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September 2012

Mitt Romney and "Those People": Reading Ta-Nehisi Coates Weblogging

No One Left To Race Bait To  Ta Nehisi Coates  The Atlantic

Ta-Nehisi Coates:

No One Left To Race-Bait To: Dave Weigel points out the difference between the covert racism of a young cagey Pat Buchanan in the days of the Southern strategy, and overt racism of the pariah Pat Buchanan banished to Fox News…. Calling the first black president a "drug dealer of welfare" is… Buchanan deploying symbolism. The problem is that the world has changed, and this is precisely the kind of rhetoric that would end a presidential candidacy today.

As I argued on Tuesday, as a racist appeal becomes more abstract, it doesn't simply become "more devious, it becomes less racist, and thus less potent. Inveighing against the 47 percent isn't racist; "Welfare Queen" kind of is;  William F. Buckley claiming black people don't want to vote really is; and John Booth mumbling "That means nigger equality, by God I'll run him through" and then shooting the president in the head is straight white supremacist violence.

Continue reading "Mitt Romney and "Those People": Reading Ta-Nehisi Coates Weblogging" »


Joan Walsh on the Political Views of the White Working Class

Joan Walsh:

Beyond guns and God: [T]he Public Religion Research Institute… “non-Hispanic white Americans without a four-year college degree who hold non-salaried jobs.”… Romney led Obama by a staggering 40 points in the South (62-22) while Obama actually led Romney 44-38 in the Midwest (hello, auto industry rescue?), and the two candidates were nearly tied in the West and Northeast. White working-class Protestants favor Romney 2-1, while Catholics are evenly split. Likewise, Romney clobbers Obama with men, but the candidates are tied for the votes of women. And younger white working-class voters support Obama….

Continue reading "Joan Walsh on the Political Views of the White Working Class" »


Liveblogging World War II: September 20, 1942

To: Guards Senior Lieutenant Fedoseev, Cdr., 1st Battalion
Date: September 20, 1942

May I report to you that the situation is as follows: The enemy is trying to encircle my company by sending submachine gunners around to our rear. So far all their efforts have failed, despite their superior strength. Our soldiers and officers are displaying courage and heroism in the face of the fascist jackals. The Fritzes won't succeed until they have stepped over my corpse.

Guard soldiers do not retreat. Soldiers and officers may die like heroes, but the enemy must not be allowed to break our defense. Let the whole country learn about the 3rd Rifle Company of the 13th Guards Division. While the company commander is alive, not a single whore will break through.

They might break though if the company commander is killed or heavily wounded. the commander of the 13th Company is under stress and unwell, deafened and weak. He gets vertigo, falling off his feet. His nose bleeds.

In spite of all the hardships, the Guards, namely the 3rd and 2nd Companies, will not retreat. We will die like heroes for Stalin's city. Let the Soviet land be the enemy's grave.

Commander of the 3rd Company Kolaganov has himself killed two Fritz machine gunners and taken from them a machine gun and documents, which he has presented to the HQ of the battalion.

Kolaganov

Of the 10,000 men of the 13th Guards Rifle Division who set out from the east bank of the Volga on September 14, 1942, less than 400 were alive at the start of the next February.


In Which I Wish I Had 1/3 of Ezra Klein's Brain: Mitt Romney 47% Trainwreck Weblogging

Recently Ezra Klein said that he does not think of himself as a liberal any more.

If he keeps thinking and writing like this, I don't care if he thinks of himself as a porcupine--in fact, I would become one too:

What Mitt Romney Doesn’t Get About Responsibility: “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” Mitt Romney told a room full of donors…. "47 percent… dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims… entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”… “These are people who pay no income tax,” he continued, “47 percent of Americans pay no income tax.”

Let’s do away with the ridiculous myth that 47 percent of Americans are tax-evading moochers….

Still, for my money, the worst of Romney’s comments were these: “My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

When he said this, Romney didn’t just write off half the country behind closed doors. He also confirmed the worst suspicions about who he is: an entitled rich guy with no understanding of how people who aren’t rich actually live.

Continue reading "In Which I Wish I Had 1/3 of Ezra Klein's Brain: Mitt Romney 47% Trainwreck Weblogging" »


I See That Yves Smith Has Realized That the Newsweek Cover of Niall Ferguson Praising Mussolini Was a Parody...

…and pulled her critique.

To fill the gaping hole in the internet this has created, let me offer National Review's obituary for Francisco Franco, written by James Burnham:

Francisco Franco was our century's most successful ruler.... [H]e outstayed all his great contemporaries, friend and enemy: Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Churchill, Eisenhower, de Gaulle….

"[A] patient stubbornness, a flawless prudence, and an unshakable faith in his mission.... Before coming to a decision he meditated before a portable Blessed Sacrament.... 'I Francisco Franco Bahamonde, Caudillo of Spain, conscious of my responsibility before God and before history...' And, besides all the rest, luck."

Franco commanded the winning side in a ferocious civil war... held Spain aloof from World War II.... Under his postwar rule Spain transformed itself... into a modern industrial state.... Illiteracy has been halved....

[W]ith the exit of Franco... the regime was going to confront a formidable array of basic political and social problems. This fact is sufficient proof of how fundamentally Spain's regime has differed from genuine totalitarian regimes like Hitler's Reich.... Under a consolidated totalitarian regime, succession... does not raise issues involving the essential nature of the regime....

The whole concept of "fascism" for that matter has been a fraud from the beginning. Like "peaceful coexistence" and "detente," it is a tactical invention of the Soviet Agitprop, and boils down in practice to the simple definition: fascism is any regime that outlaws Communism…


Liveblogging World War II: September 19, 1942

Stalingrad. From Glantz and House, Armageddon in Stalingrad:

Red Army General Staff Daily Operational Summary for September 19, 1942: Southeastern Front went over to the offensive... at 1200 hours on 19 September against the enemy's infantry and tank units that have penetrated into Stalingrad....

