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February 2019

Jill Abramson, Formerly of the New York Times, Has Both a Depraved Heart and a Social Intelligence Deficit

At one point, Jill Abramson formerly of the New York Times had something like this—the lead of an written by Jake Malooley—on her computer screen:

Vice cop

She then copied the text from "when..." to the second "...Darfur" and pasted the three sentences it into an editing window in her manuscript:

Vice cop

She then did not:

  1. enclose it in quotation marks,
  2. add "(quoted from Jake Maloolley:", or
  3. move it to a "scratch-sources" part of the document.

Instead, she first deleted the word "Jason":

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Dylan Matthews (2009): How It Works: "It's instructive for people my age who are thinking of careers in foreign policy to know that you can back death squads in Central America, deny mass atrocities, brazenly defy Congressional dictates, get convicted of withholding information from Congress, back a covert coup d'état, actively undermine the peace process in Israel, and be in charge of implementing the Bush administration's 'freedom agenda' and end up with a senior fellowship at the Council on Foreign Relations and an offer to be CFR's president should Richard Haass leave. I believe the term for this is 'perverse incentive'...

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I confess I do not understand columns like this from the intelligent if not-always-reliable John Harwood.

"Congressional Republicans stepping away from President Trump" is constant and professional Washington access-journalist make-believe. "Congressional Republicans think Trump is a nut but are terrified to cross him because they fear a primary challenge" has been reality since January 21, 2017 and is still reality today.

The 60-vote filibuster threshold in the Senate and the 40-member Tea Party caucus in the House opposed on principle to governing meant and mean that, absent Reconciliation, any legislation required the approval of Ryan, Pelosi, McConnell, and Schumer before January 4—or at least their willingness to not make opposition a matter for caucus discipline—and requires the approval of Pelosi, McConnell, and Schumer today.

Trump's role with respect to Republican House Members and Senators was and is the same as Putin's role with respect to Trump: in each case, the first party has the second party on a leash because the second party knows that the first party, if enraged, could destroy their career. But because that threat can only be used once and has power only as long as it is not used, the leash is a long one:

John Harwood: Republican Leaders Are Breaking with Trump on Border Wall: "That soft, shuffling sound you hear is Congressional Republicans stepping away from President Trump.... GOP leaders signaled clearly that they, like Congressional Democrats, will no longer play border-wall make-believe with President Trump.... GOP leaders always understood that pledge as fanciful, even as they cautiously avoided saying so out loud. Last December, when Trump changed his mind and chose a government shutdown over a bipartisan spending compromise, they reluctantly went along. But 35 days of political pain, ending with Trump's initial surrender last month, changed their calculations.... The Democratic takeover of the House fundamentally altered Washington's power equation...

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Peter Beinart—who has, I think, atoned sufficiently for his time enabling and supporting the bigotries, prejudices, and ignorances of Marty Peretz and his Old New Republic—gets, I think, this one substantially wrong.

There are many Americans who feel a deep cultural and religious and political affinity with Israel. Israel is, after all, a fellow near-democracy, in some sense one of the foundations of North Atlantic civilization, and the image of Israel has always been an explicit model for America since the first days of Puritan settlement.

Conservative white Christians, however, support and seek a different Israel—a Likud-AIPAC Israel. They want an expansionist Israel for theological reasons: Israel's expansion—and the subsequent destruction by Gog and Magog of all who do not convert to Christianity—is a step on the road to the Second Coming of Jesus. Thus they seek not a secure, democratic, and peaceful Israel but rather a state with a firebase on every West Bank hilltop ruling from the Mediterranean Sea to the River Jordan—or perhaps Euphrates.

Plus there are the bribes: I am told that Likud Prime Minister Menachem Begin gave Jerry Falwell a Lear Jet:

Peter Beinart: The Sick Double Standard In The Ilhan Omar Controversy: "Omar’s tweet was inaccurate. Yes, of course, AIPAC’s influence rests partly on the money its members donate to politicians. But it also rests on a deep cultural and religious affinity for Israel among conservative white Christians, who see the Jewish state as an outpost of pro-American, “Judeo-Christian” values in a region they consider hostile to their country and faith...

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Back when the Washington Post was trying to decide how to deal with the internet—and had not yet doubled down on "access journalism", i.e. working for your sources rather than for your readers—Dan Froomkin lucked into the "White House Watch" column, doing explainer journalism on the White House press corps—telling us why the White House press corps was doing what it was doing that week. This was an extremely useful thing to do. Now he is starting it up again. Worth spending your money on: Dan Froomkin: A Case Study in Normalizing Trump, from the New York Times: "Disappointed in how normalizing NYT’s coverage of Trump interview was this morning. He was talking complete megalomaniacal gibberish, they make it sound like he was answering their questions.... I’m glad Sulzberger talked to Trump a bit about press freedom, but the NYT... can also confront him with reality...

