when Republicans in the Senate blocked a proposal to allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices for millions of older Americans, a practice now forbidden by law.
From Bill to Let Medicare Negotiate Drug Prices Is Blocked

Can someone please explain why forbidding the Government from negotiating the best deal for the tax payers makes sense to anyone? Even in the era of no-bid contracts and crony-capitalism this is just silly.

Bloomberg to Unveil Long-Term Vision for City

With New York’ s population expected to grow by one million in two decades, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg will call on Sunday for a raft of ambitious and sometimes contentious proposals that are intended to ease traffic congestion, reduce air pollution, build housing, improve mass transit and develop abandoned industrial land.
From Bloomberg to Unveil Long-Term Vision for City - New York Times

I’m going to hold out judgment until I see more, but this is a hell of a lot better than his old plan for New York; build stadiums everywhere. One thing that seems to be missing from his plan is improving mass transit from Borough to Borough. In many parts of NYC, it is easier to go to Midtown Manhattan than Brooklyn, even though Brooklyn is physically closer.

Latte Laborers Take on a Latte-Liberal Business

ON March 30, the National Labor Relations Board's New York office delivered a stinging accusation against one of the city's - and the nation's - most popular retail outlets. The labor board charged that Starbucks, the ubiquitous coffee chain, committed 30 violations of law in the process of trying to ward off union activity at four Manhattan outlets.
This may be the latest salvo in a new kind of labor battle: union workers versus corporate do-gooders.
From Latte Laborers Take on a Latte-Liberal Business

Interesting article on Starbucks’ the corporate image versus Starbucks’ the coffee company.

Income inequality grew significantly in 2005

Income inequality grew significantly in 2005, with the top 1 percent of Americans - those with incomes that year of more than $348,000 - receiving their largest share of national income since 1928, analysis of newly released tax data shows.
The top 10 percent, roughly those earning more than $100,000, also reached a level of income share not seen since before the Depression.
While total reported income in the United States increased almost 9 percent in 2005, the most recent year for which such data is available, average incomes for those in the bottom 90 percent dipped slightly compared with the year before, dropping $172, or 0.6 percent.
From NYT

Another story that isn’t getting covered. This was part the last weekend’s news dump, designed to prevent anyone from hearing the story.

proof that we are stuck in someone else's war

Ms. Saadoun was a Sunni Arab living in a Shiite enclave of western Baghdad. A widowed mother of seven, she and her family had been chased out once before. This time, she called American and Kurdish soldiers at a base less than a mile to the east….
The next morning, Ms. Saadoun was shot dead while walking by a bakery in the local market.
From NYT

A must read article. What happened to Ms. Saadoun seems to be clear evidence that at least in some parts of the Iraq, our troops are stuck in between sides of a civil war. This is clearly not what their orders were. And this is clearly not a mission they should be charged with.

Democrats Seek Votes for Bill on Iraq

House Democrats were scrambling today to find the 218 votes needed to pass a war spending bill that would set a timetable to bring American troops home from Iraq, as the Bush administration and Congressional Republicans worked aggressively to foil their effort.
From Democrats Seek Votes for Bill on Iraq - New York Times

The inability to find the 218 votes is really disappointing. The war is unpopular. The president is unpopular. And Congress is unpopular because it hasn’t forced a change in Iraq strategy. The second complaint is over the volume of pork in that bill. Weren’t we promised a change in earmarking? What happened to that?

These Boots Were Made for 22 M.P.H.

But rather than being dismissed as a crackpot invention, his boots - which use tiny pistons - became classified as a Russian military secret until 1994.
Now, they have been held up as a symbol of both Russia's deep and rich scientific traditions and the country's inability to convert that talent into useful - and commercial - merchandise outside of the weapons business.
From NYT

Interesting article on science in Russia. This should serve as a warning on what happens with politics is wedged between science and industry. This should be a warning for the ethanol industry.

