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February 2012

James Kvaal: Romney and Santorum Tax and Budget Plans Increase the Deficit by Trillions of Dollars

Indeed they do:

People who want to participate in any future debate over American fiscal policy need to distance themselves from these clowns, immediately...

And I am looking at you, Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget: >"Fiscal Policy Enters Campaign Debate" simply does not cut it.

Now We See the Violence Inherent in the System!: Steven Pinker Is Being Repressed! Department

I think any comment from me about this would be superfluous, and make it less funny:

Chris Bertram, October 16, 2011:

Violence down, claims Pinker the thinker: The Guardian has an interview with Steven Pinker about his new book The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence in History and its Causes.... In order to evaluate its claims properly, I’d actually have to read the book, but everything tells me that doing so would be an immense waste of valuable time.... I can, however, comment snippily on the material that surfaces in interviews and reviews… so here goes.... I’m relieved to know that the general ad hominem insults are permitted in this fight and that I’m under no obligations to be fair to “the thinking man’s Malcolm Gladwell”…


(Jack Strocchi seems to have forgotten that I permanently banned him some time ago. 2 comments deleted)…

"It is sad if people fall for Pinker’s ploy, though not as sad as if they give the remotest shred of credence to John Gray." Well yes, Gray is a troll, but rather that than the nauseating sight of Pinker providing the intellectually pretentious fraction of the ruling class with a cosy colour-supplement image of itself…

Watson, what bullshit…

Right Watson. No more comments from you on this thread for 24h please, you’ve made more than enough as a proportion of the total…

"I don’t know what Bertram’s or Gray’s problem is. They seem to want Pinker to be wrong, not only in his explanation for the trend but also in describing the trend." Well your reading comprehension is clearly defective, at least in my case. See comments upthread…

Incidentally, does anyone else see a problem with using a population-scaled metric here as a measure of decline in violence. Seems to me that absolute numbers ought to matter too. So, compare: Society A (hunter-gatherer band). Population 50, murder 7 in orgy of violence. Society B (advanced capitalist society). Population 50 million. Murder 6 million using bureaucratic apparatus and industrial chemicals. Violence up or violence down? Or indeterminate?...

I may have been imprecise… street-brawling, everyday homicide and the like (certainly down) with institutional violence and the credible threat thereof (states killing people, incarcerating people, stopping them crossing borders which were previously open etc etc)…

I think there are some good reasons to distinguish between state control of borders and territory and state enforcement of taxation and property rights…. [T]he latter is mutually beneficial (and those subject have reason to consent)…. Of course… the credible threat of violence is not itself violence. But to the degree to which the absence of actual violence is the result of a monopolist wielding such a credible threat, it seems somewhat relevant…. [T]here were physical barriers, land mines, guns triggered by tripwires and the like. Knowing they couldn’t safely cross, most people didn’t try…!/crookedfootball/status/125999249589665792 :: @crookedfootball Chris Bertram: @dsquareddigest I’ve been hoping for a DeLong intervention [in this thread], so I can joke that, before, the internet, I’d have punched his lights out...

Paul Krugman Attempts to Untangle the Enigma of Just What Mitt Romney Thinks He Is Doing--Other than Alienating Independent Voters, That Is

Paul Krugman:

Romney’s Economic Closet: [O]n Tuesday, when in a rare moment of candor — and, in his case, such moments are really, really rare — [Mitt Romney] gave away the game. Speaking in Michigan, Mr. Romney was asked about deficit reduction, and he absent-mindedly said something completely reasonable:

If you just cut, if all you’re thinking about doing is cutting spending, as you cut spending you’ll slow down the economy.

A-ha. So he believes that cutting government spending hurts growth, other things equal. The right’s ideology police were, predictably, aghast…. And a Romney spokesman tried to walk back the remark…. But that’s not what the candidate said… he is, in fact, a closet Keynesian…. Mr. Romney is not a stupid man…. [W]e know who he turns to for economic advice…. Consider Mr. Mankiw…. In an early edition of his best-selling textbook, he dismissed supply-side economics — the doctrine embraced by the sainted Ronald Reagan — as the creation of “charlatans and cranks.” And, in 2009, he called for higher inflation as a solution to the economic crisis….

[W]hat Mr. Romney blurted out Tuesday reflected his real economic beliefs — as opposed to the nonsense he pretends to believe, because it’s what the Republican base wants to hear. And therein lies the reason Mr. Romney acts the way he does, why he is running a campaign of almost pathological dishonesty.

For he is. Every one of the Romney campaign’s major themes, from the attacks on President Obama for going around the world apologizing for America (he didn’t), to the insistence that Romneycare and Obamacare are very different (they’re virtually identical), to the claim that Mr. Obama has lost millions of jobs (which is only true if you count the first few months of his administration, before any of his policies had taken effect), is either an outright falsehood or deeply deceptive. Why the nonstop mendacity?

As I see it, it comes down to the cynicism underlying the whole enterprise. Once you’ve decided to hide your beliefs and say whatever you think will get you the nomination, to pretend to agree with people you privately believe are fools, why worry at all about truth?

What this diagnosis implies, of course, is that the many people on the right who don’t trust Mr. Romney… are correct…. [I]t’s anyone’s guess what lies beneath the mask.

So should those who don’t share the right’s faith be comforted by the evidence that Mr. Romney doesn’t believe anything he’s saying?… If he doesn’t dare disagree with economic nonsense now, why imagine that he would become willing to challenge that nonsense later?…

Ryan Avent Is Sick of Arnold Kling: Invisible Wage-Push Inflation Vigilantes Watch


Inflation: Life on the Phillips curve: VIA Modeled Behavior, I see that Arnold Kling has written a post which reads:

Mainstream macro in the 1970s (which a lot of people seem to have gone back to) held that there was a NAIRU, meaning the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment. If unemployment was above that, inflation would fall. If it was below that, inflation would increase. So, policy should shoot for the NAIRU.These days, unemployment is 8.3 percent, and inflation is increasing. Just sayin’.

Just sayin'...what, exactly? Don't imply, man, argue! Follow the point through to its conclusion and see if it actually holds together!

Since Mr Kling didn't, I'll do it for him.

The NAIRU, as Mr Kling notes, is the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment…. [W]ere the government to try to raise employment above that level, fiscally or monetarily, inflation would accelerate…. Got that? Now, Mr Kling says that according to this theory a rate of unemployment below NAIRU will trigger an increase in inflation. He then observes that with 8.3% unemployment, inflation is increasing. And he deploys the just sayin' line to imply that the economy is therefore below NAIRU—that is, at structural full employment, suggesting that further demand stimulus is undesirable.

He is wrong on multiple levels.

First, it's very difficult to discern a steady increase, to say nothing of acceleration, in the inflation figures…. Inflation is positive and has risen on some measures. On others, however, it has declined. Perhaps most importantly, it is difficult to impossible to discern accelerating growth in wages, which is the most relevant price….

But let's take a step back…. Slow growth and high unemployment indicate a problem… it seems probable that the market-clearing real interest rate is below the actual interest rate…. Since the central bank's interest rate is close to zero, however, we have to assume that the market-clearing real interest rate is negative. To reduce the central bank's real policy rate further would require an increase in inflation. And from this we can generate a simple, testable prediction: if the central bank succeeds in raising inflation expectations, then it will move the policy rate closer to the market-clearing real interest rate, and unemployment should fall. 

How does the real world match up against this simple model? Well, in August, short-term inflation expectations (as measured by 2-year breakevens) dropped below 1%. The real interest rate, as computed by the Cleveland Fed, sat above -1%. And the unemployment rate was 9.1%. In August, the Fed introduced language suggesting that short-term rates would be at exceptionally low levels through 2013. Inflation expectations began rising and were comfortably above 1.5% by early 2012. The real interest rate dropped, falling to -1.75% by December of last year. And unemployment has since fallen by nearly a percentage point.

Based on this, it seems reasonable to conclude that the Fed raised expectations which therefore encouraged more hiring…. Mr Kling appears to have gotten both the diagnosis and the direction of causation wrong. And before we begin asking the central bank to engineer a rise in surplus labour, I'd hope to see substantially more proof that America is reaching the structural limits to increased employment.

One other point…. There is a very useful literature on persistent, large output gaps that describes the actual dynamics. Here, for instance, is an IMF paper….

Disinflation has tended to taper off at very low positive inflation rates, arguably reflecting downward nominal rigidities and well-anchored inflation expectations…. [T]he historical patterns suggest little upside inflation risk in advanced economies facing the prospect of persistent large output gaps.

The data match up very, very well with a story of a large and persistent American output gap. I don't really know why folks are so anxious to see something else in the numbers.

Quote of the Day: February 24, 2012

"The vestal Rhea, being deflowered by force, when she had brought forth twins, declares Mars to be the father of her illegitimate offspring, either because she believed it to be so, or because a god was a more creditable author of her offence."

--Titus Livius, The History of Rome

Romney Tax Plan: Gimmicky Proposal That Blows Huge Hole in the Budget

The bar is much lower for Republican Presidential candidates. While Democratic Presidential candidates get trashed in the press if their specific budget plans do not get the U.S. economy to long-run budget balance, Republican Presidential candidates are praised if they even have a plan--even a plan composed of nothing but tax cuts and magic asterisks:

Mitt Romney offers gimmicky proposals that rely on implausible levels of economic growth and blow huge holes in the budget:

Mitt Romney: A Tax Reform to Restore America's Prosperity: [D]eep confidence in a better tomorrow is the basic promise of America. Today that promise is threatened by a faltering economy and a lack of presidential leadership….

My plan is conservative in a way that stands out not only from President Obama's failed approach of higher taxes and runaway deficit spending, but also from the say-anything-to-get-elected fiscal recklessness of some of my Republican rivals. Offering gimmicky proposals that rely on implausible levels of economic growth and blow huge holes in the budget is easy. Fixing our very serious problems is not….

First, I will make an across-the-board, 20% reduction in marginal individual income tax rates…. Second, I will reduce the corporate tax rate to 25% from 35%, transition from a world-wide taxation system to a territorial one, and make the R&D tax credit permanent…. Third, I will promote savings and investment by maintaining the low 15% rate on capital gains, interest and qualified dividends…. Fourth, I will… abolish the death tax…. I will also repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax…. Fifth, I will bring stability to the tax code by making these changes permanent….

Stronger economic growth and reductions in spending will help to ensure that these tax cuts do not expand deficits. In addition, I will place some curbs on personal tax deductions, exemptions and credits, and I will also broaden the corporate tax base….

The plan I am proposing is far-reaching yet realistic. It will bring us a federal government that does what it needs to, that lives within its means, and that uses pro-growth tax policy to raise necessary funds and not a dollar more.

I don't know anybody with a tenth of a brain not playing for Team Romney--not Team Republican, Team Romney--who will dare say that this Romney plan brings us a "federal government that does what it needs to [and] that lives within its means". Nobody.

Middle Class Political Economist:

Romney Tax Plan Blows Hole in Budget, Remains Short on Specifics: Mitt Romney unveiled his tax plan today, but it revealed few surprises except for surprisingly few specifics. Via Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes), conservative economist Josh Barro estimates that the Romney plan consists of $5 trillion in tax cuts over 10 years…. As Barro points out, Romney has said before that he will increase American military spending (already tops in the world by far). This makes it even more difficult for him to offset the $5 billion in tax cuts without huge cuts to programs that the middle class depends on…

Mark Thoma: Broadening the Base and Lowering the Rates Is Good Policy, But Not a Short-Run Employment Booster

There are better ways to subsidize positive spillover-creating businesses than a 3% point tax break--investment tax credits come to mind. Otherwise, broadening the base and lowering the rates is always good policy--but it won't work short-run miracles.


