Wednesday, December 31, 2008

the world doesn't stop just because you do...

So i'm still falling behind on blogging, email, and the rest. I've taken a pause--which is refreshing and wonderful--and so am off my normal pace. I'm still poking around just a little.

Basically Krugman, Pye, Baker, and the New York Times...

Trying to refocus for next year...


Monday, December 29, 2008

second greatest piece of music ever

single greatest piece of music ever

German for the day...

Ray Monk's top 10 philosophy books of the 20th century

Bertrand Russell -- "Love is wise, hatred is foolish..."

"A happy life must be to a great extent a quiet life, for it is only in an atmosphere of quiet that true joy dare live."

"A process which led from the amoeba to man appeared to the philosophers to be obviously a progress though whether the amoeba would agree with this opinion is not known."

"Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate."

"Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd."

"Freedom of opinion can only exist when the government thinks itself secure."

"I believe in using words, not fists. I believe in my outrage knowing people are living in boxes on the street. I believe in honesty. I believe in a good time. I believe in good food. I believe in sex."

Israel Reminds Foes It Has Teeth

"This operation is an attempt to re-establish the perception that if you provoke or attack you are going to pay a disproportionate price.”

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Why I blog

Andrew Sullivan's reasons at least...

I blog to keep up with others ideas, articles, studies, items of interest; anything I might want to go back to later on.

Also keep up with some day to day stuff to look back on. A place for random writings, poems, anything I might come up with. Also throw up some of my photos....

Plus I do it so often because its hard to catch up to the blogosphere once you fall behind--as is true now that i'm catching up from my holiday lapse!

I also blog because I can't spell and can't get away with such grammer school errors in any other format...

Chicago School economists and the downturn...

Friedman Would Be Roiled as Chicago Disciples Rue Repudiation

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

right wing(nuts)


What does Blagojevich have to do with making it easier for workers to form a union?


the Palin wing of the Republican party

the great thing about blogs...

especially during an economic crisis that has the juices flowing for so many economists, is that you can get in over your head in a field which you have no training.

The economic crisis, the calculation debate, and stability theory

I wonder if 6 months ago I could have followed that post?

But I can't explain it to you very well. Maybe by the time the economy recovers I'll have learned a thing or two.

Teaching is the sign of knowledge. (Blogging the sign of pedantry?)

Rodrick on development

Self-discovery in practice
entrepreneurship in a developing country consists of discovering the underlying cost structure--what can and cannot be produced profitably. Initial investors in a new line of economic activity face a great amount of uncertainty, since foreign technology always needs some local adaptation. Plus, their cost discovery soon becomes public knowledge--everyone can observe whether their projects are successful or not--so the social value they generate exceeds their private costs. If they succeed, much of the gains are socialized through entry and emulation, whereas if they fail, they bear the full costs.

He includes a great example of "free markets theory" being ignored for the better...
Some of the what I have been seeing in Ethiopia is a picture perfect illustration of this process at work. Most notable in this respect is the flower industry, which was started by some courageous entrepreneurs who had observed the success of the industry in nearby Kenya and wondered if it could be made to work in Ethiopia as well. Even though much of the technology is standard, local soil conditions make a lot of difference to the economics of growing flowers, and a whole range of other services--from daily cargo flights to high-quality cardboard packaging--has to be in place before the operation can succeed. To its credit, the Ethiopian government understood the need to subsidize these pioneer firms, through cheap land and tax holidays, and the industry took off. Exports have reached $100 million from zero in just a few years. There are now around 90 flower farms in the country, with latecomers the beneficiary of the tinkering that early investors have undertaken.

Who really cares?

Ezra Klein on conservatives and charitable giving... DO LIBERALS HATE CHARITY?
Every so often, his findings are trumpeted as proof that conservatives are more genuinely compassionate than liberals. And that's exactly what Nick Kristof did over the weekend.

But the difference can be explained in one word, and it's not "compassion." It's "religion." A recent survey from Google similarly found that self-identified conservatives gave more to charity than did self-identified liberals. But they also found that "if donations to all religious organizations are excluded, liberals give slightly more to charity than conservatives do." Indeed, religious congregations are far and away the largest recipients of charitable gifts: In 2006, they made up 32.8 percent of all giving. But is that charity, at least charity as Kristof and Brooks are defining it? For instance: Utah is among the most Republican states in the nation, largely because of its heavily conservative Mormon population. Mormons tithe 10 percent a week to their church. But is that charitable giving? Or is it a membership fee? How much of it goes to anti-poverty programming? How much to church administration?

Saying that conservatives give more to charity is another way of saying that conservatives are more religious.

Was reading Ezra Klein who linked to this...

From the year in photography 2008.


Monday, December 22, 2008

the human error in market fundamentalism

When the market fails, the state has a role to play
Strict adherents of free-market ideology hear in that the cry of failed business over the ages; special pleading by industries that prefer state subsidy to competition. If people aren't buying Jaguars, goes the riposte, it doesn't make sense to carry on making them with taxpayers' money. The market can be cruel, but it knows better than politicians how resources should be allocated.

That logic seemed compelling when the market was functioning. But when the market fails, so does the argument against intervention. Recent events have proved how the most market-focused minds in the world can make terrible decisions. Their ability to misspend easily rivals the public sector.

It was not civil servants who created securities based on home loans to people with no incomes. It was not public sector workers who gave triple-A risk ratings to those investments. It was not governments who bought into the fund run by US financier Bernard Madoff that was last week revealed to be a giant $50bn Ponzi scheme. Banks around the world, including HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland, lent billions to funds that invested in Mr Madoff's scam. None of them carried out the due diligence that might have indicated the money was disappearing into a black hole.

Bankers have blamed lax regulation in the Madoff case and for the wider problems of the credit crunch. It is true that regulators failed to spot the excessive risks jeopardising the stability of the financial system. But it is a strange intellectual contortion for those who decried state interference during the boom then to lament that the bust was caused by insufficient supervision of their affairs.

"we missed it" said the man to his mirror...

Paradigm lost
THE DEEPENING ECONOMIC downturn has been hard on a lot of people, but it has been hard in a particular way for economists. For most of us, pain and apprehension have been mixed with a sense of grim amazement at the complexity of what has unfolded: the dense, invisible lattice connecting house prices to insurance companies to job losses to car sales, the inscrutability of the financial instruments that helped to spread the poison, the sense that the ratings agencies and regulatory bodies were overmatched by events, the wild gyrations of the stock market in the past few months. It's hard enough to understand what's happening, and it seems absurd to think we could have seen it coming beforehand. The vast majority of us, after all, are not experts.

But academic economists are. And with very few exceptions, they did not predict the crisis, either. Some warned of a housing bubble, but almost none foresaw the resulting cataclysm. An entire field of experts dedicated to studying the behavior of markets failed to anticipate what may prove to be the biggest economic collapse of our lifetime. And, now that we're in the middle of it, many frankly admit that they're not sure how to prevent things from getting worse.

get the history right...

Everybody Calm Down. A Government Hand In the Economy Is as Old as the Republic.
It has become fashionable to fret that the current crisis on Wall Street marks the end of American capitalism as we know it. "This massive bailout is not the solution," Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) warned Tuesday. "It is financial socialism, and it is un-American." It is neither. The near-collapse of the U.S. financial system and Washington's sudden and massive intervention to try to shore it up certainly mark a major turning point, but a bailout would represent a thoroughly American next step for our economic system -- and one that will probably lead to better times.

Americans may assume that the basics of capitalism have been firmly established here since time immemorial, but historical cataclysms such as the Great Depression strongly suggest otherwise. Simply put, capitalism evolves. And we need to understand its trajectory if we are to bring our economic system into greater accord with the other great source of American strength: the best principles of our democracy.