62nd Army went over to the offensive along the Hill 35.0, Hill 932, Hill 135.4, and Hill 102.0 one and in the center of Stalingrad with the units on its right wing and in its center....

124th and 149th RBs and 282nd RR NKVD, overcoming stubborn enemy resistance, advanced forward slowly. 115th RB and composite regiment of 96th RD held their previous poositons, while repelling counterattacks.... 9th MRB caputred Hill 126.3.... 137th TB... reached the region 1 kilometer east of the wagon sheds.... 95 RD... after reaching the crest of Hill 102.0, was halted by strong enemy artillery and mortar fire. 112th RD... captured the eastern outskirts of Polotnoe.... 13 GRD wsa fighting intense street battles in teh center city. The division has suffered heavy losses. 42nd RB, 244th RD, 35th Gds. RD, 133rd TB, and the remnants of 131st RD and 10th RB were continuing to fight street battles in teh city. Their positions are being confirmed. 92nd RB occupied defenses along the grain elevator and Valdai Street up to the unnamed ravine and further along the right bank of the Volga River.


The Republican Noise Machine and Mitt Romney: The Con Artist Conned

Let's go back to May, to Boca Raton Florida, to the mansion of Sun Capital private equity magnate Marc Leder:

Mitt Romney is trying to raise money. He is speaking to those who have paid $50,000 a plate. He is telling them that he will do his part and speak to America. And he is telling them that he needs them to give a lot more money so that he can run enough ads to win:

MITT ROMNEY: Frankly, what do I need you to do? Just to raise millions of dollars, because the president's going to have about $800 to $900 million. That is by far the most important thing you can do.

FEMALE VOICE: Is find (UNINTEL).

MITT ROMNEY: You don't have the capacity to speak to hundreds of thousands of people. I will be in those debates. There will be 150 million Americans watching me. If I do well, it will help. If I don't, it won't help.

MALE VOICE: Your debates are incredible. (APPLAUSE)

MITT ROMNEY: Thank you. Advertising makes a difference. The president will engage in a personal character assassination campaign, and so we will have to fire back: one, on defense; and two, on offense. That will take money. You will see the ads here in Florida. It will be one of those states that is a key state. All the money will get spent in ten states. And this is one of them.

Then Romney talks about how they will get a good return on their investment in his campaign. He is, he says, (i) not yet well-known and still (ii) nearly tied with the President in the polls--and that is good news for his odds of winning in November:

Continue reading "The Republican Noise Machine and Mitt Romney: The Con Artist Conned" »


Academic Misconduct

The boundaries of academic misconduct:

AAUP: Revised Rules on Research Misconduct: Research misconduct as "fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results." To arrive at a finding of research misconduct, investigators would have to establish that the conduct in question was a significant departure from accepted practices in the relevant research community, and that the action was committed intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly.


Paul Krugman Asks a Question: On the "Austrian" Hatred of Fractional Reserve Banking, Paper Money, etc. Weblogging

Paul Krugman asks a question:

Ron Paul on Money Market Funds: [T]he Ron Paul link, in which [Ron Paul] condemned fractional reserve banking, prodded me to ask a question I’ve been meaning to ask: How do the Austrians propose dealing with money market funds?

I mean, it has always been a peculiarity of that school of thought that it praises markets and opposes government intervention — but that at the same time it demands that the government step in to prevent the free market from providing a certain kind of financial service. As I understand it, the intellectual trick here is to convince oneself that fractional reserve banking, in which banks don’t keep 100 percent of deposits in a vault, is somehow an artificial creation of the government. This is historically wrong…. But consider a more recent innovation: money market funds. Such funds are just a particular type of mutual fund — and surely the Austrians don’t want to ban financial intermediation (or do they?). Yet shares in a MMF are very clearly a form of money — you can even write checks on them — created out of thin air by financial institutions, with very few pieces of green paper behind them.

So are such funds illegitimate? What about repo, which has many of the same features?

One of the key lessons of the 2008 crisis was precisely that banks are defined by what they do, not by what they look like, and there are a whole range of financial arrangements that in economic terms act a lot like fractional reserve banking. So would a Ron Paul regulatory regime have teams of “honest money” inquisitors fanning across the landscape, chasing and closing down anyone illegitimately creating claims that might compete with gold and silver? How is this supposed to work?

OK, I don’t expect a serious answer. But it’s scary that this has become the more or less official doctrine of the GOP.

Well, in its origins it springs out of Medieval Christian (and earlier) condemnations of usury as unjust enrichment:

And by the 1920s it's part of a general fear of Jews, intellectuals, homosexuals, financiers, and people who weren't born rich but might be smarter and become richer than you. For example, Churchill's Secretary P.J. Grigg on Keynes:

I distrust utterly those economists who have with great but deplorable ingenuity taught that it is not only possible but praiseworthy for a whole country to live beyond its mens on its wits and who in Mr. Shaw's description tech that it is possible to make a community rich by calling a penny two pence, in short who have sought to make economics a vade mecum for political spivs...

But on the doctrinal level? I tried to untangle it. I am not sure whether I was successful. In any event, here it is all in one place:

Continue reading "Paul Krugman Asks a Question: On the "Austrian" Hatred of Fractional Reserve Banking, Paper Money, etc. Weblogging" »


There Is a Huge Amount of Mean Reversion in Nate Silver's Model Right Now...

Election Forecasts  FiveThirtyEight Blog  NYTimes com

Election Forecasts  FiveThirtyEight Blog  NYTimes com 1

A week ago both his forecast and his now-cast predicted that Obama would win 314 electoral votes: now the now-cast is up to 319, and the forecast is down to 302.

