Previous month:
April 2013
Next month:
June 2013

May 2013

Michael Kinsley Says: Leave Ben Carson Alooooonnnneeee!!!!: Thursday "WTF?!" Weblogging


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

Scott Lemieux:

Did Michael Kinsley Invent the Concept of Same-Sex Marriage?: [T]his great moment in unwarranted self-aggrandizement: "The first known mention of gay marriage is an article (“Here Comes the Groom” by Andrew Sullivan) commissioned by me and published in this magazine in 1989." I… wow. I don’t mean to suggest that the Sullivan article wasn’t important in its way…. But “first known mention?” I don’t know what the very first was, but I do know that there were lawsuits claiming that bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional that made it to state appellate courts in Minnesota, Kentucky, and Washington between 1971 and 1974…

The context:

Continue reading "Michael Kinsley Says: Leave Ben Carson Alooooonnnneeee!!!!: Thursday "WTF?!" Weblogging" »

Liveblogging World War II: May 23, 1943

Flying Fish - Dave Barry:

In December 1941, shortly after Pearl Harbor, a Pennsylvania dental surgeon named Lytle S. Adams thought of a way that the United States could fight back against Japan. It will come as no surprise to anyone who has undergone dental surgery that the idea he came up with was: attaching incendiary bombs to bats and dropping them out of airplanes. The idea was that the bats would fly into enemy buildings, and the bombs would go off and start fires, and Japan would surrender.

So Dr. Adams sent his idea to the White House, which laughed so hard that it got a stomachache.

No! That's what you'd expect to happen, but instead the White House sent the idea to the U.S. Army, which, being the U.S. Army, launched a nationwide research effort to determine the best kind of bat to attach a bomb to. By 1943 the research team had decided on the free-tailed bat, which "could fly fairly well with a one-ounce bomb." Thousands of these bats were collected and -- remember, we are not making any of this up -- placed in ice-cube trays, which were then refrigerated to force the bats to hibernate so bombs could be attached to them.

On May 23, 1943, a day that every school child should be forced to memorize, five groups of test bats, equipped with dummy bombs, were dropped from a B-25 bomber flying at 5,000 feet. Here, in the dramatic words of the article, is what happened next:

Continue reading "Liveblogging World War II: May 23, 1943" »

Noted for May 23, 2013

Ben McLannahan: BoJ holds amid signs of economy ‘picking up’ | Paul Krugman: The point, I think, is that you can simultaneously fault the Fed and economists in general for failing to see this crisis coming, and ridicule the hedge fund guys for giving advice right now that is both ludicrous and dangerous. And you should | Martin Wolf: Global inaction shows that the climate sceptics have already won | Barry Ritholtz: GMAMX: Goldman Sach’s Muppet Fund of Funds | Robert Skidelsky: Austere Illusions | John Williams: Commencement Address: Economics Department: University of California, Berkeley: "Life’s Unpredictable Arc" | Peter Orszag: As Job Flow Slows, Americans Get Stuck in Place | Felix Salmon: Don’t fear the bubble | Eduardo Porter: A Keynesian Victory, but Austerity Stands Firm |

  • Mark Thoma: The Unemployed Need Bold, Creative Moves from the Fed: "The Federal Reserve has increased the size of its balance sheet nearly four-fold since the onset of the financial crisis, from around $870 billion in 2007 to $3.35 trillion today. This has caused people like Peter Schiff to predict that we are headed for a severe outbreak of inflation. An inflation problem is just round the corner we’ve been told again and again since 2008, yet inflation remains below the Fed’s two percent target, long-run inflation expectations are well-anchored, and there is little evidence in recent data that inflation is or will be a problem. Why is inflation so low?… Stimulating demand and creating inflation has not been as easy as the Fed thought it would be even with the dramatic increase in the size of its balance sheet, and the Fed has been unwilling to take the additional bold and creative steps needed to bring inflation up to –– or in the short-run even above –– its target level…. We do not want to repeat the wage-price spiral problems of the 1970s and the recession of 79-82 that was needed to break the cycle. So in the long-run, we want to hit our inflation target. We also don’t want to repeat the financial meltdown we’ve just been through. But the risks of inflation and financial instability have been overblown relative to the large costs associated with high long-term unemployment and it’s time for the Fed to address the unemployment problem with the same creativity, boldness, and perseverance it displayed when banks were its main concern."

  • Paul Krugman: German Wages and Portuguese Competitiveness: "But what really puzzles me about Cowen’s exposition here is his misplaced focus on the extent to which Portugal and Germany are in direct competition with each other…. This is very nearly irrelevant…. Germany and Portugal, for better or (mainly) worse, now share a currency, and what happens in Germany very much affects the value of that currency relative to other currencies. Cowen writes that rising wages in Germany 'solves (at best) only one of the core problems of the eurozone, namely incorrect relative prices between Portugal and Germany. It helps less with the “Portuguese nominal wages are too high” problem…' OK, stop right there… too high relative to what? As Rudi Dornbusch always used to say, it takes two nominals to make a real. And the answer, clearly, is 'too high relative to German wages'. What else could it be? But, you say, Portugal doesn’t compete that much with Germany. Ahem. Suppose that I could wave a magic wand (or play a few notes on a a Magic Flute) and suddenly increase all German wages by 20 percent. What do you think would happen to the value of the euro?… Portuguese exports would become a lot more competitive everywhere, including non-German and indeed non-Euro destinations. I guess I thought this was obvious. Apparently not…. Germany and Portugal share a currency. This creates obligations for Germany, whether it likes them or not."

Continue reading "Noted for May 23, 2013" »

Robert Skidelsky Certainly Does Not Think There Is Only a Dime's Worth of Difference Between Cameron and Obama

Screenshot 5 22 13 8 44 PM

Robert Skidelsky:

Austere Illusions: The doctrine of imposing present pain for future benefit has a long history – stretching all the way back to Adam Smith and his praise of “parsimony.” It is particularly vociferous in “hard times.” In 1930, US President Herbert Hoover was advised by his treasury secretary, Andrew Mellon:

Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate. It will purge the rottenness out of the system...People a more moral life...and enterprising people will pick up the wrecks from less competent people.

To “liquidationists” of Mellon’s ilk, the pre-2008 economy was full of cancerous growths – in banking, in housing, in equities – which need to be cut out before health can be restored. Their position is clear: the state is a parasite, sucking the lifeblood of free enterprise. Economies gravitate naturally to a full-employment equilibrium, and, after a shock, do so fairly quickly if not impeded by misguided government action. This is why they are fierce opponents of Keynesian interventionism.

Continue reading "Robert Skidelsky Certainly Does Not Think There Is Only a Dime's Worth of Difference Between Cameron and Obama" »

Ryan Cooper Talks to Michael Kinsley, as One Would to a Child


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

To extend a metaphor originated by R.G. Hawtrey: the house is on fire, and Michael Kinsley is out there screeching about how we dare not hook up the firehose because there was a flood 40 years ago. And now Ryan Cooper tells me Kinsley is back--this time screeching not just because those of us who know what we are talking about want to hook up the firehose, but also because we are not treating him with the sufficient respect he believes is his due.

So Ryan Cooper attempts a mitzvah, and tries to get through by taking the advice Saris offers in Galaxy Quest as to how one should talk to Mathezar:

Continue reading "Ryan Cooper Talks to Michael Kinsley, as One Would to a Child" »

Not too Late for the Social Credit Helicopters!

Duncan Black:

Eschaton: Not Too Late For The Helicopters: A big tragedy of the last few years is the failure to recognize that being in a low inflation world at the zero lower bound was a tremendous opportunity to massively enhance human welfare in this country. Mailing out 10 grand checks to everyone would have been an egalitarian massive boost to the economic well-being of huge numbers of people. Instead, the Fed has goosed asset prices, mostly benefiting the rich. Trickle down through another means, but still trickle down. Better than doing nothing, probably, but there were other ways.

How can you oppose a social-democratic economic policy that had the endorsement of Robert A. Heinlein?