No, our economy is not a shining example of pure unfettered market forces. It never has been. In his farewell address back in 1796, 20 years after the publication of Adam Smith's "The Wealth of Nations," George Washington defined the new republic's own distinctive national economic sensibility: "Our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing." From the outset, Washington envisioned some government involvement in the commercial system, even as he recognized that commerce should belong to the people.

Yale economist Robert Shiller discusses the causes and consequences of the global economic crisis.

'Plugging Holes in a Sinking Ship'
SPIEGEL: A number of US economists are opposing the state intervention and are instead calling for the the markets to be allowed to restore order themselves. Are they right?

Shiller: The Republicans are right that free markets matter a lot. A bailout of this magnitude is not something you want or expect to happen in a free market system. Because it's really abrogating contracts and changing the rules after the fact.

SPIEGEL: The pure teachings of the free market system are often violated in the country considered the home to modern capitalism.

Shiller: That's true. What we are doing here is not unprecedented. What we are doing now is entirely in the same spirit of what was done in the last major financial crisis in the 1930s. Back then, the government bought 20 percent of all individual mortgages in the country. If adjusted for inflation, the value of that program today would be $750 billion. On top of that, they also set up a federal authority to insure mortgages. We are not establishing a new precedent at variance with free markets. We are doing what people expect us to do when there is a major crisis. I don't think these new doubts about the capitalist system are justified.

SPIEGEL: Doesn't it pain you as an economist if the action now being taken simply ignores your noble theories?

Shiller: We are seeing a collapse in confidence. That's a psychological phenomenon. Most financial theories are not adept to it. What we're seeing here is a social epidemic. We saw a social epidemic of ubridled enthusiasm for real estate investments on the upside. And now we are seeing the reverse -- an epidemic of declining confidence. These are hard to manage, and there is no really solid theory.

bailout city...

WSJ: Commercial Property Investors Seek Bailout
Although the headline says "developers" this is really about property investors who bought commercial buildings at the price peak and are now underwater. But say the owners default and the properties are transferred to the bondholders - what is the risk to the economy? None.

With the automakers there was a concern that a large number of jobs would be lost without a bailout. How many jobs will be lost if the ownership of an office building or mall changes? Very few.

The article suggests there is a concern that some owners will not be able to refinance because of the credit crisis, even though their properties have strong positive cash flow. But that seems like a liquidity issue for the Fed and the banks, and doesn't seem to require a bailout from the Treasury.

I don't see the argument for a bailout.

sorry try again...

Calculated Risk responds to White House nonsense
The most significant causes of the credit crisis were innovation in mortgage securitization coupled with almost no regulatory oversight (because of ideologues who opposed oversight and regulation). This led to lax lending standards (liar loans, DAPs, widespread use of Option ARMs as affordability products, etc.) and excessive speculation.

Oh well ... I agree the White House missed the story, but the idea that "no one saw" the problem coming is nonsense.

developmental economics

Fisman and Miguel, Economic Gangsters

things good government should do...

fund the humanities.

My wife was just mentioning in the car--during an npr segment on museums trying to keep field trips coming to them in an age of standardized test--that because some kids don't get exposed to culture and broader horizons schools should actively work to engage them in the world around them through the arts, and museums, and different cultures.

philosophy dissertations online

check it out here

So I was thinking...

After learning a little more about regulation today, I started wondering--is pro-business regulation like rent-seeking?

And still I'm stuck with the question--how do you stop rent-seeking?

under the name of reason

From Effcient Markets Theory to Behavioral Finance by Robert J. Shiller

Speaking of Chomsky

his wife died

economic crisis

Leader’s tricky challenge of saving US from hell
At the moment, the United States is focused on what’s gone wrong with the private sector. There’s a lot to talk about. From Bernie Madoff’s self-declared Ponzi scheme, to Dick Fuld’s Jonestown-style collective immolation at Lehman Brothers, to the subprime lending fiasco, the US version of the market economy – and many of its leading players – have failed more spectacularly than even the darkest dreams of Noam Chomsky could predict.

Robert Reich, Bill Clinton’s Labor Secretary, says Americans suspend suspicion of the government in tough times: “When the economy is in severe crisis, the public wants government intervention – it distrusts the private sector more than it distrusts the government.”

good post

go read The Story So Far.

health care crisis...

Two New CBO Reports on Health Care Issues
Today, CBO is releasing two volumes that focus on health care issues: Key Issues in Analyzing Major Health Insurance Proposals and Budget Options, Volume 1: Health Care. These two volumes build upon CBO’s previous analytical work on health insurance and health care financing issues and are intended to assist the Congress as it contemplates possible changes– both large and small– to federal health programs and the nation’s health insurance and health care systems. In keeping with CBO’s mandate to provide objective, impartial analysis, neither volume makes any recommendations

this is sad...

Millions owed by Atlanta homeless shelter
"it’s all a conspiracy by the city, business community and other agencies that help the homeless to shut her down"
sure it is...
Libertarianism, Proper Politics and "Property" Proper

The Lesson of Rod Blagojevich: We Need Better Government!
But if government just doesn’t work, limited government just doesn’t work either. So either go ahead and come out as an anarchist or swallow your iconoclastic loathing of “good government” pap and admit that you want better government. I want better government!

Generally, we’re more likely to get relatively good government in a cultural climate that encourages good government. Ridiculing as naive norms of anti-corruption and civic responsibility doesn’t undermine belief in the efficacy of government so much as expose the one who ridicules as a defector in a crucial cooperative game, undermining his reputation as a sincere advocate of the public interest. It is valuable and necessary to point out that certain institutional arrangements are unstable and invite corruption, and should therefore be reformed. But people are more likely to listen to you if they believe you believe reform is possible.
Daniel Dennett: Autobiography (Part 1)

Daniel C. Dennett: Autobiography (Part 3)


Japanese exports in record 27% fall

Absurd and dishonest... no matter how hard I try...

Pronunciation: \(ˌ)dē-ˌre-gyə-ˈlā-shən\
Function: noun
Date: 1963
: the act or process of removing restrictions and regulations

Many journalists claim that the U.S. economy since the late 1970s has been very free, with little regulation; that this absence of regulation has caused markets to fail; that there was a consensus in favor of little regulation; and that, now, this consensus is fading. On all these counts, the reports are false. Specifically, the U.S. economy has not been free since before the New Deal of the 1930s. Even before the 1930s, the U.S. economy was "mixed"—that is, a combination of economic freedom and government regulation—and Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal altered the "mix" substantially toward regulation and away from freedom. The deregulation of the late 1970s and 1980s reversed some of the regulations that came with the New Deal and some that preceded it, but the net amount of regulation has been much higher in the alleged era of deregulation than it was during the post... --David R. Henderson

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better. The debased language that I have been discussing is in some ways very convenient. Phrases like a not unjustifiable assumption, leaves much to be desired, would serve no good purpose, a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind, are a continuous temptation, a packet of aspirins always at one's elbow. Look back through this essay, and for certain you will find that I have again and again committed the very faults I am protesting against. --George Orwell

Jason proves here and here, that I lack the pragmatic competence to discuss bureaucratic terms. I confused the context of deregulation leaving Jason to point out for the second time that i'm dishonest.

I used regulation in a common (mis)usage of the word--or at least common when i'm speaking to people in my day to day life--be they conservatives, liberals, or Liberals--rather than within government bureaucracy.

Regulatory Agency Spending...

Jason correctly points out that Regulatory Agency spending has dramatically gone up during Bush's tenure.

A 2008 study by the Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy at Washington University in St. Louis and the Mercatus Center at George Mason University found in their annual regulatory spending analysis that Homeland Security spending increased regulatory activities
Driven largely by homeland security activities, staffing levels in 2008 are 43 percent larger than they were in 2000. The budget calls for expenditures that are 51.8 percent higher than in 2000 -- an increase in real spending on regulatory activities of $13.2 billion between 2000 and 2008, the study finds...