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Martin Wolf: The Libertarian Fantasies of Cryptocurrencies: "the state can be a dangerous monster. But it is also essential: it is humanity’s ultimate insurance mechanism. The world of anarchy is one of competing bandits. It is far better to have just one, as the late Mancur Olson argued in Power and Prosperity. Moreover, he added, liberal democracy helps tame that bandit. States exist to provide essential public goods. Money is a public good par excellence. That is why dispensing with the role of governments in money is a fantasy. The history of the so-called cryptocurrencies demonstrates this.... The best way to view cryptocurrencies is as speculative tokens of no intrinsic value. One could have value if it became the currency of choice of a jurisdiction. Yet there is a compelling reason why, in normal circumstances, people use the currency of their own government.... As the Financial Times’ Izabella Kaminska and Martin Walker of the Center for Evidence-Based Management argued in evidence for the House of Commons Treasury committee, so far the cryptocurrency craze has made online criminality easier, created bubbles, fleeced naive investors, imposed grotesque waste in so-called 'mining', offered funding for malfeasance and facilitated tax evasion.... It is no longer enough to bleat in favour of 'innovation' or 'freedom'...

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The long con, behavioral economics, and the mass- and social-media nature of the modern public sphere collide in ways that I do not understand, but that I think may be very important: Neil Steinberg: What's next? 'Hi, This Is A Scam! Grab Your Wallet So We Can Cheat You!': "'Social Security numbers do not get suspended', the Federal Trade Commission points out on its web page devoted to this scam. 'Ever'. Are there people who don’t know this? Apparently so. Which raises the question: Why base your scam on something a halfway savvy person knows to be false? For exactly that reason.... Fraud is... about identifying the most credulous, the choicest marks, and going after them. It’s a manpower issue.... Scams fall into two categories: fear and greed.... Fear and/or greed already in the victims-to-be make them party to their own defrauding, but inspires an unspoken complicity that blunts their ability to realize they’ve been had. The resilience of the cheated is plain if we look at... those who supported Donald Trump...

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A very welcome shift from a central that two months ago looked hell-bent on a policy likely to cause recession. What explains the shift, however? I do not understand why their policy was what it was two months ago. While I understand their policy now, and while I approve of their shift, I do not understand the why: Frances Coppola: What Is The Real Reason For The Fed's Sudden Decision To Stop Raising Interest Rates?: "The Fed has put the brakes on. At its latest monetary policy meeting, the FOMC left interest rates unchanged and said it would be 'patient' about further interest rate rises. Furthermore, the FOMC’s forward guidance about the pace of balance sheet reduction says that it is 'prepared to adjust any of the details for completing balance sheet normalization in light of economic and financial developments', including reversing course and doing more QE if necessary. Yet only a month ago, the Fed was signaling two interest rate rises in 2019 and no change in the pace of balance sheet reduction. What has caused this sudden change of heart?...

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"Now, the thing is, legitimate-seeming businesses can't just give you porn links all the time, because that's Not Safe For Work, so the job of most modern recommendation algorithms is to return the closest thing to porn that is still Safe For Work": Apenwarr: Forget Privacy: You're Terrible at Targeting Anyway: "Let's get rich on targeted ads and personalized recommendation algorithms. It's what everyone else does! Or do they? The state of personalized recommendations is surprisingly terrible. At this point, the top recommendation is always a clickbait rage-creating article about movie stars or whatever Trump did or didn't do in the last 6 hours. Or if not an article, then a video or documentary. That's not what I want to read or to watch, but I sometimes get sucked in anyway, and then it's recommendation apocalypse time, because the algorithm now thinks I like reading about Trump, and now everything is Trump. Never give positive feedback to an AI...

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Would somebody please tell me what the Brexiters want?

Do they want to stay in the customs union? Do they want a hard border in the Irish Sea? Do they want a hard border within Ireland? What is Theresa May asking for? What are the "alternative arrangements to prevent a hard border with Northern Ireland" and yet allow the collection of customs and the exclusion of commodities that do not meet European standards that they seek?

14.5% of British GDP is exported to the EU. 3.5% of EU GDP is exported to Britain. Demonstrating that being in the EU is a good deal relative to other options is an important value for the EU. Evans-Pritchard never says—nor does he comment that the German economists whom he praises also call for the UK government to abandon its "red lines". What is Theresa May willing to give up that the EU values in order to secure the removal of the Irish Backstop?:

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: German Anger Builds Over Dangerous Handling of Brexit by EU Ideologues: "A group of top German economists has told the EU to tear up the Irish backstop and ditch its ideological demands in Brexit talks, calling instead for a flexible Europe of concentric circles that preserves friendly ties with the UK.... The report implicitly rebuked the European Commission for mishandling its negotiations with Britain and for trying to use the legal advantage of the Article 50 process to dictate a harsh settlement, with little regard for long-term strategic and diplomatic interests...