Noted for May 22, 2013

Mark Thoma: Economist's View: Inequality and Economic Growth: Paul Krugman and Tony Atkinson | Dylan Matthews: Senior poverty is much worse than you think | THE humble shipping container is a powerful antidote to economic pessimism and fears of slowing innovation. Although only a simple metal box, it has transformed global trade. In fact, new research suggests that the container has been more of a driver of globalisation than all trade agreements in the past 50 years taken together |

  • Paul Krugman: Jaime Caruana, general manager of the Bank for International Settlements, warning of the dangers of easy money and the need to raise rates now to avert … something or other. And his views matter, says the Wall Street Journal: "Mr. Caruana is no disgruntled outvoted hawk on a policy-setting council, trying desperately to set the record straight after being outvoted. Rather, he’s the mouthpiece for a global college of central bankers, almost all of whom find themselves under intense pressure from their national governments to keep things ticking over while they try to repair the economy...." What I do recall, however — which the Journal apparently doesn’t — is that the BIS has spent years warning about the dangers of low interest rates. Except that a couple of years back it was telling a completely different story about why we needed to raise rates; you see, the big danger was of imminent inflation: "'Global inflation pressures are rising rapidly as commodity prices soar and as the global recovery runs into capacity constraints', said the BIS, which acts as a central bank for the world’s central banks. 'These increased upside risks to inflation call for higher policy rates.'” In fact, inflation is running below target just about everywhere. You might therefore think that the BIS would step back a bit and reconsider both its policy recommendations and the framework it uses to derive those recommendations. But no. Higher interest rates are always the solution; it’s only the problem they’re supposed to solve that changes."

  • Zack Beauchamp: The Inside Story of The Harvard Dissertation That Became Too Racist For Heritage: "The idea that some racial groups are, on average, smarter than others is without a doubt among the most discussed (and debunked) 'taboos' in American intellectual history. It is an argument that has been advanced since the days of slavery, one that helped push through the draconian Immigration Act of 1924, and one that set off a scientific firestorm in the late 60s that’s hardly flagged since. Yet every time the race and IQ hypothesis reclaims the public spotlight, we are caught slackjaw, always returning to the same basic debates on the same basic concepts… Jason Richwine…. If the dissertation was bad enough to get him fired from the Heritage Foundation, how did it earn him a degree from Harvard? A popular answer among Richwine’s defenders is that, quite simply, it was exemplary work…. But dozens of interviews with subject matter experts, Harvard graduates in Richwine’s program who overlapped with him, and members of the committee itself paint a somewhat more textured picture. Richwine’s dissertation was sloppy scholarship, relying on statistical sophistication to hide some serious conceptual errors. Yet internal accounts of Richwine’s time at Harvard suggests the august university, for the most part, let serious problems in Richwine’s research fall through the cracks."

Continue reading "Noted for May 22, 2013" »

Brad DeLong (Summer 2010): It Is Far too Soon to End Expansion: Wednesday Hoisted from Three Years Ago

Brad DeLong: It is far too soon to end expansion:

It was in 1829 that John Stuart Mill made the key intellectual leap in figuring out how to fight what he called “general gluts”: he saw that what had happened was an enormous excess demand for particular financial assets was driving an enormous excess supply of goods and services – and if you relieved the excess demand in finance you would cure the excess supply of labour. When the government relieves an excess demand for liquid money by printing up cash and swapping it out for government bonds, we call that expansionary monetary policy. When the government relieves an excess demand for bonds by printing up more Treasuries and selling them to finance its own purchases of goods and services, we call that expansionary fiscal policy. And when it prints up cash and bonds and swaps them for risky private financial assets, or when it guarantees private assets and so raises the supply of high-quality and reduces the supply of low-quality bonds, we call that banking policy. 

Continue reading "Brad DeLong (Summer 2010): It Is Far too Soon to End Expansion: Wednesday Hoisted from Three Years Ago" »

Exchequer Chancellor Osborne Braced for IMF Verdict

Screenshot 5 22 13 10 22 AM

An Article IV consultation for a reserve-currency sovereign that might actually matter:

Rachel Cooper:

Osborne braced for IMF verdict on UK economy: George Osborne is braced for the International Monetary Fund's verdict on Britain's economic prospects amid speculation it will urge him to change course. On Wednesday, the IMF presents its annual healthcheck on the UK and the international body is expected to suggest that deficit reduction should be slowed amid anaemic growth. The “Article IV” report is expected to recommend Mr Osborne change his plans and borrow more to invest in infrastructure or cut taxes. Previously, the IMF was among the strongest backers of the Chancellor's economic strategy, but has gradually changed its tone in response to dwindling growth forecasts.

Continue reading "Exchequer Chancellor Osborne Braced for IMF Verdict" »

Liveblogging World War II: May 22, 1943

Screenshot 5 22 13 5 40 AM

Release of "Mission to Moscow":

"Mission to Moscow" was made at the behest of F.D.R. in order to garner more support for the Soviet Union during WWII. It was from the book by Joseph E. Davies, former U.S. Ambassador To Russia. The movie covers the political machinations in Moscow just before the start of the war and presents Stalin's Russia in a very favorable light. So much so, that the movie was cited years later by the House Un-American Activities Commission and was largely responsible for the screenwriter, Howard Koch being Blacklisted.

Another Opinions-of-Shape-of-Earth-Differ Journamalist Who Doesn't Do His Homework: Charles Lane of the Washington Post


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

Charles Lane emulates Clive Crook and Michael Kinsley in not citing and not quoting from the people he is criticizing. But he goes further: he doesn't even try to read what they have just written.

Daniel Kuehn delivers the smackdown:

Facts & other stubborn things: An email to Charles Lane of the Washington Post: Perhaps I'm missing something, but isn't your "compromise" option precisely Krugman's position? I think it's the right idea, but I think that's exactly where Keynesians are. The tough part is figuring out how to get the pro-austerity crowd to that point.

Keynes actually advocated separating the current budget from the capital budget, and it was the current budget that was supposed to be balanced, not necessarily the two together. Most economists agree that you can run perpetual budgets and still maintain a stable debt ratio as long as the deficits aren't too large.

Daniel Kuehn
Doctoral student, Department of Economics
American University

Continue reading "Another Opinions-of-Shape-of-Earth-Differ Journamalist Who Doesn't Do His Homework: Charles Lane of the Washington Post" »

Daniel W. Drezner: MIchael Kinsley Produces the Worst Piece of Conventional Wisdom You Will Read This Year


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

Daniel W. Drezner:

The worst piece of conventional wisdom you will read this year: Stagflation in the 1970s was caused primarily by an inward shift of the aggregate supply curve due to a surge in commodity prices, particularly energy. Some central banks responded with accommodating monetary policies that accelerated inflation even further. Fiscal policy was an innocent bystander to this whole shebang. So I honestly don't know what the hell Kinsley is talking about. More importantly, the current macroeconomic climate is really, really different from the 1970s. Inflation was a Big Bad Problem during that decade. It is not a problem right now. If inflation were spiking, then a genuine debate could be had on macroeconomic policy options. But that's not the case.

Continue reading "Daniel W. Drezner: MIchael Kinsley Produces the Worst Piece of Conventional Wisdom You Will Read This Year" »

Sidney Hillman Would Be Really Pissed at Sidney Hillman Foundation President Bruce Raynor and Company, Is What I'm Saying: Tuesday Hoisted from the Internet from Eleven Years Ago

Why oh why can't we have better foundations?

Tim Noah:

Gore, Sullivan, and "Fifth Column": Andrew Sullivan wants to know why it was OK for Al Gore (in an interview with the New York Observer) to describe Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and the Washington Times as a "fifth column," but not OK for Sullivan to use that same epithet to describe the tiny band of leftists who, after Sept. 11, opposed the war against al-Qaida. As one who criticized Sullivan for slinging the term "fifth column," Chatterbox will gladly explain: It's the context, stupid.

