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December 2014

Weekend Reading: Charles Pierce: The Lingering Death Of The New Republic

Why Americans Hate Welfare BillMoyers com

Charles Pierce: The Lingering Death Of The New Republic: "As someone who once worked for a paper that folded beneath him...

...I feel for the people at the magazine who are going to lose their jobs behind this move. And, as someone who suddenly lost the publication at which he learned all his chops, I feel for Jonathan Chait. But, institutionally, the slow destruction of TNR by its new and witless owner doesn't come up for me to the slow and deliberate destruction of its credibility as a legitimate liberal voice during the ownership of the execrable Marty Peretz.

Continue reading "Weekend Reading: Charles Pierce: The Lingering Death Of The New Republic" »


Weekend Reading: David Glasner: Traffic Jams and Multipliers

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David Glasner: Traffic Jams and Multipliers: "Since my previous post which I closed by quoting the abstract of Brian Arthur’s paper...

...‘Complexity Economics: A Different Framework for Economic Thought,’ I have been reading his paper and some of the papers he cites, especially Magda Fontana’s paper ‘The Santa Fe Perspective on Economics: Emerging Patterns in the Science of Complexity,’ and Mark Blaug’s paper ‘The Formalist Revolution of the 1950s.’ The papers bring together a number of themes that I have been emphasizing in previous posts on what I consider the misguided focus of modern macroeconomics on rational-expectations equilibrium as the organizing principle of macroeconomic theory.

Continue reading "Weekend Reading: David Glasner: Traffic Jams and Multipliers" »


Liveblogging the American Revolution: December 13, 1776: General Charles Lee Leaves for Widow White's Tavern

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General Charles Lee leaves his troops for Widow White's Tavern:

On this day in 1776, American General Charles Lee leaves his army, riding in search of female sociability at Widow White's Tavern in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. General George Washington had repeatedly urged General Lee to expedite his movements across New Jersey in order to reinforce Washington's position on the Delaware River. Lee, who took a commission in the British army upon finishing military school at age 12 and served in North America during the Seven Years' War, felt slighted that the less experienced Washington had been given command of the Continental Army and showed no inclination to rush.

Continue reading "Liveblogging the American Revolution: December 13, 1776: General Charles Lee Leaves for Widow White's Tavern" »


Noted for Your Morning Procrastination for December 12, 2014

Screenshot 10 3 14 6 17 PMOver at Equitable Growth--The Equitablog

Plus:

Must- and Shall-Reads:

Continue reading "Noted for Your Morning Procrastination for December 12, 2014" »


Morning Must-Read: Lant Pritchett and Lawrence Summers: Growth Slowdowns: Middle-Income Trap vs. Regression to the Mean

Lant Pritchett and Lawrence Summers: Growth Slowdowns: Middle-Income Trap vs. Regression to the Mean: "No question is more important...

for the living standards of billions of people or for the evolution of the global system than the question of how rapidly differently economies will grow over the next generation. We believe that conventional wisdom makes two important errors....

First, it succumbs to the extrapolative temptation and supposes that, absent major new developments, countries that have been growing rapidly will continue to grow rapidly, and countries that have been stagnating will continue to stagnate. In fact... past is much less the prologue than is commonly supposed.

Second, conventional wisdom subscribes to the notion of a ‘middle-income trap’.... Any tendency of this type is very weak, and that what is often ascribed to the middle-income trap is better thought of as growth rates reverting to their means...


Weekend Reading: Alfred Kazin (1989): The New Republic: Personal View

NewImageVia Corey Robin:

Alfred Kazin: The New Republic: A Personal View: "I am just a vear older than The New Republic...

...and have been writing for it, on and off, since I was a 19-year-old City College senior in 1934. I was literary editor in 1942 and 1943 and a contributing editor for some years after that.

Before I ever dreamed of writing for it I knew something of its political history—-its founding at the height of the Progressive era and its supposed link with Woodrow Wilson (the last intellectual to occupy the White House) through the Promise of American Life agenda of its first editors, Herbert Croly, Walter Lippmann, Philip Littell. and Walter Weyl. Later I learned of the bitter disillusionment with the Versailles Treaty that turned it "isolationist" in the '20s.

Continue reading "Weekend Reading: Alfred Kazin (1989): The New Republic: Personal View" »


If the Shift from August to October 2008 Did Not Convince You Financial Markets and the Macroeconomy Have Multiple Equilibria, There Is No Hope for You: Live from The Slanted Door

NewImageA very worthwhile project:

Roger Farmer of UCLA, and Jess Benhabib of NYU, are organizing a small group conference on the topic of “Multiple Equilibria and Financial Crises.” The conference is jointly sponsored by the NBER, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and UCLA, and will be held at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco on Thursday May 14th and Friday May 15th, 2015. The conference will last for a day and a half and will consist of nine papers with discussants.

Continue reading "If the Shift from August to October 2008 Did Not Convince You Financial Markets and the Macroeconomy Have Multiple Equilibria, There Is No Hope for You: Live from The Slanted Door" »


Over at Equitable Growth: The Federal Reserve Discounts the Bond Market's View: Daily Focus

Over at Equitable Growth Torsten Slok says:

Screenshot 12 11 14 10 53 AM

And Tim Duy says:

Tim Duy: Challenging the Fed: Both Paul Krugman and Ryan Avent are pushing back on the Federal Reserve's apparent intent to raise rates in the middle of next year. Why is the Fed heading in this direction?... I don't think that the Fed is reacting to external criticism. READ MOAR

Continue reading "Over at Equitable Growth: The Federal Reserve Discounts the Bond Market's View: Daily Focus" »


Evening Must-Read: Jack Lew: Fires Back at Elizabeth Warren

Jack Lew: Fires Back at Elizabeth Warren: 'You need multiple perspectives' | WashingtonExaminer.com: "You need multiple perspectives represented in a department like the Treasury. I think you’re hearing more from the few than from the many.... It is a natural thing for there to be some lingering concerns about whether or not the institutions... that caused the last crisis are truly changed. It’s a lot to expect for the American people who are struggling with wages that are not rising as fast as they should to say everything’s fine."