...In 2008, the DHS is slated to receive 45.5% of the regulators budget, or more than $21 billion. And DHS will employ more than half of the federal regulatory workforce, with 133,059 employees - up 5.3% from 2007. This is a trend that continues from the 2006 edition of this report and is mainly attributable to growth in agencies responsible for immigration, customs and border protection.

"While several agencies within the Department of Homeland Security are slated for budget cuts in 2008, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement each face large increases in personnel," notes Warren.

Needless to say that when one removes 9/11 from the equation those numbers are bound to fall more closely in line with past--which is an unknown, but seems reasonable none the less.

Yet as David R. Henderson at the Cato institute notes:
One could argue that we need to distinguish here between different kinds of regulation. Often people refer to "economic regulation" when they mean restrictions on whether new firms can enter businesses or that require firms to get government permission before setting their prices. If this is what they mean, then there is a case to be made that, in substantial sectors of the economy, there is less government regulation now than before the late 1970s. There has been substantial deregulation at the federal level of airlines, trucking, railroads, oil, and natural gas, to name five large sectors

This was the argument I was trying to make--my bad.

A few examples of such...

From the OECD
Deregulation is a subset of regulatory reform and refers to complete or partial elimination of regulation in a sector to improve economic performance.

An Assault on Public Protections: Regulatory Policy News in 2008
OMB also continued to alter the substance of individual agency rules. In most cases, OMB's interference weakened requirements proposed at the agency level. For example:

In March, President Bush himself stepped in to force EPA to abandon its plan to set a seasonal standard for ozone exposure tailored especially to the needs of plant life. OMB challenged the scientific basis for EPA's decision and encouraged the agency to consider the economic impact of the new standard, even though the Clean Air Act prohibits EPA from weighing costs in setting air standards. After EPA resisted the pressure, Bush was brought in to arbitrate the dispute and sided with OMB.

In October, EPA tightened the national public health standard for airborne lead, drawing rare praise from clean air advocates. However, shortcomings in the network for monitoring lead pollution persist. EPA was prepared to require installation of new monitors near facilities emitting 1,000 pounds or more of lead pollution. But an e-mail exchange between EPA and OMB less than 48 hours before the final rule was announced shows that OMB pressured EPA to raise the threshold to 2,000 pounds. The change means state and local officials will not be required to place new pollution monitors near at least 124 facilities that emit lead.

The White House also watered down a rule expanding protections for the endangered North Atlantic right whale. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) initially proposed extending the protection area in which the new rule would be enforced to 30 nautical miles off shore. When NOAA announced the final rule in October — after a White House review that lasted 573 days — the protection zone had shrunk to only 20 nautical miles.

The pace only accelerated in December. Many of the rules target the environment. Rules finalized in the first half of December would:

*Make it legal for mining companies to dump into rivers and streams the waste generated from mountaintop mining

*Exempt farms from reporting air pollution generated from animal waste
Lift the 25-year-old-ban on carrying loaded weapons in national parks

*Remove the requirement for scientific consultation under the Endangered Species Act (as discussed above) and eliminate climate change as a factor in decisions about species protection

OMB directed its most strident opposition toward new regulations that would have addressed climate change. The White House completely dismantled the efforts of EPA staff to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

A House investigation into EPA's 2007 decision to prohibit California from adopting its own tailpipe emissions controls showed the White House may have played a role in denying the state's climate change policy. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson had been willing to grant California's request but changed his mind after a meeting with White House officials, according to the House report released in May 2008. The denial precludes as many as 19 other states from adopting similar emissions reduction programs.

The White House also blocked federal efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. After developing a regulatory roadmap to reduce both vehicle and stationary source emissions, White House officials prohibited EPA from releasing its plans to the public.

In response to a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision, EPA began to develop documents showing that climate change poses a danger to the public and a regulatory plan for addressing climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

But when EPA sent the material to OMB for review, OMB refused to open the e-mail. OMB officials feared the documents would make a compelling case for greenhouse gas regulation.

As well as a recent article in Mother Jones
Deregulation has been the mantra on both sides of the aisle since the late 1960s. Long gone are Democrats like Michigan's Phil Hart who, as chair of the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee, held hearings on the concentration of economic power in the United States, and proposed expanded government regulation of everything from the oil and auto industries to pharmaceuticals to professional sports. Hart believed that because wealth and power were concentrated in the hands of such a small number of corporations, the market economy had become no more than a facade. In this context, what would bring about lower prices and greater productivity and innovation was more government intervention and regulation, not less.
it also notes that
Democrats from Carter to Clinton helped roll back the government's regulatory power

The point is
A common theme is shifting regulation of industry from government to the industries themselves, essentially promoting self-regulation. One rule transfers assessment of the impact of ocean-fishing away from federal inspectors to advisory groups linked to the fishing industry. Another allows factory farms to self-regulate disposal of pollutant run-off.

The concept I was emphasizing was Special Interests v. Public Interest. In this sense the Bush record is quite clear.

As Barry Ritholtz notes
When we discuss “Regulations,” we are talking about regulating human behavior. And that behavior can range from following misplaced incentives to falsifying accounting data to overtly legal but destructive actions — like putting people into loans they knew (or reasonably should have known) were likely to default.

My willful perversion of truth in order to deceive and cheat has been exposed. I shall work to address this character flaw that provides me education and entertainment.

Some interesting finds along the way:

OMB Watch

Breaking the banks - Bill Clinton's economic policies

Regulatory Agency Spending Reaches New Height: An Analysis of the U.S. Budget for
Fiscal Years 2008 and 2009 --2009 Annual Report

Stimulus Spending Skeptics

Well sort of...
Skepticism, rather than unequivocal opposition, is the right word. When contacted, I said the same things I have been saying on this blog: that monetary policy is not out of ammunition, and that tax cuts are potentially more potent than spending increases.

Mankiw on the bailout

Let each state decide
If there is going to be another fiscal stimulus, there will likely be a division between those who want tax rebates to households and those who want to help states pay for extra infrastructure spending. I have a compromise, based on the grand U.S. tradition of federalism: Let each state decide.

Congress could pass a fiscal stimulus of a certain amount per person but offer two ways to have it paid out. Each state governor could be allowed to determine whether to take the money as state aid or have it paid directly to his or her state's citizens. Those governors who think they have valuable infrastructure projects ready to go would take the money. Those who do not would let their citizens take the extra cash. When designing a fiscal stimulus, there is no compelling reason for one size fits all. Let each governor make a choice and answer to his or her state voters.

Worker confidence enhancement plan?

Dani Rodrick
My main worry about the efficacy of the fiscal stimulus--aside from the international spillovers in case it is not supported by equally ambitious fiscal plans elsewhere--is this: households that face considerable employment uncertainty, and hence about their to future income prospects, are unlikely to go on a big spending spree. Just as banks are hoarding cash, households will try to preserve wealth by increasing saving at the margin. This reduces the marginal propensity to consume, and renders the fiscal boost rather ineffective.

Why not try to deal with the looming unemployment problem, and the huge sense of risk and uncertainty it creates, more directly? What I have in mind is subsidizing employment directly by providing employers incentives to keep people on the job. We could imagine for example a scheme whereby firms received tax incentives on a sliding scale in relation to the size of their payroll. If you reduce your payroll, you get nothing. If you keep it unchanged, you get tax benefits. If you increase it, you get even more tax benefits.

This would allow firms to dismiss employees who are not performing and would not interfere greatly with the normal churning of the workforce. Firms could still lay off workers, but they would now have an incentive to hire enough new workers to make up for the reduction in their payroll.