Corporate tax cut: Good idea, but won't stimulate economy: The White House is proposing to cut corporate income taxes from 35 percent to 28 percent. President Obama also recommends that manufacturers get a further cut, to 25 percent, and he wants to impose a minimum rate on foreign earnings…. [T]he cut in the tax rate will be accompanied be closing loopholes, i.e. a broadening of the base. Thus, every company receiving a tax break will be matched somewhere else by companies experiencing a tax increase….

Making the corporate tax system more equitable and more efficient is important, and this proposal takes steps in this direction, particularly on the equity front…. However… we shouldn't expect too much in terms of its ability to stimulate the corporate sector and the overall economy.

Cardiff Garcia Watches Tim Geithner Get His Inner Shrill One on...


FT Alphaville » Geithner: Nice committee, you guys are hilarious: Just a bit of Friday afternoon tomfoolery before we get back to our day job. This has made the rounds already (HT Joe at Clusterstock and see also the WSJ’s Washington Wire, for instance), but we couldn’t resist mentioning it. We remember a time when Geithner would sit in front of a Congressional committee and he actually gave a crap and would keep a straight face throughout, even when he was once accused of being the “chief of staff” of Goldman Sachs. Those were serious times and there were serious questions that he took seriously and tried to answer with a lot of seriousness…. But things have changed a bit lately, with Obama’s numbers climbing and the administration embracing a more confrontational approach, and Geithner knows he’ll be saying goodbye to all that after the election anyways. So yesterday, after pouring an extra dollop of Awesome Sauce on his lunch, he spoke to annoyed Republicans of the House Budget Committee about Obama’s 2013 budget proposal. And, well…. [T]he best roundup of his newfound feistiness in the hearing comes via The Hill. A few selections:

  • “You are right to say we are not coming before you to say we have a definitive solution. What we do know is we don’t like yours.”

  • “I am not minimizing long-term problems. I know them better than anybody,” he added.

  • Geithner said that if Republicans can come to the table and accept significant revenue increases, then progress on long-term problems can be made. Accepting the Obama budget, which has $1.5 trillion in new taxes, would be a first step, he said. “If we can’t agree on the next 10 years, why are you are so focused on the next 100 years or millennium?” he asked.

  • Geithner punched back claiming the GOP had just spent six months trying to renege on U.S. debt obligations by refusing to raise the debt ceiling. “If you call that leadership that is fine with me,” he said.

  • ”Wanna keep going?” Geithner said, smiling, at the end of his hearing.

Well, a bit of levity never hurts, we suppose. Now back to whatever it is that we’re supposed to be doing around here.

My view is that if more senior administration officials had treated the Republican members of congress with the contempt that they were so eager to earn that the press would have felt itself more able to tell Americans what has really been going on in Washington over the past three years. So from my perspective this is very nice to see...

The White-House-to-Be in December 2008: I Think Jared Bernstein Gets It Right


The Wrong Narrative on Larry Summers: The second link finds Noam Scheiber revisiting this theme of Larry as unwilling to up the Keynesian ante in early memos to the President-elect.  Again, the slant here doesn’t capture Larry’s views or his actions.  Numerous people who edited the memo judged the $1.8 trillion stimulus number on which Scheiber focuses to be implausible, and not just in optical and political terms, but in implementation and market terms…. The implementation constraints I noted above were real, especially if you’re concerned with the capacity of the economy to absorb the stimulus in a useful manner, not to mention the requisite accountability in tracking the bucks.  And remember, there was a lot of other stimulus going on at the time, including monetary policy and in credit markets (TARP).  I’m not arguing that $800 billion was the “right” number.  But there’s more to this than measuring a hole. 

I don’t mean to be in the business of defending colleagues every time someone takes a swipe, and btw, Larry and I found a lot to disagree about, including stuff like this and this (actually, what’s your take on the minimum wage these days, Dr. Summers—on board for an increase?).  But this narrative of Larry as anti-Keynesian is just flat out wrong.  His view, as he consistently expressed to the President-elect and later to the President, was this (from a December 2008 memo):

The rule that it is better to err on the side of doing too much rather than too little should apply forcefully to the overall set of economic proposals.

Derek Thompson: Republican Presidential Candidates Lie All the Time, About Everything: Fiscal Balance Edition

Nobody has any business voting for, working for, contributing to, or making noises in support of this party.


Derek Thompson:

The Big Deficit Lie: Every GOP Debt Plan Leaves Us With More Debt: Each Republican candidate says he cares about the deficit. And each candidate's plan raises the deficit. Are they all bad at math, or do they just not care enough to do it right? The four remaining GOP candidates have a simple and straightforward plan for the direction of our federal debt. Up. Way up….

Today, public debt is equal to about 70% of our economy. If Congress allowed current law to play itself out, the Bush tax cuts would expire and that number would fall to about 60%, according to various estimates. That's pretty stable. But nobody wants the "current law" scenario to play out…. GOP plans would raise our debt burden to anywhere between 67% and a whopping 126% of the economy by 2021, according to CRFB….

[B]eating 60% is too hard. Let's move the limbo bar up a notch. CRFB also calculates its own "realistic baseline." This sounds complicated, but it's the deficit reducer's equivalent of Beginner's Level…. But even playing the game on Beginner, every GOP candidate that has ever led a national poll loses the game. Only Ron Paul wins, with a whopping $7.5 trillion in spending cuts….

[T]he president's budget (red in the graph below) wins the deficit reduction game (on Beginner's Level, at least)….

These plans don't accidentally raise the deficit. They just don't care about the deficit. Deficit reduction isn't hard to do, arithmetically. You raise taxes over time. You control discretionary spending. You clear the way for health care cost innovation while introducing policies that will limit health care in the future. It's not rocket science, it's math. The hard stuff is getting Congress to agree to your math. But how is that supposed to happen if pols refuse to do even the basic addition and subtraction when it's just them and a blank sheet of paper? What does it say about a party that believes "deficit reduction" is a worthy phrase, but not a worthy goal? And what does it say about our political system, and the GOP candidates in particular, that we're normalized to the idea that politicians offer debt-reduction plans that can't even live up to their name?

MIrror of Wildernesses Department: Fear your

Jake Tapper:

Leaker of Stimulus Memo Uncovered?: The New Republic senior editor Noam Scheiber has created some buzz with his new book The Escape Artists: How Obama’s Team Fumbled the Economic Recovery. One of the juiciest nuggets Scheiber uncovered deals with a December 2008 memo written by Christie Romer, the incoming chair of President-elect Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, in which she suggested to eliminate the economic gap caused by the recession it would take a “combination of spending, taxes, and transfers to state and localities… costing about $1.8 trillion over two years.”… On his website, Scheiber links to a copy of the previously unseen memo…. If you right-click on the document and look at the “Document Properties,” the author of this… PDF document, before Scheiber obtained it – was the aforementioned [Peter] Orszag…

Document Information

Of course, perhaps the true leaker merely wanted to leave a fake trail leading to Peter Orszag…

Department of "Huh?!": Who Are You Calling "Keynesian", Kemosabe? Department

Stephanie Kelton:

Stephanie Kelton’s response to WaPo MMT article: It was very nice to see Dylan Matthews, who is a young journalist and not an economist, recognize the growing influence of MMT. The piece does get a number of things wrong…. While the Austrians screamed, “Zimbabwe”, we explained that QE is nothing but an asset swap and that idle reserves — whatever their magnitude — will not “chase” any goods. And while “Keynesians” worried about the impact that large deficits would have on US interest rates, we calmly explained the flaws in the loanable funds framework and insisted that rates would remain low as long as the Fed was committed to low rates (as the Bank of Japan has shown for decades)…

First, the whole point (well, not the whole point: there is a minor effect from quantitative easing to the extent that it takes risk off of the investor community and onto the taxpayers, thus reduces interest-rate spreads, and so moves us a small way down the IS curve via this "spreads" channel) of quantitative easing is to raise expectations of the price level in the future--to raise the money stock now to make more credible your statements that you will keep interest rates low and thus keep raising the money stock for a considerable period).

Second, "Keynesians" weren't worried about running large deficits in a liquidity trap--monetarists and Austrians and Austerians were. For example, from the spring of 2009, Paul Krugman:

Liquidity preference, loanable funds, and Niall Ferguson: Joe Nocera writes about Thursday’s New York Revie/PEN event on the economy, but fails to mention what I found the most depressing aspect of the whole thing: further confirmation that we’re living in a Dark Age of macroeconomics, in which hard-won knowledge has simply been forgotten. What’s the evidence? Niall Ferguson “explaining” that fiscal expansion will actually be contractionary, because it will drive up interest rates…. [T]his is really sad: John Hicks knew far more about this in 1937 than people who think they’re sophisticates know now.

In any case, I thought it might be useful to re-explain why our current predicament can be thought of as a global excess of desired savings — which means that fiscal deficits won’t drive up interest rates unless they also expand the economy…. Ferguson was thinking of the interest rate as determined by the supply and demand for savings. This is the “loanable funds” model of the interest rate…. What Keynes pointed out was that this picture is incomplete if you allow for the possibility that the economy is not at full employment…. [S]upply and demand for funds doesn’t tell you what the interest rate is — not by itself. It tells you what the interest rate would be conditional on the level of GDP; or to put it another way, it defines a relationship between the interest rate and GDP…the IS curve…. So what determines the level of GDP, and hence also ties down the interest rate? The answer is that you need to add “liquidity preference”…. Right now the interest rate that the Fed can choose is essentially zero, but that’s not enough to achieve full employment…. [W]e have an incipient excess supply of savings even at a zero interest rate. And that’s our problem.

So what does government borrowing do? It gives some of those excess savings a place to go — and in the process expands overall demand, and hence GDP. It does NOT crowd out private spending...

France Surpasses America in the Race for Doofus Nation of the Year...

Chris Blattman:

Is this what passes for moral and legal defense in France? | Chris Blattman: The NYT reports that infamous DSK was detained overnight over accusations of cavorting with prostitutes and orgies in Paris and Washington, paid for by businessmen, possibly with government money.

A lawyer for Mr. Strauss-Kahn appeared to confirm that he had attended the events, saying that his client would not have been aware if the women who entertained him were prostitutes.

“He could easily not have known, because as you can imagine, at these kinds of parties you’re not always dressed, and I challenge you to distinguish a naked prostitute from any other naked woman,”

Good luck with that one.

Econ 210a: U.C. Berkeley: Spring 2012: Memo Question for February 29: The Uneven Spread of Industrialization

Memo Question for February 29: The Uneven Spread of Industrialization:

By the end of the nineteenth century, the classic Industrial Revolution technologies of coal, steam, textile machinery, rails, locomotives, and precision metalworking--plus a large number of follow-on technologies, as witnessed by the growth of a Johannesburg centered around leading-edge organic chemicals--were or could be profitable pretty much everywhere in the world, if the organization and resources could be assembled. Why then did industrialization spread from Britain in the years up to 1900 only to western Europe, the temperate zones of the Americas and Australasia, and Japan? What answers do this week's readings suggest to you?