Hagel Holds Off on 2008 Presidential Race

Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, said today that he is not jumping into the 2008 presidential race - for now, at least - so he can concentrate on domestic and global concerns, particularly helping to bring an end to the Iraq war.
From New York Times

Senator Hagel should run. Liberals and progressives should be cheering him on to the GOP nomination. Why? He is the GOP anti-war candidate and his nomination will finally end the collection of contradictory canards and talking points that the right has been using as a substitute for an actual foreign policy. Most notably, the GOPer blowhards (on Fox et al) can no longer claim that those that are against the war want the terrorists to win if their own party nominates an anti-war candidate. Or if an anti-war candidate wins 30-40% of the vote. Doubly so when the clearest distinction between Senator Hagel and the rest of the pack is that he is the anti-war candidate.

Until they stop pushing this square-peg talking point into the round hole of reality; the debate on how we can secure a political end to the carnage will be blocked. A early Hagel victory can finally end this rhetorical stalemate.

California Plan for Health Care Would Cover All

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday proposed extending health care coverage to all of California's 36 million residents as part of a sweeping package of changes to the state's huge, troubled health care system.
From California Plan for Health Care Would Cover All - New York Times

After reading more on Gov. Schwarzenegger’s proposed, I feel confident is saying; this is exactly the same as the Hillary-care plan from 1993. They did file the serial numbers off and give it a new coat of paint, but every major point is the same. They even decided to rename the taxes that would fund it the same way. Fees. As if anyone who is against taxes to pay for health care would be pro-fees.

Letter by Hussein Urges Iraqis to Renounce Hatred

BAGHDAD, Dec. 27 - Saddam Hussein, who is expected to make the short walk up the gallows stairs to his death here sometime in the next 30 days, said he was prepared to die and sure of his place in heaven as a martyr, and he called on Iraqis to unite, according to a letter that his lawyers said Wednesday had been composed by the former dictator.
From Letter by Hussein, Written After Conviction, Urges Iraqis to Renounce Hatred - New York Times

When did the NYT hire the guy who writes the Onion Headlines?

hot air on wind power

Engineers have cut the price of electricity derived from wind by about 80 percent in the last 20 years, setting up this renewable technology for a major share of the electricity market. But for all its promise, wind also generates a big problem: because it is unpredictable and often fails to blow when electricity is most needed, wind is not reliable enough to assure supplies for an electric grid that must be prepared to deliver power to everybody who wants it - even when it is in greatest demand.
From NYT

The fact that the wind doesn’t always blow isn’t an energy generation problem. It’s an energy storage problem. Or an opportunity, if you chose to see it that way. Why not use the winter surplus wind to generate hydrogen from water. Rather than store all that explosive H2, the wind farm can convert it to methanol; which is similar enough to ethanol that it should be easy enough to get E85 vehicles to run on it. Why methanol? Because producing it will remove three atoms of CO2 from the atmosphere for every atom of H2. Methanol producing wind farms will be able to sell carbon credits along with that fuel. Also, burning that methanol in your car will result in no net carbon increase. Nothing I am saying is new. One wonders why the Times is missing this.

Ex-Quarterback Thrives as Lobbyist

Now as a lobbyist, he has shown a similar deftness - as the case of John Deere suggests - for turning his lobbying assignments into business deals for himself and his clients.
From Ex-Quarterback Thrives as Lobbyist - New York Times

Few people demonstrate the revolving door between Congress and K-Street as well as JC Watts. It used to be that people went to congress after they’ve had a career. Now Congress is seen as a steeping stone to a career as a lobbyist.

Study of Iraq War and Terror Stirs Strong Political Response

Democratic lawmakers, responding to an intelligence report that found that the Iraq war has invigorated Islamic radicalism and worsened the global terrorist threat, said the assessment by American spy agencies demonstrated that the Bush administration needed to devise a new strategy for its handling of the war.
And then there is the kicker:
In public comments on Sunday, Republican Congressional leaders did not dispute the accuracy of the reports about the intelligence estimate, although they continued to defend the American presence in Iraq.
From Study of Iraq War and Terror Stirs Strong Political Response - New York Times

Now that its clear that the fight them there so we won’t have to fight them here is actually fighting them in Iraq will make it more likely we will have to fight them here I have to wonder what the next justification will be. This is a really tragic. This is the time for new ideas and a major course correction. Not a retreat, but a rethinking of what our goals are and what we need to do to get there. And this is exactly what the GOP leadership seems unwilling to consider or open to debate.