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What is going on with "Brexit"? To everybody outside Britain—no, not outside Britain, outside England—it is a bizarre and incomprehensible mystery. But here, I believe, Hari Kunzru gets as close as an outsider can to understanding why the English political class is engaged in this farcical tragedy of policy: Hari Kunzru: Fool Britannia: "Heroic Failure: Brexit and the Politics of Pain, by Fintan O’Toole.... The battle over Europe has been fought not over the... open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic... NHS funding, or traffic flow through Dover, let alone harmonized airline regulations or the trading benefits of a Canada-plus model... but through Spitfires, Cornish pasties, singing 'Jerusalem' on the last night of the Proms, and what the Irish historian and journalist Fintan O’Toole calls 'the strange sense of imaginary oppression that underlies Brexit'...

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Fairly Recently: Must- and Should-Reads, and Writings... (February 12, 2019)


  1. Hoisted from the Archives: Cosma Shalizi (2007): Those Voices Again...: : "Q: Do you ever get tired of beating that dead horse? A: It's not dead yet; that horse will keep kicking until the last person who thinks there's something to The Bell Curve is hanged in the entrails of the last Durkheimian...

  2. Note to Self: Kim Clausing: Open: The Progressive Case for Free Trade, Immigration, and Global Capital: "Monday, February 11, 2019 from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM (PST). IRLE. 2521 Channing Way. Berkeley, CA 94720: "With the winds of trade war blowing as they have not done in decades and Left and Right flirting with protectionism, Kimberly Clausing shows how a free, open economy is still the best way to advance the interests of working Americans. She offers strategies to train workers, improve tax policy, and establish a partnership between labor and business...

  3. Please Help Me Out Here!: The Charge of the Brexit Brigade: “Forward, the Brexit Brigade!” Was there a man dismayed? Not though the soldier knew Someone had blundered...

  4. It Is Saturday Morning, and Joe Weisenthal Is Trying to Start a... Symposium... on Twitter: Make mine Professor Cornelius Ampleforth’s navy-strength bathtub gin: Joe Weisenthal: @TheStalwart: "Should I do a tweetstorm on what I think mainstream Keynesians like @paulkrugman @Nouriel and @ObsoleteDogma get wrong about Bitcoin?... I think most Keynesian types see Bitcoin as a horribly inefficient medium of exchange, whose loudest advocates include many scammers, charlatans, misanthropes, and Austrian economics adherents. And tbh, this is basically all true. But...

  5. This Is Nuts. When's the Crash?: The highly-estimable FT Alphaville has long had a series: This is nuts. When's the crash?. That is my reaction to learning that Hoover Institution senior fellows are now crypto... It is not at all clear to me whether they are grifters or griftees here... I had known about John Taylor, but had thought that was a strange one-off. And now Niall Ferguson. Is anybody even pretending to have a business model other than pump-and-dump? I think the only appropriate response is here: Moon Lambo...

Continue reading "Fairly Recently: Must- and Should-Reads, and Writings... (February 12, 2019)" »

It is journalistic malpractice for any story about Donald Trump to not begin with these seven facts: Dan Froomkin: Some Universal Truths About Donald Trump that Bear Repeating (Over and Over Again) – Dan Froomkin's White House Watch: "While reading this morning’s crop of news and opinion, it struck me that there are several good examples here of stories that identify universal truths about Trump that are too often left out of the daily coverage... [but] are essential context for any story about him. And not just fact-checks or think pieces! Because how can readers possibly be expected to understand what is going on otherwise? [1] He lies all the time.... [2] He has no idea what he’s talking about most of the time.... [3] He is acting out of a profound sense of personal terror–of Mueller, of Ann Coulter, of losing the Senate Republicans.... [4] He is constantly projecting. See CNN, Trump says China is ‘more honorable than Chuck and Nancy‘.... [5] There is no 'White House'.... [6] He is only playing to his base, nobody and nothing else matters anymore..... [7] He is exploiting (and exposing!) how the U.S. presidency has too much unchecked power...

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The extremely good American Economic Association Presidential Address. The takeaway: fear of government debt should be a second-order consideration in a time of low interest rates. And I would go further: because problems created by government debt can be dealt with at low societal cost via financial repression, it should be not a second- but a third- or fourth-order consideration: Olivier Blanchard: Public Debt and Low Interest Rates: "New theoretical foundations for how to think about fiscal policy and debt, which will stimulate the policy research agenda for the profession for years to come...

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Now you can watch the video: Peterson Institute: Confronting Inequality: How Societies can Choose Inclusive Growth: "The Peterson Institute for International Economics holds an event to present the book, Confronting Inequality: How Societies can Choose Inclusive Growth, on January 31, 2019. The book’s authors, Jonathan Ostry, Prakash Loungani, and Andrew Berg of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), along with PIIE Nonresident Senior Fellow Jason Furman and Heather Boushey...