Considering that Silver's forecast F is roughly F = λ(polls) + (1-λ)(fundamentals), either λ must be really small or truly extraordinary things have happened to Silver's fundamentals in the past week…


Peggy Noonan Gives Every Undecided Voter a Huge Number of Reasons to Vote for Barack Obama

Peggy Noonan:

Time for an Intervention: Romney… on the Mideast… a political opportunist… small and tinny… [in a] moment when people look at you and imagine you as president…. Romney’s theory… the electorate receives government checks and therefore won’t vote for him…. is… how shallow campaign operatives talk…. I wrote recently of an imagined rural Ohio woman…. You can win her vote if you give her faith in your fairness and wisdom. But not if you label her and dismiss her…. [T]hose workers who don’t pay any income taxes… pay payroll taxes… would like to file a 1040 because that will mean they got a raise….

Romney sounded like… a kid new to politics who thinks he got the inside lowdown on how it works from some operative… the Romney campaign is… incompetent… not big… not brave…. “Mitt, this isn’t working.”… Romney… always [is] disappearing into fund-raisers…. But the logic of Romney’s fundraising has seemed… crazy…. Romney’s staff used to brag they had a lower burn rate, they were saving it up. For what?… Romney’s ads are mostly boring….

Romney is not good at press conferences…. Romney needs fresh writing and fresh thinking. Romney needs to get serious…. Or he can keep typing out his stray thoughts with Stuart Stevens…. Romney always seems alone out there, a guy with a mic pacing an empty stage…

Beats me, however, how Romney could win the vote of an imaginary Ohio woman. She is imaginary. Imaginary ballots are not counted, are they?


The Stock Market Is Up 10.9% Since Romney Said the Market Would Be Unhappy at an Increasing Prospect of an Obama Victory

As the Silver probability of an Obama victory has moved from 60% to 75%, the market has gone up by 10.9%.

SPX Quote  S P 500 Index  Bloomberg

That is not stunning evidence for Romney's contention that his policies of tight money and Hooverish cuts in government spending programs will be loved by the stock market:

Mitt Romney, May 17, 2012:

[The markets] will probably be looking at what the polls are saying. If it looks like I'm going to win, the markets will be happy. If it looks like the president's going to win, the markets should not be terribly happy. It depends of course which markets you're talking about, which types of commodities and so forth, but my own view is that if we win on November 6th, there will be a great deal of optimism about the future of this country. We'll see capital come back and we'll see—without actually doing anything—we'll actually get a boost in the economy…


David Frum: The Sinister Message Behind Romney's "Gaffe"

The Terror That Dare Not Say Its Name:

David Frum: The Sinister Message Behind Romney's "Gaffe": Romney has been reshaped by this campaign. The dread to which Romney gives voice in his Boca Raton speech - that "makers" are about to be electorally overwhelmed by "takers" - is a dread expressed again and again by conservative media and conservative thought-leaders. "Democracy is two lions and a lamb voting on what's for dinner": how often have we heard that old country-club quip repeated these past four years? Only this time, the quip is repeated not as a joke, but with real fear.

The background to so much of the politics of the past four years is the mood of apocalyptic terror that has gripped so much of the American upper class. Hucksters… free enterprise is under attack… Obama is a socialist, a Marxist, a fascist, an anti-colonialist… by donating to my think tank, buying my book, watching my network, going to my movie, can you - can we - stop him before he seizes everything to give to his base of "bums," as Charles Murray memorably called them.

And what makes it all both so heart-rending and so outrageous is that all this is occurring at a time when economically disadvantaged Americans have never been so demoralized and passive…. The only radical mass movement in this country is the Tea Party, a movement to defend the interests of elderly incumbent beneficiaries of the existing welfare state. Against that movement is a government of liberal technocrats dependent on campaign donations from a different faction of the American super-rich than that which backs Mitt Romney himself. From the greatest crisis of capitalism since the 1930s, the rights and perquisites of wealth have emerged undiminished - and the central issue in this election is whether those rights and perquisites shall be enhanced still more, or whether they should be allowed to slip back to the level that prevailed during the dot.com boom.

Yet even so, the rich and the old are scared witless!…

It's all a scam, but it's a spectacularly effective scam. Mitt Romney tried to make use of the scam, and now instead has fallen victim to it himself.


Ta-Nehisi Coates: We Are All Welfare Queens Now

Ta-Nehisi Coates

We Are All Welfare Queens Now: Progress has meant a series of fights first over direct and indirect components of citizenship (voting, serving in public office, serving in the Army, serving on juries etc.) and less explicit tactics to curtail access to them….

[T]hese tactics… themselves, are evidence of progress…. It's true that for a century after the Civil War, the South effectively erased the black vote. But there was an actual black vote that had to be militated against….It's worth critiquing how the machine manipulated the black vote in Chicago, but it's also worth noting there was a black vote present…. More to the point, as tactics aimed at suppressing black citizenship become more abstract, they also have the side-effect of enveloping non-blacks. Atwater's point that the policies of the Southern Strategy hurt blacks more than whites is well taken. But some whites were hurt too…. During slavery white Southerners never worried about disenfranchising blacks. After slavery they needed poll taxes and the force of white terrorism. After white terrorism was routed and the poll tax outlawed, they targeted the voting process itself. But at each level what you see is more non-black people being swept into the pool of victims….

You can paint a similar history of the welfare state, which was first secured by assuring racist white Democrats that the pariah of black America would be cut out of it. When such machinations became untenable, the strategy became to claim the welfare state mainly benefited blacks. And as that has become untenable, the strategy has become to target the welfare state itself….

At each interval the ostensible pariah grows, until one in two Americans are members of the pariah class.

In all this you can see the insidious and lovely foresight of integration which, at its root, posits an end to whiteness as any kind of organizing political force. I would not say we are there. But when the party of white populism finds itself writing off half the country, we are really close.


Who Mitt Romney Is: Rich Lowry Nails It: "Romney… is… someone who overhead some conservative cocktail chatter and maybe read a conservative blog or two, and is thoughtlessly repeating back what he heard and read."

Rich Lowry: >Romney’s Comment: There are many problems with it starting with the fact, as has already been pointed out in here, that he jumbled together three different groups (the almost half of the country that’s going to support Obama no matter what; the roughly half of households that get government benefits; the half of “tax units” that don’t pay taxes)…. >Romney… is… someone who overhead some conservative cocktail chatter and maybe read a conservative blog or two, and is thoughtlessly repeating back what he heard and read.