Amnesty International Says Hezbollah Committed War Crimes

Matching an earlier condemnation of Israel, Amnesty International on Thursday accused Hezbollah forces of war crimes and "serious violations of international humanitarian law" during the Lebanon war, including indiscriminate rocket attacks and "deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian objects."
From Amnesty International Says Hezbollah Committed War Crimes - New York Times

I wonder if the people on the right that criticize Amnesty International’s stand on Israel, Gitmo and Abu Garib will make note of this. I wonder if the will praise them for putting principals ahead of politics. But I doubt it. Amnesty International has been a right wing punching bag for too long for this to be noted.

Today@UCI: Press Releases:

Performing what a team of dedicated and bleary-eyed newspaper librarians would need months to do, scientists at UC Irvine have used an up-and-coming technology to complete in hours a complex topic analysis of 330,000 stories published primarily by The New York Times.
From Today@UCI: Press Releases:

In the future, How you know will be as important as What you know and Who you know.

Gain in Income Is Offset by Rise in Property Tax

Nationwide, property taxes grew 28 percent from 2000 to 2004, though income went up only 16 percent.
From New York Times

Anyone still willing to argue that under the Bush administration, the middle class is paying less in taxes? I for one would not be willing to defend that proposition. Likewise, anyone really willing to argue that the Bush tax cuts have stimulated the economy; now that it is clear that median wages haven’t kept up with inflation, the median household savings is negative and local taxes have grown faster than household income? And would anyone willing to defend the current state of the economy still be willing to do so if Gore or Kerry were in office?

Fuel-Efficient Cars Help Toyota to Strong Profits

TOKYO, Aug. 4 - Toyota Motor Company said its income jumped 39.2 percent to $3.2 billion during the second quarter, boosted by strong sales of fuel-efficient vehicles in the United States, where it passed Ford Motor Company in July sales to rank as the second-biggest automaker behind General Motors.
From New York Times

While the knee-jerk reaction might be a snide remark about Detroit only being profitiable when gas is cheep and the demand for giant cars is high, but I see another set of problems here.

First, the fact that Honda and Toyota can make cars in the US better than GM or Ford shows that there is a problem with management and not with the workers. Second, part of this problem is that Honda and Toyota have a much lower legacy cost. A large part of the GM sticker price is the cost of paying pensions and health care benefits for retired workers. By making health care and pensions backed by companies rather than the state, brand new US subsidiaries of foreign companies have an advantage over US firms. Lastly, the lack of a national energy policy that would put pressure on Detroit has lead to complacency. You would think that they might have learned a thing or two from the 1970s and wouldn’t be caught by surprise by the same geo-political surprise again. And you would be wrong.

So what can be done about this? First, a new energy policy targeting an overall improvement in fuel economy. Second, a national health care and pension plan overhaul to eliminate; or at least mitigate, the disadvantages of legacy costs. Lastly, there needs to be a policy of promoting long term planning so managers will be less likely to sabotage a firms future for a few good quarters.

Tensions High in Somalia as Thousands Protest

Tensions were high in Somalia’s capital today as the Islamic militants who seized control of Mogadishu the day before vowed to set up a religious state, but thousands of people allied with the one of the country’s largest clans held a rally to protest that move.
From New York Times

Bad news in the Global War on Terror as Somalia falls to Islamic militants who want to set up an Theocracy. And yes, this is where Black Hawk Down happened.