10 Year Treasury Constant Maturity Minus 2 Year Treasury Constant Maturity FRED St Louis Fed

Finally, the Federal Reserve seems to have realized that its policy of driving headlong toward a yield-curve inversion was unwise. So they are "rethinking". But I am not yet confident that they are out of the woods. While the Federal Reserve may not believe that the slowing economy will relieve inflationary pressures, financial markets still believe that the economy will slow so much as to perhaps produce a recession. This strongly suggests that the Federal Reserve is right now—even with its "rethink"—getting the balance of risks wrong: Tim Duy: Fed Holding Steady For Now: "I think the Fed will on net conclude that there exists reason to believe that the economy will slow in 2019 relative to 2018 but the degree of slowing remains uncertain and not clearly sufficient to relieve inflationary pressures. As such, I doubt that the Fed will drop its internal bias toward further tightening.... That bias is clearly evident externally in the Fed’s Summary of Economic Projections. It is also evident in the statement with this sentence: 'The Committee judges that some further gradual increases in the target range for the federal funds rate will be consistent with sustained expansion of economic activity, strong labor market conditions, and inflation near the Committee’s symmetric 2 percent objective over the medium term'...

Cosma Shalizi (2007): Those Voices Again...: Hoisted from the Archives

Cosma Shalizi (2007): Those Voices Again: "Q: Do you ever get tired of beating that dead horse?

A: It's not dead yet; that horse will keep kicking until the last person who thinks there's something to The Bell Curve is hanged in the entrails of the last Durkheimian.

Q: I really did not need that image, thank you very much. So you're perfectly happy to agree that there is genetic variation in the human population which affects the facility with which various cognitive skills are learned, and so mental ability?

A: Sure. In a more cautious mood, instead of saying "there is" I'd say "there could be, for all we know at present, which seems to be squat". But, sure.

Q: And yet, miraculously, this genetic variation is somehow not under natural selection?

A: Did I say anything of the kind? I can think off the top of my head of a really obvious example of recent human evolution, and gene-culture co-evolution at that, namely the four independent evolutions of adult lactose tolerance. For that matter, over the last, oh, 515 years basically the whole human population has been put under intense selection pressure for immune systems which easily develop resistance to smallpox. My guess is that this sort of thing overwhelms any selection pressure for, say, facility of learning symbolic arithmetic (in which symbol system, by what pedagogical method?), unless there are truly weird pleiotropic genes in play....

Q: Could there be traits under selection in the present?

A: I am pretty sure that genes contributing to resistance to malaria, cholera, schistosomiasis and malnutrition continue to be positively selected.

Q: Any more interesting suspects?

A: The prospects for influenza resistance look bright.

Q: You know what I meant.

A: You're asking me to pull speculations out of the air.... People are going to think I'm advancing a genetic explanation for the Flynn Effect, when it's much too strong for it to be due to any remotely plausible degree of selection...

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It is starting to look like Theresa May is aiming at forcing Britain's House of Commons to make a late-March choice between Her Deal and No Deal. A British patriot would be going to the country to ask it to make a choice between Her Deal and No Brexit. But, alas, countries do not get the political and moral non-dwarfs that they need: Rafael Behr: May Thinks She’s Won. But the Reality of Brexit Will Soon Hit Her Again: "Inside the addict’s head the most important thing is getting to the next Brexit fix, scoring the best deal. But from the outside, to our European friends and family, it is obvious that the problem is the compulsive pursuit of a product that does us only harm.... Some MPs can see the situation spiralling out of control. Today 298 lined up to demand an intervention. They backed a cross-party bid to seize control of the Brexit agenda from the government... But the move failed...

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WCEG's Raksha Kopparam makes a very nice catch, and sends us to the enter for Financial Services Innovation's “U.S. Financial Health Pulse: 2018 Baseline Survey”: Raksha Kopparam: New Financial Health Survey Shows That Traditional Metrics of Economic Growth Don’t Apply to Most U.S. Households’ Incomes and Savings: "Single aggregate data points do not capture how economic growth is experienced by different people in very different ways.... Underscoring the importance of knowing who specifically benefits from a strong economy is a new survey by the Center for Financial Services Innovation...

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The wise Kevin O'Rourke tells me what is going on with respect to Brexit. That Theresa May's current demand from the EU is that the EU give her permission to break Britain's word in the Good Friday agreement tells us that her thinking is not something any sane statesman can follow. And what confidence can anybody have in the word of an England that would ask for such permission, anyway?:

Kevin O'Rourke: The EU Has No Incentive to Blink on the Irish Border Question: "For Ireland, no deal means a border, but that is hardly the end of the story. Sooner or later someone in the UK will decide that it is time to “sort things out”, and that will mean further negotiations. Abandon the principle that a backstop is required and any border that emerges will be permanent. Retain it and the border may only be temporary. There is still the possibility that the UK will, after all, keep its promises. And Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, will be eviscerated by the opposition if he backs down. An accidental no-deal Brexit is frighteningly likely. It is made more likely by miscommunication and miscalculation. Now is the time for clarity about what will happen if it comes about...