The idea is to target employment more directly and to deal head-on with the most severe consequence of a recession: job loss or the fear thereof. We have had a lot of thought on how to increase confidence in the financial system. We also need to think some of about the loss of confidence on the part of ordinary workers.
But won't the financial systems stability increase investment, there by increasing worker security?

Vietnam in reverse?

Trying to Redefine Role of U.S. Military in Iraq
Even though the agreement with the Iraqi government calls for all American combat troops to be out of the cities by the end of June, military planners are now quietly acknowledging that many will stay behind as renamed “trainers” and “advisers” in what are effectively combat roles. In other words, they will still be engaged in combat, just called something else.

“Trainers sometimes do get shot at, and they do sometimes have to shoot back,” said John A. Nagl, a retired lieutenant colonel who is one of the authors of the Army’s new counterinsurgency field manual.
Nice chess move...

who didn't see that one coming?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

WWII and the Great Depression

I recently posted on a Reason segment where they use a strawman argument against new New Deal supporters.

Strangely enough, Jason Pye responded by stating that it was World War II that ended the Great Depression.

I wonder if it was the price controls? Or the wage controls? Or the rationing?

As Political Theorist,Sheldon Wolin, noted in his book Democracy inc.
"the economy was controlled by government "planning" directed toward prescribed production goals, prohibited from producing most consumer goods, and subjected to central allocation of vital materials. The labor force, for all practical purposes, was conscripted: its mobility was restricted, wages and prices were fixed, while collective bargaining was put on hold. Food and fuel were rationed... (p. 106)"

I'm not sure how this fits in with any "free market" positions that are out there. But if anyone knows feel free to shoot it my way.

To top it off he states:
Why else would anyone say that we need another New Deal if they recognize that it was a failure?
Umm can anyone say Reagan, Reagan, Bush, Bush... we've had years of economic decline--coming from tax cuts, deregulation, and lax regulation...

Why else do I talk to people who say--what happened to the economy that I grew up with.

To say I don't follow either the logic or the history lesson would be an understatement.

Though I do enjoy the fact the he agree's with Paul Krugman about World War II ending the depression.

energy vs. long term sustainability

How the West’s Energy Boom Could Threaten Drinking Water for 1 in 12 Americans
The Colorado River, the life vein of the Southwestern United States, is in trouble.

The river's water is hoarded the moment it trickles out of the mountains of Wyoming and Colorado and begins its 1,450-mile journey to Mexico's border. It runs south through seven states and the Grand Canyon, delivering water to Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Diego. Along the way, it powers homes for 3 million people, nourishes 15 percent of the nation's crops and provides drinking water to one in 12 Americans.

The river is already so beleaguered by drought and climate change that one environmental study called it the nation's "most endangered" waterway. Researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography warn the river's reservoirs could dry up in 13 years.

The industrial push has already begun.

In the eight years George W. Bush has been in office, the Colorado River watershed has seen more oil and gas drilling than at any time in the past 25 years. Uranium claims have reached a 10-year high. Last week the departing administration auctioned off an additional 359,000 acres of federal land for gas drilling projects outside Moab, Utah.

As still more land is leased for drilling and a last-minute change in federal rules has paved the way for water-intensive oil shale mining, politicians and water managers are now being forced to ask which is more valuable: energy or water.

"The decisions we are making today will be dictating how we will be living the rest of our lives," said Jim Pokrandt, a spokesman with the Colorado River Conservation District, a state-run policy agency. "We may have reached mutually exclusive demands on our water supply."

Some experts and officials say the economic and ecological importance of the Colorado is just as vital to American security as the natural resources that can be extracted from around it.

"Without (the Colorado), there is no Western United States," said Jim Baca, who directed the Bureau of Land Management, or BLM, in the Clinton administration and says the agency's current policy is narrow-sighted. "If it becomes unusable, you move the entire Western United States out of any sort of economic position for growth."

times are tough when you can't find an economist to agree with you...

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) has made clear he's against the idea of a government rescue package in response to the financial crisis, but he's apparently having trouble finding economists who agree.


Nietzsche's Relationship to Political Philosophy

Friday, December 19, 2008

Ahhh... too much going on this morning.

I slept in because I didn't get any sleep last night. But before I go, I'll leave you with this quote I came across last night...

To act in the present, one must understand oneself and ones situation; to understand this, one has to recapitulate the process by which the present situation has evolved. --Carl Braaten

The boys in Rancid are buying up houses as we speak...

Calculated Risk Almost 50% of Home Sales are Foreclosure Resales in California Bay Area

To bad no one saw the bubble coming?

In the Ukraine...

Three of Ukraine’s most controversial subjects - heating, energy supplies and political infighting.

by the by...where is the crisis at?

Econbrowser: Credit Crunch or Not

Do we need a middle class?

After 30 years of the conservative revolution it is dwindling ya know!

Krugman says no...
There’s no obvious reason why consumer demand can’t be sustained by the spending of the upper class — $200 dinners and luxury hotels create jobs, the same way that fast food dinners and Motel 6s do. In fact, the prosperity of New York City in the last decade — largely supported off of super-salaried Wall Street types — is a demonstration that you can have an economy sustained by the big spending of the few rather than the modest spending of large numbers of people.
But it is a more politically palatable of an argument ey boyo?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

the problems with language, straw men, and policy...

Jason Pye show's one of Reason's youtubes against the New Deal.

Nice chess move on Reasons part, at least in this segment. Their ideology isn't popular across the demos so they have to get clever.

We have to be careful in politics by distinguishing positions based on ideology (government intervention was the wrong theoretical approach) and positions based on empirical analysis(New Deal didn't work). This might be one of those situations.

Go back and watch it again. See if notice the big flaw.

They cite Harold L. Cole and Lee E. Ohanian's study. Who found that New Deal policies extended the great depression:
The policies were contained(my emphasis--Jim) in the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), which exempted industries from antitrust prosecution if they agreed to enter into collective bargaining agreements that significantly raised wages. Because protection from antitrust prosecution all but ensured higher prices for goods and services, a wide range of industries took the bait, Cole and Ohanian found. By 1934 more than 500 industries, which accounted for nearly 80 percent of private, non-agricultural employment, had entered into the collective bargaining agreements called for under NIRA.

Cole and Ohanian calculate that NIRA and its aftermath account for 60 percent of the weak recovery. Without the policies, they contend that the Depression would have ended in 1936 instead of the year when they believe the slump actually ended: 1943.

Notice the straw man in Reason's argument... "The New Deal." Somehow making the NIRA and all of the New Deal policies into a single entity out of whole cloth rather than a hodge-podge of policies--some which worked some which didn't.

I even think Cole and Ohanian's key words: contained; means they would have to agree(though maybe not ideologically per say).

But conservatives have made a clever chess move and created a fictitious New Deal that never existed. Creating a "New Deal"(with creepy music in the background) and using selective data and examples is true to form for how conservatives work.

I think this is some kind of type/token mistake, and a confusion on the part of the general public who may not have the time to dig into the history of the great depression. Also its tough because the new New Deal types such as myself don't always clarify we don't mean all of the New Deal (do we really have to?).

The point is I don't know of a single economist that supports the idea of implementing all of the policies contained within this abstration known as "The New Deal". (Though honestly I load boxes for a living and don't have a PhD in economics so readers can feel free to enlighten me if said economist exists.)