If Jack Lew wants to say that Antonio Weiss is the best candidate he can find who would accept the position of Under Secretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance, he should be able to make a much stronger case than that.

The surface case against Antonio Weiss is that the job needs someone who is (a) a superb regulator, or (b) a superb bond seller, and that he is, instead, (c) a superb merger-maker who has (d) profited immensely from the current order on Wall Street and thus inevitably predisposed to assume that the current order on Wall Street is a good one. The case against is that (d) could be accepted if it came with (a) or (b), but it doesn't: it comes with (c) instead.

The deep case against Antonio Weiss is that the Treasury has, from the Senate's perspective, behaved very badly under Obama--starting with its inability to find a way to spend the first $50 billion tranche on mortgage relief that it had promised to spend. As a result, the Treasury deserves no deference--and must overcome a high bar in order to get the people it wants into big cushy plum jobs like Under Secretary of the Treasury.

The deep case for Antonio Weiss is that Under Secretary of the Treasury is not, for him, a big cushy plum present of a job--it pays less by a lot than Lazard, it does not materially boost his future earning power on the future speaker circuit (as it would for an academic), it is the equivalent of taking out the garbage.

Now people like to think that they are doing something useful, and taking out the garbage is a very useful thing to do, and it is very satisfying to look back and think that you have successfully taken out the garbage--especially if you are unsure or ambivalent about the social value of the rest of what you have done in your career. I know that the fact that I may have turned the scales (as everyone working on it turned the scales) in passing the 1993 Clinton Reconciliation bill, and probably was a (one of many) decisive factors in making sure that bill included a major expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and thus a significant constructive shift in America's income distribution is a great comfort and source of pride to me.

But if the Senate were doing Antonio Weiss a favor by confirming him, it is only that it is letting him have a try at being an effective public servant for part of his career. It is not giving him a big plum cushy job as a present.

And the government functions better when jobs are filled.

So: I ask Elizabeth Warren; I ask Simon Johnson; I ask Franken, Durbin, Shaheen, Sanders, and Manchin; I ask every Republican Senator save Hatch and Bennet: if not Antonio Weiss, who? Who is your Yellen to Weiss-as-Summers? Who is your Warren to Weiss-as-Barr? Who who would take the job would be better at the job than Antonio Weiss, and why?


Afternoon Must-Read: Jared Bernstein: My Version of the Progressive Agenda Fits on a Little Bag

Jared Bernstein: My version of the progressive agenda fits on a little bag. Take that, complexity!: "I was having a coffee with someone at the Corner Bakery...

who argued that the problem with the policy agendas of people like me is that they’re way too complex. ‘You couldn’t write it down on this little bag, for example,’ he said, a bit haughtily for my taste, as he threw down the gauntlet and handed me the bag.... The topic is: ‘Ways to reduce inequality and generate broadly shared prosperity.’

I’ll write it all down here .... Full employment! Low-income Households: education opportunity, expand EITC, higher min wage, subsidized jobs (direct job creation). Middle class: affordable higher education, boost manufacturing through lower trade deficit! **High end:&& close wasteful tax loopholes, financial market oversight (fewer bubbles), ‘financial transaction tax.’

I suppose you could argue there’s more... politicians committed to reconnecting growth and prosperity... willing to write the budgets... reducing the influence of money in politics... financial transaction tax... a tiny tax on security trades, like 0.03 percent... that would raise significant revenue while dampening unproductive volatile and high-speed trades.).... Protecting what we’ve got, from social insurance to labor laws to Obamacare.

But... there’s no great mystery to pushing back on the great economic disconnect. In fact, it’s in on the bag.


Afternoon Must-Read: Martin Wolf: Europe’s Lonely and Reluctant Hegemon

Martin Wolf: Europe’s Lonely and Reluctant Hegemon: "Some are born great, some achieve greatness...

...and some have greatness thrust upon ’em. Germany is now experiencing the last in full measure. So how is it faring with this eminence? Quite well, but not well enough.... Remarkably, of Europe’s large countries Germany has arguably the most stable and adult democracy. It is free of the xenophobic populism that mars the others. In Angela Merkel, it possesses an exceptionally mature and responsible leader.

Despite these triumphs, all is not well. The eurozone economy is mired in stagnation and ultra-low inflation. Yet many German policy makers resist efforts to change this for the better.... Meanwhile, to the east a revanchist Russia has destabilised a hapless Ukraine and threatens to destabilise even more of its former empire. Again, just as is the case for the economy, this challenges postwar Germany’s reflexes.

It wishes to avoid a more assertive posture but can no longer do so. The difficulty Germany finds in playing its new roles is understandable. Germany did not seek the euro. On the contrary, it was a price others foolishly asked Germans to pay for unification...