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Things I did not expect to see. Do note that Hobsbawm does not think it necessary—or cannot be bothered to remember?—one single concrete example here: Eric Hobsbawm: In Praise of Thatcher:

The Age of Extremes A History of the World 1914 1991 Eric Hobsbawm 9780679730057 Amazon com Books The Age of Extremes A History of the World 1914 1991 Eric Hobsbawm 9780679730057 Amazon com Books

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Bernhard Mueller: The Definitive Guide to Becoming a Crypto Maximalist: "The first rule of maximalism is that there is no maximalism. You’re simply a normal person that, based on objective facts, concluded that there’s only one valid cryptocurrency.... You see the big picture. Your cryptocurrency has gifted you sunglasses of truth. Elegantly juggling monetary economics, socioeconomics, game theory and computer science, you have untangled the complex dynamics of real-world distributed multi-agent systems, paving the way to a fair and efficient new world economy. Keep in mind that others may simply lack the education, critical thinking skills or plain intelligence to achieve this comprehensive level of understanding.... Other coins have fake communities that are orchestrated by malicious groups or individuals. They won’t shy away from spending billions to purchase followers and attack your network and social media channels. Yours is the only community bound by ethical rules while the others use every trick in the book. Your coin is doing everything right...

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Equitable Growth's Heather Boushey engaged with Jonathan Ostry, Prakash Loungani, Andrew Berg, and Jason Furman at the Peterson Instute on Thursday January 31: Peterson Institute: Book discussion: Confronting Inequality: How Societies Can Choose Inclusive Growth: "Book discussion with Jonathan Ostry, @LounganiPrakash, and Andrew Berg of @IMFNews on Confronting Inequality: How Societies Can Choose Inclusive Growth with additional comments with @jasonfurman of PIIE & Heather Boushey of @equitablegrowth. January 31, 12:15 pm...

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John B. Donaldson and Rajnish Mehra: Average Crossing Time: An Alternative Characterization of Mean Aversion and Reversion: "The mean reversion/aversion distinction is largely artificial.... The ‘Average Crossing Time’... both unifies these concepts and provides an alternative characterization. Ceteris paribus, mean reverting processes have a relatively shorter average crossing time as compared to mean averting processes...

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I confess, I have never understood why so many people have been so eager to credit Charles Murray as a quantitative social scientist rather than as a latter-day James J. Kilpatrick or Murray Rothbard. Nor have I understood why Jason DeParle was so eager to... sweeten the beat... in his 1994 profile of Murray, rather than to ask even one follow-up question about the KKK and the civil rights movement in Iowa in 1960.

Here Phil Cohen pushes back: Philip N. Cohen: Charles Murray: A White Man’s Cross Burning: "There are powerful individuals representing institutional interests, such as Charles Murray, who spent decades on the dole of non-profit organizations funded by the foundations of the rich.... He and his defenders have always impugned those who assign racist motives to his work.... A biological racial hierarchy in genetic intelligence.... A coalition that includes Murray, defends itself from that charge by claiming it’s not racist if it’s true, and it has fallen to human geneticists to debunk their claims.... Shawn Fremstad reminded me that Murray and his friends burned a cross in 1960.... Here is the very cursory story, in a 1994 New York Times profile [by Jason de Parle] for the release of his book The Bell Curve...

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Should I say that I actually wanted to give a slightly more nuanced take? Or should I just accept my karma, for Twitter is not for nuance? "Essentially" does too much work here: Propane Jane: On Twitter: "Here’s why economist Brad DeLong believes libertarianism is essentially a form of White supremacy.... Cody Fenwick: Here’s Why Economist Brad Delong Believes Libertarianism Is Essentially a Form of White Supremacy: 'Libertarianism "is a Frankenstein’s monster" that got its power from resistance to the Civil Rights Movement...

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The learned and much-worth-listening-to Eric Alterman has darkened my day. I do, however, think it is time for everyone whose career was boosted by making the Faustian bargain of catering to Marty Peretz's bigotries, prejudices, and envies to exit the public sphere, quietly. Perhaps I should make an exception for Peter Beinart, who has done some atonement: Martin Peretz (2007): Tyran-a-Soros: "GEORGE SOROS LUNCHED with some reporters on Saturday at Davos. He talked about spending $600 million on civil society projects during the 1990s, then trying to cut back to $300 million, and how this year it will be between $450 and $500 million. His new projects aim, in Floyd Norris’s words, to promote a 'common European foreign policy' (read: an anti-American foreign policy) and also to study the integration (or so he thinks) of Muslims in eleven European cities...

