The CIA's attempts to suppress the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on its interrogation methods has made its way out of page A12 land, because DiFi's unhappy that the CIA has been suppressing documents in real time and spying on the staff members working on the report.

Via Anne Laurie, Amy Davidson at the New Yorker has a summary.

Emptywheel hopes DiFi is ready for battle.

Unfortunately, at this point it seems to be a question of whether the executive branch can be shamed into compliance with the law and the constitution.  The fact that the malefactors have stayed in their positions bodes ill for that result.

Snowden Takes Questions

Ed Snowden held a press conference via twitter yesterday. Or I should say an open Q&A that some journalists attended.  A couple of highlights, but, you know, read the whole thing. 

Jake Tapper of CNN:

@jaketapper #AskSnowden Under what conditions would you agree to return to the U.S.?

Returning to the US, I think, is the best resolution for the government, the public, and myself, but it’s unfortunately not possible in the face of current whistleblower protection laws, which through a failure in law did not cover national security contractors like myself.

The hundred-year old law under which I’ve been charged, which was never intended to be used against people working in the public interest, and forbids a public interest defense. This is especially frustrating, because it means there’s no chance to have a fair trial, and no way I can come home and make my case to a jury.

Maybe when Congress comes together to end the programs the PCLOB just announced was illegal, they’ll reform the Whistleblower Protection Act, and we’ll see a mechanism for all Americans, no matter who they work for, to get a fair trial.


@RagBagUSA #AskSnowden what (in your opinion) is the appropriate extent of US national security apparatus? Surely some spying is needed?

Not all spying is bad. The biggest problem we face right now is the new technique of indiscriminate mass surveillance, where governments are seizing billions and billions and billions of innocents’ communication every single day. This is done not because it’s necessary — after all, these programs are unprecedented in US history, and were begun in response to a threat that kills fewer Americans every year than bathtub falls and police officers — but because new technologies make it easy and cheap.

I think a person should be able to dial a number, make a purchase, send an SMS, write an email, or visit a website without having to think about what it’s going to look like on their permanent record. Particularly when we now have courts, reports from the federal government, and even statements from Congress making it clear these programs haven’t made us any more safe, we need to push back.

This is a global problem, and America needs to take the lead in fixing it. If our government decides our Constitution’s 4th Amendment prohibition against unreasonable seizures no longer applies simply because that’s a more efficient means of snooping, we’re setting a precedent that immunizes the government of every two-bit dictator to perform the same kind of indiscriminate, dragnet surveillance of entire populations that the NSA is doing.

It’s not good for our country, it’s not good for the world, and I wasn’t going to stand by and watch it happen, no matter how much it cost me. The NSA and the rest of the US Intelligence Community is exceptionally well positioned to meet our intelligence requirements through targeted surveillance — the same way we’ve always done it — without resorting to the mass surveillance of entire populations.

When we’re sophisticated enough to be able to break into any device in the world we want to (up to and including Angela Merkel’s phone, if reports are to be believed), there’s no excuse to be wasting our time collecting the call records of grandmothers in Missouri.


I get very irked in policy discussions when people  fetishize private sector solutions.  These people believe (I wish I could say "seem to believe") that a good or service delivered by a private entity is inherently better than one delivered by a public entity, who believe that a "market solution" is better because it is a market solution. This is wrong. The reason successful, capitalist economies mostly rely on market solutions is because they are mostly more efficient. That is, the use of market incentives in a lightly regulated economy generally leads to an allocation that produces the most goods that are most desired by most people.  

And markets ARE extraordinary,  When I used to travel on business, I would sometimes forget to bring enough dress shirts. But that was never a problem, because I could always just go buy a new one. Such a shirt consists of components, raw material and manufacturing value added from all over the world. Cotton from Egypt is converted to shirting in China that's combined with buttons from India and thread from Bangladesh in an assembly plant in Malaysia that is put into plastic bags made in  Hong Kong, to be shipped off to the US.  Then the shirts are stocked at a Nordstrom's in a mall in Topeka, waiting for me to pick one up.  This incredibly complex supply chain is called into being almost entirely by the Invisible Hand power of market forces.

We are better off with a shirt production and distribution process that is not run by a group of central decision-maker determining how many shirts to make, and where to send them. This is how the Soviet economy was organized, and it worked out very badly, even aside from the corruption that inevitably results if you give some small group of decision-makers this kind of power.

But just as we know for sure command and control economies are a disaster, we also know there are instances where private markets don't work.  The most obvious examples involve goods that must be bought collectively, like national defense services and equipment. Trying to work out a scheme to privatize national defense services would be a crazy pursuit of a private sector solution.  