Noted for Your Afternoon Procrastination for December 11, 2014

Screenshot 10 3 14 6 17 PMOver at Equitable Growth--The Equitablog

Plus:

Must- and Shall-Reads:

And Over Here:

Continue reading "Noted for Your Afternoon Procrastination for December 11, 2014" »


Afternoon Must-Read: Ariel Kalil: Addressing the Parenting Divide to Promote Early Childhood Development for Disadvantaged Children

Ariel Kalil: Addressing the Parenting Divide to Promote Early Childhood Development for Disadvantaged Children: "Growing income inequality over the past three decades...

...has created a social divide with stagnated incomes for families at the bottom of the distribution and sharply increased earnings for those at the top (Atkinson, Piketty, and Saez 2011). As the economic destinies of affluent and poor American families have diverged, so too has the educational performance of the children in these families (Reardon 2011). Socioeconomic gaps in children’s cognition and behavior open up early in life and remain largely constant through the school years (Duncan and Magnuson 2011).

However, rising inequality in income is not the sole cause of the divergence in children’s achievement and behavior (Duncan et al. 2013). Parents do more than spend money on children’s development—they also promote child development by spending time with their children in cognitively enriching activities and by providing emotional support and consistent discipline. The ‘parenting divide’ between economically advantaged and disadvantaged children is large and appears to be growing over time along these dimensions (Altintas 2012; Hurst 2010; Reeves and Howard 2013).

Consider the parenting time divide between economically advantaged and disadvantaged households. National time diaries show that mothers with a college education or greater spend roughly 4.5 more hours each week directly interacting with their children than do mothers with a high school diploma or less...


Liveblogging the American Revolution: December 11, 1776: Crossing the Delaware (Going the Wrong Way...)

NewImageThe History Place:

Washington takes his troops across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania. The next day, over concerns of a possible British attack, the Continental Congress abandons Philadelphia for Baltimore. Among Washington's troops is Thomas Paine, author of Common Sense, who now writes:

These are the times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country: but he that stands it NOW deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like Hell, is not easily conquered. Yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.


MOAR American Enterprise Institute-Quality Thought: Live from the Association for Research and Enlightenment

NewImageWe here are all old enough and wise enough to know that, whenever somebody's opening bid is blaming-the-victim rather than blaming-the-perpetrator, the primary goal is not to help keep future potential victims from becoming victims.

The primary goal is, rather, to keep victims in their place--and perpetrators in theirs.

Seriously: If the American Enterprise Institute wanted to stop shredding its reputation, it should replace Charles Murray. With David Frum, perhaps?

Over on The Twitter Machine: https://twitter.com/delong/status/543038648653193217:

@charlesmurray: If you are drunk or high, to what degree can you say you are a victim when something bad happens to you? A question to take seriously.

Continue reading "MOAR American Enterprise Institute-Quality Thought: Live from the Association for Research and Enlightenment" »


Afternoon Must-Read: Daniel Strauss: Sen. Warren Tears Into Defenders Of Poetry-Loving Obama Treasury Nominee Antonio Weiss

If Elizabeth Warren and Simon Johnson had names--or a name--of a better candidate than Antonio Weiss who would take the job of Undersecretary of the Treasury, they would have a much stronger case than they do.

To argue for Janet Yellen over Larry Summers as Fed Chair was not silly. To argue for Elizabeth Warren over Michael Barr as CFPB Director was not silly.

To argue for an empty seat over Antonio Weiss is, however, a much, much harder lift to make...

Daniel Strauss: Sen. Warren Tears Into Defenders Of Poetry-Loving Obama Treasury Nominee: In leaving Lazard, Warren noted that Weiss would receive a golden parachute of about $20 million. "For me, this is just one spin of the revolving door too many. Enough is enough," Warren said. "The response to these concerns has been, let's say, loud. First his supporters say 'come on, he's an investment banker so of course he should be qualified to oversee complicated financial work at treasury. But his defenders haven't shown his actual experience that qualifies him for this job at treasury." One of the more substantive arguments against Warren's opposition to Weiss is that he's as good as could possibly be gotten in a nominee for a top treasury position. Warren said she has supported qualified people with ties to Wall Street but that's not what Weiss is...

They need an alternative candidate or candidates. Badly.


Morning Must-Read: Andrew Sullivan: Darkness Visible: Live-Blogging the Torture Report: Daily Focus

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Morning Must-Read: Andrew Sullivan: Darkness Visible: Live-Blogging The Torture Report: "I want to end on a positive note...

Everything that happened in this damning report is because of Americans. But the report itself is a function of other Americans determined to push back against evil done in this country’s name. Those Americans have been heroes in exposing this horror from the get-go, and they include many CIA agents who knew full well what this foul program was doing to their and America’s reputation. But they also include the dogged staff of the Select Committee....

Continue reading "Morning Must-Read: Andrew Sullivan: Darkness Visible: Live-Blogging the Torture Report: Daily Focus" »


Morning Must-Read: Dylan Scott: Sorry, Haters: Here's Another Big Way Obamacare Is Working As Planned

Dylan Scott: Sorry, Haters: Here's Another Big Way Obamacare Is Working As Planned: "It hasn't been at the top of the conversation about Obamacare...

but new evidence suggests that yet another piece of the law is working exactly as it's supposed to. A key provision of the Affordable Care Act that was designed to keep insurers from overspending on administrative costs or else be forced to rebate premiums to customers looks to be succeeding in not only reducing those costs but in lowering premiums. A new report from federal health officials, which concludes that health spending had grown at a historically slow rate in 2013, says the so-called MLR provision is helping drive the broader easing of spending growth in the industry.