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Note to Self: Monday, February 11, 2019 from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM (PST). IRLE. 2521 Channing Way. Berkeley, CA 94720: Kim Clausing: Open: The Progressive Case for Free Trade, Immigration, and Global Capital "With the winds of trade war blowing as they have not done in decades and Left and Right flirting with protectionism, Kimberly Clausing shows how a free, open economy is still the best way to advance the interests of working Americans. She offers strategies to train workers, improve tax policy, and establish a partnership between labor and business...

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Tom Scocca*Author*: Can a Journalist as Important as Jill Abramson Be a Plagiarist?: "Here’s one part of one set of Moynihan’s examples: 'In December 2006, Mojica and two friends traveled to Chad with a camera to explore why Darfur couldn’t be saved. The result was the 2008 documentary Christmas in Darfur' . 'In December 2006 he and two friends traveled to Chad with a camera to explore why Darfur couldn’t be saved. The result was the 2008 documentary Christmas in Darfur'. That’s a string of 29 words... and a string identically presenting 28 of the same words, published in Abramson’s book as Abramson’s writing. The one-word difference is that Abramson swapped out the subject’s name for a pronoun. Abramson’s passage was plagiarized. Jill Abramson is a plagiarist...

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Please Help Me Out Here!

The Charge of the Brexit Brigade: “Forward, the Brexit Brigade!”
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
Someone had blundered.

Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

White papers to right of them,
Pollsters to left of them,
Presslords in front of them
Volleyed and thundered...

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One problem with this from Tim Harford is that a broad, constructive, win-win deal that Theresa May can sell as a win to her coalition may not be in everybody's interest. The people of the EU have a short-run material interest in avoiding the economic pain of a disorderly Brexit. But the governance of the EU also has a short-run ideal interest that may be a long-run material, ideal, and existential interest in demonstrating that leaving the EU turns your country into a desperately dorky clown show. the governance of Ireland certainly believes that its material interest in avoiding disorderly Brexit is less important than its material interact in not endorsing and not allowing the EU to endorse border controls in Ireland.

Tim Harford—and Theresa May—may think that Britain is playing chicken with the EU. But it looks much more to me like Theresa May is reenacting the charge of the light brigade, having cast the EU as the bemused Russian cannoneers:

Tim Harford: Brexit as a Game of Chicken : "A second insight from Schelling: the difference between deterrence and what he called “compellence”. Deterrence dissuades action, but compellence means persuading or threatening someone so that they do act...

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Ed Luce: Only the UK Leads America in Its Rush to Kakistocracy: "Democrats talk[ing] about being 'socialists'... mean the kinds of things centre-right governments support in Europe... universal health coverage, tough regulation of monopolies and sharply progressive taxation. They do not mean Venezuela. That contrast alone is enough to give hope about the relative health of US democracy. But it is no reason to crow. If Britain is the only big democracy that is screwing up worse than you, it is best to keep calm and change the subject...

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It Is Saturday Morning, and Joe Weisenthal Is Trying to Start a... Symposium... on Twitter

It is Saturday morning, and Joe Weisenthal is trying to start a... symposium... on Twitter.

Make mine Professor Cornelius Ampleforth’s navy-strength bathtub gin:

Joe Weisenthal: @TheStalwart: "Should I do a tweetstorm on what I think mainstream Keynesians like @paulkrugman @Nouriel and @ObsoleteDogma get wrong about Bitcoin?... I think most Keynesian types see Bitcoin as a horribly inefficient medium of exchange, whose loudest advocates include many scammers, charlatans, misanthropes, and Austrian economics adherents. And tbh, this is basically all true. But...

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Dan Goodin: Fire (and Lots of It): Berkeley Researcher on the Only Way to Fix Cryptocurrency: "Nicholas Weaver says bitcoin and other digital coins recapitulate 500 years of failure... characterized bitcoin and its many follow-on digital currencies as energy-sucking leeches with no redeeming qualities. Their chief, if not only, function, he said, is to fund ransomware campaigns, online drug bazaars, and other criminal enterprises...

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Genius no-longer-quite-so-young whippersnapper Ezra is, I think, massively overly polite here: As Ezra Klein say, Jill Abramson is part of a system that regards giving credit to others for the work they have done as a sign of weakness: Spend any time drinking with other reporters and ask them about New York Times journalists. You may well hear that they go out of their way to pretend that they have done work actually done by others, and have a strong positive aversion to acknowledging even the existence of other journalists. This attitude appears baked into their culture. This does not strike me as something the would be true of any group of people worth admiring. And Abramson appears to have it in spades.

I would note that Abramson—and, increasingly, the rest of the New York Times—these days appears to be doubling-down on anti-blogging: access not explainer journalism; stenography for favored sources not working for readers. I am not sure why they want to double-down on this, just as I am not sure why Jill Abramson thought she should carry here disdain for others working on the story beyond the book-publishing and academic plagiarism red lines, but it seems to be what they do—like saving 15% or more on car insurance:

Ezra Klein: @ezraklein: "I've long admired Jill Abramson, but the definition of plagiarism she gives here is a... looser one than has been true at the publications I've worked at, and I think it shows less generosity in citation than is appropriate...