Republican right abandoning Bush

Angry conservatives are driving the approval ratings of President Bush and the GOP-led Congress to dismal new lows, according to an AP-Ipsos poll that underscores why Republicans fear an Election Day massacre.
From Republican right abandoning Bush

I think massacre is a really regrettable word in this context. Other than that, why is anyone surprised that traditional conservatives who make up the silent majority of the Republican party would be disappointed in an administration that has shown itself to be driven by a radical Neo-Con/Theo-Con, downright Feudalistic agenda. And even those that might be willing to deal with this agenda might not be willing to stomach the incompetence, corruption and dishonesty.

The prospect of Democrats capturing either, however, may be one of the best weapons Mr. Rove has as he turns to what he has traditionally done best: motivating his party’s conservative base to turn out on Election Day.
From Rove Is Using Threat of Loss to Stir Republicans

This has me a little worried about Nov ‘06. Rove has shown that he really knows how to manipulate fear and loathing to squeeze the base for votes. While I expect a lot of Republicans to stay home on election day, Rove has shown that he knows how to use fear and smear better than anyone else.

Study Says Chips in ID Tags Are Vulnerable to Viruses

A group of European computer researchers have demonstrated that it is possible to insert a software virus into radio frequency identification tags, part of a microchip-based tracking technology in growing use in commercial and security applications.
From New York Times

In the age of cell-phone viri, it was only a matter of time before smart objects become carriers for malicious computer code. But this article makes me wonder if that RFID virus is real.

If You Give a Congressman a Cookie - New York Times

CONGRESSIONAL Republicans are suddenly taking a strong interest in lobbying reform. Speaker Dennis Hastert and the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, are rallying behind a reform package that will include measures like increasing disclosure and doubling the length of time after leaving Congress before lawmakers and staff can lobby their colleagues. These are commendable and desirable reforms. But to get to the root of what ails Washington’s political culture, a more basic change is necessary.
and
In 1987, when the majority Democrats once - and only once - stretched a budget vote to 30 minutes because they found themselves unexpectedly down by one vote when time was supposed to expire, the minority Republicans loudly protested, with their whip, Dick Cheney, saying it was the worst abuse of power he had ever seen in Congress. Now it is routine to bring up a bill and troll for enough votes to pass it, even when a clear majority of the House - 218 members - has voted nay.
From NYT but here too.

Great bipartisan discussion of Washington’s political culture and what the real problems are. What is needed is not only more transparency and an independent investigatory group in the legislative branch. Why? Because no one can be trusted to police themselves. Another solution is public financing of elections.

Group Seeks I.R.S. Inquiry of Two Ohio Churches

A group of religious leaders has sent a complaint to the Internal Revenue Service requesting an investigation of two large churches in Ohio that they say are improperly campaigning on behalf of a conservative Republican running for governor.
From NYT

This is the real reason to oppose the President’s Faith Based initiatives. It not only promotes the politicization of religion, it rewards it.

Provider of TV Movie Channels Looks to Expand to PC's and Video Players - New York Times

Starz Entertainment Group is introducing a $9.99-a-month subscription service that will allow people to download movies from the Internet and watch them on their computers, portable video players and television sets. The new offering, called Vongo, comes at a time when movie studios and television networks are rapidly expanding their efforts to distribute their content over the Internet, experimenting with both paid and advertiser-supported models.
Provider of TV Movie Channels Looks to Expand to PC’s and Video Players - New York Times

a few words on Iraq

This post by blogenlust makes me wonder if Osama issues red shirts to his number three men.

The American approach shows little sense of Middle Eastern history and politics. As one prominent Kuwaiti academic explained to me, in the Muslim world the best way to deal with your enemies has always been to assimilate them - you never succeed in killing them all, and by trying to do so you just make more enemies. Instead, you must woo them to rejoin society and the government. Military pressure should be used in a calibrated way, to help in the wooing.
From a NYT Op-Ed by Wesley Clark

My view on the current situation is that it is lost. We simply can not win. The sole reason why we can not win is the total lack of a defined condition for winning. Right wing slogans like stay the course and finishing the job, absent a description of the course or a list of tasks associated with said job; are nothing more than excuses for open ended occupation. What we on the left want is a plan. We want the Administration to explain what we can expect to accomplish and what the plan to accomplish it is and when we can expect the troops to finish that job and come home.