Tyler Cowen notes:
The traditional story is that President Franklin D. Roosevelt rescued capitalism by resorting to extensive government intervention; the truth is that Roosevelt changed course from year to year, trying a mix of policies, some good and some bad. It’s worth sorting through this grab bag now, to evaluate whether any of these policies might be helpful.
Eric Rauchway over at the edge of the American West agrees:
I’m pleased to join forces with Tyler against the wicked NRA-revivalists when they show up, and against the now actually existing opposition on the right, who would fight against these clear conclusions.

concurring when Tyler says that:
The good New Deal policies, like constructing a basic social safety net, made sense on their own terms and would have been desirable in the boom years of the 1920s as well. The bad policies made things worse. Today, that means we should restrict extraordinary measures to the financial sector as much as possible and resist the temptation to “do something” for its own sake.

Krugman agrees:
Barack Obama should learn from F.D.R.’s failures as well as from his achievements: the truth is that the New Deal wasn’t as successful in the short run as it was in the long run. And the reason for F.D.R.’s limited short-run success, which almost undid his whole program, was the fact that his economic policies were too cautious.

About the New Deal’s long-run achievements: the institutions F.D.R. built have proved both durable and essential. Indeed, those institutions remain the bedrock of our nation’s economic stability. Imagine how much worse the financial crisis would be if the New Deal hadn’t insured most bank deposits. Imagine how insecure older Americans would feel right now if Republicans had managed to dismantle Social Security.

and goes on to point out the flaws in the ideologues, such as the folks at Reason...
Now, there’s a whole intellectual industry, mainly operating out of right-wing think tanks, devoted to propagating the idea that F.D.R. actually made the Depression worse. So it’s important to know that most of what you hear along those lines is based on deliberate misrepresentation of the facts. The New Deal brought real relief to most Americans.

That said, F.D.R. did not, in fact, manage to engineer a full economic recovery during his first two terms. This failure is often cited as evidence against Keynesian economics, which says that increased public spending can get a stalled economy moving. But the definitive study of fiscal policy in the ’30s, by the M.I.T. economist E. Cary Brown, reached a very different conclusion: fiscal stimulus was unsuccessful “not because it does not work, but because it was not tried.”

This may seem hard to believe. The New Deal famously placed millions of Americans on the public payroll via the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps. To this day we drive on W.P.A.-built roads and send our children to W.P.A.-built schools. Didn’t all these public works amount to a major fiscal stimulus?

Well, it wasn’t as major as you might think. The effects of federal public works spending were largely offset by other factors, notably a large tax increase, enacted by Herbert Hoover, whose full effects weren’t felt until his successor took office. Also, expansionary policy at the federal level was undercut by spending cuts and tax increases at the state and local level.

And F.D.R. wasn’t just reluctant to pursue an all-out fiscal expansion — he was eager to return to conservative budget principles. That eagerness almost destroyed his legacy. After winning a smashing election victory in 1936, the Roosevelt administration cut spending and raised taxes, precipitating an economic relapse that drove the unemployment rate back into double digits and led to a major defeat in the 1938 midterm elections.

In fact Cole and Ohanian note the unlikelyhood of some of these policies getting implemented themselves:
"So he came up with a recovery package that would be unimaginable today, allowing businesses in every industry to collude without the threat of antitrust prosecution and workers to demand salaries about 25 percent above where they ought to have been, given market forces. The economy was poised for a beautiful recovery, but that recovery was stalled by these misguided policies."

So why the crisis?

Maybe the folks at Reason disagree with all of the New Deal policies and find all of them to be a threat? Do the folks at Reason really want to go old school and bring back child labor? Ending child labor was one of those evil New Deal policies. Those lovey-dovey liberals thought we should move towards a more civilized society by way of creating a stronger more dynamic economy. By ending the abhorrent practice of poor children "freely" chosing to sell their labor on the open market, and getting those children in schools we created more social capital, reaping the rewards that a more educated workforce brings you(do the evils of spreading the wealth around ever end?).

But I highly doubt they do. Though I think it's likely that some people who watch this won't realize this...

Eric's post hits on this absurdity of saying the New Deal didn't do some good. He notes that those who argue about the failure of the New Deal surely have to contend with, "the people saved from starving and homelessness by CWA, WPA, and CCC." The people at Reason may argue that in the long run some abstract unimplementable "hand's off" approach would work best. But are they truly denying many were helped by policies from the New Deal?

I see such a hands off at any cost policy position as sacrificing humans suffering now for the utopia of unrestrained capitalism, which sounds like the ideals of a guy who also thought the ends justify the means. Not to mention the question of how these free market types would pragmatically get the population, or the buisness community, to adhere by market fundamentalism? I can never seem to get an answer from right-libertarians on that one.

So while there may be ideolocial arguments from Reason, maybe they can be a little more open about it rather than try to disguise theory inside of a policy debate to scare people.

For more on this subject:
The Great Crash and the Onset of the Great Depression by Christina D. Romer

Stop lying about Roosevelt’s record

With Tyler against the strawmen and conservatives.

Econbrowser: The New Deal and the Great Depression

Keynes to FDR, February 1, 1938

An Open Letter to President Roosevelt from John Maynard Keynes

Sean Hannity wins!

Misinformer of the year
Because of the unending stream of falsehoods and character attacks that fueled the "Stop Obama Express," and the countless other distortions he promoted throughout 2008, Sean Hannity is Media Matters for America's Misinformer of the Year.

EFCA watch

Via Think Progress: Sen. Blanche Lincoln: I May Vote Against Employee Free Choice Act

This should be quite a battle this coming year.

spreading our good name...

More from the Bush legacy our children will still be dealing with...

Guantanamo 'worst place on Earth'
AN Algerian-born man who has just been freed from Guantanamo Bay has described the US "war on terror" camp as the worst place on Earth, in an interview published in a Bosnian newspaper.
"For almost seven years, I was at the end of the world, at the worst place in the world,'' Mustafa Ait Idir told the Dnevni Avaz a day after arriving back in his adopted homeland of Bosnia.


Mankiw on government expansion during crisis.

He notes that the biggest expansion was from 29-45 saying that with the Great Depression and War this was understandable.
But what is noteworthy is that while these crises were transitory, the increase in the scope of government was permanent.

Then goes on to worry about Rahm Emanuel who apparently said, "You don't ever want to let a crisis go to waste: It's an opportunity to do important things that you would otherwise avoid." Mankiw worries...
It is not entirely clear what he meant by this. But one interpretation is that he wants to use a temporary crisis as an pretense to engineer a permanent increase in the size of government.
But the way Mankiw frames this is, well, weird. Do you now anyone who sits around trying to make government big? Like, they just like big governments? I read him as saying its an opportunity for the government to begin to be politically responsive to the people who don't feel government is doing its job right now.

Could it be that modern economy's require larger governments than say pre-capitalist agrarian economies? Or that we're now more democratic, and the more more people have desires for what government should be doing--and feel vested enough to demand it? I dunno...

I was more intrigued by his classic framing of the question. No one I know sits around talking about creating big government(aside from conservatives), they talk about good health care, poverty, education, national security.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

quote of the day... and the Bush Legacy....

From Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly:
No, there was no Lewinsky during Bush's presidency. But my standard for "honor and dignity" has always been a little higher than that.
this at the end of his post on the Bush Legacy Project currently going on to rewrite history on failures such as Iraq

wandering the web...

Found Krugman's CAN DEFLATION BE PREVENTED?. Read it before... doesn't hurt to read it again.


'Thousands made slaves' in Darfur
Strong evidence has emerged of children and adults being used as slaves in Sudan's Darfur region, a study says.

lets hope we don't reach this point...

Israel jails Hamas speaker Dweik
An Israeli military court has sentenced the speaker of the Palestinian parliament to three years in prison for belonging to an illegal organisation.
Although i'm sure some people will tell me i'm wrong and that my opinion should fall under the tag liberty as pathology

the auto industry crisis...