There are plenty of other examples, and there are even instances where it's not obviously crazy to use either public or private sector approaches. But the use of market mechanisms is one of the tools in a policy maker's kit, not an objective to be sought for its own sake.


Taking The "Post-Ideological" At Face Value

I'm not an evangelist. I'm not really so much out to convince people that I'm correct, just to expand their theory arsenal to include the possibility of analysis like mine.

It's clear to me that we've gotten fairly used to certain ways of thinking, and it's also clear to me that we have a long way to go to achieve the credibility and acumen necessary to be in a position to help run the country successfully. I think that some movement liberals, to their vast credit, recognize that they're hearing something that's different, that's maybe a newer method of viewing the relationships between power, ideology, politics and policy.

One of the things that the re-introduction of identity and ideology (dutifully excised by the savvy congregation) into the discussion brings is the necessity for liberals to differentiate ourselves, to define ourselves, really, and to therefore know ourselves --our strengths and weaknesses.

It's interesting to me to hear others relate to me essentially the common theme of the Village: that Obama is post-ideological, and all about savvy political wins, and practical, expert-following technocracy. A movement liberal spins this as we naturally would: "soulless," unprincipled, left-disappointing, anti-populist. The interesting part is that, when you take the pejorative tone away from that description, it's exactly what the Obama Administration sells itself as. They want us (and everyone) to think of them as being beyond ideology, the practical deal-cutters, the winners, the grown-ups who put idealism aside to get things done, who look at politics (and the electorate) objectively as anthropologists, not as activists. They like the idea that they're the smart technocrats. They aspire to those "pejoratives."

So how can this be? How can liberals basically buy the image of these guys that they're so desperate to sell? How can we take them at face value as they (proudly) describe themselves, but with disappointment, since they won't use the power with which we invest them to accomplish our agenda? It seems as if the Administration has won a great victory --even their critics on the left have come to accept their version of reality about who they are, right down to the post-ideological nonsense they love to tout.

It might be because many liberals have essentially only allowed ourselves to ascribe to the New Democrats our own set of movement values about what is good or bad, which necessarily includes bad=sell out, bad=unprincipled, bad=in bed with industry, and bad=lie to the public. The thing is, these are only "bad" to us. We call it "unprincipled," and they call it "post-ideological," and go sell it to the Beltway press corps some more. Hell, in a couple of years from now, they'll be putting it in 2016 commercials.

But what if they were actually forced to define who they are?

You'd get more episodes like this (link to the Times):

Q. Is there one word name for your philosophy? If you're not a socialist, are you a liberal? Are you progressive? One word?

A. No, I'm not going to engage in that.

Q. Mr. President, we need to turn it to foreign policy...

There's something really striking about the militancy with which the New Democrats snarl at questions about their ideology. There's something very, very interesting about this phenomenon. When liberals take their "non-engagement" with the "ideological debates of the past" at face value, we let them off of the hook, in a way. We let them get away with selling a vision truly known only to them, and whoever is close enough to them in the rest of the political-media class. We let them get away with selling the image they want to sell.

Most importantly, we deprive ourselves of an avenue of analysis that could just possibly lead to the answers we ostensibly seek when we throw our hands up in the air and exclaim, like, say, we all did over their "Drill Baby Drill-lite" policy,

"Why? They're smart people, they must know that it's futile to try for Republican votes, why o why are they doing this? What could they possibly even gain? Why would they preemptively concede almost the entire cause? It won't help them politically, the right will still hate them, they're making themselves seem weak and unprincipled, it's bad policy, and for what? Why, why, why?"

It seems pretty apparent that the last answer they want us to think of is "Oh, they must be doing this out of some weird adherence to principle."

I think it's a good thing that finally, movement liberals might start to go where NDN Democrats and their policy wonks don't want us to go, and explore what might be behind the ideological curtain with these people. It doesn't explain everything, but I'm not trying to create a unified theory of everything. I'm just trying to give us another sensible option in terms of explaining what they're doing and predicting what they're going to do...and maybe stopping it.

Ideological And Practical

I am an ideological person.

Saying that one is an ideological person is another way of saying that they adhere firmly to principles, and so that's me.

I try not to be a fanatic, though, and I don't believe that I'm a tribally motivated person.  I think that makes a big difference in people, generally, in terms of contributing rational thought to our democracy.

A non-ideological liberal would be a person who doesn't know what liberalism actually is, but thinks they're a liberal, I suppose.

A person who generally wants to cooperate with (and recognizes the value of) their fellow Americans is simply a patriot, be they left, right or center.