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This Is Nuts. When's the Crash?

The highly-estimable FT Alphaville has long had a series: This is nuts. When's the crash?. That is my reaction to learning that Hoover Institution senior fellows are now crypto...

It is not at all clear to me whether they are grifters or griftees here...

I had known about John Taylor, but had thought that was a strange one-off. And now Niall Ferguson. Is anybody even pretending to have a business model other than pup-and-dump? I think the only appropriate response is here:


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Fairly Recently: Must- and Should-Reads, and Writings... (February 8, 2019)


  1. Debt Derangement Syndrome: Fresh at Project Syndicate: Standard policy economics dictates that the public sector needs to fill the gap in aggregate demand when the private sector is not spending enough. After a decade of denial, the Global North may finally be returning to economic basics...

  2. A Rant on Trump, Trade, and China...: Then, lo and behold, suddenly someone convinces trump that the TPP is the second-worst trade deal in American history—"it's almost as bad as NAFTA!"—and you switch sides: all of a sudden you are there on Trish Regan's show claiming the TPP is a horrible deal for America...

  3. Weekend Reading: : Trust and the Benefit of the Doubt: Dietz Vollrath sends us to a classic story from the late Douglas Adams.... 'This actually did happen to a real person, and the real person was me...

  4. I Want to Take a Virtual Course on the Public Sphere in the Age of Costless Electronic Reproduction. What Should I Read?

  5. Comment of the Day: Kansas Jack: A Very Nice Twitter Rant from Tom Nichols: "It isn't about anything of substance, it is about being pissed off. Period. About what? Doesn't matter.... It wasn't that it fell on deaf ears because they couldn't understand, they simply didn't care. And the more it mattered to you, the happier they were...

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A Rant on Trump, Trade, and China...

Clowns (ICP)

I'm still trying to come to terms with my Commonwealth Club event with Steve Moore last month. As therapy, I took some of my less-than-coherent ravings and tried to turn then into proper rant:

Steve, what you are saying is simply delusional.

You keep saying that Xi needs to deal. Why? Because, you say, Trump is deadly serious on China an sod will not back down.

Do remember that Trump declared victory on reforming NAFTA, "the worst trade deal in the history of the world", with small adjustments on autoparts rules-of-origin. Small adjustment on auto parts were enough to transform NAFTA, in Trump's mind, from the worst trade deal in the history of the world into something he is now very proud of. Xi has to be thinking that he should deal with Trump the same way that Mexico did—hang tough, provide a few symbolic concessions only, and Trump will cave. then things will go go back to business-as-usual.

What is there in the situation that would keep that from being the obvious strategy for Xi to follow?

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Barry Ritholtz: Art of the Deal, Scott Walker Style: "As we discussed, the Foxconn-Wisconsin tax giveaway is unfolding as per expectations. Via Businessweek, here is 'The Art of the Deal', Scott Walker style: 'Interviews with 49 people familiar with Foxconn’s Wisconsin project, including more than a dozen current and former employees close to its efforts there, show how hollow the boosters’ assurances have been all along.... Insiders describe a chaotic environment with ever-changing goals far different from what Trump and others promised. Walker and the White House declined to comment for this story, although a Trump administration official says the White House would be “disappointed” by any reduced investment. The only consistency, many of these people say, lay in how obvious it was that Wisconsin struck a weak deal. Under the terms Walker negotiated, each job at the Mount Pleasant factory is projected to cost the state at least 219,000 in tax breaks and other incentives. The good or extra-bad news, depending on your perspective, is that there probably won’t be 13,000 of them.' Shocking, but not surprising...

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David Weil: In Conversation: "Franchising started to spread... a form of business organization that allows you to shed and yet control.... Information technology facilitated this because you have lower-cost mechanisms to monitor subsidiary organizations.... The end result is you have broken apart the employment relationships.... If you think this is just about employers trying to weasel out of their responsibilities, you miss this more fundamental change... [are] underestimating the difficulty of unwinding that behavior or changing that behavior in some way to deal with the consequences in the labor market...

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Back in the depths of the Great Recession, employers said that they wanted, needed, and required college graduates and the highly experienced. But what they meant was that they thought high unemployment meant that they could get overqualified workers when they went to the labor market. Now that unemployment has fallen, these needs and requirements have vanished.