Economist's View: We Taxpayers Are the 99%

Paul Krugman sends us to Mark Thoma and the Hamilton Project on just who the 47% are:

Mark Thoma: Nontaxpayers are Overwhelmingly the Elderly and Students: When Romney talks about the people who don't pay taxes and tries to make you believe that 47 percent of us are moochers living off the system, it's important to recognize… how narrow the category is -- it's only federal income taxes -- but there are lots of other types of taxes. When all things are considered, "nearly 100 percent of Americans pay taxes in some way, shape or form":

Continue reading "Economist's View: We Taxpayers Are the 99%" »


Yet Another Sufficient Reason to Vote Against Mitt Romney: His Bizarre Attack on the Fed

Once again: Where are his economic briefers? Where are his economic advisors?

Matthew O'Brien

Mitt Romney's Bizarre Attack on the Fed: How much can you get wrong in just three sentences? A whole lot….

Barack Obama is at it again -- spending your tax dollars to bail out his failed economic plan. It's more of the same from an out-of-touch president with no plan to fix our economy and put Americans back to work. This past week, the Federal Reserve announced it would print $40 billion every month to prop up this administration's jobless recovery -- that's money we can't afford for jobs we will never see….

[T]he Fed did announce that it would buy $40 billion of mortgage bonds a month… but the rest is nonsense. First, Barack Obama had nothing to do with the Fed's decision to do QE3…. Second, the Fed isn't spending tax dollars. As Team Romney acknowledges two sentences later, the Fed is printing money…. Third, this isn't a bailout. It's not even clear who is supposedly getting "bailed out". Is it the government? We can already borrow for basically nothing for 20 years. Is it the banks? The Fed is just swapping one interest-bearing asset for another when it buys long-term bonds and gives the banks more reserves. Fourth, QE3 isn't more of the same…. That's why markets are excited.

Fifth, President Obama actually does have a plan to get the economy moving again…. [I]t died where all good ideas go to die….Republicans on Capitol Hill killed it, and then they turned around and blamed Obama for the weak economy. It was a neat political trick, but it meant we didn't get… 2.1 million additional jobs….

Continue reading "Yet Another Sufficient Reason to Vote Against Mitt Romney: His Bizarre Attack on the Fed" »


The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page Has Shot Itself in the Head Department

The most fascinating thing about Romney is that he has fallen for a fake statistic created by the Wall Street Journal editorial page as what they call "boob bait for the bubbas"--something that they hope low-information voters will hear, get outraged about, and vote Republican. As Ezra Klein writes: "Among the Americans who paid no federal income taxes… 61 percent paid payroll taxes… 15.3 percent of their income.… Another 22 percent were elderly. So 83 percent… are either working… or they’re elderly…"

Yet Romney clearly thinks that the following are identical:

  • The 47% of the population who are the Democratic base.
  • The 47% of the population who pay no income taxes.
  • The 47% of the population who are "dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it… [the people whom we] will never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives…"

But Romney was not supposed to fall for this fake statistic, and make policy based on it--he was supposed to have economic advisors who would brief him, and rapidly deprogram him of fake right-wing talking points that lodged in his brain as things that really were true.

I wonder why they did not do so…

Continue reading "The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page Has Shot Itself in the Head Department" »


Hoisted from the Archives: Human Propensity to Truck-and-Barter Blogging: The Next-to-Last Scene of the Iliad

Brad DeLong: The Next-to-Last Scene of the Iliad: Or, is there any relationship that humans do not think ought to be turned into a reciprocal gift-exchange relationship? "Natural propensity to truck, barter, and exchange" indeed!

Book XXIV:

Iris, fleet as the wind, sped forth…. "Take heart," she said….

The lord of Olympus bids you go and ransom noble Hektor, and take with you such gifts as shall give satisfaction to Akhilleus…. Akhilleus will not kill you nor let another do so, for he will take heed to his ways and sin not, and he will entreat a suppliant with all honourable courtesy.…

[H]e lifted the lids of his chests, and took out twelve goodly vestments. He took also twelve cloaks of single fold, twelve rugs, twelve fair mantles, and an equal number of shirts. He weighed out ten talents of gold, and brought moreover two burnished tripods, four cauldrons, and a very beautiful cup which the Thracians had given him… to ransom the body of his son….

Continue reading "Hoisted from the Archives: Human Propensity to Truck-and-Barter Blogging: The Next-to-Last Scene of the Iliad" »


Yes. Economists Are Not Hobbists. They Are Lockeans. Why Do You Ask?: Noah Smith Is an Example Weblogging

Noah Smith establishing the common ground among economists so the debate can begin:

See: That's Lockean--people have stuff, and exist peacefully together in civil society, and have the opportunity to engage in mutually-beneficial exchange relationships. That is not Hobbist. That is not Hobbist at all.


Romney Stands by His Secret Videotape at the Sex-Party Billionaire's Lair: 47% of Americans--from Soldiers to Social Security Recipients--Are "Moochers" Whom He Does Not Care About

Absolutely fracking remarkable. I must say, somebody should MST3K this:

Romney Stands By Remarks | Mother Jones:

Romney: Good evening.

I understand there's been a video that's been on the internet for a few weeks that has attracted some attention and I thought I would make some comments about it. Apparently it's got a snippet of a question and answer session at a fundraising event. It doesn't capture the question so I don't know precisely what was asked but I think it was about my campaign and how I would be able to get a majority of voters to support me.

By the way, whoever has released the snippets would, I would certainly appreciate if they would release the whole tape so we could see all of it.

Continue reading "Romney Stands by His Secret Videotape at the Sex-Party Billionaire's Lair: 47% of Americans--from Soldiers to Social Security Recipients--Are "Moochers" Whom He Does Not Care About" »


David Brooks: "Romney… Country-Club Fantasy… What Self-Satisfied Millionaries Say to Each Other"

Thurston Howell Romney:

Romney, who criticizes President Obama for dividing the nation, divided the nation into two groups: the makers and the moochers. Forty-seven percent of the country, he said, are people:

who are dependent upon government, who believe they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to take care of them, who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.