Continue reading "Sidney Hillman Would Be Really Pissed at Sidney Hillman Foundation President Bruce Raynor and Company, Is What I'm Saying: Tuesday Hoisted from the Internet from Eleven Years Ago" »

Department of "Huh?!": Apple Computer Valuation Edition

If I have the right numbers in my head (which I may not), Apple currently makes $40 billion a year in profits, has $150 billion in free cash, and has a market value of $500 billion. That's a (price-cash)/earnings ratio of 7.75.

In what way is that divorced from fundamentals? Sounds like the market thinks that Apple has a very good franchise with a half-life of seven years, which seems about right to me. But if you told me the franchise was twelve years, I would not be surprised. And if you told me Apple was going to pull a Microsoft or a GM and burn all of its cash and its future earnings in a vain attempt to preserve a franchise beyond its natural life, I would not be surprised either. Apple's fundamentals are uncertain, but it does not seem to me that its market price is or was disconnected from them…

Muhammed El-Erian writes:

We should listen to what gold is really telling us: Like Apple, valuation has become divorced from fundamentals….

Continue reading "Department of "Huh?!": Apple Computer Valuation Edition" »

Martha L. Olney and Aaron Pacitti: More Services Means Longer Recoveries

Martha L. Olney and Aaron Pacitti:

More services means longer recoveries: The four longest recoveries in recent history, as measured by the number of months it took until the economy recovered all of the jobs lost during the recession, also have been the four most recent recoveries—those that followed the recessions of 1981, 1990, 2001, and 2007…. The shift from being a goods-producing, manufacturing-based economy to a service economy… is causing the pace of economic recoveries to slow…. Because services can’t be inventoried nor, for the most part, exported, services are only produced when domestic demand exists.

Goods-producing businesses… can produce in anticipation of increasing demand or in response to increased external demand. Either way, domestic demand need not increase before goods production increases. Service producers are not so lucky. A restaurant won’t produce a meal before you are in the booth. And your dentist can’t produce and inventory a teeth cleaning. You have to be in the dentist’s chair. So service producers must wait…. The greater the share of services in the economy, the greater the share of businesses that must wait for domestic demand to actually pick up…

Ezra Klein: Medicaid in Oregon

Ezra Klein:

Is the future of American health care in Oregon?: Two weeks ago, the group reported… that Medicaid coverage increased the amount of health care people used, offered almost total protection against catastrophic health expenses and reduced depression by 30 percent, but it didn’t show a statistically significant effect on blood pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar…. The sample of sick people was too small to show statistically significant improvements in those measures…. It’s a critique that Katherine Baicker, a Harvard health economist who was one of the principle authors of the study, partially accepts:

Our power to detect changes in health was limited by the relatively small numbers of patients with these conditions. Indeed, the only condition in which we detected improvements was depression, which was by far the most prevalent of the four conditions examined.

She also noted that the diabetes results were consistent with the improvements one would expect from the clinical literature but the number of people with diabetes was too small to establish significance. However, she said the sample size was large enough to rule out large improvements in blood pressure and cholesterol, at least over the first two years.

Continue reading "Ezra Klein: Medicaid in Oregon" »

Noted for May 21, 2013

Brink Lindsey: Jason Richwine's IQ-based argument that American Hispanics are less intelligent than native-born whites has been called racist. It's also wrong | Jon Bakija et al.: Jobs and Income Growth of Top Earners and the Causes of Changing Income Inequality: Evidence from U.S. Tax Return Data | The World Top Incomes Database | Unconventional Monetary Policies | Summary of Informal Discussion | Robert Litan: Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism, and the Economics of Growth and Prosperity | Jagdish Bhagwati and Arvind Panagariya: Why Growth Matters: How Economic Growth In India Reduced Poverty and The Lessons For Other Developing Countries | Timothy Jost: Implementing Health Reform: Defining ‘Minimum Value’ For Employer Coverage |

  • Henry S. Farber and Robert G. Valletta: Do Extended Unemployment Benefits Lengthen Unemployment Spells? Evidence from Recent Cycles in the U.S. Labor Market: "In response to the Great Recession, the availability of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits was extended to an unprecedented 99 weeks in many U.S. states in the 2009-2012 period. We use matched monthly data from the CPS to exploit variation in the timing and size of the UI benefit extensions across states to estimate the overall impact of these extensions on individual exit from unemployment, and we compare the estimated impact with that for the prior extension of benefits during the much milder downturn in the early 2000s. In both periods, we find a small but statistically significant reduction in the unemployment exit rate and a small increase in the expected duration of unemployment. The effects on exits and duration are primarily due to a reduction in exits from the labor force rather than to a decrease in exits to employment (the job finding rate). Although the overall effect of UI extensions on exit from unemployment is small, it implies a substantial effect of extended benefits on the steady-state share of unemployment in the cross-section that is long-term."

  • Jesse Rothstein and Albert H. Yoon say that Stuart Taylor, Jr., and Richard Sander simply do not know what they are talking about: Affirmative Action in Law School Admissions: What Do Racial Preferences Do?: "As a policy matter, reasonable people may disagree about whether the costs of “taking a chance” on marginal black applicants outweigh the benefits, and we have little that is new to say about this. Our analysis suggests, however, that one cannot credibly invoke mis- match effects to argue that there are no benefits. Only a small fraction of students who are unsuccessful today would be successful under race- blind admissions. Without affirmative action, the legal education system would produce many fewer black lawyers. Although we do not provide a normative assessment of affirmative action policies, these facts must be part of any informed evaluation."

Jeffrey Frankel: "[It Is] Alberto Alesina [Who] Has Not Been Receiving His 'Fair Share of Abuse'”

Jeff Frankel:

On Whose Research is the Case for Austerity Mistakenly Based?: Several of my colleagues on the Harvard faculty have recently been casualties in the cross-fire between fiscal austerians and stimulators…. Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff… the statistical relationship between debt and growth…. Niall Ferguson… “suggested that Keynes was perhaps indifferent to the long run because he had no children, and that he had no children because he was gay.”

Continue reading "Jeffrey Frankel: "[It Is] Alberto Alesina [Who] Has Not Been Receiving His 'Fair Share of Abuse'”" »

Liveblogging World War II: May 20, 1943

Screenshot 5 20 13 4 10 PM 2

CBI Roundup:

BAD NEWS FOR JAPS: Fighter pilots of the 14th Air Force have been erasing Jap planes out of the skies with regularity during the past three weeks. These pilots recently drove into a formation of bombers and Zeros and, though greatly outnumbered, knocked down 10 confirmed and eight probable enemy. Left to right seated on the fuselage: Maj. Edmund Goss, Lt. Col. John Alison, and Lt. Roger Pryos; standing on ground: Lt. Joe Griffen, Lt. Mack Mitchell, Capt. John Hampshire, and Capt. Hollis Blackstone. This was the last picture taken of Hampshire, who was later shot down after he had bagged 14 confirmed Jap planes to become the Theater's leading ace.

Noted for May 20, 2013

Paul Krugman: Financial Repression | Fernando Duarte and Carlo Rosa: Are Stocks Cheap? A Review of the Evidence | Gavin Kennedy: Adam Smith's Lost Legacy: Keynes on Laissez-Faire | Brad DeLong: Notes on Carmen Reinhart and M. Belen Sbrancia: "The Liquidation of Government Debt" | Alan M. Taylor: Comment on “The Liquidation of Government Debt” | Olivier Blanchard: Rethinking Macroeconomic Policy | Brad DeLong: IS-LM Watch: Smart Words from Karl Smith | Karl Smith Has a Stiglitzian Credit-Rationing View of the Flow-of-Funds Through Financial Markets Department | Three Ways of Looking at a (Closed-Economy) IS Curve: Karl Smith Raises My intelligence Department | Raghu Rajan: Has Financial Development Made the World Riskier? | General Discussion |

  • Jeff Weintraub: Peggy Noonan goes Krugman (Hendrik Hertzberg): "Rather than waste time wondering what is going through [Peggy Noonan's] mind when she does this or how she gets away with it—is she really that clueless, or is she being cleverly hypocritical?—we should begin with the fact that she generally does get away with it and consider what Noonan's inversions of reality might tell us, symptomatically, about current political discourse…. That seems to be a hypothesis that Hendrik Hertzberg is toying with, at least, in his recent evisceration of a column by Noonan that went on and on with her standard anti-Obama rant and then, in the process, slipped in this startling admission:  'It’s not a debt and deficit crisis, it’s a jobs crisis'."