A person who wants compromise for its own sake, and who believes in compromise as the solution to all problems...that person is just as radical of an ideologue as any dedicated Maoist or Ayn Rand devotee. That kind of fetish for compromise is what's known as "radical centrism," and this type of fanatic is especially dangerous, since they believe in the value of a sort of of routine dishonesty that comes from negotiating deals in between two opposing sides. It's like they're perpetually acting as double-agents, in a way.

Also, radical centrists come up with the worst technical solutions to big problems. Conservatives, out of principle, might refuse to use tax-payer money to build another bridge, and liberals, out of principle, might demand that tax-payer money be used to build another bridge.

Centrists will then negotiate against both sides for the worst of all worlds:  they will propose that a lot of tax-payer money be used to build half a bridge, that bridge-building corporations get a special tax break for building it, and that the government pass a law requiring ordinary people to pass over it, or pay a penalty.

Since I'm an ideological liberal, I can see that the principle of compromise amounts to half-a-bridge government in practice. Ideological conservatives can see that, too, which is why they refuse, generally speaking, to bother to compromise with ideological centrists. As it happens, that strategy is working pretty well for conservatives. Liberals haven't learned that lesson quite as well, which is why radical centrists are currently leading the Democratic Party --and our beloved country-- into ruin.

How Did All of this Happen?

I'd like to ask a few questions about how it arose that there is what can be called the center-wing of the Democratic Party.

Questions like:

How did previously (normalized) New Deal premised liberal think tanks become bastions of neoliberalism?  How did Brookings become what it has become, a clearinghouse of Third Way policy?

How did the consensus of economists --even academics, largely insulated from market pressures-- change to that which fundamentally presumes neoclassical descriptions of reality?

How was the national Democratic Party apparatus stolen from New Deal liberals by New Democrats?

How did the national "liberal issue" activist organizations become silo-ed and ideologically divorced from the New Deal political-economic framework that brought about middle-class affluence, widespread higher education and other conditions for social progress in the first place?

How did the bureaucracies of organized labor become the neutered, narrow-interested swamps that the designers of Taft-Hartley obviously intended for that law to produce?

How did the political identity of so many rank and file liberal Democrats become wrapped up in weird, tribal conflict over whose partisan team was the bigger hypocrites, and stylized around morality-play symbolism hucksters working guilt-driven media-consumer benevolence?

How did centrist media bias become the orthodoxy of pro journalism?

And how exactly were "liberals" so catastrophically insulated from ordinary people that, as some say, they didn't see that inch by inch the public was turning against them?

How exactly could it be that these "liberals" had no mechanism for understanding what ordinary Americans were thinking and experiencing?

Who were these "liberals"? How could they become so different from the folks who lived in the rest of America? Could it be that these "liberals" are the very same elites that became the neoconservative and neoliberal consensus-makers in the establishments of both major parties? When one refers to these "liberals," is one really talking about people like Joe Klein and Bob Kerrey?

Liberal values have to do with widely distributed economic and political power, and a rights-oriented civic culture of freedom.

Liberal values are premised on the hard-won knowledge that democracy and capitalism work and are sustainable only when the entities that threaten the power of ordinary people are structurally set against each other. Liberal values posit the proper relationship between the state and monopolistic finance and industry is adversarial, so that powerful public and private interests check and balance each other to the people's benefit. It's not that liberalism is about cheer-leading an all-powerful federal state (that invades and occupies Vietnam/Iraq, spies on MLK/Occupy and hides the Pentagon Papers/suppresses Bradley Manning's downloads). Liberalism is about a federal government that's just big and powerful enough maintain economic and political structures that are independent from rent-seekers, so that "the old enemies of peace" can't hold the population's savings hostage when they lose at the high-finance gambling tables, or threaten people's incomes en masse when labor's not cheap enough for their liking.

Liberalism is about the knowledge that the state isn't the only actor in a market economy whose power we need fear, and the recognition that the only way to keep bureaucracies from their tendencies toward encroachment on the freedoms of ordinary citizens is to empower the government with only that which its agencies require to counter the threat of aristocratic and corporate powers. When the government and the cable company sue each other in public, the people win. When the government and the cable company partner with each other in secret, the people lose. When the press and state officials report on each other, the people win.  When the press and state officials marry each other, the people lose. When the banks fail and the FDIC breaks them up, the people win. When the banks fail, and there's no Social Security, the people lose.

Ordinary folks know these things. We still know these things. People hate powerful, unaccountable government. People hate powerful, unaccountable monopolists. People want power over that which confronts our daily lives, whether it's the TSA or the mortgage servicer. Liberalism was the default American political persuasion for a reason, and I'm not sure that these latter-day "liberals" ever knew what that reason was.

Maybe these "liberals" stopped watching "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Meet John Doe" every year at Christmas with the rest of us, at some point.