This comment suggests… he really doesn’t know much about the country he inhabits. Who are these freeloaders? Is it the Iraq war veteran who goes to the V.A.? Is it the student getting a loan to go to college? Is it the retiree on Social Security or Medicare? It suggests that Romney doesn’t know much about the culture of America…. America remains one of the hardest-working nations on earth.… It says that Romney doesn’t know much about the political culture…. [T]rust in government has declined….

Continue reading "David Brooks: "Romney… Country-Club Fantasy… What Self-Satisfied Millionaries Say to Each Other"" »


Liveblogging World War II: September 17, 1942

The Kokoda Track: Wikipedia:

The Kokoda Track… [from] Gona, on the north coast of New Guinea… overland through the mountains of the Owen Stanley Range to… Port Moresby…. The Kokoda Track itself is a single-file track starting just outside Port Moresby on the Coral Sea and (depending on definition) runs 60–100 km (37–62 mi) through the Owen Stanley Ranges to Kokoda and the coastal lowlands beyond by the Solomon Sea. The track crosses some of the most rugged and isolated terrain in the world, reaches 2,250 m (7,380 ft) at Mount Bellamy, and combines hot humid days with intensely cold nights, torrential rainfall and endemic tropical diseases such as malaria. The track is passable only on foot, and as the campaign developed this had extreme repercussions for logistics, the size of forces deployed and the type of warfare that could be conducted….

Continue reading "Liveblogging World War II: September 17, 1942" »


Greg Sargent Watches the Romney Campaign Relaunch: "I’ll never convince Obama voters to take responsibility for their lives"

Romney's best chance now is to say that he was running a con on his rich donors. Just saying.

Greg Sargent:

Romney: I’ll never convince Obama voters to take responsibility for their lives: The Huffington Post and Mother Jones both post audio of what may be a blockbuster moment: Mitt Romney telling a private fundraiser that 47 percent of the American people — the voters who can be counted on to vote for Obama — are “dependent on government,” “believe that they are victims,” and think government “has a responsibility to care for them.” “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” Romney says…. The Romney press office repeatedly refused to comment….

Continue reading "Greg Sargent Watches the Romney Campaign Relaunch: "I’ll never convince Obama voters to take responsibility for their lives"" »


David Corn: The Mitt Romney Tape: Mitt Romney Says He Has to Win 94.34% of the Producers to Win the Election

David Corn: Romney Says What He REALLY Thinks of His Country:

During a private fundraiser earlier this year, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told a small group of wealthy contributors what he truly thinks…. [Mitt Romney:]

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…. These are people who pay no income tax…. [M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives…

Continue reading "David Corn: The Mitt Romney Tape: Mitt Romney Says He Has to Win 94.34% of the Producers to Win the Election" »


Ezra Klein Jumped Off the Paul Ryan Praise Bus on April 11, 2011

Ezra Klein:

Why Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan is so flawed: Just over a year ago, I wrote a column praising Rep. Paul Ryan’s Roadmap. I called its ambition “welcome, and all too rare.” I said its dismissal of the status quo was “a point in its favor.” When the inevitable backlash came, I defended Ryan against accusations that he was a fraud, and that technical mistakes in his tax projections should be taken as evidence of dishonesty. I also, for the record, like Ryan personally, and appreciate his policy-oriented approach to politics.

Continue reading "Ezra Klein Jumped Off the Paul Ryan Praise Bus on April 11, 2011" »


David Frum Explains Why Only a Truly Insane America Would Vote for Ryan-Romney

https://twitter.com/davidfrum

This AM's Politico story about Stuart Stevens being to blame for Romney campaign's troubles utterly misses the point. The Romney campaign has a messaging problem because it has a policy problem. The policy problem is that the Romney campaign offers nothing but bad news to hard-pressed Americans and the broader middle class.

How do you message: I'm doing away w Medicaid over the next 10 yrs, Medicare after that, to finance a cut in the top rate of tax to 28%? I don't care if you hire the people who produce the ATT ads that make my wife cry, there's no lipsticking that pig. The problem isn't the campaign leadership; it's the party's followership.

Over course of campaign, Romney has changed from a pragmatic, capable manager into a dog-whistling culture warrior. Candidate cd have and shd have resisted that pressure - but it's rich for ppl who demanded the change to complain about consequences.

I thought Stevens' - drafted Tampa speech did good job of humanizing the man, Mitt Romney. But voters do care about the q: what will this presidency do for me? And "dick you over" is not a winning answer.


How Paul Ryan Conned the Beltway

Paul Krugman:

Concord Conned: Alec MacGillis has a long, interesting piece on the Paul Ryan phenomenon — on how Washington managed to convince itself that he was a Serious, Honest Conservative when he was nothing of the sort. There’s a lot of useful information in the piece. But I’d question MacGillis’s central thesis — namely, that Ryan was mainly exploiting the Beltway’s innumeracy.

The key tell comes when MacGillis gets a response from Bill Bixby of the Concord Coalition, which gave Ryan an award for fiscal responsibility in early 2011:

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Adam Posen's British Fiscal Austerity Experiment Reading List

Adam Posen's British Fiscal Austerity Experiment Reading List


What Economists' Reading of Isaiah Chapter 60 Tells Us About Economists: Views of the Tetragrammaton Blogging

At the Brookings Panel Michael Klein presented a paper: "Capital Controls: Gates and Walls: Central Banks’ Recent Experiments with Capital Controls Not Very Effective".

During his presentation he said that he had recently heard Isaiah 60:11 in Temple--"Thy gates also shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day nor night; that men may bring unto thee the wealth of the nations"--and that it struck him as apposite that Isaiah was for free trade and opposed to the closing of gates, so he put it up on the screen.