  • Rick Hertzberg: "The column tries to disguise itself as yet another right-wing attack on the Journal’s default punching bag, President Obama… But her heresies… begin with her startling opening line: 'It’s not a debt and deficit crisis, it’s a jobs crisis.' Say what? The biggest argument in Washington is about which is more urgent, the unemployment problem or the deficit and debt problem. Democrats say it’s unemployment and therefore advocate stimulus, which causes an increase in the deficit (though not necessarily in the long-term debt). Republicans say it’s the deficit/debt and therefore advocate austerity, which causes an increase in unemployment…. Noonan… is clear about which side she’s on: 'But it’s a jobs crisis that’s the central thing. And you see it everywhere you look.' For Noonan, 'everywhere you look' is a hotel she stayed at in Pittsburgh, which was so understaffed there was no bellhop to walk her up to her room in case a criminal was lurking…. She’s also right about what Obama should have done about it: 'He should have seen unemployment entering a crisis stage four years ago, and he did not. At that time I was certain he’d go for public-works projects, which could give training to the young and jobs to the experienced underemployed, would create jobs in the private sector and, in the end, yield up something needed—a bridge, a strengthened power grid. He instead gave his first term to health care.' Here’s where I started getting dizzy. Noonan is describing exactly what Obama did do. He did see a jobs crisis four years ago. As a major part of his eight-hundred-billion-dollar stimulus package (which he pursued in addition to, not instead of, health care), he did go for public-works projects, specifically including bridges and a strengthened power grid. The only opposition to all that bridge-building and grid-strengthening came from Noonan’s party. In the House, zero Republicans voted yes. In the Senate, three did…. From Peggy’s peroration: 'Mr. Obama is making the same mistake he made four years ago. We are in a jobs crisis and he does not see it…. But the real question is whether the American people will be able to have jobs. Once they do, so much will follow—deficits go down a little as fewer need help, revenues go up as more pay taxes. Confidence and trust in the future will grow. People will be happier.' Noonan is with Obama, or Obama is with Noonan, on the substance of jobs vs. deficits. 'We don’t have an immediate crisis in terms of debt', the President said last week in an interview on ABC, adding: 'My goal is how do we grow the economy, put people back to work, and if we do that we’re going to be bringing in more revenue'. I guess she has to say it’s all Obama’s fault. It’s the Wall Street Journal. It’s Chinatown."

Understanding the Roberts Court's Health-Care Decision: Monday DeLong Smackdown by Jonathan Adler

The extremely smart Jonathan Adler delivers the smackdown:

For some reason I just saw this now. The Eldred point is interesting, but it’s missing important context. Lessig abandoned the Lopez-style argument against the CTEA. A conservative group had filed an amicus brief in the D.C. Circuit making a Lopez-influenced textual argument, Lessig failed to adopt it as an alternative argument, and the D.C. Circuit held that the argument was waived (a point on which the judge for whom I was clerking at the time – David Sentelle – dissented). As a consequence, the textualist argument against Eldred was never really in play in the Supreme Court.

As for your hippie-punching theory, that does more to explain the voting pattern of Justice Kennedy – who joined the majority In Raich, and tends to vote against criminal defendants in close drug cases – than Scalia or Thomas. See, e,g., Kyllo v. U.S.

Ryan Avent: "Mr Cowen's posts, and many other like them by other authors, sometimes look like elaborate efforts to avoid concluding that German inflation-phobia, while totally understandable and rational, looks like a grave moral error in the current econ

Ryan Avent watches Karl Smith remind Tyler Cowen that people respond to market prices, and piles on himself:

The euro crisis: Der Elefant im Raum: TYLER COWEN writes on the euro-zone economy:

Would the new helicopter drop money be kept in periphery banks and lent out to stimulate business investment? Or does the new money flee say Portugal because Portuguese banks are not safe enough, Portuguese loans are not lucrative and safe enough, and Portuguese mattresses are too cumbersome? The former scenario implies that monetary policy should be potent. The latter scenario implies that the helicopter drop will be for naught and the fiscal policy multiplier also will be low, on the upside at the very least (fiscal cuts still might cause a lot of damage on the downside). I call this the liquidity leak, rather than the liquidity trap.

Karl Smith gives the correct response:

What Tyler calls a liquidity leak, I call markets at work. The ECB provides enough stimulus to get all of the Eurozone going but it all leaks to Germany. Fine. The German market heats up. German wages and rents rise. Retired German doctors start considering the virtues of a flat in Lisbon overlooking the harbor. German consultancies hold seminars on “How to make your Mediterranean town competitive in the new German Outsourcing Model.” This is the way things are supposed to work. The idea that a more competitive and efficient Germany should not command higher wages and rents is bizarre; and is only called inflation because the Eurozone, in its heart-of-hearts, doesn’t actually believe its one monetary union where the richer parts are distinguished principally by the fact that they have more money.

Continue reading "Ryan Avent: "Mr Cowen's posts, and many other like them by other authors, sometimes look like elaborate efforts to avoid concluding that German inflation-phobia, while totally understandable and rational, looks like a grave moral error in the current econ" »

Department of "WTF?!?!": Education Gap Weblogging

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

For at least half a generation, liberals--at least liberals that I know--have been hammering on the fact that the stepping-away from the commitment to universal free or nearly-free education has been a long-run disaster for America. With Claudia Goldin and Larry Katz's The Race Between Education and Technology serving as its analytical spearhead, the liberals I know spend lots of time talking about how the pace of technological progress requires a more-educated and thus more-skilled workforce, and about how the rise in college costs starting around 1970 stopped the normal American pattern by which each generation gets much more education in its tracks--with rising income inequality between the 80th and the 20th percentile being a big consequences:

Screenshot 5 19 13 7 10 AM 2

Solutions proposed vary from having your college costs be an income-contingent grant recaptured from those who earn much in life by a surcharge on your form 1040 to a mammoth federal commitment to universal access to broadband and to free provision of the highest-quality education online.

Some liberals (e.g., Larry Mishel of EPI) go further, and say that rising 80/20 inequality is the result not just of our losing the race between education and technology but also the collapse of labor unions. The Goldin-Katz alliance (or which I am a part) tends to see the collapse of the union movement as a consequence of the loss of the race.

Now comes Timothy Noah to tell me that none of this focus that I see among the liberals I talk to ever happened:

The 1 Percent Are Only Half the Problem: Most recent discussion about economic inequality in the United States has focused on the top 1 percent… that if we would just put a tight enough choke chain on the 1 percent, then we’d solve the problem of income inequality. But alas, that isn’t true, because it wouldn’t address the other half of the story: the rise of the educated class. Since 1979 the income gap between people with college or graduate degrees and people whose education ended in high school has grown….

Conservatives don’t typically like to talk about income inequality. It stirs up uncomfortable questions about economic fairness….

Liberals resist talking about the skills-based gap because they don’t want to tell the working classes that they’re losing ground because they didn’t study hard enough. Liberals prefer to focus on the 1 percent-based gap. Conceiving of inequality as something caused by the very richest people has obvious political appeal…

And it is at this point that I say: "WTF?!?!"

Now let me say that Timothy Noah is one of the very best of mainstream American journalists--he isn't an opinions-of-shape-of-earth-differ-both-liberals-and-conservatives-have-a-point clown uninterested in policy substance who covers our nation from a celebrity-gossip perspective.