I guess what I'm getting at is an answer to how "liberals" somehow became different from "the public."

How did all of this happen?


There's conversation taking place in comment threads, and perhaps even in real life. There are those who believe we need to stay the course with PPACA, that Democrats, and liberals, own the program and need to stand behind it. There are others who believe that the recent implementation problems offer an opportunity to improve the system.  Here's a stylized version of that debate, inspired by the chat accompanying this VS episode.


Stay the Course: The PPACA may not be the best thing evah but, yes, it can get you insurance and it will probably save money for many people, and also save some people's lives


Fix  it Now: I end up explaining that the PPACA is like Ryan's plan for Medicare, except that it carves out a tiny population of sympathetic folks who can stand in as marketing tools for all the other people who are getting screwed.


Stay the Course: Tiny?! It helps millions! Millions of poor people!


Fix  it Now: No it's not! 5 percent! And they're hostages to be ransomed off to insurance companies.


Stay the Course: There's good stuff in there. Negotiated prices on physicians visits and prescription drugs. A huge boon for young couples having children.


Fix  it Now: It's a bad deal. Too much more power given to these monopolies. A bronze plan with 6000 dollar deductibles is no boon.


Stay the Course: It's better than nothing. it's still the law, and still an improvement. We have to fix the damn law, but that is going to take time.


Fix  it Now: What?  We need to stop defending this dog and ruining our credibility.


Stay the Course: Whose credibility?


Fix  it Now: Liberals. If we don't we'll own this steaming pile. We need an atmosphere of constructive criticism and policy alternatives.


Stay the Course: And a pony! What color are the unicorns in your world?


Fix  it Now: They're fuschia. Yours are Bluegrass green. You're touting the "success" of 5000 pre-enrollees in Kentucky. And that's your BEST example. It's ridiculous.


Stay the Course: It always was gonna start slow. And, anyway, we can't get anything through the House.


Fix  it Now: But we take advantage of this clusterfuck to trade the individual mandate delay for something actually good.


Stay the Course: Where will the votes come from?


Fix  it Now: There are 7 members now scared of the mandate. Call Boehner's bluff. Go all bipartisan on him.


Stay the Course: You'd still have to get it through the House.


Fix  it Now: Yeah, but they claim to hate the mandate, that it destroys choice. So give it to them, in exchange for scrapping the antitrust protection. Or SOMETHING that introduces competition takes monopoly power away from the carriers.


Stay the Course: I know! Make the GOP to put up their own plan


Fix  it Now: They tried to shut down the government over the  mandate. So give them the mandate. And get something for it


Stay the Course: But there is no GOP plan! They're cheating! They're not offering anything. Make them commit to something.


Fix  it Now: They’ve got nothing that adds up. And now they've staked themselves to the mandate. We can use that. If Obama wants to.  But he wants HHS to have the final say. We need to douse the mandate suspension with  bipartisan fairy dust.


Stay the Course: No, we need to buckle down and get through this.  It's the camel's nose under the tent. They hate it because they know that if we can keep the ACA afloat through the rest of the term, they'll never be able to reverse it. And THEN we can fix it.


Fix  it Now: I think I’ve seen that movie before.


Why We Want Real Health Care Reform

We're not self-righteous do-gooders who defend government-industry sweetheart deals because we'd do anything to prove how much we care about "the poor" at the expense of everybody else who's working to make better lives for their families --that's the lie the rightists tell about us.

We're for a health care plan that works for 99% of us. The last thing we'd try to do is use the government to elevate our own moral splendor by telling middle class people in a perpetually 7+% unemployment economy to suck it up so we can help everyone but them. That's a Bill O'Reilly caricature, not us.

We're for fixing this thing so that nobody gets told "sorry, you're not the people we're trying to help", so that no ordinary folks are left to "sacrifice for the greater good" of people they don't know. Everybody gets a fair deal, nobody is left out; that's what we're trying to do.

What are they trying to accomplish? Let the rightists talk about how they believe some people are more worthy of fairness than others. Let the rightists talk that un-American crap about us all not being on the same team.
I've been living in New York City since before 9/11 happened, and when I was standing in a line of thousands my fellow Americans outside of a hospital to give blood that day, I didn't hear anybody say a word about how they weren't going to donate to people who somehow didn't "deserve it." I didn't hear anybody tell us we needed a plan to means-test the injured on the floor of that hospital, so that only the "neediest among us" got care, either.  That's what it means to be an American, at least to us. Everybody benefits, nobody is treated unfairly.

Movement liberals are for making the PPACA work for every American, not pitting middle class people's interests against poor people's interests.
FOX's inevitable message of divisiveness can't work in the long run, if we're just honest about who we are, and what we're for.