Econ 210a: U.C. Berkeley: Spring 2012: February 29: The Uneven Spread of Industrialization

February 29. The Uneven Spread of Industrialization (DeLong)

Liveblogging World War II: February 22, 1942

British Air Chief Marshal Arthur Harris, newly appointed head of Bomber Command:

The Nazis entered this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everyone else, and nobody was going to bomb them. At Rotterdam, London, Warsaw, and half a hundred other places, they put their rather naïve theory into operation. They sowed the wind, and now they are going to reap the whirlwind

Ask the Mineshaft...

  1. Why is it called "ask the mineshaft" anyway?

  2. What things have I written on this weblog recently--since, say, the end of December 2010--that I ought to wish I had not written, and that I should retract if I could?

  3. Why does my iPhone have the 2nd but not the 1st, 3rd, or 4th movement of Beethoven's 9th on it?

Gabriel Rosser **Rossman** on David Graeber's "Debt: The First 5000 Years"

Gabriel Rosser Rossman:

How the poor debtors still sell their daughters, How in the drought men still grow fat « Code and Culture: At Unfogged there’s a review (and a very funny comments thread) pointing out that the following sentence contains six factual claims all of which are incorrect:

Apple Computers is a famous example: it was founded by (mostly Republican) computer engineers who broke from IBM in Silicon Valley in the 1980s, forming little democratic circles of twenty to forty people with their laptops in each other’s garages.

This is not exactly stuff written in the cuneiform of Mesopotamian diplomacy, the barbarian law codes of mediaeval Ireland, or the field notes of Victorian anthropologists, but something that occurred in suburban California around the time I was born and concerns the extremely well documented origins of one of the world’s biggest firms. If Graeber gets this wrong, how can we trust him about the stuff that’s harder to check, like all that business about barbarian law codes…


Graeber addresses problem #2 head on and tries to explain this away by some convoluted argument that I can’t even reproduce but I find his argument much less plausible than the more parsimonious explanation that the Chinese are buying t-bills (a) as a store of value (b) as a medium of exchange and (c) as a tacit export subsidy that suits their domestic politics…. This deliberate obtuseness about how a reserve currency works and the paranoid understanding that it is provincial tribute is by far the worst part of the book. I’m trying to draw a fact/value distinction between my lack of sympathy for his political positions and his empirical claims as I’d like to think that when reading someone with whom I disagree I can distinguish between their empirical claims that are well-supported, debatable, and downright nuts. That is to say I don’t think these chapters upset me because they are normatively “anti-American” but because as an empirical matter they badly fail to understand how (for better or worse) American power works.

This business about tribute is at the end so I’d like to say that I recommend the book but that you stop on page 365, right before he gets his Chomsky on, but I honestly worry whether I can trust the parts of the book I’m not as informed about. This is the 13th chime of the clock, the brown M&Ms in the Van Halen dressing room; pick your metaphor, but this business about Apple computer and especially about Chinese t-bill holdings ultimately makes me take a “trust but verify” attitude towards a book that I found both extremely enjoyable and intellectually inspirational…


Unfogged: The Thirteenth Chime POSTED BY LIZARDBREATH: I picked up Debt: The First 5000 Years….[H]e uses Apple Computers as an example:

Apple Computers is a famous example: it was founded by (mostly Republican) computer engineers who broke from IBM in Silicon Valley in the 1980s, forming little democratic circles of twenty to forty people with their laptops in each other's garages.

I don't know all that much about the history of Apple or of the computer business generally, but I'm pretty sure that's as wrong as it could possibly be. Apple was founded by two guys, neither of whom (AFAIK) worked for IBM (maybe for a very short time? But certainly not extendedly). It was notoriously a rigid, top-down hierarchy, it was founded in the '70s, not the '80s, and who had a laptop until the very end of the '80s? That's a whole lot of wrong for one sentence. Has anyone read the book with enough background knowledge to say if this is a fluke, or if the whole thing is like this?

That sentence is fascinating. Not only is every single thing in it wrong, but it betrays a specific worldview so perfectly. Posted by: Sifu Tweety...

The Apple stuff is so amazingly wrong. (They didn't work for IBM, by the way. Jobs worked for Atari and Wozniak worked for HP. IBM existed, but was based in New York, and in any case didn't make personal computers until 1981. (playing catch-up with Apple)). They founded Apple using their laptops! That's the one that gets me. "Look, I've drawn up a sketch of a new sort of 'personal' computer here on my ThinkPad! It'll be far smaller than today's mainframes!" Posted by: Sifu Tweety ...

Do anthropologists even need to distinguish between fact and myth, in their normal work? Posted by: CharleyCarp

"and really, that sentence is 200 kinds of wrong"; I'm genuinely impressed he managed to get so much wrong in such a small area. isn't there an area of math that covers these "packing" problems? maybe he should switch to that. Posted by: alameida...

Texaco is a famous example: it was founded by (mostly Populist) petroleum engineers who broke from Standard Oil in Texas in the 1920s, forming little democratic circles of twenty to forty people using their catalytic converters and vulcanized tires to travel from place to place and exchange ideas more efficiently. Posted by: Cryptic ned...

The sentence would be more forgivable if it was written a few hundred years in the future and the timescales for things like "Apple founded" and "laptops available" got flattened out, I guess. "They had large garages to house their zeppelins, and communicated by telegraph on those occasions when the holonet failed." Posted by: essear...

if you don't use the "p" "/p" paragraph tags for each paragraph ogged will punish you with a random distribution of font sizes and line spacing. it's sort of his version of fire and brimstone, but with less burning. and also less kerning. Posted by: alameida...

Crooked Timber is a famous example: it was founded by (mostly Tory) SEO specialists who broke from Pajamas Media in the 2010s, forming a rigid organizational structure of twenty to forty bloggers with their Kindle Fires crossposting to each other's LiveJournals. Posted by: Cryptic ned...

UNC is a famous example: it was founded by (mostly Baptist) basketball specialists who broke from Duke in the 1850s, forming a rigid zone defense of twenty to forty sports marketing majors with their white baseball caps going to each other's frat parties. Posted by: Sifu Tweety...

The Holy Roman Empire is a famous example: it was founded by (mostly Belgian) technocrats who broke from the Byzantine Empire in the 1300s, forming little anarcho-syndicalist communes that supported themselves by mechanized textile production in their huts. Posted by: Cryptic ned...

Christianity is a famous example: it was founded by (mostly Gaulish) fortune tellers who broke from the Catholic Church in the 3rd century AD, forming large groups of several thousand praying to their icons of the saints in each other's temples. Posted by: Sifu Tweety...

Playboy magazine is a famous example: it was founded by (mostly lesbian) women who broke from the Knights Templar in the 6th century, forming little fantasy football leagues over Twitter. Posted by: real ffeJ annaH...

Planet Earth is a famous example: it was founded by (mostly silicon-based) lifeforms who broke from the Moon six thousand years ago, forming little accretions of twenty to forty solar masses with their photosynthesis in each other's primordial soups. Posted by: Sifu Tweety...

These Tardis-like garages into which a 40 person circle, complete with laptops, could fit: who built them? There appear to have been several. Forty people is a big payroll. Prior to the deluge of VC money, startups, even in Silicon Valley, couldn't have met it. One would need revenue in the high tens of millions. The problem with the sentence isn't so much that it's wrong in detail. It's that he wasn't thinking about the physical (or fiscal) reality behind his words. Posted by: jim...

I'm actually not sympathetic to authors who make serious errors of fact. Yes, of course it's possible to get the details right in a large book about a general topic. You do it by knowing what you intend to say, and having a reason to say it before you write about it. Posted by: AWB

Also, you can look shit up! It's allowed! Books don't come into being without someone actually writing those sentences, and they might as well be sentences written about something you know something about. Otherwise, they don't need to be written, right? Posted by: AWB...

The Wrongest Sentence Ever has got to be a weird fuck-up, though. It doesn't make sense as deliberate deceit, because there are millions of people who'll know it's wrong. It's like saying that George Washington was gave the Gettysburg Address -- it's just too transparently wrong to be deliberate. Posted by: Walt Someguy...

You know what the biggest problem with copyright law is? Any company can buy the rights to an original work without ever compensating the original artist at all, and then they have those rights forever, and anybody who even mentions that work in any context without paying up is subject not only to mandatory fines, but jail time. Not only that, but rights-holders get a tax writeoff if they destroy old works that are in danger of becoming public domain. Posted by: Sifu Tweety

You're a sick man, Tweety. Posted by: LizardBreath...

My favorite anecdote about copyright is when the Otis family used the rights they'd acquired in the course of advocating the bricking up of Hetch Hetchy to steal the name "Lakers" from the Minnesota Populist Party. Posted by: Sifu Tweety

... which was enough to trick Wilt Chamberlain into signing a contract with them. Posted by: Sifu Tweety

I wouldn't even know the story if Mike Davis hadn't been able to make Chinatown before Firestone dynamited the subway tunnels. A small victory, to be sure. Posted by: Sifu Tweety

The whole history of LA and copyright in this country are really intertwined, like when Cesar Chavez fought back against attempts to use the extensive copyrights on grain-based recipes to kill off LA's Mexican population by forcing them onto nutrient-poor all-meat diets. Posted by: Sifu Tweety...

Remember when Inhofe held up Crichton's book on the senate floor and declaimed that it had pages and pages more footnotes than the executive summary of the IPCC's report on climate change? They tried to make a movie out of it but you can't use the term "US Senate" in a feature film without paying out the ass to the Treasury department. Posted by: Sifu Tweety...

"hey, Wizard of Oz and Apple mistake, throw the whole thing out." Well, if one of the mistakes is so bad that it shows that the author isn't a good critical thinker, it could deepen the distrust. I use the breezy phrase "everyone in LA is blond, tanned and blinged out" to immediately write off an author. That is a person who doesn't see past stereotypes, so they aren't going to bring me anything new. Posted by: Megan

"everyone in LA is blond, tanned and blinged out" Oh man, though, that's totally true, at least in LA proper. Once you get to the outer burbs east of La Cienega everybody's toothless and stringy from all the meth, but in the city of LA it's definitely true. Posted by: Sifu Tweety ...

LB digs in, yo. It's what she does. Between undergrad at Princeton and her post-law school job defending Big Pharma she's gotten pretty good at it, too. Posted by: Sifu Tweety...

You mean: her post-law school job defending Big Pharma in small groups of 20-40 attorneys who write their briefs using consensus-based authorship, she's gotten pretty good at it, too. Posted by: Annelid Gustator...

My favorite story about a generalist/popular writer faking information is about Mike Davis. Apparently one of the conversations with an expert in one of his books is entirely fictional. But the weird thing is that it turns out Davis actually had an interview scheduled with this expert, but showed up for the interview with the account of the interview he wanted already written. He then simply asked the expert to sign off on the account. He was just like, "this is what I need you to say, will you say it?" And the guy said "sure." I'd look up details, but I'm lazy, and I'm typing awkwardly because there is a child asleep in my lap, and I'm not sure if there is a 5 or a 10% chance that she is not actually mine. Posted by: rob helpy-chalk...

309: Ecology of Fear has some pretty scandalous errors in it, ranging from screwing around with weather statistics to make it sound like greater LA has the same incidence of twisters as tornado alley to, um, some other really bad stuff that I can't recall. That said, I think the overarching point of the book holds, and I used to teach it pretty frequently in a class on disasters. It's not as good as City of Quartz, though, which is a real masterpiece. Posted by: Von Wafer...