We don’t want to give Bush more blank checks and excuse him from goals and metrics that would actually measure progress to those stated goals. Somehow the right has twisted that to mean cut and run.

the Saudi Arabia of coal

If the vast, empty plain of eastern Montana is the Saudi Arabia of coal, then Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a prairie populist with a bolo tie and an advanced degree in soil science, may be its Lawrence
He is also promoting wind energy and the use of biofuels, using oil from crops like soybeans as a blend. The governor signed a measure this year that requires Montana to get 10 percent of its energy from wind power by 2010, a goal he said would be reached within a few years. Still, the Big Sky State, with a population under a million, has fewer people than the average metro area of a midsize American city, and its influence is limited. The governor acknowledged as much
From the NYT

values

The Senate voted Thursday to strip captured “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, of the principal legal tool given to them last year by the Supreme Court when it allowed them to challenge their detentions in United States courts.
From The NYT. The question being, when did giving Big Government more power become a Conservative value? When did the idea that you have to prove someone guilty of a crime before you lock them up and throw away the key become a radical idea rather than the bedrock of the US legal system? More importantly, why are GOPers only concerned about the rights of the accused when those accused are Rove, Delay, Cheney and Frist?
The Senate voted 82-9 for director of National Intelligence John Negroponte to provide Congress’ intelligence committees with a classified “full accounting” on any clandestine prison or detention facility run by the U.S. government at any location where terrorism suspects were being held.

Sen. John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, said most lawmakers learned about the covert prisons from the newspaper and said his amendment was to “reassert congressional oversight.”
From reuters. Thank you John Kerry for taking a stand against illegal secret prisons. And that 82-9 vote gives me some comfort that the Republicans in office now are not all insane. Clearly the leadership in the White House is the real problem.
Frist and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) surprised both Roberts and House intelligence committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) with a joint letter demanding a House-Senate inquiry after the Nov. 2 publication of a Post article detailing a web of secret prisons in Eastern Europe and elsewhere, maintained by the CIA to detain suspected terrorists.
From the WaPo. So on Planet GOP, the problem isn’t that the CIA is running potentially illegal secret prisons where torture may occur; the problem is that this revelation might embarrass them.

Maybe the GOP thinks that feudalism, despotism and sadism are traditional American values; rather than those radical values of respecting human rights, rule of law and due process.

Fall of the Rovean empire?

For 30 years, beginning with the Nixon presidency, advanced under Reagan, stalled with the elder Bush, a new political economy struggled to be born. The idea was pure and simple: centralization of power in the hands of the Republican Party would ensure that it never lost it again. Under George W. Bush, this new system reached its apotheosis. It is a radically novel social, political and economic formation that deserves study alongside capitalism and socialism. Neither Adam Smith nor Vladimir Lenin captures its essence, though it has far more elements of Leninist democratic-centralism than Smithian free markets. Some have referred to this model as crony capitalism; others compare the waste, extravagance and greed to the Gilded Age. Call it 21st century Republicanism.

From a great article on Salon about Rove and the end of this bleak era in American history.

While some people may insist on being cheerleaders for the GOP, the facts don’t support them. The top 1% are the only ones doing better, according to the IRS. For the other 99%, wages have not kept pace with inflation. We as a nation are getter poorer while the GOP Feudalists have become wealthier. Debt is out of control. We are losing a war.

Now that Karl Rove, DeLay and Abramoff are under investigation, the movement is finally coming undone. So what comes next?

“It’s not an entitlement politics,” says David Axelrod, a consultant to Spitzer’s 2002 re-election campaign. “It’s a fairness politics, a let everyone compete on the same playing field politics.”

Spitzer is part of the new progressive movement that gets past the big/small government paradigm and looks to a government that works to be FARE. Frugal, Accessible, Responsible and Efficient.

Things are starting to look good for 2006. While I expect Spitzer to be a target of the Right Wing Feudalists like Grover Norquist, I think momentium is finally on the side of the people again.