Automaker bankruptcies would cost up to 3.3 million U.S. jobs
A shutdown would eliminate up to 3.3 million U.S. jobs within the next year in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The loss of total state employment would be anywhere from 4.0% to 8.9% in Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee, and Ohio (see Map). Traditional auto manufacturing states would certainly be hard hit, but Southern states—including the Carolinas, Mississippi, and Oklahoma—would be, too.
What if we had just increased our mileage standards a long time ago? Might that have made our cars more appealing? Or what if we fixed the health care crisis--which is pulling not just the auto industry down (here too!), but other corporations, and our long term budget outlook itself.

But unions get the hit. Nice to have a fall guy.

Jekyll Island

Jekyll Island nearing development limit, student researcher says
A doctoral candidate’s term paper could turn into a bombshell for development interests on Jekyll Island. According to the student’s professor at the University of Georgia, the state-owned barrier island is “very, very, very close” to breaching the 35 percent limit on development set under state law. Some of the scenarios show the island already has surpassed the limit.
Worst part of the story was this gem of wisdom:
The authority’s chairman, Robert Krueger of Hawkinsville, said delaying the revitalization of Jekyll Island would be “criminal.”
When I throw off my backpack and enjoy getting away from the crazyness of modern "development" I think of criminality. But more so of humans pathological need for more, more, more... until we destroy our meaning, and ourselves.

the jihadists at home...

Muslim’s scarf leads to arrest at courthouse
A Douglasville woman was jailed Tuesday after a judge found her in contempt of court for refusing to remove her hijab, the head covering worn by Muslim women.

Lisa Valentine, also known by her Islamic name, Miedah, 40, was arrested at the Douglasville Municipal Court for violating a court policy of no headgear, said Chris Womack, deputy chief of operations for the Douglasville Police Department.

Why the shoe?

Could it be...

One shoe the living?
4 million Iraqis displaced since war began: Oxfam
The report by Oxfam and NCCI, a network of aid organizations working in Iraq, also highlighted other dire statistics:

Four million Iraqis regularly cannot buy enough food.
70 per cent are without adequate water supplies, compared to 50 per cent in 2003.
28 per cent of children are malnourished, compared to 19 per cent before the 2003 invasion.
92 per cent of Iraqi children suffer learning problems, mostly due to the climate of fear.

One shoe for the 151,000 dead?
The authors of the WHO/Iraqi study, published last night in the New England Journal of Medicine, say that the new number, which could be anywhere between 104,000 and 223,000 allowing for misreporting, "points to a massive death toll in the wake of the 2003 invasion and represents only one of the many health and human consequences of an ongoing humanitarian crisis".
I dunno...

but some folks are baffled...

Juan Williams: we destroyed your country, how dare you disrespect our leader!

Because Bush has been such a defender of the views of governments who were being responsive to public opinion


What two leftists were doing watching West Wing in their LA loft in 2000 I dunno...

But this scene always struck those narrative chords in me. Biological. Plus the dire straits song with the long walk was just the magic touch.

The amazing thing--if you skip the sappyness factor--is how powerful constructs are. Our literature, our myths, our political "theories", our "just so" storys on everything--from right and wrong, the "good fight", good vs. evil, and who we are; they are full of these types of structures. We want to beleive, need to beleive, meaning.

This scene and the song are locked in my head--I heard a clip of the song in a movie and thought of this scene so I had to pull it up.


corruption in Iraq

Bush Asleep While Iraqi Fraud Funnels Millions To al-Qaeda
former Iraqi officials revealed that more than $18 billion intended to rebuild Iraq may have been lost to local fraud and that millions have been funneled to al-Qaeda by corrupt Iraqis
More from Think Progress:
Rice: No ‘American Money’ In Iraq Was Lost To Corruption
Throughout the U.S. occupation of Iraq, billions in tax dollars have been lost due to corruption and incompetence. Some of the most egregious losses have been via “American programs”:

– The Coalition Provisional Authority delivered 363 tons of cash on an airplane, totaling $12 billion, to Iraq “without assurance the monies were properly used or accounted for.”

– The State Dept spent $36.4 million dollars on weapons and equipment that could not be accounted for because “invoices were vague and there was no backup documentation“.

– Top contractor KBR came under fire last year from government investigators for overpricing its contract by $2 billion, which, for example, included overstating labor costs by 51 percent.

– State Dept. employees testified in May 2008 that the U.S. “allowed corruption to fester at the highest levels of the Iraqi government,” resulting in the loss of billions in U.S. tax dollars.

The use of private contractors, a major source of the corruption, has skyrocketed under Bush. The government has spent $85 billion on contracts in Iraq and other countries in the first four years of the war. “Taxpayers have been bled dry with massive misuse of public dollars,” observed Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), who has spearheaded investigations into waste, fraud, and abuse in Iraq.

Thus far, some $50 billion in taxpayer dollars have been spent on the reconstruction of Iraq, which anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International listed as the third-most corrupt nation in the world.

good point

Juan Cole on the SOFA 2011 withdrawl date:
Whether the U.S. withdrawal will allow a resurgence of violence is a question we can't know the answer to. But it should be pointed out that, while the United States has been there, tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, have died in violence. Entire cities have changed their social complexion through violence. There's been ongoing killing and destruction.

So the U.S. presence has not been a guarantee of social peace in any case.

Leiter on Caroline Kennedy

Tales from the American Oligarchy:
Caroline Kennedy, whose main qualification is that she is the daughter of a former womanizing President, wants to be named to the New York Senate seat. That journalists, opinion makers, and ordinary citizens do not laugh in her face at the very idea tells us everything we need to know about the oligarchy in America.
Amen... this hero worship nonsense has done great harm to our democracy.

experimental philosophy

Union busting

Pro-Business Group Sinks Over A Million Dollars Into Ad Linking Blago To Senate Dems And "Union Bosses"
The ad makes a bunch of guilt-by-association connections that take you from Blago all the way to the Employee Free Choice Act and are a bit difficult to track. First it hits Blago, the "corrupt Illinois Governor." Then it brings up SEIU, "the union" which discussed the "Senate seat payoff." And then it describes the Employee Free Choice Act as "payback" for "union bosses" who helped elect Dems to the Senate:

The idea, obviously, is to use the alleged Blago dealmaking to tar the Employee Free Choice Act, which is a pretty big leap. This will be one of the biggest fights of the upcoming legislative season, so expect much more like this.
Unions are evil because they allow human beings to use the purchasing power that private companies like Walmart get applauded for. Fact is markets are markets, they work. Private sector likes it when it keeps costs down, but when human beings use it to improve their own quality of life--well... thats another story.

The trouble with economics

It isn't exactly science, as noted at the
First of all, I know that we all consider economics a science, but as sub-fields go, macroeconomics is one of the least science-y. Among the reasons—too many variables, too small samples, no repeatable experiments, and so on. Consider the paper Mr Cowen would have us consider. It examines the American economy from 1955 to 2000, and it excludes all fiscal shocks but those that are orthogonal to the business cycle. What that leaves is, well, not very much. There are similar methodologies in other key papers on the subject, including that by the family Romer, and given the range of multipliers presented I don't know how one could conclude, definitively, that the science isn't there.