I want to believe that this is a mistake.  The deductible for an individual is $3000.  So you're out of pocket on the first $3,000 of expenditures.  And then you're out of pocket for 50% until you hit the out of pocket cap of $6350. 

All this coverage costs you is $348 a month. Who would sign up for this? 




Einstein: An Organization of Intellectual Workers

Thanks to Dan Golodner @AFTarchivist and Brett Banditelli @banditelli

Albert Einstein, June 1944

I consider it important, indeed urgently necessary, for intellectual workers to get together, both to protect their own economic status and also, generally speaking, to secure their influence in the political field.
On the first-mentioned, the economic side, the working class may serve us as a model; they have succeeded, at least to some extent, in protecting their economic interests. We can learn from them too how this problem can be solved by the method of organization. And also, we can learn from them what is our gravest danger, which we ourselves must seek to avoid: the weakening through inner dissensions, which, when things reach that point, make cooperation difficult and result in quarrels between the constituent groups.
But again, we can also learn from the workers that limitation to immediate economic aims, to the exclusion of all political goals and effective action will not suffice either. In this respect, the working classes in this country have only begun their development. It is inevitable, considering the progressive centralization of production, that the economic and the political struggle should become more and more closely interwoven, the political factor continually growing in significance in the process. In the meantime the intellectual worker, due to his lack of organization, is less well protected against arbitrariness and exploitation than a member of any other calling. 
But intellectual workers should unite, not only in their own interest but also and no less importantly in the interest of society as a whole. For division among intellectuals has been partly to blame for the fact that the special parts and the experience which are the birthright of these groups have so seldom been made available for political aims. In their room political ambition and desire for profit almost exclusively determine events, instead of professional knowledge and judgement based upon objective thinking.
An organization of intellectual workers can have the greatest significance for society as a whole by influencing public opinion through publicity and education. Indeed it is its proper task to defend academic freedom, without which a healthy development of democracy is impossible.
An outstandingly important task for an organization of intellectual workers at the present moment is to fight for the establishment of a supranational political force as a protection against fresh wars of aggression. It seems to me that the working out with a view to selection of a particular plan for an international government should not, at the present moment, be our chief aim. For if their existed, among the majority of citizens, the firm intention of establishing international security, the technique of giving shape to such an instrument would not present an all-too-difficult problem. What is lacking in the majority is the conviction, founded on clear thinking, that there is not other means of permanently avoiding catastrophes like the present one. In the organization and promotion of enlightenment on this subject, I see the most important service which an organization of intellectual workers can perform at this historic moment. Only by means of setting energetically about such a task can an organization like the one here planned achieve inward strength and outward influence.


The Problem with the PPACA

What's the problem with the PPACA?

Part of getting to solutions is recognizing that Obama the politician wasn't and is not the root of the problem.

It's not Obama, it's the Obama Administration's ideology, the ideology that Rortybomb correctly identifies as "neoliberalism ascendent in the Democratic Party," that is the problem with these Democrats being in charge of negotiating policy with Republicans. Only when movement liberals can routinely recognize the agenda of our ideological opponents in the Democratic Party will we be able to clearly articulate an opposing agenda.

The individual named Barack Obama is not merely what opposes a policy framework that advances the interests of 99% of us. It's the fundamentally wrong, ideologically-based premises that form the Administration's policy framework that need to be discredited and overcome within the Democratic majority. A Third Way ideology which asserts that government assuring the proper level of political-economic power enjoyed by private insurance cartels, with their "expertise" in pricing risk and knowledge of how "markets" operate, is a necessary component of good public policy is the enemy of liberalism, just as surely as rightism is the enemy of liberalism.

So, start by pragmatically recognizing that, in the real world, the exorbitant prices that individuals are being coerced into paying for access to health care don't miraculously spring from a system that mostly resembles "market-oriented" health care economists' models, but are mostly the fiat decisions of large players in an industry that, like the "Too Big To Fail" financial interests, will simply use their power to determine those prices. Then, go about taking that power away from private insurers. The first step in defeating monopolists is to take away their ability to collude to fix prices and otherwise screw people, so the agenda for reforming the PPACA should start there, in my opinion.

We ought to be clear that the biggest flaw in the PPACA is the whole fiction of this system resembling some "marketplace," instead a recognition that truly realistic policy needs to tear down the fiefdoms of these latter-day, technocracy-friendly robber barons.