320: are you kidding? Emerson has been commenting here for two years, since his son was in diapers, when the site was still run by Glenn Reynolds and Jason Kottke and people called it a MUD. Posted by: Sifu Tweety...

On top of which, he most likely spent big chunks of the 80s and 90s in Madagascar doing his fieldwork, so background knowledge those of us coming in age during those years take for granted may have completely passed him by. Posted by: clark diversey...

I don't see what's racist about "people on Easter Island and on Iceland both ruined their islands by doing the exact same thing and stupidly cutting down all the trees." I don't get it at all, either. I'm really tempted to do enough reading to do a full-on defense of Diamond. It would be pointless, because it would take a lot of time, and the only real audience I would find is random internet people. But shit. It really seems like his critics go out of their way to misinterpret and nitpick. I'm especially bothered by the way the argument seems to rely on the idea that his narrative has the same form as classic racist narratives. We're arguing about causation here, not literature. Did chopping down all the trees on Easter Island contribute to the collapse of the society, and if so, how much? Posted by: rob helpy-chalk...

It's funny about getting into arguments. I started the thread thinking that the book was thought-provoking and worth reading, the Wizard of Oz bit gave me pause, but wasn't a real worry given that plenty of reasonable people (misguided in this respect as they clearly are) have believed it, and the Apple thing made me not want to rely on it for any facts I couldn't, or hadn't checked. But I did still find the argument that credit preceded coinage convincing. After arguing about it, I was starting to feel as if Halford was right about what I really meant, and the book was completely worthless. I had to go cool down before I remembered that I actually did want to finish it. Posted by: LizardBreath...

"Some anthropologists would like this to be a debate about whether Diamond is racist. I'd like to be talking about whether Diamond is right." Exactly. And this is important; its not just some random historical conjecture. You see libertarians arguing all the time that deforestation never caused the downfall of a civilization. Conversely, the collapse of civilizations like [Greenland] and Easter Island serve as strong parables for wise resource management. Posted by: rob helpy-chalk...

Still waiting for this to turn into a dating or food thread. Posted by: Flippanter...

"Clearly then, our project must be to encourage capitalism to touch itself." "Capitalism, I have a song by the Divinyls that I think you should hear. Listen carefully." Posted by: One of Many...

Karl (Smith, That Is) the Apostle to the Austrians: Teaching Macro Department

Jeebus! Casey Mulligan is at it again!

I can understand getting this so wrong... in 1803. But today, in 2012? Jeebus!

Casey Mulligan:

Casey Mulligan: I agree that unemployment benefits and other safety net benefit payments are many times financed with taxes in the future or taxes in the past. But that “financing channel” still does not make the payments free from the perspective of today’s economy. Suppose the government has been borrowing the money to pay for unemployment benefits. It borrows money by selling bonds. The purchasers of those bonds have less to spend on something else...

Karl Smith continues to take up St. Paul's job of Apostle to the Gentiles--to the Austerian and the Austrians. Today:

No, Brad I Am Not Giving Up Yet, Why Do You Ask?: Lets try it this way. I am going to number each statement so anyone can point out the number where they think we disagree.

  1. The Treasury market is fully liquid
  2. Anyone who wanted to buy a T-Bill could.
  3. Yet, people are not choosing spend all of their funds on T-Bills
  4. They are not doing so because at the current interest rate their holdings of T-Bills are optimal
  5. If the interest rate on T-Bills does not change private parties buying behavior will not change
  6. If the interest rate on T-Bills rises above the interest rate paid on excess reserves then banks will use excess reserves to buy T-Bills
  7. Banks will continue to do this until the price of T-Bills falls to the interest rate on excess reserves
  8. Once Banks have achieved this the interest on T-Bills will be once again equal to the interest rate on reserves
  9. The incentives for non-banks buyers will not have changed
  10. Thus all the funds to pay for T-Bills are drawn from excess reserves

Where will the money come from? >It will come from here….To be clear for this example there is nothing special about the excess reserve set up, apart from the way the Fed has always worked. However, it should be abundantly clear where the money comes from now that there is a huge pile of money and not simply the daily creation and destruction of reserves to make the excess equal zero.

And earlier:

Hayek and Macroeconomics: I have been and am still eager to engage Austrians generally and Hayekians in particular in debates over macroeconomic fluctuations. This is not because I believe – as many have suggested – that Real Business Cycle Theory over even the Chicago emphasis on micro-foundations are Hayekian. They don’t seem to be to me. Its because in my mind Hayek’s explanation of the business cycle is a beautiful example of a theory whose only vice is that happens not to be true. Its brilliant. Its elegant. Its parsimonious. It possess boundless fecundity. It’s the kind of thing we expect from brilliant minds. It just happens to be wrong.

And, this is a crucial, crucial, crucial point.

The world is not something that makes sense to us. The world is something that is. Its entirely possible for very beautiful sensible things to just be wrong.

For me, I will say the first instance of this was reading as a child the debate between the Steady State Universe and the Expanding Universe. Obviously, the Steady State Universe is far more beautiful, far more sensible. It lays to rest dozens of meta-physical questions and produces a model of the world in harmony with our spirit as human beings.

It's also wrong.

I remember so badly wanting it to be true and when I grew up wanting to discover that the expansionist had been wrong. That this theory – the theory that deserved to be true – was true.

But, it's not true.

It's not true.

This is painful but its real. And, we have to decide at some point whether we want to bask in the joy intellectually fulfilling views of the world, or whether we wish to see the world as it is, warts and all....

[I]n the early 1980s the US Federal Reserve crushed down on the inflation rate, producing immediate unemployment. This is somewhat anomalous from Hayek’s prescription because the initial phase of distortion doesn’t produce contraction. However, let that be. What really makes the difference is that when the Fed decided to stop, without telling anyone by the way, the economy boomed. Naturally, after such a harsh period of dislocation resources were away from their long run best uses. It should take time to readjust. However, it took no time. In months the economy was accelerating rapidly and what’s more the inflation did not come back.

Perhaps ironically, I don’t know, we can see why if we sit and pick a part business cycle fluctuations on an industry by industry, even job type by job type level. Resources don’t shift around. New modes of production or ways of satisfying consumer demand are not created at an unusual rate. Indeed, the rate of creative destruction actually falls. Fewer jobs are destroyed. Fewer new firms are created. Most importantly, specific types of production go into hibernation – the building of transportation equipment and the construction of structures. Those workers for the most part move very slowly into other industries, if at all.

And, amazingly when the recession is over they go right back to doing what they were doing before. No change at all. Same cranes, same hammers, same assembly lines. Often the same model lines for the cars and the same blueprints for the buildings. It's not a shift, it’s a hibernation.

A shift would be more elegant. It would make sense. It should be true.

It's just not true, in this world.

From my perspective, the most interesting thing about the Hayekian and Austrian claims is how little they trust the market. We build 1.25 million houses instead of 1 million houses for three years because we mistakenly think that the cost of capital and the risk-bearing capacity of the market is higher than it really is. We recognize our mistake. The market then has to shift resources out of construction and into other forms of activity.

It should do so smoothly. Prices of houses fall. Construction workers on piece rates conclude they could make more money retaining for other occupations. The market takes care of it. This is what markets are good at. This is why we like markets rather than command-and-control.

But no, the Austrians say, instead of a smooth shift we need to render 1.5 million construction workers idle, render an additional 6 million workers in other industries idle, and keep them that way for four years.

The striking contrast between the Hayek of the magic of the market and the Hayek of the business cycle is badly in need of explanation.

And I have never seen one provided.

Information Technology Cognitive Multipliers

Kevin Drum:

The Internet is a Major Driver of the Growth of Cognitive Inequality: Apropos of yesterday's post about using Google to convert joules to electron volts, a friend of mine emailed this morning to say that Wolfram Alpha would be an even better choice. It's one of his favorite time wasters, he said.

Well. I remember using Alpha back when it first came out, and then giving up because it didn't seem to live up to its hype. But I haven't used it in quite a while, so I headed over to try it out. But what to ask? Hmmm. How about asking it to check the price of a gallon of milk?1 So I did. Answer: $20 million gal, whatever that means, which converts to $4.62 billion cubic inches, whatever that means. If you ask for the price of a quart of milk, it tells you the milk production budget for the Quart region of Italy. Thanks, Wolfram Alpha!

But does Google do any better? Sort of. I typed in the same question, and one hit was from an elementary school class project telling me that a gallon of milk costs $2.99 in Bakersfield, along with conversions of that amount into pounds, lira, and punts. Which suggests this data might be a wee bit out of date.

Another hit was from Yahoo Answers, which informed me that the price of milk was "OUTRAGEOUSLY TOO HIGH," and then provided a range of prices from around the country. The "Best Answer," garnering two votes, was $3.50. That was in 2008. provided answers for 1917, 1950, and 2007.

In a way, this is the internet in a nutshell. One site provides a very precise answer that's spectacularly wrong. Another site provides a fantastic wealth of answers, all of which are sort of wrong in various different ways. But if you're smart enough to reformulate your search as "usda milk price retail," as I eventually did, you'll get this extremely authoritative-looking document from the USDA that provides average retail whole milk prices in 30 different U.S. cities for January 2012. The average is $3.69 per gallon. Other reports are available for reduced fat milk, organic whole milk, and organic reduced fat milk.

Moral of the story: the internet makes dumb people dumber and smart people smarter. If you don't know how to use it, or don't have the background to ask the right questions, you'll end up with a head full of nonsense. But if you do know how to use it, it's an endless wealth of information. Just as globalization and de-unionization have been major drivers of the growth of income inequality over the past few decades, the internet is now a major driver of the growth of cognitive inequality. Caveat emptor...

Michael Tomasky: The Problem with the Republican Party Is Not with the Candidates

Michael Tomasky:

Michael Tomasky: There Will Be No Saviors for the GOP in 2012: If Mitt Romney fails to win Michigan next Tuesday, a few high-powered Republicans have started saying, the party needs to go back to square one and recruit a new candidate…. “The senator believes Romney will ultimately win in Michigan but says he will publicly call for the party to find a new candidate if he does not. ‘We’d get killed,’ the senator said if Romney manages to win the nomination after he failed to win the state in which he grew up. ‘He’d be too damaged’ … Santorum? ‘He’d lose 35 states,’ the senator said, predicting the same fate for Newt Gingrich. It would have to be somebody else, the senator said. Who? ‘Jeb Bush.’”… If a Jeb Bush or Chris Christie or Mitch Daniels were to declare an intention to run, they’d have time to solidify support. True, they will have missed the filing deadlines to get on most primary ballots (although not to participate in caucuses). But it’s still not too late to file, for example, for California’s June 5 primary—the filing deadline is March 23. If a late-entry candidate dominated the contests he did manage to enter, he could make a reasonable case that the voters really wanted him. This can’t wait until the convention, which isn’t until late August. That would be awfully late to be getting started with a presidential race in this day and age….

But here’s the problem…. The Bush name? Please. It’s better than Nixon, but that’s about all that can be said for it. Christie’s tough-talking personality? That appeals to people on the right…. And Daniels has the charisma of an econ-department chair…. [E]ach has litmus-test difficulties. Jeb, as Rich Yeselson pointed out over the weekend at the Washington Monthly, is kind of soft on immigration…. Christie appointed a Muslim judge…. Daniels, back when he was a potential candidate, was regularly savaged by Rush Limbaugh. These are suddenly going to be right-wing heroes?…

[L]et us please be clear on why there is no savior. Because there is no one who can satisfy the base of the GOP—a cohort so drunk on ideology and resentment that they cheer electrocutions and boo a soldier—and be elected president…. The standard journalistic trope… the Republican establishment would step in at some point and not let things get too out of hand. But… if the base is driving the party into a ditch, the establishment is riding shotgun holding a shovel.