Which is why it's important to have a good, qualitative model of the mechanisms involved to supplement the data analysis. Greg Mankiw gave us a potential model for a way in which tax cuts might boost private investment, but it's not clear that his narrative is superior to those explaining just how deficit-funded government investment might work. In short, the data, on its own, isn't compelling enough in such cases to justify policy.
with Mark Thoma also noting:
We have very little U.S. historical data for time periods when the economy is in a depression, so we don't know a lot about the effectiveness of policy in this framework. It's hard to find decent data about the economy prior to 1947 (and make that 1959 for data on money), and we haven't had that many recessions in that time period. And more importantly, we haven't had the deep kind of recession that depression economics is intended to address. When most of your data (half in any case) is from good times, it is not surprising that the empirical evidence finds that crowding out is an important consideration. If we had lots of episodes like the current one to look at, then I would have more confidence in these results, but we don't. Parameters such as the responsiveness of investment and money demand to changes in the interest rate, the marginal propensity to save, etc., can all change drastically in deep recessions, and that means that the results from empirical investigations covering other time periods won't be very informative. I don't think we know much at all from the econometric evidence about the success of fiscal policy in deep downturns. We'll know more in the future because we'll be able to look back at this one, but for now policymakers are flying pretty blind. What we can examine is the experience of the Great Depression, and when you do, the case for fiscal policy is strong.
Go read the rest of Marks Post Depression Economics: Normal Rules Don't Apply, as it takes apart a lot of what conservatives are saying right now... and has an awesome example for answering the question about government spending crowding out private investment.

Deep Thought from TPM

Deep Thought:
Throwing a shoe at someone doesn't signal respect in the Arab world the way it does in ours.
Dean Baker pointing out the obvious:
While many rich people are in fact working quite hard to lower their tax burden (with considerable success), most of their benefits from government actually come on the before tax side of the equation. This should be especially obvious now, when the government is backing up trillions of dollars of questionable debt incurred by the wizards of Wall Street.

This is the story whereby Henry Paulson (in his Goldman Sachs days), Robert Rubin and other Wall Street luminaries made hundreds of millions of dollars trading on a free government insurance policy known as “too big to fail.” These brave wizards of finance were able to get others to risk money with their banks because their investors rightly believed that the government would step in if the banks messed up too badly.

The financial shenanigans, that made so many of our richest people rich, would not have been possible without this free insurance policy from the government. Anyone doubting this should ask how many people would have invested with Goldman Sachs and Citigroup if they were told that there was an ironclad commitment from the government to let these institutions fail if they got into trouble?

Of course even wealthy people outside of the financial sector generally can trace their fortune to the hand of government. Bill Gates is one of the richest people in the world because the government gives him a monopoly on Windows. It will arrest anyone who sells the product without his permission. The patent protection that makes the pharmaceutical companies hugely profitable is also a gift from the government.

Copyrights and patents do serve a useful purpose beyond just making some people very rich, but where is the analysis that shows that these government granted monopolies are the most efficient mechanisms for supporting creative work and innovation? In fact, such analysis does not exist.

There are many other ways in which the government structures the market to redistribute income upward. Read my non-copyright protected book, The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer to get more of the picture.

The basic story is that the government’s tax and spending policy is just a small part of the distributional picture. Samuelson is wasting his readers’ time when he implies that they are the whole story.

Nothing like a little propaganda push

Insurers Seek Presence at Health Care Sessions
When supporters of President-elect Barack Obama hold house parties to discuss ways of fixing the health care system over the next two weeks, they may find some unexpected guests.

The health insurance industry is encouraging its employees and satisfied customers to attend. A trade group representing some of the nation’s largest health care businesses, including drug companies, is organizing several meetings. The American Medical Association and other medical societies are encouraging doctors to get involved.

Nothing like a little good old fashioned profit motive to bring more civic participation:
Insurers are also fighting Mr. Obama’s proposal to cut the Medicare payments they receive for providing comprehensive care to more than 10 million of the 44 million Medicare beneficiaries. Many independent studies have found that Medicare overpays the private plans.

Nothing like living among the flat earth society

Politics as Pathology.

The impulse to punish speaks to irrational fears, but also for a disdain for law:
It is not clear, however, that a Georgia proposal can withstand a constitutional challenge. Carol Steiker, a death penalty expert at Harvard Law School, said it could violate the 14th Amendment guarantee of due process and the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Although the Supreme Court allows non-unanimous juries in many cases, Ms. Steiker said, death sentences require the highest standards.

“As the Supreme Court tends to say, ‘Death is different,’ ” she said. “It’s different in severity and it’s different in finality. This case really illustrates one of the problems with states trying to maintain thoughtful and circumscribed death penalty rules. There’s incredible pressure on these legislatures to change the laws at critical moments after high-profile cases.”

Things I didn't know about Medicare

It uses private insurance companies for regional contractors

Go read The Evidence Gap in todays paper where a few other things pop up.

I'm botherd by things like using treatments that have been untested:
CyberKnife, made by Accuray of Sunnyvale, Calif., was allowed onto the market by the Food and Drug Administration in 1999 as a treatment for brain and spine tumors. Two years later the F.D.A. authorized it for use throughout the body. Accuray, as well as hospitals and clinics that operate the CyberKnife machines, which cost $3 million to $5 million, have been promoting their use on various cancers, including lung and pancreatic cancer — and, increasingly, prostate cancer.

According to Accuray, patients can get by on fewer treatments because the machines deliver highly focused beams of radiation at heavier doses than conventional systems. But some leading radiation oncologists worry that the cumulative radiation that CyberKnife delivers over a course of prostate treatments — ultimately lower than what patients would receive in standard therapy — is not adequate to treat the disease.

“They are basically pushing the envelope,” said Dr. William R. Lee, a radiation oncologist at Duke University. “If they’re right, it’s going to be an important advance. If they’re wrong, there’s a potential for a big downside.”

With about 80 patients studied under the regimen in published peer-reviewed research over five years, the results for CyberKnife are promising. Yet, because prostate cancer is frequently slow-growing, Dr. Lee argues that five-year data with so few patients may not be very meaningful. Others raise concerns that high daily doses may increase radiation side effects that can show up years after treatment.

The board of the radiation oncology society, the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology, or Astro, has called CyberKnife promising, but raised questions this year about the evidence supporting its use in prostate cancer, saying “there is not sufficient or mature data to demonstrate equivalency to existing standard treatment modalities.”

Also I have a huge problem with selling a medical treatment to consumers directly:
Citing the variety of proven treatments for prostate cancer, one member of the Astro board, Dr. Louis Potters of North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, said that advertising CyberKnife directly to consumers could confuse patients, who have to choose the best treatment from an already bewildering array of options.

“Patients are becoming commodities and prostate cancer is the ultimate example,” Dr. Potters said.
They aren't exactly experts. And will often want more, wrong, or unproven treatments.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

new from Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Restoring Fiscal Sustainability Will Require Major Changes to
Programs, Revenues, and the Nation’s Health Care System
This report updates the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ projections of federal spending, revenues, deficits, and debt through 2050. These projections — like the projections the Center issued in January 2007 and the projections by other institutions such as the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Government Accountability Office, and Office of Management and Budget — show that without changes in current policies, federal deficits and debt in coming decades will grow to unprecedented levels that will threaten serious harm to the economy.

Good Political Theory post

The Fight for Science (and Justice)
Moral and political philosophers are concerned with how we ought to act, as both individuals and collectivity as societies. So we ask questions like: What makes an action right or wrong? What constitutes the “good life”? How should society distribute the benefits and burdens of social cooperation (like wealth, and rights and freedoms)?

As philosophers, it is not surprising that we turn to the history of philosophy to help us grapple with these timeless normative questions. So we turn to intellectual giants like Aristotle, Kant, Mill and Marx for guidance on how we can sensibly deliberate about the demands of morality and justice.....

.....But the history of Western moral and political thought is one that has, for the most part, evolved from religion or speculations into human nature. We now live in the rare and exciting times were this “veil of ignorance” is being lifted! We are beginning to see and understand how our brain works, why we age and the role genes play in things like intelligence and political behavior. Imagine if Aristotle, Hobbes or Locke were alive today. Do you think they would be flipping through the pages of philosophy journals pondering the abstract ideals of equality, or do you think they would be reading science journals and pondering the really big questions concerning the future of humanity? I reckon it would be the latter.....