Here are some policy proposals designed to address that flaw:

    1) repeal the anti-trust exemption

    2) regulations on insurers' use of any premium dollars to market themselves and their messages to the public, or to otherwise influence the political process

    3) regulations on states' ability to contract Medicaid services to private insurers

    4) establishment of a single "provider network" per state (abolishing carriers' individually negotiated provider networks per policy), with insurance commissions' negotiations on provider payments to be conducted by all exchange participants in advance of premium calculations for 2015

    5) Medical Loss Ratio waiver power to be removed from HHS authority and waivers to be prohibited by statute, MLR set permanently at 94%/6%, establish permanent, transparent rules on expense/revenue classification, remove "activities to improve health care quality" as an MLR-exempt classification

    6) banning of insurer or third-party contracting of after-claim eligibility review processes, establishment of state agencies tasked with resolving eligibility disputes

    7) establishment of public claims-review agencies, with major reporting requirements, placing the burden of proof for claims payment denial or delay back on insurers

    8) prohibitions on the practice of providers' contracts with individuals prior to treatment that specify the liability of patients in the absence of timely insurer payments

    9) establishment of ratio of number of private carriers to states' non-Medicare eligible populations as a threshold for which Medicare eligibility age can be lowered, should carriers leave or threaten to leave states' markets

    10) repeal the special tax treatment of the Blues in IRS code, establish separate MLR that deals specifically with giant "non-profits" revenues

I would trade a maximum of 6 out of 10 of these reforms for the individual mandate delay, 10 out of 10 of them for the individual mandate repeal. An alliance of pro-reform liberal Democrats and anti-mandate Tea Party Republicans resembling  Amash-Conyers is politically possible at the moment.




For at least two generations, people in Europe and the US were deeply suffused by an analytical model describing human intellectual and ethical development that had pretty much no empirical support, and had falsified evidence as its foundation.  People literally believed in the id, the sub-conscious and the super-ego as facts of biological origin.  Psychoanalytic terminology was common in every day conversation. Dreams were seen a source of insight into childhood sexual development. People who could afford to spent an hour a week trying to fit their life experience into a framework that was, in retrospect, arbitrary and unhelpful at best, actually harmful at worst.

Economic thought is playing a similar role in our social and cultural discourse here in the future.  Phrases like "market solutions" and "open competition,"  "free trade," even "private sector"  are used to describe organizations and activities that are actually opposite the meaning of those words.

As with Freudianism, our contemporary use of language includes references to economics that bear little resemblance to actual reality. The result is policy discussions that are at  best misleading, at worst directly harmful to market participants. 

So when you hear or read some of these special words, be sure to look to see if they are actually what they say they are. Blurred by subsidy and direct public/private partnership, it is increasingly difficult to talk the talk of neoclassical economics.


It's hard to overstate the enormity of the Trans Pacific Partnership  (AFAWCT--negotiations are secret, so we rely on leaks). It's not like the WTO enforcing " "anti-dumping" rules, or setting limits on tariffs.

Article 12.4: National Treatment

1. Each Party shall accord to investors of another Party treatment no less favourable than that it accords, in like circumstances, to its own investors with respect to the establishment, acquisition, expansion, management, conduct, operation, and sale or other disposition of investments in its territory.

2. Each Party shall accord to covered investments treatment no less favourable than that it accords, in like circumstances, to investments in its territory of its own investors with respect to the establishment, acquisition, expansion, management, conduct, operation, and sale or other disposition of investments.

The treatment to be accorded by a Party under paragraphs 1 and 2 means, with respect to a regional level of government, treatment no less favourable than the most favourable treatment accorded, in like circumstances, by that regional level of government to investors, and to investments of investors, of the Party of which it forms a part.]

Article 12.5: Most-Favoured Nation Treatment

1. Each Party shall accord to investors of another Party treatment no less favourable than that it accords, in like circumstances, to investors of any other Party or of any non-Party with respect to the establishment, acquisition, expansion, management, conduct, operation, and sale or other disposition of investments in its territory.

2. Each Party shall accord to covered investments treatment no less favourable than that it accords, in like circumstances, to investments in its territory of investors of any other Party or of any non-Party with respect to the establishment, acquisition, expansion, management, conduct, operation, and sale or other disposition of investments.

Angry Bear via Yves Smith

This isn't a deregulatory, or, FTM, a free trade regime.  The most favorable regulatory environment for "non-Party"  and "Party" investors applies. That is, a loose regulatory regime for fracking, but a strong regulatory regime for copyright or patents. Mickey is protected from infringement everywhere, because the US protects him, and drug manufacturers in India are forbidden to produce compounds that cure the sick without a patent license.

It's worth noting that "intellectual property" was a key reason for the failure of the Doha round....