And there’s not one politician in sight who has the nerve to say anything about it…

As I have said, the ongoing collapse of Romney is more likely than not to be good for the country, but the risks are too great. As Damon Runyon said, nothing between human beings is more than 3-to-1. Anything could happen in November. Trying to save Romney from himself and from the Republican base is the only sensible thing to do...

Ed Kilgore: Rick Santorum's Jihad Continues…

Ed Kilgore:

Political Animal - Santorum: “You’re Not A Christian”: Defenders of Rick Santorum are very angry that anyone would suggest his “phony theology” comments about the president represented an attack on a fellow Christian’s beliefs. Turns out he was a bit more direct about it in an appearance in 2008, as reported at the time by Beliefnet founder Steve Waldman (who passed along a link to his post):

After he’d accused Obama and other Democrats of religious fraudulance for a few minutes, journalist Terry Mattingly of asked whether it’s possible that rather than being fake, perhaps, Obama was sincerely reflecting a form of liberal Christianity in the tradition of Reinhold Neibuhr. Santorum… he questioned whether liberal christianity was really, well, Christian. “You’re a liberal something, but you’re not a Christian.” He continued, “When you take a salvation story and turn it into a liberation story you’ve abandoned Christiandom and I don’t think you have a right to claim it.” In other words, Obama’s faith is fraudulant in part because liberal Christianity is….

[Santorum's] now famous speech at Ave Maria University… concluded that mainline Protestantism, which was “gone from the world of Christianity,” had already been lost to His Infernal Majesty…. As Waldman noted, this is not that unusual an attitude for self-consciously conservative Christians to have these days, but it’s unusual to hear it from a politician. Rick Santorum cannot have it both ways, though. If he feels so strongly that Christians who don’t share his particular “world view” aren’t really Christian at all, then he should be loud and proud about it…

Fiscal Policy During the Great Recession…

Interesting scatter diagram, no?

Microsoft Excel 2

Now the task is to hit this correlation with an instrument--like ((# of mentions of "stimulus" in the FT for country X) - (# of mentions of "austerity" in the FT for country X))/(# of mentions in the FT of country X)--and see whether the correlation survives, or whether it turns into mush…

And, of course, check for data errors...

Liveblogging World War II: February 21, 1942

Japanese troops in Singapore begin the Sook Ching Massacre:

Wikipedia: The Sook Ching massacre (Chinese: 肅清大屠殺) was a systematic extermination of perceived hostile elements among the Chinese in Singapore by the Japanese military during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore, after the British colony surrendered on 15 February 1942 during the Second World War. Sook Ching was later extended to include Chinese Malayans as well…. Hirofumi Hayashi is professor of politics at Kanto Gakuin University and the Co-Director of the Center for Research and Documentation on Japan’s War Responsibility. He writes….

the purge was planned before Japanese troops landed in Singapore. The military government section of the 25th Army had already drawn up a plan entitled, "Implementation Guideline for Manipulating Overseas Chinese" on or around 28 December 1941.[ This guideline stated that anyone who failed to obey or cooperate with the occupation authorities should be eliminated. It is clear that the headquarters of the 25th Army had decided on a harsh policy toward the Chinese population of Singapore and Malaya from the beginning of the war…. the Singapore Massacre was not the conduct of a few evil people, but was consistent with approaches honed and applied in the course of a long period of Japanese aggression against China and subsequently applied to other Asian countries…

The Japanese military authorities, led by General Tomoyuki Yamashita, decided on a policy of "eliminating" those who harboured strong anti-Japanese sentiments. The Japanese military authorities defined the following as "undesirables":

  • Activists in the China Relief Fund.
  • Wealthy men who had contributed generously to the Fund.
  • Adherents of Tan Kah Kee, leader of the Nanyang National Salvation Movement.
  • Hainanese, perceived to be communists.
  • China-born Chinese who came to Malaya after the Second Sino-Japanese War.
  • Men with tattoos, perceived to be Triad members (Chinese gangsters)
  • Chinese who joined the Singapore Overseas Chinese Anti-Japanese Volunteer Army.
  • Civil servants and those who were likely to sympathise with the British, such as Justices of the Peace, and members of the Legislative Council.
  • People who possessed arms and were likely to disrupt public security.

Gen. Yamashita instructed the Syonan garrison to cooperate with the Syonan Kempeitai, the Japanese military police to "punish hostile Chinese severely"…. Lieutenant-Colonel Masayuki Oishi, commander of No. 2 Field Kempeitai, set up his headquarters in the YMCA Building at Stamford Road as the Kempeitai East District Branch…. The Japanese set up designated "screening centers" all over Singapore to gather and "screen" all Chinese males between the ages of 18 and 50. Those who were thought to be "anti-Japanese" would be eliminated…. There were several sites for the killings, the most notable ones being Changi Beach Park, Punggol Beach and Sentosa (or Pulau Blakang Mati)….

The figures of the death toll vary. Official Japanese statistics show fewer than 5000 while the Singaporean Chinese community claims the numbers to be around 100,000. Lee Kuan Yew, the founding Prime Minister who ruled Singapore from 1959 to 1990, said in a Discovery Channel programme that the estimated death toll was, "Somewhere between 50,000 to 100,000 young men, Chinese".

In an interview on 6 July 2009 with National Geographic, Lee Kuan Yew said:

I was a Chinese male, tall and the Japanese were going for people like me because Singapore had been the centre for the collection of ethnic Chinese donations to Chongqing to fight the Japanese. So they were out to punish us. They slaughtered 70,000 - perhaps as high as 90,000 but verifiable numbers would be about 70,000. But for a stroke of fortune, I would have been one of them….

In 1947, after the Japanese surrender, the British authorities in Singapore held a war crimes trial for the perpetrators of the Sook Ching massacre. Seven Japanese officers - Lieutenant-General Takuma Nishimura, Lieutenant-General Saburo Kawamura, Lieutenant-Colonel Masayuki Oishi, Lieutenant-Colonel Yoshitaka Yokata, Major Tomotatsu Jo, Major Satoru Onishi and Captain Haruji Hisamatsu were charged with the execution of the massacre.

Liveblogging World War II: February 20, 1942

Edward O'Hare - Wikipedia:

Lieutenant Commander Edward Henry “Butch” O’Hare (March 13, 1914 – November 26, 1943) was an Irish-American naval aviator of the United States Navy who on February 20, 1942 became the U.S. Navy's first flying ace and Medal of Honor recipient in World War II. Butch O’Hare’s final action took place on the night of November 26, 1943, while he was leading the U.S. Navy’s first-ever nighttime fighter attack launched from an aircraft carrier. During this encounter with a group of Japanese torpedo bombers, O'Hare's F6F Hellcat was shot down…. A few years later, O'Hare was honored when Colonel Robert R. McCormick, publisher of the Chicago Tribune, suggested a name change of Chicago's Orchard Depot Airport as tribute to Butch O'Hare….

February 20, 1942…. At 1542 a jagged vee signal drew the attention of the Lex's radar operator. The contact then was lost, but reappeared at 1625 forty-seven miles west and closing fast. Butch O'Hare, flying F4F Wildcat BuNo 4031 "White F-15", was one of several pilots launched to intercept the incoming 9 Japanese Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" bombers from 2. Chutai of 4. Kokutai, at this time five had already been shot down. At 1649, the Lexington's radar picked up a second formation of Bettys from 1. Chutai of 4. Kokutai only 12 miles out, on the disengaged side of the task force, completely unopposed. The carrier had only two Wildcats left to confront the intruders: Butch and his wingman "Duff" Dufilho. As the Lexington’s only protection, they raced eastward and arrived 1,500 feet above eight attacking Bettys nine miles out at 1700. Dufilho’s guns were jammed and wouldn’t fire, leaving only O'Hare to protect the carrier. The enemy formation was a V of Vs flying very close together and using their rear-facing guns for mutual protection. O'Hare's Wildcat, armed with four 50-caliber guns, with 450 rounds per gun, had enough ammunition for about 34 seconds of firing.

O'Hare's initial maneuver was a high-side diving attack employing accurate deflection shooting. He accurately placed bursts of gunfire into a Betty's right engine and wing fuel tanks; when the stricken craft of Nitō Hikō Heisō Tokiharu Baba (3. Shotai) on the right side of the formation abruptly lurched to starboard, he ducked to the other side of the V formation and aimed at the enemy bomber of Ittō Hikō Heisō Bin Mori (3. Shotai)[ on the extreme left. When he made his third and fourth firing passes, the Japanese planes were close enough to the American ships for them to fire their anti-aircraft guns. The five survivors managed to drop their ordnance, but all ten 250kg bombs missed. O'Hare's hits were so concentrated, the nacelle of a Betty literally jumped out of its mountings, after O'Hare blew up the leading Shōsa Takuzo Ito's Betty's port engine. O'Hare believed he had shot down five bombers, and damaged a sixth. Lieutenant Commander Thach arrived at the scene with other pilots of the flight, later reporting that at one point he saw three of the enemy bombers falling in flames at the same time.

In fact, O'Hare destroyed only three Bettys: Nitō Hikō Heisō Tokiharu Baba's from 3. Shotai, Ittō Hikō Heisō Susumu Uchiyama's (flying at left wing of the leading V, 1. Shotai) and the leader of the formation, Shōsa Takuzo Ito's. This last (flying on the head of leading V) Betty's left engine was hit at the time it dropped its ordnance. Its pilot Hikō Heisōchō Chuzo Watanabe tried to hit Lexington with his damaged plane. He missed and flew into the water near Lexington at 1712. Another two Bettys were damaged by O'Hare's attacks. Ittō Hikō Heisō Kodji Maeda (2. Shotai, left wing of V) safely landed at Vunakanau airdrome and Ittō Hikō Heisō Bin Mori was later shot down by LT Noel Gayler ("White F-1", VF-3) when trying to escape 40 miles from Lexington.

With his ammunition expended, O'Hare returned to his carrier, and was fired on accidentally but with no effect by a .50-caliber machine gun from the Lexington. O'Hare's fighter had, in fact, been hit by only one bullet during his flight, the single bullet hole in F-15's port wing disabling the airspeed indicator. According to Thach, Butch then approached the gun platform to calmly say to the embarrassed anti-aircraft gunner who had fired at him, "Son, if you don't stop shooting at me when I've got my wheels down, I'm going to have to report you to the gunnery officer."

Thach calculated that O'Hare had used only sixty rounds of ammunition for each bomber he destroyed; an impressive feat of marksmanship. In the opinion of Admiral Brown and of Captain Frederick C. Sherman, commanding the Lexington, Lieutenant O'Hare's actions may have saved the carrier from serious damage or even loss. By 1900 all Lexington planes had been recovered except for two F4F-3 Wildcats shot down while attacking enemy bombers.