The medical-loss-ratio requirement mandates that insurance companies spend at least 80 percent of premiums on actual health benefits. It is one of the various provisions intended to help shape the behavior of insurance companies, making the market more efficient and cost-effective for consumers. Administrative costs are kept down, meaning that more of people's money is going to real care. 'The medical loss ratio requirement and rate review mandated by the ACA put downward pressure on premium growth,' officials from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services wrote in their report. Overall private insurance spending, of which premiums are a part, grew at a 2.8-percent rate--the lowest since at least 2007.

As Larry Levitt, vice president at the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation, put it to TPM in an email: 'That is how it's intended to work.'


Noted for Your Morning Procrastination for December 10, 2014

Screenshot 10 3 14 6 17 PMOver at Equitable Growth--The Equitablog

Plus:

Must- and Shall-Reads:

And Over Here:

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Morning Must-Read: Alfred Kazin (1989): The New Republic: A Personal View

(Via Corey Robin:) Alfred Kazin (1989): THE NEW REPUBLIC: A PERSONAL VIEW: I am just a vear older than THE NEW REPUBLIC and have been writing for it, on and off, since I was a 19-year-old City College senior in 1934. I was literary editor in 1942 and 1943 and a contributing editor for some years after that.

Before I ever dreamed of writing for it I knew something of its political history—-its founding at the height of the Progressive Era and its supposed link with Woodrow Wilson (the last intellectual to occupy the White House) through the "Promise of American Litfe" agenda of its first editors, Herbert Croly, Walter Lippmann, Philip Littell. and Walter Weyl. Later I learned of the bitter disillusionment with the Versailles Treatv that turned it "isolationist" in the '20s.

I came to see for myself its "left-leaning" during the Depression and its sudden support of World War II, not unconnected with the promptings of Willard Straight's widow Dorothv Whitney, who had funded the paper from the beginning and was now married to the English educational reformer Leonard Elmhirst. I had a long meeting with the Elmhirsts when I was a reporter in England in 1945.

From my reading of the paper and the books of Croly, Lippmann, Van Wyck Brooks, Jobn Dewey, Randolph Bourne, and others of the "progressive generation," I was all loo familiar with the many causes, arguments, doctrines, lashions, exclusions, and petty fanaticisms of American liberal democracy that had tramped through TNR from 1914 on. I knew even better and valued tar more highly the literary side of the paper, which had championed supposedly "difficult" American moderns (like Robert Frost!) from the beginning. Under Edmund Wilson's sporadic tenure and Malcolm Cowley's longer stay, TNR had been crucial to the encouragement and protection of supposedly "unreadable" and "unacceptable" American talents.

Wilson's epoch-making introduction to Stein, Proust, Joyce, and Yeats in Axel's Castle (1932) was first serialized right in tbe middle of the paper, not in "the back of the book." The same central place in the paper was later given to selections from Wilson's To the Finlaud Station (1940); earlier his remarkable reporting in The American Jitters: A Year of the Slump (1932) had also been featured in the most notable place. What Wilson believed in those days (TNR had good reason to assume) was what all thoughtful Americans, united by progressive ideals, now turning eagerly left, would sooner or later want to think....

[...]

As things go now, I cannot imagine ever appearing outside the literary section.... What I read in the front of the book is informative, saucy, in tone terribly sure of itself. It gives me no general enlightenment on the moral and intellectual crisis underlying the crisis of the week, above all no inspiration. There is no discernible social ideal behind all the clever counter-punching. Washington is more beautiful and imposing than it has ever been, is a wonderful town to look at—-if you overlook Anacostia and Shaw.... The many clever people in and out of government are not “intellectuals” in the old sense--thinkers with a sense of prophecy--but “experts,” no-nonsense minds that can chill me....

I wish I conld think of TNR as moving beyond post-leftist crowing—-beyond a certain parvenu smugness, an excessive familiarity with the inside track and the inside dope, and, above all, beyond that devouring interest in other journalists that confines so many commentaries out of Washington to triviality. I wish I could think of TNR as moving beyond the bristling, snappv, reactive common-sense of the disenchanted liberal. There are worlds within worlds, even in Washington, that are [not] apparent... to the wearilv clever, easily exasperated, heirs and guardians of the liberal democracy that is the one tradition we seem to have left.


Morning Must-Read: Peter Orszag: The Battle Over Douglas Elmendorf

Peter Orszag: The Battle Over Douglas Elmendorf--and the Inability to See Good News - NYTimes.com: "Senator Kent Conrad... asked Mr. Elmendorf whether the legislation was likely to curb the growth in health costs, as its advocates asserted. ‘From what you have seen,’ Mr. Conrad asked, ‘do you see a successful effort being mounted to bend the long-term cost curve?’

Mr. Elmendorf’s answer was clear. ‘No, Mr. Chairman,’ he said. ‘We do not see the sort of fundamental changes that would be necessary to reduce the trajectory of federal health spending by a significant amount. And on the contrary, the legislation significantly expands the federal responsibility for health care costs.’ For anyone who remembered health care history, the moment was ominous....

Congressional Democrats knew that the budget office had the loudest voice, and their staff members got to work... to nudge the health care system away from paying for the quantity of medical care rather than the quality. Ultimately, the C.B.O. judged those provisions to be substantive. The Affordable Care Act would reduce the deficit in the long run, the budget office forecast....

A central plank of the anti-Elmendorf case is the notion that his budget office has underestimated health care costs. Senator Pat Roberts, the Kansas Republican, went so far this year as to call for a hearing on the subject. In reality, the Congressional Budget Office--like nearly every other group of health care analysts--has overestimated medical costs. We’re in the midst of a historic slowdown in the growth of medical costs.... The Affordable Care Act--specifically, those provisions meant to reward quality, like one that tries to cut down on needless hospitalization--plays some role in the slowdown...