Back in March 2011, Randolph Azerof, also known as The Raven, posted a comment on a Virtually Speaking episode featuring UC-Berkeley Economics Professor Brad DeLong.  Brad recently referred to that comment, and Paul Krugman picked it up. Interestingly enough, this led to a fair amount of discussion among different members of the New Classical vs New Keynsian advocates. Steve Williamson chimed in

Noah Smith rings some more changes.  (To his credit, several links in that post you should click through to. And read the updates.)

Brad's Reply.

Oh, so this is why we're rerunning, at Virtually Speaking, the original discussion


I decided it's more important that you know what I was saying in the last note than that you figure it out for yourself*, because of time constraints. So I want to make sure you understand the distribution of the applicant population. In the general population, the distribution of talent** is presumed to be normal:

But the application pool is NOT Normal. It's the far right hand tail of that distribution (excuse the sucky drawing skills):

But the application pool is NOT Normal. It's the far right hand tail of that distribution (excuse the sucky drawing skills):

Harvard has the lowest acceptance rate (5.9% in the US,so we'll use Harvard for our illustrations. Harvard has a class of about 2000 kids,which means the application pool is about 34,000. Now that's a huge number, in one sense. But's its a tiny fraction of your birth cohort's 3.9 million (***---less than one percent, 0.87%.

So what the application pool looks like is the very far right hand tail of your birth cohort, about three standard deviations out, like the drawing. The typical (median) applicant doesn't get in; the median is well to the left of the acceptance line. There are lots of applicants right around the acceptance line--and the really really talented kids (like the guy you know at one the elite colleges, for instance) are not typical, but rare, out on the far right tail of the applicant pool.

So if you're not a long shot (and I don't think you'll find anyone who says you are) then you should not be misled by the low acceptance rate at the top Ivies. At worst you're in that group that makes up 40-50 percent of the class that are just on the right side of the acceptance level or are just on the left hand side. In your case, your secondary characteristics (bilingual, time in Africa, European raised) mean that you'll enrich a class more than someone with identical talent who happens to have grown up in Bergen County, instead of Maputo. Admission officers like a diverse class with kids of different backgrounds!

Finally, it is a HUGE mistake to think of the distribution of MIT's class as being a bell curve with the genius guy you know there as the median student. First, it's not a bell curve--it's the far far far right hand tail of your cohort's bell curve, so it's more like a triangle. And, second, kids like him are on the far right of that curve.

In Major League Baseball, the same logic applies. The blue line in that case is called "the replacement level." The guys just to the left are in AAA and the guys just on the right are on the bench in the majors, but are essentially interchangeable--a GM could replace a bench player with a AAA player without affecting the team's performance.

As you think about optimizing the application process, I hope you'll keep this in mind.


[youtube] So Simpson wrote a mean spirited letter, including:

"If you can't understand all of this you need a pane of glass in your navel so you can see out during the day."

The respectful response said, yeah, well, we've read it and you're wrong. And let's have a debate on the facts.

Simpson agreed, at first.... but then he said, well, never mind.

And then the same young people shot down B-S surrogates.

There is a petition campaign, but I think the really interesting story is that the numbers took down Alan Simpson. We'll see how Judd Gregg does with those same numbers.

SS Source material

This is the Social Security section of the summary of the Bowles-Simpson Moment of Truth document. These reforms are completely unnecessary. The way the law defines the Social Security program, it cannot contribute to the US debt, cannot become insolvent, and is scheduled to pay off all projected benefits until the mid 2030s, and 75% of the projected benefit thereafter, forever. That 75% of projected benefit is, by the way, more in real terms than the current recipient benefit. The "deficit reduction" measures are 5.4 and 5.7, which raise the retirement age and substantially reduce the cost of living adjustment. The other elements work to make the program more redistributive, like a welfare program, rather than a social insurance program where pay-outs are actuarially tied to pay-ins.

Social Security Reform

5.1: MAKE RETIREMENT BENEFIT FORMULA MORE PROGRESSIVE. Modify the current three-bracket formula to a more progressive four-bracket formula, with changes phased in slowly. Change the current bend point factors of 90%|32%|15% to 90%|30%|10%|5% by 2050, with the new bend point added at median lifetime income.

5.2: REDUCE POVERTY BY PROVIDING AN ENHANCED MINIMUM BENEFIT FOR LOW-WAGE WORKERS. Create a new special minimum benefit that provides full career workers with a benefit no less than 125 percent of the poverty line in 2017 and indexed to wages thereafter.

5.3: ENHANCE BENEFITS FOR THE VERY OLD AND THE LONG-TIME DISABLED. Add a new “20-year benefit bump up” to protect those Social Security recipients who have potentially outlived their personal retirement resources.