Daniel Larison Worries About Libya

He take the Hobbesian position that any Leviathan is better than no Leviathan:

Eunomia: Aftermath of the Libyan War: Amnesty International has issued a report on the great humanitarian success that is post-Gaddafi Libya:

Amnesty International on Thursday said armed militias in Libya commit widespread human rights abuses, creating instability and obstructing efforts to rebuild the country. “Armed militias operating across Libya commit widespread human rights abuses with impunity, fuelling insecurity and hindering the rebuilding of state institutions”…. The report..documents “serious abuses, including war crimes, against suspected Gaddafi loyalists, with cases of people being unlawfully detained and tortured — sometimes to death,” it said…

This is the kind of thing that happens when a dictatorship in a country with very weak institutions collapses as a result of war. None of this should come as a surprise to anyone. The reprisals that were already happening during the fighting last year have continued, and they seem to be getting worse. Militias in Libya have become a law unto themselves, and there doesn’t appear to be that much interest in creating a democratic government. Perhaps next time we in the West should not be so eager to help turn a dictatorship into a failed state.

The people who actually know about Libya who I talk to say that Daniel has the wrong counterfactual: a peaceful, orderly Libya under the thumb of Qaddafi was no longer a possibility after the Arab Spring spread from Tunisia, and that unless we were lucky--which I don't think we have been in Libya--the choice then was between rivers of blood (if Qaddafi was overthrown) and oceans of blood (if Qaddafi stayed after the degree of discontent had become common knowledge).

Thus backing the Arab Spring still looks to me to have been a good thing to do--both in the short run of the character of the successor regimes and in the long run of the forward march of human freedom.

Romney’s Incoherence on the Auto Bailout Explained

Benjy Sarlin:

Mitt Romney is again slamming the White House for its handling of the auto bailout…. If you’re confused, you should be…. Romney is in the tough position of trying to sell the same position to two very different audiences…. Back in late 2008… Romney wrote an op-ed for the New York Times instead calling for bankruptcy…. But here’s the thing: there was no way the auto companies could get the necessary loans to keep them afloat during bankruptcy from the private sector. That’s because the financial industry was barely hanging on to life itself. So Romney recommended at the very bottom that the federal government step in with the money, offering “guarantees for post-bankruptcy financing and [assuring] car buyers that their warranties are not at risk.”…

Then a funny thing happened. The new Obama administration came in and, rather than continuing to write a “bailout check,” did just what Romney had recommended….

So what did Romney make of it? Well he was kind of all over the map…. Romney actually praised the president’s “backbone” at a Republican fundraiser in April 2009 and said his party shouldn’t hesitate to credit him when he’s right…. [W]hen the actual announcement of GM’s bankruptcy came, he said in a speech that it was the “a course I recommended a number of months ago”….

But the Tea Party saw little distinction between financing a bankruptcy proceeding with taxpayer dollars… and a socialist corruption of private industry…. So Romney’s now in a tough spot. On the one hand, Obama pretty much followed the basics of his own 2008 proposal. On the other hand, the Tea Party… think[s] this route was… the ultimate bailout….

[Romney's oped is] a rewrite of history… suggests Obama took over the auto companies in order to hand them to his union buddies. In fact, the UAW’s stake in the companies was a concession. GM and Chrysler owed huge amounts of cash to the auto-worker’s health care retirement fund… the UAW agreed to instead allow the industry to pay into the fund with equity — a risky move…

Austerity, Technocracy, Autocracy...

Duncan Black sends us to Wolfgang Munchau and says:

Eschaton: Choices: Indeed.

Wolfgng Munchau:

When Wolfgang Schäuble proposed that Greece should postpone its elections as a condition for further help, I knew that the game would soon be up. We are at the point where success is no longer compatible with democracy. The German finance minister wants to prevent a “wrong” democratic choice. Similar to this is the suggestion to let the elections go ahead, but to have a grand coalition irrespective of the outcome. The eurozone wants to impose its choice of government on Greece – the eurozone’s first colony.

There are two big questions:

  1. Who is going to eat the losses on past loans to Greece that banks and investors really should have known better than to make--banks, investors, eurozone taxpayers, or Greek taxpayers?

  2. At what level is Greece going to balance its taxes and government spending going forward?

I think that these questions are very different questions that should not be linked--and that the second of them is the business of the Greeks. The first is the business of us outsiders. And it is pretty clear that "Greek taxpayers" should not be a large part of the answer to the first question.

Hysteresis in Unemployment (and Output)...

Laurence M. Ball (2009), "Hysteresis in Unemployment: Old and New Evidence" (Cambridge, MA: NBER Working Paper No. 14818, March):

Abstract: This paper argues that hysteresis helps explain the long-run behavior of unemployment. The natural rate of unemployment is influenced by the path of actual unemployment, and hence by shifts in aggregate demand. I review past evidence for hysteresis effects and present new evidence for 20 developed countries. A central finding is that large increases in the natural rate are associated with disinflations, and large decreases with run-ups in inflation. These facts are consistent with hysteresis theories and inconsistent with theories in which the natural rate is independent of aggregate demand.

Scott Sumner Says I Was Right Back in 2008...

Scott Sumner:

TheMoneyIllusion » Brad DeLong was right: [Warning, this post will initially seem sarcastic, but I'm dead serious.] In July 2008 Brad DeLong made the  following astute prediction:

The chance that American taxpayers will actually lose any money if Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson decide that Fannie and Freddie need government support is very low:

  • The interest payments they have coming in are greater than the interest payments they have going out.

  • Their government guarantee is itself a very valuable asset that they have made a lot of money off of in the past and will make more off of in the future.

  • They are not even in liquidity trouble–unless they begin to have problems rolling over their discount notes…

  • As long as it is generally understood that they are too big to fail, they should not even have liquidity problems–absent a depression that bankrupts many currently-solvent homeowners, that is.

I’d guess that 99% of readers would find DeLong’s prediction incorrect.  That’s because most people are excessively impressed by unconditional forecasts.  When dealing with business cycles and financial markets only conditional forecasts matter.  People win the lottery every day.  I’m no more impressed by an economist making an unconditional prediction that turns out correct than I would be if my plumber won the lottery.

DeLong correctly realized that a depression could push a lot of otherwise-solvent homeowners over the edge.  And of course that’s exactly what happened; the biggest drop in NGDP since the 1930s began the very month DeLong made the prediction.

I’ve had a hard time convincing people that much of the financial crisis was caused by falling NGDP.  Or that with better Fed policy the banking crisis would have been far milder.  I don’t know if DeLong agrees with me, but based on the logic of his prediction he ought to.  After all, the very same factor that caused the GSEs to end up much worse off than expected, also damaged the rest of the financial system.  That’s not to say that there weren’t many problem loans that were unrelated to the fall in NGDP, and I won’t deny that some banks (plus Greece) would have failed with even perfect monetary policy.  But the NGDP collapse made the crisis far worse than it should have been.

I’d guess DeLong made the same mistake as I did.  I suspect he assumed that a Fed chairman who has written papers criticizing the BOJ for not showing “Rooseveltian resolve” in fighting against inadequate NGDP growth, would be unwilling to preside over the greatest NGDP collapse since the 1930s.

I blame myself.  As Ball recently showed, the warning signs were there.  Ever since 2003 Bernanke was increasingly absorbed into Fed-think, which doesn’t allow for price level or NGDP commitments that might later embarrass the Fed.

PS.  After I completed this post I ran across Paul Krugman’s Playboy interview:

PLAYBOY: Were crimes committed here, and should people be in jail?

KRUGMAN: It’s hard for me to believe there were no crimes. Given the scale of this, given how many corners were being cut, some people must have violated laws. I think people should be in jail partly because I’m sure crimes were committed and partly because the lack of accountability is a serious problem. Something terrible happened and nobody has been held accountable. The public is angry, and a lot of the anger is being directed at the wrong targets.

I wonder how commenters will react to this quotation.  His answer reminds me of  the film “12 Angry Men.”   And also that if I’m a banker I don’t want Krugman on the jury.  But I do very much identify with the final sentence of that answer.  There are lots of scapegoats out there, and sometimes it’s easier to see the real villains in another culture, where you can be more dispassionate.  Krugman underestimates how much of our recession was caused by the Fed.  But there’s no doubt he knows who’s to blame for the eurozone recession:

PLAYBOY: Greece and Italy are in financial chaos. Are the euro and the European Union dead? Is that a good thing or a bad thing, or should we even care?

KRUGMAN: It’s on the edge. They need drastic action—basically printing a lot of money for the time being—and it looks highly doubtful that they’ll do it.

DeLong is right that much of our debt crisis is due to falling NGDP and Krugman’s right that the eurozone’s big problem is excessively tight money.

Now that both Keynesians and market monetarists agree on the problem, let’s start working on solutions.

Maria of Crooked Timber: Things She Has Learned from IVF


Things I have learnt from and about IVF: Encouraged by Belle & Tedra’s recent posts, and just loving Jim Henley’s recent comment:

I’d just like to say that all the ladyblogging about ladyparts and ladyissues only of interest to ladies around here lately has been awesome. I’m learning a lot from it

I’m going to share some observations as I near the end of my third round of IVF.

Embryos are not babies: You might think someone so eager to have children as to undergo months of difficult and expensive treatment would have a hard-core view on embryos and babies. You’d be right. Twice now, I’ve had two embryos placed in my uterus. I have pictures of the precise moment they were ‘put back’. None of them stuck. The fact is, most don’t. Despite what we went through to create these embryos, I am left with the cold conviction that they were opening gambits, and no more. Certainly, I would have loved them if they’d turned into babies and mourned them if I’d lost them farther along, and I was very, very sad to not get pregnant. But I felt as if the embryos were simply sets of ultimately flawed operating instructions that de-compiled within hours or days. Most embryos are only that. They may succeed, or they may not. They may be carried to term, or they may not. Human agency may intervene in any of these moments, or it may not. This makes me a bad Catholic, but I find it strangely comforting nonetheless. I believe more firmly now that an embryo is a step along the way to becoming a human, but it’s not a human. It’s a possibility….

Trans-vaginal ultrasounds are really quite invasive: This is a live issue in the US, where legislators are trying to force women who want abortions to undergo ‘just an ultrasound’ to see their babies…. Religious conservatives can’t seem to conceive that a woman can understand her pregnancy is real and still choose to end it…. I have them two or three times a week. It was a big deal for me when I started as it’s basically a dildo with a camera in it, wrapped in a condom, smeared with very cold lubricant, pushing quite hard against the cervix…. I want to have these scans. They are getting me somewhere I want to be, and they are administered by professionals I know and trust…. I believe this invasive scan being forced on pregnant women seeking an abortion would be a violation of their bodies….

Most people are statistically illiterate – probably by choice The odds in my case are 70 – 80% for failure. That’s unfortunate but normal for my age. Most people I talk to are irrationally optimistic….

Women receive an endless stream of unsolicited advice – largely from other women – that amounts to an implicit and unintentional blaming when assisted conception doesn’t work…. There is only one thing a woman on IVF can do to improve her chances of getting pregnant: be born with a lot of good quality eggs and don’t spit them out too soon…. Take your shots at the right time, and get enough food and sleep. That’s it….

Everyone has a story: Many, many people have had tricky or unhappy times, not just with infertility, but with miscarriage, and the moment you hint you might be one of them, stories just come tumbling out. Infertility is a great leveler, and another lens through which to see that the reality of life is unpredictable, painful but also richer than the happily ever after I would have chosen for myself….