But here we have, I think, another example of the Michael Kinsley-Clive Crook disorder: Noah provides no links to and no quotes from "liberals" who "resist talking about the skills-based gap because they don’t want to tell the working classes that they’re losing ground because they didn’t study hard enough". So he winds up just making stuff up--and the New York Times editorial process is sufficiently jelly-like that nobody asks him "who are you talking about?". This produces bad thought.

Indeed, read further down in the article and you find, near the end, links to Larry Mishel definitely not being resistant to talking about the decline of unions, to Josh Bivens not being resistant to talking about workers' reduced bargaining power and the 80/20 wage gap, Barack Obama and his staff worrying about the rising costs of college--in a story reported by Timothy Noah himself.

Are these people not liberals?

Paul Krugman: One of Michael Kinsley's Problem Is That He Is Not Living in the Real 1970s

Paul Krugman:

The Mythical 70s: It’s actually even worse than Matt [O'Brien] says. For the 1970s such people remember as a cautionary tale bears little resemblance to the 1970s that actually happened. In elite mythology, the origins of the crisis of the 70s, like the supposed origins of our current crisis, lay in excess: too much debt, too much coddling of those slovenly proles via a strong welfare state. The suffering of 1979-82 was necessary payback. None of that is remotely true. There was no deficit problem: government debt was low and stable or falling as a share of GDP during the 70s… a runaway welfare state more broadly just wasn’t an issue — hey, these days right-wingers complaining about a nation of takers tend to use the low-dependency 70s as a baseline.

What we did have was a wage-price spiral… exacerbated by big oil shocks… a case of self-fulfilling expectations, and the problem was to break the cycle.

So why did we need a terrible recession? Not to pay for our past sins, but simply as a way to cool the action…. Was there a better way? Ideally, we should have been able to get all the relevant parties in a room and say, look, this inflation has to stop; you workers, reduce your wage demands, you businesses, cancel your price increases, and for our part, we agree to stop printing money so the whole thing is over. That way, you’d get price stability without the recession. And in some small, cohesive countries that is more or less what happened. (Check out the Israeli stabilization of 1985). But America wasn’t like that, and the decision was made to do it the hard, brutal way. This was not a policy triumph! It was, in a way, a confession of despair….

No, America didn’t return to vigorous productivity growth — that didn’t happen until the mid-1990s. 60-year-old men should remember that a decade after the Volcker disinflation we were still very much in a national funk; remember the old joke that the Cold War was over, and Japan won? So it would be bad enough if we were basing policy today on lessons from the 70s. It’s even worse that we’re basing policy today on a mythical 70s that never was.

One thing going on is that the 1980s did see (a) a reduction in the progressively of taxation and (b) the start of the huge surge in overclass income. For overclass people--or people who are now part of the overclass and who then identified with the overclass like Michael Kinsley--the 1980s were pretty good (as, by the way, were the 2000s up until 2007).

Kansas State University: April 30, 2013: Brad DeLong and Alan Reynolds: "Proposed Solutions to the Fiscal Crisis in the United States"

Kansas State University: April 30, Brad DeLong, University of California-Berkeley and Alan Reynolds, Cato Institute - Debate:"Proposed Solutions to the Fiscal Crisis in the United States":

Audio download: | 

Liveblogging World War II: May 19, 1943

Convoy SC 130: Wikipedia:

SC 130, comprising thirty-seven ships, departed Halifax Harbour on 11 May 1943; in the care of a Western Local Escort Force, led by RCN destroyer Niagara. Convoy Commodore was HC Forsyth in the freighter Sheaf Holme. They were met on 15 May by Mid-Ocean Escort Force Group B-7, led by Cdr. P Gretton in the D class leader Duncan and consisting of the V and W class destroyer Vidette, the River class frigate Tay, and Flower class corvettes Snowflake, Sunflower, Pink, Loosestrife and two armed trawlers. As B-7 was one vessel short for the voyage, the corvette Kitchener was seconded from the local group for the crossing. SC 130 also included two oilers for mid-ocean re-fueling and re-arming, and the convoy rescue ship Zamalek.

Ranged against them were 25 U-boats in three patrol lines, which had been organized by U-boat Command BdU on 15 May. This was in response to intelligence from B-Dienst which reported a westbound convoy (ONS 7) and two eastbound (HX 238 and SC 130) approaching the Air Gap. One group, Iller, of six newly arrived boats was just arriving, while two other groups, Donau I and Donau II, were formed from boats already on station, plus reinforcements.

ONS 7 came under attack on 13 May, and, warned by this and by intelligence from HF/DF readings and Enigma decrypts, the Admiralty was able to divert HX 238 (which arrived without incident) and to reinforce SC 130.

The convoy was found and reported by U-304 on the evening of 18 May, which commenced shadowing, while the other U-boats gathered during the night. The B7 mounted an aggressive defence, chasing down all contacts in order to frustrate any attacks. In this they were successful and none of the U-boats were able to attack that night. On 19 May long-range aircraft were able to join the action and commenced patrolling, attacking Donau boats as they moved to join the assault. A Hudson of 269 Sqdn destroyed U-273, and a Liberator of 120 Sqdn hit another, which was thought to have sunk U-954, but later judged to have hit U-731, causing little damage. Later that day the convoy escort was reinforced by the 1st Support Group consisting of the Banff class sloop Sennen (Capt. G Brewer) with River class frigates Wear, Jed and Spey. U-954 was sunk by hedgehog attacks from Sennen and Jed. Admiral Karl Dönitz's son Peter Dönitz was among those lost aboard U-954. An attack by Snowflake and Duncan delivered a hit with a Hedgehog bomb, and was thought to have destroyed a U-boat (U-381) but this was later claimed to have hit U-636, which survived with damage. That evening Tay attacked U-952 and damaged her so badly she had to retire from the action and return to base.

On 20 May the assault continued, but without success, while No. 120 Squadron RAF B-24 Liberator J sank U-258. At midday on 20th BdU called off the action, and the U-boats withdrew.

The convoy reached Liverpool without loss on 26 May.

SC 130 was seen as an Allied victory. No ships had been lost, though two had returned to port; all 35 that made the crossing arrived safely. On the other hand, at least three U-boats were destroyed. This was a major blow which contributed to BdU's decision to abandon the assault on the North Atlantic convoy route, a turning point in the Battle of the Atlantic.

Noted for May 19, 2013

Doug Hall: Ongoing employment disaster evident in too many states | Dan Drezner | Raghu Rajan: Has Financial Development Made the World Riskier? | Carmen M. Reinhart and *M. Belen Sbrancia: The Liquidation of Government Debt

  • Matthew Yglesias: Michael Kinsley on austerity: Everyone is jumping on this Michael Kinsley…. Kinsley is mistaken about… the nature of our sins and the nature of the price that has to be paid. Think about Iceland… [which] pretend[ed] that they'd developed a super-innovative new model of hyper-profitable banking…. So the sector went bust and a huge blow was dealt to the economy. But rather than coping with the blow by implementing hard money and huge budget cuts, spurring mass unemployment and a years-long episode of penance, Iceland paid its penance through currency depreciation and repudiation of many foreign debts… [which] have made it much harder for Iceland's citizens to go on vacation in Spain or study abroad…. Icelanders need to smelt more aluminum and catch more fish… while consuming less…. Foreigners don't want to lend Iceland money…. Belts have to tighten. It's an all-around bad situation. But. Iceland's unemployment rate is below five percent. The country is paying for the sin of excess debt with the penance of hard work. Which makes sense. When you discover you're less wealthy than you thought you were, the appropriate response is to work longer hours… not to quit your job. Longer hours and joblessness are both forms of punishment, but longer hours is a punishment that fits the crime."