This made me sit up for two reasons:

First, I had never before seen Stanford's Bob Hall and Harvard's Marty Feldstein huddling together whispering to each other as they interpreted a verse of the Nevi'im Aharonim

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Lawrence Summers: Britain risks a lost decade unless it changes course

Lawrence Summers:

It is the mark of science and perhaps rational thought to operate with a falsifiable understanding of how the world works. So it is fair to ask economists… what could happen that would cause you to… acknowledge that the model you had been using was flawed? As a vigorous advocate of fiscal expansion… I have for the past several years suggested that if the British economy – with its major attempts at fiscal consolidation – were to enjoy a rapid recovery, it would force me to substantially revise my views….

Unfortunately for the British economy, nothing in the past several years compels me revise my views….

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There He Goes Again: Niall Ferguson Edition

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

Outsourced to Joshua Tucker:

The Monkey Cage: Niall Ferguson at The Daily Beast yesterday:

It’s a paradox. The economy is in the doldrums. Yet the incumbent is ahead in the polls. According to a huge body of research by political scientists, this is not supposed to happen. On the other side of the Atlantic, it hardly ever does. But in America today, the law of political gravity has been suspended…One thing’s for sure. Though Bill Clinton waxed lyrical last week about his party’s job-creation record, this time it really isn’t the economy, stupid.

John Sides here at The Monkey Cage three weeks ago:

[W]ithout any dramatic trend the resulting balance of economic indicators is favorable for Obama, though not strongly so.  This is, in part, why the forecasting model that Lynn Vavreck, Seth Hill, and I helped develop for Wonkblog, suggested Obama would win…. [F]orecasts that build in economic indicators—as at 538 and Votamatic—suggest the same.  And yet people still think Obama should be losing because of the economy.  That is simply not the case.  The state of the economy does not guarantee him victory but neither does it presage defeat.


Liveblogging World War iI: September 16, 1942

A memo:

To: L. P. Beria, People's Commissar for Internal Affairs
From: N. N. Selivanovsky, Chief, Special Department, Stalingrad Front, People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs
Subject: The Situation in Stalingrad
Date: September 16, 1942

According to the situation at 2400 hours on September 15, the enemy in Stalingrad occupied the elevator, to which 40 enemy tanks and groups of motorized infantry have penetrated, and the House of Specialists, situated immediately adjacent toe th Volga--150-180 meters fro the crossings. Here tehe enemy brought up more than 20 tans an groups of submachine gunners and mortar men

The enemy was occupying the railroad depot, the former State bank building, and a number of other buildings which they have turned into strongpoints. The enemy has occupied Mamaev Kurgan (Hill 102), which dominates all of Stalingrad and the left bank of the Volga--a radius of 20-30 kilometers from the Volga by which he ha taken under his control all crossings and roads leading to Krasnaia Sloboda.

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John Taylor Has Made David Glasner Unhappy

I feel his pain.

David Glasner: Taylor Rules?: What I find especially noteworthy, aside from the remarkable fact that, as Scott Sumner noted, Taylor’s preferred rule would have called for a rate increase in early 2008, when the economy was already in recession, and on the verge of one of the sharpest one-quarter declines in real GDP on record, in the third quarter of 2008 even before the Lehman panic of September-October, is that both versions of the Taylor rule implied a target interest rate substantially higher than the Fed Funds rate actually in effect for  most of 2008. So Taylor is implicitly endorsing a far tighter monetary policy in 2008, after the economy had already entered a recession and started a rapid contraction, than the disastrously tight policy to which the economy was then being subjected by the FOMC….

In retrospect, some of the time the FOMC seems to have done better than the Taylor rules, and some of the time one or both of the Taylor rules seem to have done better than the FOMC. Not exactly an overwhelmingly good performance. So why should anyone assume that adopting the Taylor rule would be an improvement, all things considered, over the exercise of discretion?

Taylor wants to argue that the exercise of discretion is bad in and of itself. But which is The Taylor rule? Taylor likes one version of the rule, but he can’t provide any argument…. And even now, though he claims to like one version better than the other, he can only conclude his post by saying that more research on the relative merits of the rules is necessary. In other words, adopting the Taylor rule is not sufficient to eliminate policy uncertainty…. The upshot of all this is just that for Taylor to suggest that adopting his rule would somehow reduce policy uncertainty when there is clearly no way to specify the parameters necessary to generate a predictable value for the interest rate target implied by the rule is simply disingenuous… to suggest that there is any evidence that following the Taylor rule… would have led to better outcomes… is just laughable.


Paul Ryan Calls for Fewer Jobs and Higher Unemployment in America

Paul Ryan calls for fewer jobs and higher unemployment in America:

Just yesterday we heard that the Federal Reserve is coming with a new bailout. This matters. So, the Federal Reserve is basically saying that we don’t have a recovery, Obamanomics didn’t work, so now they’re coming with their bailout…. We don’t need sugar-high economics. We don’t need synthetic money creation…. We don’t want to print money…. This may help big banks… but it doesn’t help the rest of us…. [M]y mom. We have this rule in Wisconsin. When you turn 65 you’ve got to move to Florida for the winter. She follows the rule. But you plan your retirement based on your income. You’ve got it mapped out. You have it budgeted. Here’s how much for food, here’s how much for gas, here’s how much for energy. I hope to play a round of golf on the weekend and go out to dinner. You have a budget, it’s based in dollars. And when they undermine the value of our dollar it wipes out our standard of living. One of the most insidious things a government can do to its people is to debase its currency. We want honest money. That means we want honest government. It’s one and the same.

"Honest money" is a Ron Paul dog whistle: the good productive workers, the bad exploitative usurers, the necessity of a hard-money depression to cleanse the monetary colon--you know the drill.