Employers still want over-qualified workers. But they are no longer asking for them becuase they no longer expect to be able to get them:

Matthew Yglesias: The “Skills Gap” Was a Lie: "Alicia Sasser Modestino, Daniel Shoag, and Joshua Ballance... the skeptics were right... employers responded to high unemployment by making their job descriptions more stringent. When unemployment went down thanks to the demand-side recovery, suddenly employers got more relaxed again.... The skills gap was the consequence of high unemployment rather than its cause. With workers plentiful, employers got choosier. Rather than investing in training workers, they demanded lots of experience and educational credentials. And while job skills are obviously important, when the labor market is healthy employers have incentives to try to impart skills to workers rather than posting advertorial content about how the government should fix this problem for them...

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This is, I think, wrong: The Reagan-Thatcher era was solidified not by renewed economic growth but rather by the conquest of inflation and upward redistribution of wealth to the already-wealthy: Gideon Rachman: The Trump era could last 30 years | Financial Times: "The rapid spread of this new political style could be just the beginning of a new era that lasts decades. But there is one major qualification to this idea, that distressed liberals should hang on to. If the period of emulation and intensification is to last, the populist movement needs more than electoral success. It also needs to point to results in the real world. The trente glorieuses were deemed glorious because living standards were visibly rising across the west. In the same way, the Reagan-Thatcher era was solidified by renewed economic growth and victory in the cold war. By contrast, Brexit is in deep trouble and the Trump administration is floundering. Unless populists can deliver tangible results, their new era could yet die in its infancy...

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Dietz Vollrath (2017): Who Are You Calling "Malthusian"?: "I’m not sure how to reply. I’m not a Malthusian 'believer', because that isn’t a thing. But I do think that several of Malthus’ assumptions about how economies function, in particular prior to the onset of sustained growth during the 1800’s, are well founded. And those assumptions have implications that help make sense of the world in that period of time:

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Michael Mitterauer: Why Europe?: The Medieval Origins of Its Special Path: "While most historians have located the beginning of Europe’s special path in the rise of state power in the modern era, Mitterauer establishes its origins in rye and oats. These new crops played a decisive role in remaking the European family, he contends, spurring the rise of individualism and softening the constraints of patriarchy. Mitterauer reaches these conclusions by comparing Europe with other cultures, especially China and the Islamic world, while surveying the most important characteristics of European society as they took shape from the decline of the Roman empire to the invention of the printing press. Along the way, Why Europe? offers up a dazzling series of novel hypotheses to explain the unique evolution of European culture...

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An argument that all of behavioral economics is just a set of footnotes to Pierre Laplace: Joshua B. Miller and Andrew Gelman: Laplace’s Theories of Cognitive Illusions, Heuristics, and Biases: "Essai Philosophique sur les Probabilities anticipated many ideas developed within the past 50 years in cognitive psychology and behavioral economics, explaining human tendencies to deviate from norms of rationality in the presence of probability and uncertainty.... Laplace’s theories and reasoning... how modern they seem, how much progress he made without the benefit of systematic experimentation, and the novelty of a few of his unexplored conjectures. We argue that this work points to these theories being more fundamental and less contingent on recent experimental findings than we might have thought...

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Weekend Reading: Trust and the Benefit of the Doubt

Douglas adams Google Search

Weekend Reading: Dietz Vollrath sends us to a classic story from the late Douglas Adams: Douglas Adams: Trust and the Benefit of the Doubt: "This actually did happen to a real person, and the real person was me. I had gone to catch a train. This was April 1976, in Cambridge, U.K. I was a bit early for the train. I’d gotten the time of the train wrong. I went to get myself a newspaper to do the crossword, and a cup of coffee and a packet of cookies. I went and sat at a table. I want you to picture the scene. It’s very important that you get this very clear in your mind. Here’s the table, newspaper, cup of coffee, packet of cookies. There’s a guy sitting opposite me, perfectly ordinary-looking guy wearing a business suit, carrying a briefcase. It didn’t look like he was going to do anything weird. What he did was this: he suddenly leaned across, picked up the packet of cookies, tore it open, took one out, and ate it...

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Bruce Bartlett (October 9, 2012): Partisan Bias and Economic Forecasts: "On Sept. 27... James Pethokoukis, now employed by the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said that the United States economy was 'running out of steam' and that there was now a 50 percent chance of a recession within a year. 'It may be several years before we see unemployment below 8 percent'.... On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the unemployment rate in September was 7.8 percent. On Sept. 29... David Malpass... took a similarly bearish view.... Current economic data, he said, “point to a recession in 2013.” On Oct. 1, Brian Wesbury... raised the risk of a recession to 25 percent in his weekly client letter.... In July, Mr. Malpass was predicting 2 percent real gross domestic product growth in 2012 and 3 percent in both 2013 and 2014.... [In] September survey, Mr. Wesbury was predicting 2.3 percent real growth in 2012.... The average forecast for all economists surveyed by The Journal in September was 1.9 percent real G.D.P. growth in 2012, 2.4 percent in 2013 and 2.9 percent in 2014.... None of the economists surveyed has predicted even a single quarter of negative real growth within the forecast window. Typically, a recession requires two back-to-back quarters of negative real growth...

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