  • Matthew O'Brien: This Is the Biggest Mistake 60-Year Old Men Make About the Economy=: "Our present problem isn't too little inflation-fighting, but too much. Indeed, headline prices rose just 1.1 percent in April, while unemployment is still a depressing 7.5 percent. But it's not just the unemployment; it's the long-term unemployment. Millions have been out of work for six months or longer, at which point companies won't even look at your resume. The only bit of good news is this is an easy problem to solve: with interest rates as low as they'll ever be, the government can borrow money and put people back to work. It's really that simple. Except for people who don't want it to be that simple…. Michael Kinsley…. 'I don't think suffering is good, but I do believe that we have to pay a price for past sins, and the longer we put it off, the higher the price will be.' This gets things completely backwards. The longer we put off austerity, the lower the price will be, since fewer of the long-term unemployed will become unemployable. And besides, there's no reason we shouldn't produce as much as we can now just because we made mistakes before. As Keynes said, the resources of nature and men's devices are just as fertile and productive as they were -- or, as John McCain might put it, the fundamentals of the economy are strong. It's up to us to make those fundamentals work with the right ideas. But this doesn't make for an exciting narrative. A failure of ideas is much less dramatic than a failure of Leadership™. Where's the sacrifice? The hard-headed vision? That's what Kinsley pined for back in 2010…. That would all be fine if it were still 1979. It's not. The facts have changed. It's time for inflationistas to change their minds."

Liveblogging World War II: May 18, 1943


Sturmbannfuehrer Gricksch for SS-Col. von Herff and Reichsfuehrer-SS Himmler:

The Auschwitz camp plays a special role in the resolution of the Jewish question. The most advance methods permit the execution of the Fuehrer-order in the shortest possible time and without arousing much attention. The so-called “resettlement action” runs the following course:

The Jews arrive in special trains (freight cars) toward evening and are driven on special tracks to areas of the camp specifically set aside for this purpose.

Continue reading "Liveblogging World War II: May 18, 1943" »

Noted for May 18, 2013

Leon Trotsky: Trotsky's Last Article (1940): Bonepartism, Fascism, and War | Bonapartism and Fascism (1934) | Leon Trotsky: The German Catastrophe (1933) | The Tragedy of the German Proletariat (1933) |

  • James Galbraith on Michael Kinsley: "Kinsley writes that all the ways of looking at the national debt 'lead to varying degrees of panic'. But obviously there is no panic where it matters, among those who lend money to Uncle Sam…. Nor is the present public debt close to being a record. In relation to our annual output it was much higher in 1946…. Did calamity follow? No. For a third of a century after the war, the debt-to-output ratio just gradually declined…. It's true that we have got big economic problems right now. But the budget deficit and the public debt aren't among them…. As for [Kinsley's] notion that a "typical" American surviving spouse leaves a cool half-million behind, only someone too lazy to distinguish a mean from a median could believe that. In 2004 according to the Federal Reserve mean family net worth for households with a head aged 65-74 was $690,900--I couldn't find where Kinsley got his $1 million--and the median value was only $190,100. This includes housing wealth, and those values would be lower today. Numbers are numbing, as Kinsley said. Is intellectual laziness a Boomer vice? I think not. It's a pundit vice, induced by easy access to choice venues for the publication of one's thoughts. The pity of Kinsley's essay is that we Boomers will, in fact, leave problems: for starters we burned the oil and we've warmed the planet. Those are grave matters and Kinsley might have written about them. But no: he chose to waste our time on a topic he hasn't troubled to learn the first thing about. Unemployment, on the other hand, is a real problem…"

  • Scott Lemieux: Great Moments in Self-Refutation: "Rarely does a (at least once-) respectable pundit face-plant as badly as Michael Kinsley re-proving Krugman’s points about austerity mongers while attempting to refute them. While it’s impossible to summarize an argument this incoherent, the key point seems to be that if you can’t tell the difference between Barack Obama and David Cameron (a problem that, admittedly, does afflict a handful of people on the American left) it’s hard to know what opponents of short-term austerity want…. Kinsley is one of those people who’s been haunted by the specter of inflation for years, and the fact that he’s been consistently wrong doesn’t seem to have taught him anything. And why should it — as he essentially concedes himself, the case for austerity is about overclass morality, not about economics."

Today's I-See-Bubbles Crowd

Usually the fact that Gillian Tett is an anthropologist rather than an economist serves her well. It means that she sees things that others do not see, and that she is sensitively attuned the beliefs and expectations of those who make up the economy.


Most days.

But I do not think that today is one of those days.

An economist confronting today's I-See-Bubbles crowd would cast her mind back to the last major bubbles: the dot-com bubble that peaked in 2000 and the housing bubble that peaked in 2006. In both cases, market participants generally foresaw unprecedented future price increases while measures of fundamental yields--rents, and dividends plus stock buy-backs--we're at all-time lows. Today long-term Treasury yields are low in absolute terms but not low relative to short-term yields, and nobody is expecting a strong rally in long-term bonds. Today nobody is expecting anything like the rate of stock price appreciation that the loonies like George Gilder and their many many clients were firmly anticipating in 2000, And stock yields are high both in absolute and extraordinarily so in relative terms. Yet Gillian Tett hears today's I-See-Bubbles crowd and interprets what they say as information not just about their beliefs about the objective state of the markets.

Liveblogging World War II: May 17, 1943

The Memphis Belle flies its 25th bombing mission —

On this day in 1943, the crew of the Memphis Belle, one of a group of American bombers based in Britain, becomes the first B-17 crew to complete 25 missions over Europe.

The Memphis Belle performed its 25th and last mission, in a bombing raid against Lorient, a German submarine base. But before returning back home to the United States, film footage was shot of Belle's crew receiving combat medals. This was but one part of a longer documentary on a day in the life of an American bomber, which included dramatic footage of a bomber being shot out of the sky, with most of its crew parachuting out, one by one. Another film sequence showed a bomber returning to base with its tail fin missing. What looked like damage inflicted by the enemy was, in fact, the result of a collision with another American bomber.

The Memphis Belle documentary would not be released for another 11 months, as more footage was compiled to demonstrate the risks these pilots ran as they bombed "the enemy again and again and again—until he has had enough." The film's producer, Lieutenant Colonel William Wyler, was known for such non-military fare as The Letter, Wuthering Heights, and Jezebel.

A fictional film about the B-17, called Memphis Belle, was released in 1990, starring John Lithgow, Matthew Modine, and Eric Stoltz.

L'Esprit de l'Escalier: May 17, 2013

L'Esprit de l'Escalier: May 17, 2013

  • Gene Grady writes: "I wouldn't rate [even early Gertrude] Himmelfarb too highly. Her essay on Buchan from ca. 1956, while having the merit of paying attention to a then neglected writer, is full of nonsense and bad reading trying to make him out to be an anti-Semite. One can find a little polite anti-Semitism early in his career, but Himmelfarb reads a character who is half-Irish and half-Spanish as a caricature of a Jew, and makes much of the anti-Semitic comments of some of the characters, at least one of whom (in The Dancing Floor) finds out on the last page of the book that the Jew he had been patronizing is braver, smarter, and an all-around better man than he was."

  • Gabriel: "Game theory is a famous example: it was founded by (mostly social democratic) public choice theorists who broke from George Mason University in Santa Monica in the 1950s, forming co-authorships of twenty to forty people with their rent-seeking models in each other’s military think tanks."

  • And, of course, there is the fact that the claims that Keynes's theories are the theories of an ant who lives for the day, rather than a grasshopper who builds for the ages, are simply false--Karl Smith, I believe had a very nice piece about this, and coming out of the gate soon will be Robert Skidelsky...

  • Indeed. Five years ago--nay, one year ago--if I had been on stage next to Ferguson I would have taken him head-on on his claim that Keynes did not care about the long-run as a shocking misconstrual of the passage from Keynes's "Tract on Monetary Reform", but I would have left Teh Gay to hang. Much kudos to Joe Biden for being very brave as a politician and so triggering our latter-day discovery that we collectively are who we wished we could publicly be…

  • I do not see the link to Ken and Carmen at all. Ken and Carmen made (I) a minor data analysis error which did not have a major effect on their results and is mostly a warning that you should never do anything important in Excel; (II) a major conceptual error in which they convinced themselves there was a cliff at a 90% debt-to-annual-GDP ratio when a less structured analysis would've shown them that there was no such thing; and (III) a theoretical guess that the key variable to look at is the debt to GDP ratio rather than interest payments to GDP which I think was another major error and which they do not. But they are serious people who know what they're doing and are trying their hardest to get it right...