IVF is not all that bad: I won’t generalize my own, relatively easy, experience to those of all women undergoing IVF. But I will share that, even with the bone-tired exhaustion, endless appointments, and recovery from minor surgery every couple of months, I’ve found it all surprisingly ok…. IVF is a lot of things. It’s highly political, as I’ve tried to illustrate. It’s unpleasant, tiring and time-consuming. It’s bloody expensive…. But if I had to sum up all I’ve learnt, particularly for those considering it, I’d say ‘It’s actually not all that bad, considering. And at least it gives us a chance.’

Patrick Rhone on Microsoft's Biggest Miss

Patrick Rhone:

Minimal Mac | Microsoft's Biggest Miss: One of the benefits of a long car trip with my wife is the opportunity to have really great and insightful conversations with the smartest person I know. Yesterday… I brought up to her what I thought was Microsoft’s biggest miss. That being this…. [O]f all of the software they produce, one is more important than all the rest and a huge revenue source… Microsoft Office. Why then, instead of laughing at the iPhone, iPad, Android, or anything else that comes along, not employ a strategy of “Office Everywhere” and build platform specific and complementary versions of Office for every device that popped up?… This, I said to my wife was their biggest miss.

And, as usual, my wife disagreed. She then laid down a thought so insightful, so deep, so damned perceptive, that it just about brought me to tears in its completeness. You see, she said, missing all of the opportunities was just the start of a much deeper problem. Microsoft for many years had convinced the world that, in order to get “real work” done, you needed Office…. Then, she explained, the iPhone came. There was no Office. People got things done. Then the iPad came. There was no Office. People got things done. Android came. People got things done. All of those things that they, just a couple of years ago, were convinced they needed Office to do. They got them done without it…. Microsoft’s biggest miss was allowing the world to finally see the truth behind the big lie — they were not needed to get real work done. Or anything done, really.

Harold Pollack: Santorum Is Not Funny

Harold Pollack:

Santorum: He’s not funny any more « The Reality-Based Community: I admit that I’ve found Mr. Santorum’s unlikely rise rather amusing. He would self-immolate in the general election. I’ve never expected him to do more than make mischief for Romney. Of course he’s made any number of odious statements about LGBT people. Yet his comments on this front are so self-parodic and self-defeating, I found it hard to get super-upset. Now, though, he’s got me seriously ticked off. Sayeth Mr. Santorum this weekend: 

One of the things that you don’t know about ObamaCare in one of the mandates is they require free prenatal testing,… Why? Because free prenatal testing ends up in more abortions and, therefore, less care that has to be done, because we cull the ranks of the disabled in our society. That too is part of ObamaCare — another hidden message as to what president Obama thinks of those who are less able than the elites who want to govern our country.

I’m writing these words with my smiling brother-in-law Vincent sitting next to me, admiring the green lunchbox that we just bought him. Vincent lives with intellectual disabilities caused by fragile X syndrome. I find the above comments indescribably insulting.

Santorum’s comments are only made uglier by their utter lack of foundation. There is no evidence whatsoever that liberals–let alone President Obama–are less solicitous or caring about the disabled than other Americans. I’ve never heard any liberal health policy wonk promote genetic technologies to “cull the ranks of the disabled” or as part of any cost-cutting plan. That ugly meme is completely made up. By any reasonable measure, the proliferation of genetic diagnostic technologies coincides with great progress in public acceptance and support for people with disabilities.

Certainly liberals are willing to spend more money on disability services. I’ve published analyses showing that states’ 2008 voting share for John McCain was strongly correlated with reductions in state expenditures for intellectual disability services during the current recession. Most of the major disability organizations supported ACA for the obvious reasons. Preexisting condition clauses, essential health benefits, health insurance for young adults, etc. are specifically pertinent for people living with physical and mental disabilities.

Mr. Santorum (like Sarah Palin before him) disfigures public debate over painful issues such as prenatal genetic testing by making these matters another front in the culture wars. The ethical, political, and clinical dilemmas occasioned by these technologies will be hard enough. (More on these complex issues here.) Until now, at least, public discussion of these issues has been relatively free of partisan and cultural rancor.

Santorum’s campaign will eventually collapse under its own weight, not least because he keeps making such clownish offensive statements. Unfortunately, he may do real damage before he goes.

Every Republican ought to be ashamed that this man is leading in their primaries. Every sane Republican ought to be working very hard to remove him from their party.

Yes, Fiscal Policy Is Effective

Olivier Blanchard:

If one believes that aggregate demand determines output in the short run, which most of us do, that aggregate demand is C + I + G + NX, which most of us do, that Ricardian equivalence does not hold, which most of us do, and that we stay away from high deficits and high debt environments in which many things can go wrong, then it is very difficult to see how a decrease in taxes or an increase in spending would not lead to an increase in output.

Liveblogging World War II: February 19, 1942

Executive Order 9066:

The President

Executive Order

Authorizing the Secretary of War to Prescribe Military Areas

Whereas the successful prosecution of the war requires every possible protection against espionage and against sabotage to national-defense material, national-defense premises, and national-defense utilities as defined in Section 4, Act of April 20, 1918, 40 Stat. 533, as amended by the Act of November 30, 1940, 54 Stat. 1220, and the Act of August 21, 1941, 55 Stat. 655 (U.S.C., Title 50, Sec. 104);

Now, therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me as President of the United States, and Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of War, and the Military Commanders whom he may from time to time designate, whenever he or any designated Commander deems such action necessary or desirable, to prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he or the appropriate Military Commander may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion. The Secretary of War is hereby authorized to provide for residents of any such area who are excluded therefrom, such transportation, food, shelter, and other accommodations as may be necessary, in the judgment of the Secretary of War or the said Military Commander, and until other arrangements are made, to accomplish the purpose of this order. The designation of military areas in any region or locality shall supersede designations of prohibited and restricted areas by the Attorney General under the Proclamations of December 7 and 8, 1941, and shall supersede the responsibility and authority of the Attorney General under the said Proclamations in respect of such prohibited and restricted areas.

I hereby further authorize and direct the Secretary of War and the said Military Commanders to take such other steps as he or the appropriate Military Commander may deem advisable to enforce compliance with the restrictions applicable to each Military area hereinabove authorized to be designated, including the use of Federal troops and other Federal Agencies, with authority to accept assistance of state and local agencies.

I hereby further authorize and direct all Executive Departments, independent establishments and other Federal Agencies, to assist the Secretary of War or the said Military Commanders in carrying out this Executive Order, including the furnishing of medical aid, hospitalization, food, clothing, transportation, use of land, shelter, and other supplies, equipment, utilities, facilities, and services.

This order shall not be construed as modifying or limiting in any way the authority heretofore granted under Executive Order No. 8972, dated December 12, 1941, nor shall it be construed as limiting or modifying the duty and responsibility of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with respect to the investigation of alleged acts of sabotage or the duty and responsibility of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice under the Proclamations of December 7 and 8, 1941, prescribing regulations for the conduct and control of alien enemies, except as such duty and responsibility is superseded by the designation of military areas hereunder.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

The White House,

February 19, 1942.

Adele Stan on Going All-in Against Contraception

Adele Stan:

Adele Stan: [T]he perception remained that there was a "Catholic vote," one the bishops could deliver, even if those voters ignored the bishops' backward sexual edicts. But the events of the past week reveal that the bishops command no one, not even the leaders of Catholic institutions.

In offering the bishops an "accommodation" they refused to accept… the Obama administration effectively exposed the powerlessness of the bishops when the rest of the church rose to accept the offer…. [T]he bishops, who now stand marginalized in their own church, as major Catholic organizations, most of them led by clergy -- the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, the Catholic Health Association (which represents Catholic hospitals), Catholic Charities, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and the Sisters of Mercy -- signed onto the administration's plan over the bishops' objections.

Adding insult to the bishops' injury are the polls, which show majorities of Catholics in favor of the healthcare plan's mandate for contraceptive coverage by employer-provided health insurance, even if the employer is an institution, like a hospital or university, that is affiliated with the church….

And the disagreements don't end with contraception. On gay marriage, too, the laity is at odds with the clergy….

Back in the first half of the 20th century… Catholics comprised a largely urban population whose members were defined by the ethnic identities of the countries either they, their parents or grandparents had left behind. The bishops were their advocates…. But you'd be hard-pressed today to find a vote delivered by a bishop… the voting behavior of Catholics is virtually indistinguishable from that of the public at large…. So if the bishops can't deliver the votes of their flock or control the leaders of the church's institutions, do they have any power left? Well, yes, they do -- for the time being. They have money -- money from the collection plates of their parishes, which they've been diverting to campaigns against gay marriage, often in states far away from those in which the money was collected. Those dollars, according to a report by Dominic Holden in The Stranger, a Seattle area newsweekly, are contributed by parishioners who are largely unaware of their ultimate use….

The bishops won't go down easy, of course. At Salon, Sarah Posner writes of a hearing scheduled for today, convened by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., at which the bishops, along with allies from other denominations, will answer this question: "Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?" (Gee, I wonder what the answer will be.)…

It is fitting that the bishops, who once reveled in their unilateral power over their own flock, secure in the power of their own lobby, now seek allies among the most regressive factions of the church's rivals on the roster of the world's great religions, most notably among the Protestant evangelical right…. In this sense, the bishops' remaining political power is in a revisionist history of their own disempowerment…. The bishops now stand on the edge of a chasm, wide and deep, shouting to their theologians, institutional leaders and their very flock on the other side, only to hear nothing but the sound of their own voices echoing back at them.

Mark Thoma on the Policy Mix

Mark Thoma:

Economist's View: "Heartening News About What Economists Think": For the most part, even economists who supported fiscal policy as an option insisted that we try monetary policy first…. Monetary policy alone, we were told, would likely get the job done. And in the unlikely case that it didn't, we could then turn to fiscal policy for help. That was the wrong advice (and I get annoyed when people who insisted that we wait pat themselves on the back over their support of things like infrastructure spending). By the time we realized that monetary policy would help, but wouldn't be enough to turn things around by itself, it was very late in the game to be applying fiscal policy….

When this happens again, we need to to use both monetary and fiscal policy tools to full effect instead of trying one policy, realizing it's not enough, and then turning to the other. But it's not at all clear we've learned this lesson…. Let me emphasize that I'm not saying fiscal policy did not work -- see the following from Jeff Frankel -- only that it could have been much more effective if we hadn't waited so long to put the policies into place:

The full force of the fiscal stimulus package began to go into effect in the second quarter of 2009, with the NBER officially designating the end of the recession as having come in June of that year. Real GDP growth turned positive in the third quarter, but slowed again in late 2010 and early 2011, which coincides with the beginning of the withdrawal of the Obama administration’s fiscal stimulus…. [T]he right way to assess whether the fiscal stimulus enacted in January 2009 had a positive impact is to start with common sense. When the government spends $800 billion on such things as highway construction, salaries for teachers and policemen who were about to be laid off, and so on, it has an effect. Workers who otherwise would not have a job now have one, and may spend some of their income on goods and services produced by other people, creating a multiplier effect.

Those who claim that this spending does not boost income and employment (or that it causes harm) apparently believe that as soon as a teacher is laid off, a new job is created somewhere else in the economy, or even that the same teacher finds a new job right away. Neither can be true, not with unemployment so high and the average spell of unemployment much longer than usual....

Economists’ more sophisticated forecasting models also show that the fiscal stimulus had an important positive effect…. Of course, econometric models do not much interest most of the public. A turnaround needs to be visible to the naked eye to impress voters. Given this, one can only wonder why basic charts, such as the 2008-2009 “V” shape in growth and employment, have not been used – and reused – to make the case.