Liveblogging the American Revolution: December 10, 1776: Particularly to the People of Pennsylvania...

NewImageThe representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, to the people in general, and particularly to the inhabitants of Pennsylvania, and the adjacent states:

FRIENDS and BRETHREN,

WE think it our Duty to address a few Words of Exhortation to you in this important Crisis. You are not unacquainted with the History of the Rise and Progress of this War. A Plan was carried on by the British Ministry for several Years in a systematic Manner to enslave you to that Kingdom. After various Attempts in an artful and insidious Manner to bring into Practice the laying you under Tribute, they at last openly and decisively asserted their Right of making Laws to bind you in all Cases whatsoever.

Continue reading "Liveblogging the American Revolution: December 10, 1776: Particularly to the People of Pennsylvania..." »


Morning Must-Read: Ryan Avent: The Fed Prepares to Make a Mistake

Ryan Avent: The Fed prepares to make a mistake: "ON FRIDAY my colleague noted that while job growth in America...

...is hustling along, inflation remains well below the Fed's target rate.... I think... the Fed is close to making a big mistake.... Set aside potential downside risks (from a Russian financial crisis, or renewed euro-zone troubles, or a Chinese hard landing, or lord knows what else) and just focus on the dynamics within the American economy. Almost since the Fed announced that it was officially targeting an inflation rate of 2%, as measured by the price index for personal consumption expenditures, actual PCE inflation has run below the target, and often well below. It remains below target now....

You'd have to be mad to think that inflation will average 2% over the course of this business cycle. The Fed has been content to let inflation rest below target for most of the last four years.... The longer the Fed fails to hit 2% on average the more likely the public is to expect below-target inflation on an ongoing basis....

And while inflation is low interest rates will remain low.... The risk to waiting to tighten is so comparatively small. That's the worst bit. In a year or two people will find themselves wondering why the Fed made this particular error, and there simply will not be good answers to give.


Hoisted from the Archives from June 2013: Michael Kinsley Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot-Bang-Query-Bang-Query Weblogging

In Which I Finally Make Time to Shape-Shift Back into My Direwolf Form and Think About Michael Kinsley: Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot-Bang-Query-Bang-Query Weblogging (Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality...):

Screenshot 5 23 13 9 24 AM

So I finally made a chunk of time to read and think about Michael Kinsley's response to Paul Krugman's rebuttal of Kinsley's claim that Krugman was engaged in a "misguided moral crusade against" rather than a technocratic critique of "austerity".

First and most essential, I need to set some rules here: If I'm going to be called a canine of any form, standards must be maintained.

I insist that it be not "attack dog" but either:

  • the Maoist "running dog", or
  • Jon Snow's direwolf: Ghost.

Those are the approved options. Pick one. Use it. Stick to it. It's really not hard at all to do.

Continue reading "Hoisted from the Archives from June 2013: Michael Kinsley Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot-Bang-Query-Bang-Query Weblogging" »


This Morning in the Old New Republic: Live from Atkins Farm

NewImageJamie Kirchick, who benefitted mightily in launching his career from being part of a corrupt and compliant media establishment that grasped at Martin Peretz's filthy lucre, complains about Chris Hughes:

Jamie Kirchick: The Rise and Fall of Chris Hughes and Sean Eldridge, America's Worst Gay Couple: In their elitism and sense of entitlement, they represent much of what liberals are supposed to despise. Most in the media and gay community were perfectly willing to ignore this imposture when the couple was throwing their money at the right causes and dispensing jobs to their journalist and political consultant friends. Hughes and Eldridge were beneficiaries of a corrupt and compliant media and political establishment that grasped at their filthy lucre...

No, there is not a hint of self-consciousness, self-reflection, or irony in there.

And Michael Kinsley, in a similar vein but on the other side:

Continue reading "This Morning in the Old New Republic: Live from Atkins Farm" »


Liveblogging World War II: December 9, 1944: Italy – Captain John Brunt VC

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World War II Today: 9 December 1944: Action in Italy:

The bitter slogging match in Italy continued. The Allied forces had still not returned to the strength that they had been before troops were diverted to France in the summer. Even the new contingent of troops from Brazil did not make up the numbers – and they were soon fully committed. Even those units that were in the field were understrength – replacements were more urgently need elsewhere in Europe.

The Italian front was in danger of being seen as being a backwater as attention focused on north west Europe. For the men still struggling with a determined German defence line it was anything but a backwater.

Continue reading "Liveblogging World War II: December 9, 1944: Italy – Captain John Brunt VC" »


A Dialogue on a Focus Group from the Unfogged Commentariat on the New Republic: The Honest Broker for the Week of December 5, 2014

NewImageSokrates: If you wanted a focus group for the core target audience of the Old New Republic, you would look for intellectually-curious left-of-center engaged intellectuals not themselves subject-matter experts in policy and politics. And on the internet the single most concentrated slice of such people are found in the commentariat at the website http://unfogged.com. Their Ringmaster assembles such a focus group. It isn't pretty, but I do think it is an accurate picture of what has been wrought by all those liberal writers and editors who were...

Artaphernes: ...were for three decades and more willing to go the extra mile to suck up to the various and manifold bigotries of Martin Peretz and company. Isn't that what you were going to say, Sok?