  • Yes, Hayek is a total sleaze bag :: I am only now beginning to grasp the total depravity and intellectual and moral bankruptcy of Friedrich A. von Hayek (1/4) . "Are we not even told that, since 'in the long run we are all dead', policy should be guided entirely by short… (2/4) …run considerations? I fear that these believers in the principle of apres nous le déluge may get what they have… (3/4) …bargained for sooner than they wish." Hayek must have believed no one would go read the "Tract on Monetary Reform" (4/4)

  • It is not unusual for economic historians to be commenting right now. Indeed, there is a sense in which nobody should be commenting right now who is not an economic historian. A couple of years ago Martin Wolf taunted Larry Summers about the uselessness of the economics profession, and Larry responded that a lot that economists had written was very useful indeed--and Larry then named three dead economic historians or perhaps historical economists, Walter Bagehot, Hyman Minsky, and Charlie Kindleberger...

  • Is Niall Ferguson important? Well, you journalists are the people who decide who is important, aren't you? That is your gate-keeping function. I would say that six years ago something like 80% of economists and commentators, certainly including me, shared Niall Ferguson's belief that the debt capacity of the United States government was limited and that rising debt would produce rising interest rates and rising inflation rates, and that old-fashioned Keynesian expansionary fiscal policies were of very limited utility in achieving economic prosperity. Today the 20% minority six years ago are all saying "we told you so"; We 60% in the middle are trying to figure out whether we were always wrong or whether simply the world changed in 2008 in a major way; And there are 20% dead-enders--including Niall Ferguson--who from my perspective at least continue to fail to mark their beliefs to market, in part because they think that doing so would require them to declare some form of intellectual bankruptcy.

John Holbo Reads National Review for the Kevin Williamson Humor Centerfold...

John Holbo on Kevin Williamson:

Minority Outreach Report: It’s the comments that get me, and make me sorry for all the times I’ve said, ‘A-ha! so there are two Confusatrons!’ rather than saving that line for a more special occasion…. The inability of conservatives to keep their alternative reality stories straight is inducing a kind of minority outreach-as-Crisis On Infinite Earths continuity collapse. There’s our world – call it Earth-1… in which Dems got better on civil rights in the 60’s, and Republicans got worse. The Southern Strategy. Then there’s Williamson’s World – sort of like Earth-3, a reverse earth… [where] the parties reverse realigned. LBJ and the Democrats fought against civil rights, right through the 60’s, but Barry Goldwater, William F. Buckley and Lee Atwater teamed up to stop them. But there’s also… Earth-1 Bizarro World, where everything is like it is in our world, only civil rights bad, so the Republicans are the heroes and the Dems the villains on civil rights in the 60’s. Last but not least, you have Earth-3 Bizarro World, where… Republicans have championed civil rights all along – but that’s wrong, not right! It shows how Republicans have betrayed their base!

In comments, near as I can score it, Williamson is fighting a three-front war, trying to stop an incursion of Democrats/historians from Earth-1 into Earth-3, while also trying to keep Bizarros from both Bizarro Worlds at bay. Plus I’m convinced that at least a quarter of the contributors to the thread are false-flag trolls….

[I am] grateful we’ve got Williamson.

Continue reading "John Holbo Reads National Review for the Kevin Williamson Humor Centerfold..." »

Noted for May 17, 2013

Nick Rowe: Do New Keynesians need to assume (much) labour hoarding? | Owen Zidar sends us to Pat Kline and Enrico Moretti: Local Economic Development, Agglomeration Economies and the Big Push: 100 Years of Evidence from the Tennessee Valley Authority | Tortilla Marissa's | Tim Duy: Lumping Everything into the Wealth Effect |

  • Duncan Black: Eschaton: The Beatings Will Continue: "I'd suggest that somebody should do something about this, but the people in charge are causing it. 'PARIS — The recession across the economy of the 17 European Union countries that use the euro extended into its sixth quarter — longer than the calamitous slump that hit the region in the financial crisis of 2008-9. Eurostat, the EU’s statistics office, said Wednesday that nine of the 17 eurozone countries are in recession, with France a notable addition to the list. Overall, the euro region’s economy contracted 0.2 percent in the January-March period from the previous three months.'"

Seven Howlers from Michael Kinsley's Very Misguided War Against Paul Krugman

Screenshot 5 16 13 8 46 AM

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

Michael Kinsley is really confused:

People who favor austerity are “austerians,” a clever Krugman coinage that makes adherents sound like aliens from another planet…

Ummm… If you Google "first use of austerian" Google tells you about first uses of "Australian". If you Google "first use of austerian -Australian" Google tries to send you to first uses of "Austrian" that do not contain "Australian". If you tell Google you are serious, it sends you to WordSpy, which says:

"Remember, the political idea being expressed a year ago was that because the GOP interpreted its 1994 mandate as a call to budget-balancing austerity, the electorate would never give the White House to the GOP if its nominee was also a root-canal austerian." —Jude Wanniski, "Reminder from Forbes… Crossroads for Dole," The Washington Times, March 20, 1996.

So not Paul Krugman. Jude Wanninski. Howler #1.

Kinsley goes on:

It’s easier to describe what the anti-austerians believe than the austerians themselves. Anti-austerians believe that governments around the world need to stop worrying about their debts for a while and continue pouring money into the economy until the threat of recession or worse is well and truly over. Austerians want the opposite. But what is the opposite? Is President Barack Obama, for example, an austerian? To Republicans and conservatives, yes…

These two howlers--ascription of "austerian" to Krugman instead of Wanninski, and "yes" where he means "no", indicate that this is a first draft: neither checking-of-facts nor reading the ms. aloud to be sure that there are no "yeses" where there should be "noes".Which raises the question of what value is being added by the New Republic's editorial staff here, but I digress…

On to substance, rather than fact-checking and proofreading:

Continue reading "Seven Howlers from Michael Kinsley's Very Misguided War Against Paul Krugman" »

Liveblogging World War II: May 16, 1943

Screenshot 5 16 13 7 05 AM

Juergen Stroop:

180 Jews, bandits and sub-humans, were destroyed. The former Jewish quarter of Warsaw is no longer in existence. The large-scale action was terminated at 20:15 hours by blowing up the Warsaw Synagogue…. Total number of Jews dealt with 56,065, including both Jews caught and Jews whose extermination can be proved…. Apart from 8 buildings (police barracks, hospital, and accommodations for housing working-parties) the former Ghetto is completely destroyed. Only the dividing walls are left standing where no explosions were carried out.

Noted for May 16, 2013

Pawel Morski: Exhuming Lehman (and looking for Signs in the Entrails) | David H. Autor | Martin Wolf:* Why the world faces climate chaos | Japan economy records fastest growth in a year

  • Ryan Avent: Government borrowing: Fiscal consolidation, American style: "THE Congressional Budget Office released an updated budget outlook today. Here's the big news: 'If the current laws that govern federal taxes and spending do not change, the budget deficit will shrink this year to $642 billion, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates, the smallest shortfall since 2008. Relative to the size of the economy, the deficit this year—at 4.0 percent of gross domestic product (GDP)—will be less than half as large as the shortfall in 2009, which was 10.1 percent of GDP.' The 4% of GDP deficit forecast for 2013 is even more remarkable when one notes that the figure for 2012 was 7%. That's a breathtaking pace of fiscal consolidation. CBO reckons that the deficit will continue to fall and will drop to 2.1% of GDP in 2015. Public debt as a share of the economy is also forecast to begin falling from next year…. One has to conclude that pundits and politicians alike dramatically overstated the challenge of bringing down American borrowing and stabilising American public debt. One wonders how this news will be received in London. Since 2010 (when the coalition government took charge) Britain's growth performance has diverged sharply from America's. There was supposed to be a point to that pain; for its trouble, Britain was supposed to take the fast road back to fiscal rectitude. Instead Britain is badly lagging behind America on that score as well. There has been virtually no change in public borrowing as a share of GDP in Britain from 2011; it remains at about 7.5% of GDP. A very interesting contrast."