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Mark Thoma Has Smart Things to Say About the Federal Reserve's Policy Shift:

Economist's View: Woodford on Optimal Monetary Policy Rules:

I have supported more aggressive action from the Fed throughout the crisis, though perhaps with a bit less confidence that such action would have big effects than some others, and I have supported nominal GDP targeting. It's a way for the the Fed to be more aggressive without running into political opposition. After all, the Fed is simply stabilizing… people's incomes, and the real/nominal distinction will be lost on most people. But I haven't jumped fully onto the NGDP bandwagon…. The theoretical underpinnings of this particular rule are not clear. I have asked supporters to answer a question, more than once, "in what class or classes of models is NGDP targeting the optimal policy rule?," but there was no response…. So where are the limits? When is this the best policy rule?>Fortunately… Michael Woodford notes that he has looked at this question, and guess what? It turns out that NGDP has desirable properties, and sometimes it is the optimal policy, but not always. What's important… is the inclusion of both growth and level variables in the policy rule (which to include, output growth, output levels, price growth -- we call this inflation -- or price levels depends critically on the nature of the underlying friction in the model, there is no set rule, which leads one to ask about robust rules across various models, and here I think NGDP targeting might do well, but someone needs to check…). This is Woodford….

I didn’t specifically prefer to use that formalism of a nominal GDP target, which is why I’m not particularly associated with that specific proposal. What I’ve been writing about for quite a while… is the desirability of committing to rules where there’s a nominal level variable rather than purely referring to the rate of growth of a nominal variable. The idea was that if the nominal growth in the economy undershoots or overshoots, either one, there should be a commitment to getting back to the target path…. The idea that purely forward looking approaches are undesirable is something I’ve been emphasizing in various papers since the 1990s….

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Felix Salmon Contra Megan McArdle on the Very Large Benefits of a College Education

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

You know, some people who would otherwise go to college will read Megan McArdle in Newsweek and decide not to. And odds are that decision will be a big mistake. Certainly for Newsweek readers, every scrap of evidence I have seen is that the benefits to going to college greatly exceed the costs.

Felix Salmon does the intellectual recycling:

The necessity of a college education: [T]he only thing which has been rising faster than college tuition costs is the wage premium that college graduates receive over those without a degree. A degree is becoming more important, not less, in our digital economy. And so while the cost of going to college is rising, the cost of not going to college is, arguably, rising even faster.

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Liveblogging World War II: September 15, 1942

The Loss of USS Wasp (CV-7):

On Tuesday, 15 September 1942, the carriers Wasp and Hornet and the [battleship] North Carolina—with 10 other warships—were escorting the transports carrying the 7th Marine Regiment to Guadalcanal as reinforcements. Wasp had drawn the job of ready-duty carrier and was operating some 150 nmi (170 mi; 280 km) southeast of San Cristobal Island. Her gasoline system was in use, as planes were being refueled and rearmed for antisubmarine patrol missions; and Wasp had been at general quarters from an hour before sunrise until the time when the morning search returned to the ship at 10:00. Thereafter, the ship was in condition 2, with the air department at flight quarters. There was no contact with the Japanese during the day, with the exception of a Japanese four-engined flying boat downed by a Wasp Wildcat at 12:15.

About 14:20, the carrier turned into the wind to launch eight Wildcats and 18 Dauntlesses and to recover eight Wildcats and three Dauntlesses that had been airborne since before noon. Lt. (jg) Roland H. Kenton, USNR, flying a F4F3 of VF-71 was the last aircraft off the deck of the Wasp. The ship rapidly completed the recovery of the 11 planes, she then turned easily to starboard, the ship heeling slightly as the course change was made. At 14:44 a lookout reported "three torpedoes ... three points forward of the starboard beam".

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Are Today's Republicans Liars or Something Else?

Ezra Klein looks at the modern Republican Party and marvels:

The modern right’s fevered fantasies. “What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?” Newt Gingrich asked in September 2010. Somehow, a president whose platform consists of Mitt Romney’s health care bill, Newt Gingrich’s environmental policies, John McCain’s deficit-financed payroll tax cuts, George W. Bush’s bailouts of failing banks and corporations, and a mixture of the Bush and Clinton tax rates has been recast as the greatest threat to capitalism since Karl Marx sat down for a beer with Friedrich Engels. As Kantor’s book shows, the most “accurate, predictive model” for Obama’s White House is something like “what is the most that can get through Congress that is consistent with center-left values and policy positions?” Answer that question, and you can usually predict where Obama and his team will end up. A deep knowledge of Kenyan anti-colonialism simply isn’t required. Yet over the past three years, Republicans have attempted to portray an entirely conventional Democratic presidency as something alien and unusual and un-American. That’s been the explicit argument of the “birthers,” but it’s also the subtext to Mitt Romney saying that “this president doesn’t understand freedom,” and Representative Mike Coffman... and Rush Limbaugh...

Me? I think I know they are liars.

I think this because I was present at the creation--in Washington when Newt Gingrich set down the Republican strategy in 1993 of portraying the Clintons--especially Hillary--in the way that they now portray Obama.

Back then the Republicans setting the strategy certainly knew it was a lie: "It's just politics. What are you, babies? Why are you upset at the rhetoric? Can't you stand the heat?" they would say...


The Objectives of the Federal Reserve: Memorandum from Governor Marriner Eccles to Senators Glass, Fletcher, and Bulkley on June 6, 1935

Marriner Eccles:

The proposed Banking Act of 1935, as originally introduced, contained no statement of objectives to be sought by the Federal Reserve Board in exercising the powers of credit control granted to it.

It was argued, however, that Congress was delegating to the Board some of its legislative power to coin money and regulate the value thereof, and, accordingly, that a guiding principle or statement of objectives should be included in the bill in order to eliminate any question as to the constitutionality of the delegation of power.

As a result, H.R. 7617, when it passed the House on May 9, 1935, contained the following statement of objectives in section 204(b) of the bill:

It shall be the duty of the Federal Reserve Board to exercise such powers as it possesses in such manner as to promote conditions conducive to business stability and to mitigate by its influence unstabilizing fluctuations in the general level of production, trade, prices, and employment, so far as may be possible within the scope of monetary action and credit administration.