Sokrates: Anyway, here are selections from the thread:

Ogged and Company: Teach Me: I've read so much blather about The New Republic's shake-up that I'm just going to skip the links and ask a simple question: in the last thirty years, what are its five best pieces of political writing?

Continue reading "A Dialogue on a Focus Group from the Unfogged Commentariat on the New Republic: The Honest Broker for the Week of December 5, 2014" »


Monday DeLong Smackdown Watch: Scott Sumner

Cthulhu Google Search

Not quite a smackdown. But I will take what I can get at this point, rather than have to (shudder) read another page of David Graeber...

Scott Sumner: Brad DeLong poses two questions about NGDP targeting: "Here's Brad DeLong:

Two Questions for Scott Sumner: First Question: Why has nominal GDP targeting not already swept the economics community? It really ought to have.

Second Question: I believe in nominal GDP targeting--especially if coupled with some version of "social credit" at or near the zero lower bound. But a look back at the history of ideas about a proper "neutral" monetary policy--Newton's fixed price of gold, Hayek's fixed nominal GDP level, Fisher's fixed price-level commodity basket, Friedman's stable M2 growth rate, the NAIRU targeting of the 1970s, Bernanke's inflation-targeting--leads immediately to the conclusion that anybody who claims to have uncovered the Philosopher's Stone here is a madman. How can you reassure me that I (and you) are not mad?

My first reaction was that the first question was too polite. Something I'd expect from my mother, not a skilled debater like Brad DeLong. But perhaps he's just buttering me up for the kill.

Continue reading "Monday DeLong Smackdown Watch: Scott Sumner" »


Noted for Your Morning Procrastination for December 8, 2014

Screenshot 10 3 14 6 17 PMOver at Equitable Growth--The Equitablog

Plus:

Must- and Shall-Reads: (MOVE UP TO BELOW "PLUS" AND BEFORE "AND OVER HERE")

And Over Here:

Continue reading "Noted for Your Morning Procrastination for December 8, 2014" »


Over at Equitable Growth: How Can We Build a Model in Which an Invisible Japanese Bond Vigilante Attack Is Contractionary?: Daily Focus

Cthulhu Google SearchOver at Equitable Growth:

Let me gnaw on Paul Krugman's observations on Japan today and on his and Ken Rogoff's Mundell-Fleming lectures some more:

Paul Krugman: Shinzo and the Invisibles: "Brad DeLong is puzzled by... Ken Rogoff['s]...

...warning that Japan could face an attack from invisible bond vigilantes if it doesn’t quickly tackle long-run fiscal issues. I’m puzzled too... The truth is that I said such things about the US back in 2003. But I was wrong.... Rudi Dornbusch’s ‘overshooting’ model.... Invisible bond vigilantes. Suppose... they suddenly demand that Japanese 10-year bonds offer a rate of return 200 basis points higher than US 10-year bonds. You might be tempted to say that Japanese interest rates will spike--but the Bank of Japan controls short-term rates, and long-term rates are mainly an average of expected short-term rates, so how is this supposed to happen?... Instead, the yen would depreciate now so that investors can expect it to appreciate later. And this yen depreciation would be expansionary.... The invisible vigilantes would be doing Japan a favor if they suddenly materialized and attacked! READ MOAR

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Morning Must-Read: David Beckworth: Monday Money Matters Roundup

David Beckworth: Monday Morning 'Money Still Matters' Round Up: "It's the Domestic Demand Stupid!...

...Ramesh Ponnuru reminds us why worrying about "currency wars" is misguided when economies are depressed. It completely misses the point.... It is not the depreciation that matters, but the boost to domestic demand from easing monetary policy. Unfortunately, not every central bank is interested in stabilizing domestic demand as noted next. Monetary Policy Differences Explain a Lot. Martin Wolf looks across the global economy and finds a common factor behind the variation in economic growth: the stance of monetary policy.... The Nominal GDP Targeting Glass is Half Full...


Morning Must-Read: Matthew Klein: Did Japan Actually Lose Any Decades?

Matthew Klein: Did Japan actually lose any decades?: "After adjusting for population, real household spending...

...grew more from 1990-2013 in Japan than in every country in our sample except for Sweden, the UK, and US. Moreover, the UK and US only managed to pull off their superior consumption growth with the help of huge unsustainable debt bubbles and ‘wealth effects’, while Japanese consumers had to contend with sinking asset markets and stagnant nominal wages. So much for the idea that deflation kills the impulse to shop! If we start the clock not in 1990, however, but in 2000, Japan looks even better.... Now, one could argue that some of this is as much a reflection on the severity (and mishandling) of the aftermath of the excesses in other countries as much as it is a testament to the strength of Japan. But even if we use the cherry-picked time frame of 1990-2007, real consumption per person still grew more in Japan than in Germany and Switzerland, and almost as much as in France and Austria...

Falling in investment spending as a share of GDP and rising external debt are powerful factors boosting Japanese consumption growth relative to long-run sustainable paths. I read this mostly as an explanation for why the Japanese are not so unhappy with their lost decades then as a refutation of what I believe to be the true fact that Japan has lost decades.


Morning Must-Read: Paul Krugman: Shinzo and the Invisibles

Paul Krugman: Shinzo and the Invisibles: "Brad DeLong is puzzled by... Ken Rogoff['s]...