Yes, It Looks as Though Expansionary Fiscal Policy Is Effective at Moderating Recessions

Economics and Politics by Paul Krugman  The Conscience of a Liberal  NYTimes com

Paul Krugman:

Austerity and Growth: Watching Europe sink into recession – and Greece plunge into the abyss – I found myself wondering what it would take to convince the chattering classes that austerity in the face of an already depressed economy is a terrible idea. After all, all it took was the predictable and predicted failure of an inadequate stimulus plan to convince our political elite that stimulus never works, and that we should pivot immediately to austerity, never mind three generations’ worth of economic research telling us that this was exactly the wrong thing to do. Why isn’t the overwhelming, and much more decisive, failure of austerity in Europe producing a similar reaction?… I compare two measures for European countries. The x-axis shows the change in real government purchases of goods and services from the first quarter of 2008 to the most recent date I could get from Eurostat, measured as a percentage of 2008Q1 GDP. (This means, by the way, that I didn’t catch the full force of Greek austerity). The y-axis shows the percentage change in real GDP from 2008Q1 to 2011Q4. Can we say that there is a clear correlation here, and not in the direction austerity advocates would like to see?…

To some extent we may be looking at reverse causation, with troubled economies forced into harsh austerity…. Also, austerity programs generally involve sharp cuts in transfer payments and tax hikes as well as declines in real purchases, so you don’t want to interpret the slope of a line through the scatter – around 3 – as a measure of the multiplier. But it is pretty striking, isn’t it?

The truth is that we’ve just had a powerful test of the Keynesian proposition that when monetary policy isn’t available, changes in government spending move the economy in the same direction – and the results of that test say that what has lately passed for policy wisdom is instead almost criminal folly.

Hoisted from the Washington Monthly's Archives: Nicholas Confessore on Paul Krugman

From December 2001. Worth recalling only because (a) the fanfare of the right-wing noise machine is the same, and (b) the honesty of the right-wing noise machine is the same.

Nick Confessore:

Comparative Advantage: Paul Krugman, who has written a column twice-weekly for The New York Times since January 2000, is essential reading for the Age of Bush…. Mention his name at a Washington dinner party, and at least a few people are bound to rave--or curse…. Krugman has been the columnist every Democrat in the country feels they need to read--and every Bush Republican loves to hate. Krugman's primacy is based largely on his dominance of a particular intellectual niche… he is almost alone in analyzing the most important story in politics in recent years--the seamless melding of corporate, class, and political party interests at which the Bush administration excels…. Krugman, whether puncturing the fuzzy math of Bush's tax cut or eviscerating the deceptive accounting behind Bush's Social Security plans or highlighting the corruption behind Dick Cheney's energy task force, has nearly always been the first mainstream writer to describe--and condemn--Bushonomics in plain English…. His columns aren't about trade theory or stochastic calculus, but about flagrant deceptions and fourth-grade arithmetic. What makes Krugman interesting, in short, is not just why he writes what he writes. It's why nobody else does.

"This is not what I do. This is not who I am," Krugman sighs…. "This is not my natural habitat. Sometimes, I think that if I had known what it would be like, I would never have agreed to do this column. What I really do is international trade and finance"….

Krugman is regularly attacked by fellow pundits, most exhaustively by… Andrew Sullivan and… Mickey Kaus, each of whom inveighs against Krugman….

For Krugman devotees, however, the main appeal is his proclivity for writing things before it is okay to write them. Journalists may love to break news, but they hate to contradict the narratives that crystallize around particular politicians or policies. Late last winter, for instance, the established storyline on California's energy crisis was that Left Coasters had only themselves to blame: the state had passed a flawed deregulation law…. [W]hile the press gave plenty of column inches to the Bush administration's preferred spin--that environmentalists had stymied the construction of needed generation capacity--few reporters gave credence to groups like Public Citizen, who blamed the crisis on market manipulation by energy companies, many of them based in Texas and enjoying close ties to the administration. But Krugman, noting that economists had long worried about the vulnerability of California's trading system to price-fixing, argued that market manipulation was the obvious culprit; otherwise, he wrote in March 2001, the power company executives "are either saints or very bad businessmen." Krugman was ignored at the time. Twenty months later--following the collapse of Enron, three federal investigations into the California crisis, and a passel of indictments against energy company officials--Krugman has been proved right….

"He goes against the very basic thing that people and journalists want to believe about Bush: 'Say what you want, but the guy's honest,'" says James Carville, the blunt, flamboyant host of CNN's "Crossfire." "Krugman says, no--he's a complete fraud."…

So if dismantling the facade of lies around, say, Bush's tax cut is so easy to do--and makes you the most talked-about newspaper writer in the country--why don't any other reporters or columnists do it themselves? Because doing so would violate some of the informal, but strict, rules under which Washington journalists operate. Reporters usually don't call a spade a spade, unless the lie is small or something personal. When it comes to big policy disagreements, most reporters prefer a he-said, she-said approach--and any policy with a white paper or press release behind it is presumed to be plausible and sincere, no matter how farfetched or deceptive it may be….

"He is obviously a very smart guy, basically liberal, with complicated views, who once recognized when his own side was wrong. And at some point he switched and became someone who only sees what's wrong with the other side, in fairly crude terms," says Mickey Kaus. "The Bush tax cut is based on lies. But it's not enough to criticize a policy to say that it's based on lies….

"It is considered the appropriate thing to say at a dinner party that, while Krugman is very bright, he's just too relentless on Bush," drawls James Carville. "Because to accept Krugman's facts as right makes the Washington press look like idiots."…

Right now, when it comes to analyzing the intellectual underpinnings of the Bush administration, Krugman has no competition. But as is usually the case, it might be better for everyone else if this particular monopoly didn't last.

Rick Santorum Declares Jihad on Atheists, Agnostics, Presbyterians, Buddhists, Muslims, Wiccans, Members of the Dutch Reformed Church, Congregationalists, Asatru, Mithraists, and Lutherans!

Mark Kleiman:

Rick Santorum really, really hates you if: you’re a professor or a mainline Protestant. You are doing the work of the “Father of Lies” (and no, he doesn’t mean Rush Limbaugh).  You really have to hear the loathing he packs into the phrase “smart people.”…

Kyle Mantyla:

Santorum: Satan is Systematically Destroying America: Rick Santorum traveled to Ave Maria University in Florida to deliver an address…. Santorum told the students at Ave Maria how lucky they were to be living in a time when God's Army is more needed than ever because all of the major institutions in society were under attack by Satan….

Santorum began his remarks by explaining to the students in attendance how every institution in America has been destroyed by Satan; from academia to politics with even the church having fallen under His sway - not the Catholic church, of course, but "mainline Protestantism" which is in such "shambles" that it is not even Christian any longer:

This is not a political war at all. This is not a cultural war. This is a spiritual war. And the Father of Lies has his sights on what you would think the Father of Lies would have his sights on: a good, decent, powerful, influential country - the United States of America. If you were Satan, who would you attack in this day and age? There is no one else to go after other than the United States and that has been the case now for almost two hundred years, once America's preeminence was sown by our great Founding Fathers…. The place where he was, in my mind, the most successful and first successful was in academia. He understood pride of smart people. He attacked them at their weakest, that they were, in fact, smarter than everybody else and could come up with something new and different. Pursue new truths, deny the existence of truth, play with it because they're smart. And so academia, a long time ago, fell…. [O]once the colleges fell and those who were being education in our institutions, the next was the church. Now you’d say, ‘wait, the Catholic Church’? No. We all know that this country was founded on a Judeo-Christian ethic but the Judeo-Christian ethic was a Protestant Judeo-Christian ethic, sure the Catholics had some influence, but this was a Protestant country and the Protestant ethic, mainstream, mainline Protestantism, and of course we look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country and it is in shambles, it is gone from the world of Christianity….

[T]he culture is where their next success was….[T]he corruption of decency is now on display whether it’s the NBA or whether it’s a rock concert or whether it’s on a movie set…

Eschaton: Take The Car Keys Away From Plouffe

Duncan Black:

Eschaton: Take The Car Keys Away From Plouffe: The Washington Post editorial board is not "the rest of the country." People like their Social Security and Medicare. There is no way to "fix" Social Security in a way which stops people from trying to steal the money.

Noam Scheiber:

[Top Adviser David] Plouffe urged the president to give [entitlement reform] a shot. "I said he [Obama] should be big on entitlements," Plouffe told one former administration official, by which he meant reining in these budgetary elephants. Sure, this would enrage the party's base. But the political upside with the rest of the country would more than make up for it ... "Plouffe is pretty big on accomplishments trump normal politics," said one White House colleague. "Plouffe's view is that big trumps the little."…

The Incoherence of Mitt Romney:

Mike Tomasky:

How Mitt’s Emotion Deficit is Doing Him In Among Republicans - The Daily Beast: I was watching Mitt Romney’s speech to the CPAC….He tries to appeal to conservatives with reason, not emotion. And he just doesn’t hate liberals enough. (The consequence? According to Nate Silver, Santorum, and not Romney, has a 77 percent chance of winning the Michigan primary. Meanwhile, the two men are tied in Arizona.)….

[S]uccessful appeals by politicians recognize the fact that people don’t approach politics rationally, and they make appeals that aim more for the gut than the brain. As a rule, Republicans are better at this than Democrats. The latter often still base their appeals on reason. Not because they’re superior human beings, but because there is something about the liberal brain that wants to believe that if there is a problem in the country, the experts will study it and offer a solution and the politicians will implement it….

[C]onservative appeals by their very nature are more tightly constructed around denunciations of the liberal status quo—which is to say, around emotion. This means, to put it more simply, hating on liberals: feminazis, socialists, freedom haters, French apologists, and so on. A big part of the definition of a true and fully engaged conservative today is that that person really, really hates liberals.

But Romney just doesn’t hate liberals…. Then he tries to act like he does…. [L]iberal hatred is simply not woven into his DNA. Back to the speech. The specific moment all this hit me came when he said he’d repeal Obamacare. Huge applause, his biggest applause line of the day. But then, he just moved on. So that was it. One sentence. And I thought, you know, if he really wants to connect with these people on the most visceral level, he’d spend 10 minutes on Obamacare—how evil it is, how it’s exactly the kind of totalitarian garbage those liberals cook up all the time, how these liberals want to take away your freedom step by step, et cetera. Everyone made a big deal out of the fact that he used “conservative,” or a variant thereof, two dozen times in the speech. But more telling is that he used “liberal” only three times, and two of those were sort of neutral….

I don’t blame hard-core conservatives for not really trusting Romney. They’re right not to. He isn’t one of them at all.

I am not saying, however, that he is “really” a moderate. This is an important point…. He took on the positions he did in Massachusetts because it was Massachusetts and he had to. But ponder this: if he’d stayed in Utah after the 2002 Olympics and run there, does anyone think for a second that he’d have been pro-choice or pro-gay? Of course not. He’d have been what the situation demanded….

While at Bain & Company, they write, and as governor, he was a big believer in studying the evidence and going wherever that took him. This is a death warrant in today’s GOP. Any real conservative knows that evidence has a liberal bias, because only fussbudgets like Al Gore use prissy words like evidence. So Romney is like the Republican Al Gore. That comes across too. They may yet nominate him. But they’ll never trust him. And liberals would be in grave error to think that because conservatives don’t trust him, it reflects well on him…