....So my central point so far is this- if philosophers really “love wisdom”, then we ought to recognize the unprecedented bounty of knowledge that science now provides us with. Rather than viewing moral and political philosophy as a dialogue that occurred among the greats of the past, we should strive to connect the new empirical insights to these debates. While we may not have intellectual giants like Aristotle, Mill or Marx living among us today, what we do have is a wealth of empirical knowledge that ought to be an integral part of moral and political philosophy. No doubt some of you will still ask- “But why?” So let me come at this again from a different angle.

Moral and political philosophers should aspire to narrow the gap between science and normative theory because: (1) no other topic comes even close in terms of the important impact science has had on the wellbeing of humans; (2) these important issues have not received their fair share of attention from moral and political philosophers; and (3) if you want to teach something that will really get students excited about the relevance of moral and political philosophy to the real world, then explore the link between science and moral (be it moral psychology or applied ethics) and political philosophy (e.g. distributive justice).

listening to old Philosophy talk as we speak...(or I type... you read)

Topic: Justice Across Boundaries

Guest: Martha Nussbaum, Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics, University of Chicago

What is it? Philosophical conceptions of justice have most often been directed at the nature of a just state. But many contemporary issues of justice reach across boundaries. Are our immigration policies fair and just? Can a just state invade another state in order to outfit it with a more just government? Can we defend economic policies that improve the lot of our citizens, while having an adverse impact on economies around the world?
Housing Starts Decline to Record Low
Total housing starts were at 625 thousand (SAAR) in November, by far the lowest level since the Census Bureau began tracking housing starts in 1959.

Single-family starts were at 441 thousand in November; also the lowest level ever recorded (since 1959). Single-family permits were at 412 thousand in November, suggesting single family starts may fall even further next month.

Negative vs. Positive liberty

We are animals

A reminder from Greta Christina
This is the point I want to make. It's a point that most of us know and understand consciously... and yet it's a point that we have a striking tendency to forget.

We are animals.

I'll say that again:

We. Are. Animals.

We are an animal species: in the primate order, in the mammalian class, in the vertebrate sub-phylum. We are a product of evolution; a product of nature.

Yes, we're animals with an unusual ability to shape our environment. But it's an unusual ability -- not a unique one. Other living things have made dramatic physical impacts on the planet as well. Coral, for instance. Earthworms. And, of course, plants. Plants breathing in carbon dioxide and breathing out oxygen made a huge, radical change to the atmosphere of the planet. (A change that, so I've read, was a serious ecological threat to plant life, until animals came along and re-balanced the ecosystem.)

And yes, humans are the dominant life form on the planet right now. But even that doesn't make us special. Other life forms have been dominant in the past: trilobites, for instance, and dinosaurs. They were around for tens of millions of years. We've been the dominant species for what -- ten thousand years? Less? In geological terms, we're not even a blip.

It's so easy to think of human beings as somehow apart from nature. It's deeply woven into our language and our way of thinking. Nature versus nurture. Nature versus culture. Natural versus man-made. Is such- and- such plant a native, or was it brought to this region by people? Is X (global warming, homosexuality, the tendency of twenty- something human males to get into stupid accidents) caused by human beings and human culture, or is it natural? It's a way of thinking that's very pervasive. Even among people who aren't talking about religion. Even among atheists.

When people talk about evolution, for instance, they -- we -- often do it as if human beings were evolution's pinnacle, the goal it's been inexorably moving towards... as opposed to just one tiny, short-lived twig on an enormously huge, four- billion- year- old tree. Ditto when we talk about the food chain. There's a decided tendency to talk about the food chain as if it all headed straight into our mouths.

And it's a way of thinking that shows up a lot when science collides with politics or morality. When the question comes up of whether human gender roles are born or learned or both, we tend to forget that we are animals -- and that most animals have some sort of innate gender- differentiated behavior when it comes to sex and reproduction. When the question comes up of whether human homosexuality is born or learned or both, we tend to forget that we are animals -- and that homosexual behavior has been observed in hundreds upon hundreds of other animal species. We don't think of zoology as applying to us. We think of ourselves as different.

China and the global recession

China’s economy hits the wall
There was a distinct whiff of triumphalism in Beijing in the weeks after the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Chinese officials speculated aloud about whether it would be wise to lend the Americans the money they needed to bail out their sinking banks. There was tut-tutting about American profligacy. The famous prediction by Goldman Sachs that the Chinese economy would be larger than that of the US by 2027 was revisited – perhaps it would happen even sooner than that?

But two months into the global financial crisis, things look much grimmer for China. In fact the only recent examples of social unrest in one of the world’s main economies have come there, not in the west. Laid-off workers in factories in southern China have staged protests that had to be contained by riot police. There have also been strikes and violent protests by taxi drivers in some cities across the country. The notion that the Chinese economy has so much momentum that it has “decoupled” from the US looks like a myth.

the recession; getting us out...

Econbrowser on Finding the Exit:
One view of the current situation is that the core problem at the moment is that consumers are too frightened to spend and banks too hamstrung to lend. If that was your view, you might think that the goal of policy is to spur households back into borrowing and banks back into lending. But when I look at the three graphs above, my reaction is that it's neither feasible nor desirable to return to the ratios as they stood in 2005. The low saving and high leverage that we saw in 2005 were an anomalous departure from the likely sustainable steady-state values, and there will be no road that leads back to those from here.

If that's the case, then resuming economic growth requires replacing spending on consumption and residential fixed investment with nonresidential investment and net exports. But charting a course for how to get there is profoundly challenging-- what firm would want to invest in the current environment, and which country is in a position to increase their purchases from us?

So Plan B, at least in the interim, would seem to be an increase in the fraction of GDP devoted to government investment.

Monday, December 15, 2008

More right wing entertainment from Neil Boortz

American Narcissism at work:
The story says that the top-ten years in terms of temperature have occurred since Clinton's second coronation. Not true. The hottest year on record was 1934. These people just won't give up.
See the problem is he's only looking at US temperatures. What the article actually says is:
Since Clinton's inauguration, summer Arctic sea ice has lost the equivalent of Alaska, California and Texas. The 10 hottest years on record have occurred since Clinton's second inauguration.
LA Times addressed the story back at the time of the adjustment in US records:
A slight adjustment to U.S. temperature records has bumped 1998 as the hottest year in the nation's history and made the Dust Bowl year of 1934 the new record holder, according to NASA.

The reranking did not affect global records, and 1998 remains tied with 2005 as the hottest year on record worldwide, climatologist Gavin Schmidt of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York said Tuesday.

The data adjustment changes "the inconsequential bragging rights for certain years in the U.S.," he said. But "global warming is a global issue, and the global numbers show that there is no question that the last five to 10 years have been the hottest period of the last century."
Inconsequential... too bad right wing entertainment isn't...

Getting global warming wrong is a theme for Boortz, who likes to promote the 650 "scientists" who deny global warming is man made:
Then that leads me to this ... a US Senate Minority Report is about to be released. It contains testimony from over 650 scientists (note that they are all scientists and not just ENVIRONMENTALISTS) who are criticizing the man-made climate claims of this UN conference.
Well all 650 scientist aren't actually climatologists who spend their careers looking at the issue. As the new republic blog points outhis list has been debunked before:
when people started sifting through the names, they found that many experts on the list were actually weathermen, economists, and people with no real background in climate science. Worse still, when Andrew Dessler started contacting some of the actual climate scientists listed, many of them expressed first shock, then horror, and then e-mailed Inhofe's staff and demanded to be taken off, since they didn't disagree with the scientific consensus on climate change at all.
For more on his fraud go read Inhofe's 400 Global Warming Deniers Debunked
List of "Scientists" Includes Economists, Amateurs, TV Weathermen and Industry Hacks

Boortz is an entertainer but does huge damage to the political process be feeding ignorance and fear.