...warning that Japan could face an attack from invisible bond vigilantes if it doesn’t quickly tackle long-run fiscal issues. I’m puzzled too... The truth is that I said such things about the US back in 2003. But I was wrong.... Rudi Dornbusch’s ‘overshooting’ model.... Invisible bond vigilantes. Suppose... they suddenly demand that Japanese 10-year bonds offer a rate of return 200 basis points higher than US 10-year bonds. You might be tempted to say that Japanese interest rates will spike--but the Bank of Japan controls short-term rates, and long-term rates are mainly an average of expected short-term rates, so how is this supposed to happen?... Instead, the yen would depreciate now so that investors can expect it to appreciate later. And this yen depreciation would be expansionary.... The invisible vigilantes would be doing Japan a favor if they suddenly materialized and attacked!

I’ve had many discussions with smart people about this, and have never gotten an explanation of why it’s wrong; we usually end up with something like a warning that Japanese deflation might suddenly turn into uncontrolled inflation, which seems unlikely and certainly isn’t the way the warnings are usually phrased--we’re supposed to worry about turning into Greece 2010, not Weimar 1923. You might think that what we’re talking about is the lessons of history--but as far as I can tell, there are no historical examples of countries with debts in their own currency facing a Greek-style crisis...


Nighttime Must-Read: Robert Skidelsky: Speech on the Autumn Statement, in the House of Lords, 4th December 2014

Robert Skidelsky: Speech on the Autumn Statement, in the House of Lords, 4th December 2014: "What happens to the budget is determined...

...by what happens to the economy, and what happens to the economy is not all within the Treasury’s control. But it’s equally important to remember, that what happens to the economy is largely determined by what happens to the budget. This could hardly not be so, as government spends about 40% of GDP. Ever since I started writing and speaking about these matters in 2010, I have been predicting that the Chancellor would not meet his budget targets. The reason I gave was that the pursuit of those targets in itself slows down the economic growth on which their achievement depends. Why? Because it slows down the rate of spending in the economy, and growth depends on spending. The cuts have hit the spending, and the spending has hit growth.

So it’s not surprising that the Chancellor finds himself with a projected deficit of £91.3bn this year, when in 2010 he promised to ‘balance the budget’ by the end of this parliament. According to the OBR, the discrepancy between the projection and outcome results from ‘unexpectedly weak performance of tax receipts’. Perhaps it was only unexpected to the experts at the Treasury. In fact, it was the logical consequence of growth being so much below what was expected between 2010 and 2013, and of what has been happening to the labour market since...


Nighttime Must-Read: Charles Stross: Cultural Estrangement and Science Fiction

Charlie Stross: On the lack of cultural estrangement in SF - Charlie's Diary: "In the previous discussion thread...

...someone mentioned having a problem with one particular far-future (well, set 400 years hence) SF novel that disrupted their reading of it so badly that they ended up giving up on the book.... I think it's worth taking a look at it, because it's one of my own pet shibboleths.... These are not bad authors and they don't write terrible books: that's part of what makes the problem so jarring for me.

And the nature of the problem? It's that the stories they're telling are set in a far future... in an interstellar human polity.... And yet the civilization they portray can best be described as 'Essex suburbia goes interstellar'... or... 'Whitebread Middle American Suburbia to the Stars'... gender politics, religious framework, ideologies, fashions(!) and attitudes... has become a universal norm. And nothing else gets much of a look in....

You can make an argument for writing SF in this mode in that it allows the lazy reader to ignore the enculturation issue and dive straight into the adventure yarn for which the SFnal trappings are just a brightly-coloured wrapper. But I still find it really weird to read a far-future SF story that doesn't deliver a massive sense of cultural estrangement, because in the context of our own history, we are aliens.

Imagine yourself abducted by a mad Doctor in a time machine shaped like a blue Police Box (itself an anachronism in today's smartphone-networked world) and dumped on the streets of your home city a century ago, in 1914.... How familiar are you going to find things? The answer is actually 'not very'.... You speak a dialect of the local language, it's true. But you have some words or terms that nobody recognizes ('atom bomb'), some words that have changed meaning radically thanks to the spread of technical neologisms ('virtual', 'computer') or social change ('queer', 'n-----'), and there are other words and slang that you probably don't recognize....

The architecture and layout of cities will be vaguely familiar.... Some things will be mildly disorienting.... Some items will be disgusting (horse shit everywhere, and the flies they attract). It may be hard to tell the difference between a shop front and somebody's living room, if you get away from the market stalls. And it may be hard to tell the difference between a contemporary crack house and the typical living conditions of the early 20th century poor.... Foodstuffs you expect to find are unavailable and exotic (bananas, kiwi fruit, curry), and stuff nobody in their right mind would eat is routinely sold (tripe, kidneys, beef hearts) and eaten.... Don't ask about medicine....

You don't want to know what passes through conservatives' minds in 1914.... It's worth noting, incidentally, that much of the social change that led up to the current cultural matrix was driven by technological change. Better medicine and family planning... which bananas... cheaper than potatoes, people aren't worn out unto death by fifty, civil rights for people who aren't rich white males... you probably aren't dying of tuberculosis. So why do repeatedly we see the depiction of far future societies with cheap interstellar travel in which this hasn't bought about massive social change as a side-effect (other than the trivial example of everyone having a continental sized back yard to mow)? Seriously, I feel that if I'm writing far-future SF, I've got a duty to at least try and portray a plausible society.


Liveblogging World War I: December 8, 1914: Battle of the Falkland Islands

NewImageWikipedia: Battle of the Falkland Islands:

The Battle of the Falkland Islands was a British naval victory over the Imperial German Navy on 8 December 1914 during the First World War in the South Atlantic. The British, after a defeat at the Battle of Coronel on 1 November, sent a large force to track down and destroy the victorious German cruiser squadron.