  • *Congressional Budget Office: Updated Budget Projections: Fiscal Years 2013 to 2023: "If the current laws… do not change, the budget deficit will shrink this year to $642 billion… 4.0 percent of gross domestic product (GDP)—will be less than half as large as the shortfall in 2009, which was 10.1 percent of GDP… deficits in CBO’s baseline projections continue to shrink, falling to 2.1 percent of GDP by 2015…. For the 2014–2023 period, deficits in CBO’s baseline projections total $6.3 trillion… the debt is projected to decline from about 76 percent of GDP in 2014 to slightly below 71 percent in 2018."

Continue reading "Noted for May 16, 2013" »

Liveblogging World War II: May 15, 1943

The Dissolution of the Comintern:

The historical role of the Communist International, organised in 1919 as a result of the political collapse of the overwhelming majority of the old pre-war workers’ parties, consisted in that it preserved the teachings of Marxism from vulgarisation and distortion by opportunist elements of the labor movement. In a number of countries it helped to unite the vanguard of the advanced workers into genuine workers’ parties, helped them to mobilise the mass of the toilers in defence of their economic and political interests for the struggle against fascism and the war which it been prepared for support of the Soviet Union as the main bulwark against fascism. The Communist International tirelessly exposed the base undermining activity of the Hitlerites in foreign states, who masked these activities with outcries about the alleged interference of the Communist International in the internal affairs of these states.

Continue reading "Liveblogging World War II: May 15, 1943" »

Why The New Republic Should Not Collect Subscription Revenue But Rather Have to Pay Us to Subscribe: Wednesday Hoisted from the Archives from Four Years Ago

I see that Jeffrey Rosen is still writing for the New Republic. Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

Brad DeLong : Why Do Intelligent People Write for the New Republic?: It is a mystery.

James McKinley interviewing Jose Cabranes about Sonia Sotomayor:

Sonia Sotomayor: "She's tough and tenacious as well as smart," said Justice Jose A. Cabranes of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, a mentor and former professor of Sotomayor's at Yale Law School. "She is not intimidated or overwhelmed by the eminence or power or prestige of any party, or indeed of the media"...

What Jeffrey Rosen of the New Republic did to that quote from Jose Cabranes:

Jeffrey Rosen: The most consistent concern was that Sotomayor... was “not that smart and kind of a bully on the bench.... She has an inflated opinion of herself, and is domineering during oral arguments, but her questions aren’t penetrating and don’t get to the heart of the issue.” (During one argument, an elderly judicial colleague is said to have leaned over and said, “Will you please stop talking and let them talk?”) The Second Circuit judge Jose Cabranes, who would later become her colleague, put this point more charitably in a 1995 interview with The New York Times: “She is not intimidated or overwhelmed by the eminence or power or prestige of any party, or indeed of the media”...

Jose Cabanes was not "being charitable" here.

A retraction and apology would be nice here, Chris. One of many you now owe the world...

Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren

Screenshot 5 13 13 4 35 PM

'"Well, is it art?" "I do not know," said Mordel. "It may be. Perhaps randomicity is the principle behind artistic technique. I cannot judge this work because I do not understand it. I must therefore go deeper, and inquire into what lies behind it, rather than merely considering the technique whereby it was produced. I know that human artists never set out to create art, as such," he said, "but rather to portray with their techniquest some features of objects and their functions which they deemed significant." "'Significant'? In what sense of the word?" "In the only sense of the word possible under the circumstances: significant in relation to the human condition, and worth of accentuation because of the manner in which they touched upon it." "In what manner?" "Obviously, it must be in a manner knowable only to one who has experience of the human condition." "There is a flaw somewhere in your logic, Mordel, and I shall find it." "I will wait." "If your major premise is correct," said Frost after awhile, "then I do not comprehend art."' -- Roger Zelazny, "For a Breath I Tarry"

Kevin Drum:

Why the Digital Revolution Won't be a Rerun of the Industrial Revolution: Whenever you talk about smart machines taking all our jobs, the usual pushback is that you're being a Luddite—an argument that's especially appropriate this year since it's the 200th anniversary of the end of the Luddite movement… all those skilled weavers in 1813 thought that power looms would put them out of jobs, but they were right only in the most limited way…. But the Digital Revolution won't be a rerun of the Industrial Revolution…. Karl Smith… [has a] take:

Creating things is a matter of rearranging atoms. Broadly speaking, you need two things to do this — a power system to overcome the gravitational and electromagnetic forces that tend to hold atoms in their relative positions and a control system to guarantee that atoms wind up in the right place. The industrial revolution was about one thing — more power! But, more power means the need for more control. Hence, the Industrial Revolution meant a rapid increase in the demand for human brains, not decrease. Smart machines provide both the power system and the control system in one convenient package. You can still argue that displaced humans will end up doing something else—we just don't know what yet—but it's a tough argument to win. If you agree that artificial intelligence will be real someday soon, then by definition smart machines will be able to do just about anything that humans can do. The answer to "Humans will do X," for any value of X, is "But robots can do that too." That wasn't true of the Industrial Revolution.

If you don't believe that AI is around the corner, then there's no argument to have here (aside from why you think AI is so far off). But if you do, then we have some serious questions to ponder about the future of work, the future of money, and the future of democracy. That's what my piece is mainly about.

Continue reading "Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren" »

Just to Be Clear: When the Heritage Foundation's Jason Richwine Says "High Skilled" He Means "Superior Race"…

Dylan Matthews:

Heritage study co-author opposed letting in immigrants with low IQs: The Heritage Foundation made something of a splash with its study suggesting that immigration reform will cost the public trillions…. Jason Richwine’s doctoral dissertation… asserts that there are deep-set differentials in intelligence between races… partly due to genetics…. [H]e argues the most important thing is that the differences in group IQs are persistent…. “No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against.”… Rather than excluding what he judges to be low-IQ races, we can just test each individual’s IQ and exclude those with low scores. “I believe there is a strong case for IQ selection,” he writes, “since it is theoretically a win-win for the U.S. and potential immigrants.” He does caution against referring to it as IQ-based selection, saying that using the term “skill-based” would “blunt the negative reaction.”

That rhetorical strategy is reflected in Heritage’s current work on immigration. His and Rector’s report recommends greatly reducing “low-skilled” immigration and increasing “high-skilled” immigration…. Richwine also invoked skill considerations in arguing against the “diversity visa” program…

This, I think, poses a huge problem for everybody associated with the Heritage Foundation in the future. It is a reasonable inference to hear "superior race" when DeMint and Rector and company say "highly skilled".

More Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren…

Screenshot 5 14 13 10 32 AM

Ashok Rao:

The Future and its Critics: This post is dedicated to the brilliant John Stuart Mill…. Every now and then, it seems, the blogosphere plunges into deep introspection of all that we think to be holy: technology, growth, and even utopian prosperity. Kevin Drum at Mother Jones has a piece about “Robot Overlords” and the more-optimistic Matt Yglesias can’t help but go long on beachfront property. A while back, I wrote about technology at the end of history, and I think I got one thing absolutely right:

Yet, when reading Fukuyama’s gripping essay years ago, I had one big qualification, a fleeting hope for the end of history. Ideological struggle is romantic for those of us who sit in comfort and liberty. For the scholars who write in the dimmed halls of Harvard. For the man of letters in Lamont Library; or better the Bodleian. For the precocious high schoolers who fawn on every dripping word from their history teacher. But for the many who are in the throes of historical struggle, there is nothing poetic. For the Russians who were slave to the Gulag, the romanticism of Wilson’s To the Finland Station, is but a Western concoction of reality, beautifully written for the scholar…. For the small actors in history, the girls murdered by Taliban and the dissidents silenced by Communists, the real victory would be a textbook of history blank after today….

Continue reading "More Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren…" »