5.4: GRADUALLY INCREASE EARLY AND FULL RETIREMENT AGES, BASED ON INCREASES IN LIFE EXPENCTANCY. After the Normal Retirement Age (NRA) reaches 67 in 2027 under current law, index both the NRA and Early Eligibility Age (EEA) to increases in life expectancy, effectively increasing the NRA to 68 by about 2050 and 69 by about 2075, and the EEA to 63 and 64 in lock step.

5.5: GIVE RETIREES MORE FLEXIBILITY IN CLAIMING BENEFITS AND CREATE A HARDSHIP EXEMPTION FOR THOSE WHO CANNOT WORK BEYOND 62. Allow Social Security beneficiaries to collect half of their benefits as early as age 62, and the other half at a later age. Also, direct the Social Security Administration to design a hardship exemption for those who cannot work past 62 but who do not qualify for disability benefits.


5.7: ADOPT IMPROVED MEASURE OF CPI. Use the chained CPI, a more accurate measure of inflation, to calculate the Cost of Living Adjustment for Social Security beneficiaries.

5.8: COVER NEWLY HIRED STATE AND LOCAL WORKERS AFTER 2020. After 2020, mandate that all newly hired state and local workers be covered under Social Security, and require state and local pension plans to share data with Social Security.

5.9: DIRECT SSA TO BETTER INFORM FUTURE BENEFICIARIES ON RETIREMENT OPTIONS. Direct the Social Security Administration to improve information on retirement choices, better inform future beneficiaries on the financial implications of early retirement, and promote greater retirement savings.


Elected Democrats no longer see themselves as representing their constituents. They see themselves as representing their donors. In the teeth of huge, well-organized grass roots opposition--hell, universal opposition, Democrats come down on the side of the MPAA and the RIAA. They'll try to find some other way to take away our internet, trying to put the toothpaste of an open network back into the tube.
This is not even a question of stupid or evil. It's stupid and evil.

MOULITSAS: It has been a shameful day. Now let me add that Ron Wyden, who was just on, if it wasn't for him, this thing may have passed already. He was the first person in Congress to stand up against this and fight the way he has. He is the reason this is still being debated. That said, you have a bipartisan group of people who supported it. Today, Republican after Republican has backed out and abandoned support for SOPA and PIPA.

Democrats haven't. They cling to this fiction that this thing can be fixed, and not only is it incredibly stupid, it's incredibly tone-deaf. You are basically ceding a generation of Web-savvy, Web-immersed people who are obsessed with protecting what they see as their very birthright. And they are watching Republicans come out and see the light on this issue, while Democrats continue to cling to the Hollywood studios. It is unfathomable.

I'm embarrassed to be a Democrat, I'm ashamed and I'm angry. You couldn't even begin to believe — because I believe that this legislation is an existential threat to the social Web — that's Daily Kos, that's Reddit, that's Facebook — that's anybody, any time you can interact online, this legislation threatens that ability to do so.

OLBERMANN: Yeah, that's Red State, that's all the other right-wing sites, as well. This is not a liberal thing.

MOULITSAS: It's not. It's liberal, conservative, greens, libertarians, people who don't even pay attention to politics. I don't think I have ever seen this much consensus around an issue.

Unbelievable. The Democratic leadership in the Senate is willing to throw a generation under the bus.

Influence by major donors isn't new, of course. Henry (Scoop) Jackson of Washington was referred to as the Senator from Boeing. But, as with the Health Care Reform negotiations, voters don't even have a seat at the table--especially among Democrats. Unless we in the rank and file can find a way to penetrate the Democratic primary system, we are doomed to a future of bad public policy--a neo-feudalist regime run by monopolists and their "elected officials."

(Crossposted at I'll be migrating back to there over the next month or so.)


[youtube] Tom Friedman today:

As I never bought the argument that Saddam had nukes that had to be taken out, the decision to go to war stemmed, for me, from a different choice: Could we collaborate with the people of Iraq to change the political trajectory of this pivotal state in the heart of the Arab world and help tilt it and the region onto a democratizing track? After 9/11, the idea of helping to change the context of Arab politics and address the root causes of Arab state dysfunction and Islamist terrorism — which were identified in the 2002 Arab Human Development Report as a deficit of freedom, a deficit of knowledge and a deficit of women’s empowerment — seemed to me to be a legitimate strategic choice.

Tom Friedman then:

What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, um and basically saying, "Which part of this sentence don't you understand?" You don't think, you know, we care about our open society, you think this bubble fantasy, we're just gonna to let it grow? Well, Suck. On. This.[28][29][30] ..We could have hit Saudi Arabia. It was part of that bubble. Could have hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could. That's the real truth...

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