Admiral Graf Maximilian von Spee--commanding the German squadron of two armoured cruisers, SMS Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, the light cruisers SMS Nürnberg (1906), Dresden and Leipzig, and three auxiliaries--attempted to raid the British supply base at Stanley in the Falkland Islands. A larger British squadron—consisting of the battlecruisers HMS Invincible and Inflexible, the armoured cruisers HMS Carnarvon, Cornwall and Kent, the armed merchant cruiser HMS Macedonia and the light cruisers HMS Bristol and Glasgow—had arrived in the port only the day before.

Visibility was at its maximum, the sea was placid with a gentle breeze from the northwest, a bright, sunny, clear day. The advance cruisers of the German squadron had been detected early on. By nine o'clock that morning the British battlecruisers and cruisers were in hot pursuit of the five German vessels, these having taken flight in line abreast to the southeast. All except Dresden and the auxiliary Seydlitz were hunted down and sunk.


Liveblogging the American Revolution: December 7, 1776: Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette

NewImageWikipedia: Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette:

Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de Lafayette, Marquis de Lafayette... 6 September 1757 – 20 May 1834).... Born in Chavaniac, in the province of Auvergne in south central France, Lafayette came from a wealthy landowning family. He followed its martial tradition, and was commissioned an officer at age 13... a sous-lieutenant in the Musketeers.... Jean-Paul-François de Noailles, Duc d'Ayen, was looking to marry off some of his five daughters. The young Lafayette, aged 14, seemed a good match to him for his 12-year-old daughter, Marie Adrienne Françoise... agreeing not to mention the marriage plans for two years, during which time the two spouses-to-be would meet from time to time, seemingly accidentally. The scheme worked; the two fell in love and were happy together....

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Noted for Your Evening Procrastination for December 7, 2014

Screenshot 10 3 14 6 17 PMOver at Equitable Growth--The Equitablog

Plus:

Must- and Shall-Reads:

And Over Here:

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Morning Must-Read: Kevin Drum on Paul Krugman on the Obama Recovery

The Obama Recovery Has Been Miles Better Than the Bush Recovery Mother Jones

Kevin Drum: The Obama Recovery Has Been Miles Better Than the Bush Recovery: "Bush benefited not just from a historic housing bubble...

...but from big increases in government spending and government employment. But even at that his recovery was anemic. Obama had no such help. He had to fight not just a historic housing bust, but big drops in both government spending and government employment. Despite that, his recovery outperformed Bush's by a wide margin.... And as Krugman points out, it's unclear just how much economic policy from either administration really affected their respective recoveries anyway:

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Weekend Read: Mark Dent: Bill Cosby's Fall

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Mark Dent: Bill Cosby's fall: How an extra ticket, an iPhone and a six-month-old comedy bit changed how we think about a legend: "The turnaround is stunning, in retrospect...

...Bill Cosby has lost a Netflix special, an NBC sitcom, a spot on Temple’s board of trustees and years of accumulated respect as the sexual assault accusations that followed him for 14 years have finally stuck. The beginning of this rapid public shift can be traced to a friend having an extra ticket to a comedy show, a Facebook post and the sometimes random luck of what turns an everyday post into something viral.

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Weekend Reading: Ezra Klein (2009): The New Republic Has Made It Much Safer to Speak Critically About Israeli Government Policy

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Ezra Klein: JON CHAIT IS RIGHT.: "The New Republic, Jon Chait's magazine...

...published an acrobatic cover story by Jeffrey Goldberg that likened Walt and Mearsheimer to Osama bin Laden, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, Father Coughlin, Charles Lindbergh, Patrick Buchanan, Louis Farrakhan, and David Duke. It is true that Walt's career survived, and even prospered, in the aftermath of this broadside. But it wasn't for lack of trying on the part of Chait and his colleagues.

How were they to know that comparing Walt to Osama bin Laden, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, Father Coughlin, Charles Lindbergh, Patrick Buchanan, Louis Farrakhan wouldn't prove particularly injurious to his career?

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Weekend Reading: Max Fisher: The New Republic and the Beltway Media's Race Problem

B7e jpg 460×333 pixels The best thing on New Republic Gate I have seen:

Max Fisher: The New Republic and the Beltway media's race problem - Vox: "There's little doubt that The New Republic's young owner...

...Chris Hughes, treated its beloved editor, Frank Foer, poorly. Hughes' new CEO, Guy Vidra, criticized Foer's leadership while sitting right next to him at an all-staff meeting. Hughes hired a replacement before firing Foer — which Foer had to learn about through rumors. Hughes, a newcomer to journalism who bought his way, publicly humiliated Foer, along with also-fired literary editor Leon Wieseltier. It's an ugly, unkind way to treat an editor, an employee, and the well-respected leader of a newsroom. Much of the publication's masthead, outraged, has resigned in solidarity and protest.

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Nighttime Must-Read: Kenneth Rogoff: Can Japan Reboot?

Cthulhu Google Search The very sharp Ken Rogoff muses about Japan:

Kenneth Rogoff: Can Japan Reboot?: "How can aging advanced economies revive growth after a financial crisis?... The first round of... 'Abenomics'... failed to generate sustained inflation.... The question is... Abenomics 2.0.... My own view is... Abenomics 1.0 basically had it right: 'whatever it take'” monetary policy to restore inflation, supportive fiscal policy, and structural reforms.... The central bank... has been delivering... the other two 'arrows'... have fallen far short. There has been no significant progress on supply-side reforms.... The timing of the April 2014 consumption-tax hike (from 5% to 8%) was also unfortunate....

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