Thus there was as of 1935 a quadruple mandate: production, trade, prices, and employment--all subsumed under the heading of "promot[ing] conditions conducive to business stability".

The 1946 Employment Act--which applies to the Federal Reserve as much as to other arms of the federal government--took a different tack:

The Congress hereby declares that it is the continuing policy and responsibility of the federal government to use all practicable means… for the purpose of creating and maintaining, in a manner calculated to foster and promote free competitive enterprise and the general welfare… useful employment for those able, willing, and seeking work, and to promote maximum employment, production, and purchasing power…[1]

The 1978 Humphrey-Hawkins bill shifted the Federal Reserve to its current position, requiring that the Federal Reserve implement monetarism:

The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the Federal Open Market Committee shall maintain long run growth of the monetary and credit aggregates commensurate with the economy's long run potential…

and imposes either a triple or a quadruple mandate, depending on whether one understands "production" as a separate goal:

…to increase production, so as to promote effectively the goals of maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates.


[1] Full text:

The Congress hereby declares that it is the continuing policy and responsibility of the federal government to use all practicable means consistent with its needs and obligations and other essential considerations of national policy with the assistance and cooperation of industry, agriculture, labor, and State and local governments, to coordinate and utilize all its plans, functions, and resources for the purpose of creating and maintaining, in a manner calculated to foster and promote free competitive enterprise and the general welfare, conditions under which there will be afforded useful employment, for those able, willing, and seeking work, and to promote maximum employment, production, and purchasing power.


Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma Blogging: Dyson and Press Really Are Very Clever Indeed...

Cosma Shalizi directs me to:

Mike Shulman::

Zero Determinant Strategies in the Iterated Prisoner s Dilemma | The n Category Café

[…]

Zero Determinant Strategies in the Iterated Prisoner s Dilemma | The n Category Café 1

Basically, consider the strategy space of one-period look-back mixed strategies. And take the strategy S = { p(C|CC)=1/2-ε, p(C|CD)=1/4+ε', p(C|DC)=0, p(D|DD)=0 }.

If the opponent cooperates all the time, their average score is a little better than the DD payoff 1--giving them an incentive to choose a strategy that cooperates some time. If they cooperate all the time, then your average score is a little worse than 4--pretty good. And if they do anything other than cooperate all the time, their score falls and is worse than if they cooperate all the time. Thus in this strategy space { P(C )=1 } is a dominant strategy for the opponent if you choose your strategy first.

Of course, this is not a Nash equilibrium: if the opponent is playing C you should play C as well. D and really clean up.

And two opponents each thinking that they move first and committing to S do rather badly: they end up in (D,D) for all time.

Cosma also directs me to:

KARL SIGMUND & MARTIN NOWAK: A comment on Press-Dyson (PNAS)

Being close means not being there. We had known about strategies that allow to nail down the opponent's payoff to an arbitrary level [1,2], but not about the vast and fascinating realm of zero determinant (ZD) strategies that enforce a linear relation between the payoffs for the two players. This opens a new facet in the study of trigger strategies and folk theorems for iterated games, and offers a highly stimulating approach for moral philosophers enquiring about 'egoistic' and 'tuistic' viewpoints.

Our only quibble with the Press-Dyson paper is semantic. The title speaks of 'evolutionary opponents', which suggests evolutionary game theory. But biological or cultural evolution is not a phenomenon on the level of the individual. It requires a population. The 'evolutionary' players of Press and Dyson don't evolve but adapt. With their splendidly 'mischievous' extortionate strategies, Press and Dyson contribute to classical game theory, by considering two players who grapple with each other in a kind of mental jiu-jitsu. The leverage afforded by zero-determinant strategies offers a splendid new arsenal of throws, locks, and holds.

Which of these strategies can flourish in an evolutionary setting is less clear. Being successful, in this context, feeds back at the population level. It means that more and more players will act like you, be they your offspring or your epigones. Thus you are increasingly likely to encounter your own kind. If your 'extortionate' strategy guarantees that you do twice as well as your opponent, and your opponents' strategy guarantees that she does twice as well as you, this only means that both get nothing. The only norm which is not self-defeating through population dynamics requires players to guarantee each other as much as themselves. We are then back to Tit For Tat. Press and Dyson are perfectly aware of this, of course. In a nutshell, they have uncovered a vast set of strategies linking the scores of two players deterministically (as TFT does), but asymmetrically (unlike TFT). This enriches the canvas of individual interactions, but not necessarily the range of outcomes open to evolving populations.

[1] M.A. Nowak, M.C. Boerlijst, K.Sigmund, Equal pay for all prisoners, AMS Monthly 104 (1997) 303-307.

[2] K. Sigmund, The Calculus of Selfishness, Princeton UP, Princeton, New Jersey (2010).


What Should I Read to Very Quickly Get Up-to-Speed on Dyson and Press's Zero-Determinant Prisoner's Dilemma Strategies?

Bill Press taught me what very little general relativity I ever knew, and now he and Freeman Dyson have come up with something absolutely fascinating.

I view it as a generation of TIT-FOR-TAT strategies in iterated prisoner's dilemma. Their strategies do better than tit-for-tat in an evolutionary context in the sense that they create an environment in which other strategies evolve in ways that profit the ZD strategies. But of course the ZD strategies are not themselves evolutionarily stable--and a population of a single ZD strategy does quite badly indeed…

Am I right? What should I read first?


Tax Policy Campaign Weblogging: Alas! Mitt Romney Throws Harvey Rosen and Marty Feldstein Under the Bus...

They have been manfully defending Mitt Romney's promises, and claiming that they do not entail cutting taxes on the rich.

They have been doing so by saying that any household making over $100K/year is "rich".

But now comes Mitt Romney:

MITT ROMNEY: No one can say my plan is going to raise taxes on middle-income people, because principle number one is keep the burden down on middle-income taxpayers.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Is $100,000 middle income?

MITT ROMNEY: No, middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less.

Romney has just given an unequivocal victory in the debate to Bill Gale and company...