Look: I am eager to learn stuff I don't know--which requires actively courting and posting smart disagreement.

But as you will understand, I don't like to post things that mischaracterize and are aimed to mislead.

-- Brad Delong

Copyright Notice

Everything that appears on this blog is the copyrighted property of somebody. Often, but not always, that somebody is me. For things that are not mine, I either have obtained permission, or claim fair use. Feel free to quote me, but attribute, please. My photos and poetry are dear to my heart, and may not be used without permission. Ditto, my other intellectual property, such as charts and graphs. I'm probably willing to share. Let's talk. Violators will be damned for all eternity to the circle of hell populated by Rosanne Barr, Mrs Miller [look her up], and trombonists who are unable play in tune. You cannot possibly imagine the agony. If you have a question, email me: jazzbumpa@gmail.com. I'll answer when I feel like it. Cheers!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Psuedo-Ecnomics Round Up for 2012

Menzie Chin regales us with his list of the top 10 examples of economic malfeasance for CY 2012.

Time to emulate the media’s "year in review" pieces, with my own take on the most outrageous, nonsensical assertions presented in the guise of analysis. Here are my ten most hilariously deluded excursions into the fantasy world from my postings to Econbrowser. The inspirations range from (once again) the Heritage Foundation's analyses (where have you gone, Bill Beach!) to the ongoing search for hyperinflation/crowding out.

The Hunt for Gollum

The first part of this is rather slow moving, but overall it's really well done. It's a little over a half hour of movie, followed by several minutes of credits.  Every once in a while, the guy playing Aragorn almost looks like Viggo. The music is original but is totally compatible with with Howard Shore's LoTR sound track.  

Going to see the Hobbit movie tomorrow with several grandchildren.  Should be a great time.

Web Page

You Tube Link

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Bork's Deep and Abiding Influence

After his defeat as a Supreme Court nominee in 1987, Robert Bork gradually faded away from the public consciousness.  I can tell you, in the intervening 25 years, I probably gave him no thought at all.

But Bork had enormous influence on the modern interpretation of anti-trust law, perhaps single-handedly redefining the scope and purpose of anti-trust legislation.  Basically, Bork was pro-efficiency and anti-anti-trust.  He swallowed whole the bait-bucket of Chicago-economic-school ideas of market efficiency, and built the entire framework of his pro-trust belief system on that invalid foundation.

It seems fair to say that it is in large part because of Bork's influence that we now have trans-national mega-corporations with huge monopolies and oligopolies.  These corporations have no inherent loyalty to anyone nor anything.  In my view, the oligarchs that run them do not even have a general sense of loyalty to stock-holders, let alone the broader universe of sake-holders, who mainly exist to be exploited.

Efficiency, in and of itself is a good thing.  But it cannot be achieved in a vacuum - there are externalities that are largely negative.  For one thing, the efficiencies are mainly internalized and do not necessarily represent a more broadly efficient society.  Second, as a market gets concentrated, competition decreases and the pressure to improve, or even maintain status-quo efficiency slowly erodes.  This ultimately leads to a situation where big, lumbering, inefficient but extremely powerful entities control the economic and political landscape.  Yes, Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big insurance, Big Finance, I am looking at you.

Perhaps worse, though, is the power asymmetry that results from size and influence.  Suppliers, customers, and the public at large are overwhelmed by the sheer might of these institutions, leading to even greater concentrations of power and wealth.

The end game is some version of economic collapse.  It happened in the 1930's, and - due largely to Chicago-style economic thinking, we've spent the last 40 years unlearning the lessons of that time - it happened again in 2008.

Most of the time, evil doesn't manifest as some cackling cartoon villain or mad-man on a murderous rampage.  It results, in a far more banal but far-reaching way, from the highly refined ideas of men like Robert Bork who value abstract concepts like efficiency over the effects the programs they institute over the lives of real human beings.

The Borking of Bork

After the nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court was defeated by a 58-42 vote, his name was verberized into a neologism that was [and occasionally still is] used almost exclusively in the passive voice.

To be "borked" as his supporters would have it, is to be subjected to unfair criticisms based on distortions of your words, actions, and beliefs.   In reality, the borking of Bork consisted of subjecting him to valid criticism based on the precise meanings of his words, actions and beliefs.  Jeffrey Toobin explains.

Bork was “borked” simply by being confronted with his own views—which would have undone many of the great constitutional landmarks in recent American history. As Senator Edward Kennedy put it in a famous speech on the Senate floor, “Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, [and] writers and artists would be censored at the whim of government.”

Was Kennedy too harsh? He was not—as Bork himself demonstrated in the series of intemperate books he wrote after losing the Supreme Court fight and quitting the bench, in 1987. The titles alone were revealing: ”The Tempting of America,” “Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline,” and “Coercing Virtue: The Worldwide Rule of Judges.” One of his last books may have summed up his views best. Thanks in part to decisions of the Supreme Court—decisions that, for the most part, Bork abhorred—the United States became a more tolerant and inclusive place, with greater freedom of expression and freedom from discrimination than any society in history. Bork called the book, accurately, “A Country I Do Not Recognize.”

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Rabid Ferrets

The bloody, tattered remains of what was once known as a "progressive agenda" continue to straggle on in a state of diminished capacity, ironically only surviving at all due to the irrational actions of a rag-tag gang of "rabid ferrets." What a weird time we live in.

I'm starting to understand Chinese curses.

UPDATE 12/21:  During the Shrub administration, I noted that the Rethugs were terrible at government, and a big part of the reason why was that they had such contempt for governance.

The rise of the vaccuous, know-nothing Tea Party movement, with their agenda of amorphous anger and unfocused hate, has made it worse by several orders of magnitude.  At least the Bush Rove cadre understood what the hell politics is, though they co-opted it to nefarious ends like pointless, unjustifiable war and an attempt to privatize Social Security.  The New Rethugs can't even comprehend what the hell politics is, but their party has gerymandered their way into a likely permanent majority in the House.

Charlie Pierce, brilliant as always, elaborates. [Though he did miss rabid ferrets]
There is no possible definition by which the Republicans can be considered an actual political party any more. They can be defined as a loose universe of inchoate hatreds, or a sprawling confederation of collected resentments, or an unwieldy conglomeration of self-negating orthodoxies, or an atonal choir of rabid complaint, or a cargo cult of quasi-religious politics and quasi-political religion, or simply the deafening abandoned YAWP of our bitter national Id. But they are not a political party because they have rendered themselves incapable of politics.

Read more: Wherein Democracy Mocks Itself - Esquire http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/Over_The_Cliff_Already#ixzz2FhEOsd9Y

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sensible Gun Legisation Petition

I just signed the petition that can be found here.  It was sent to my congresspersons and the White House.  There is an opportunity to add some supporting text.  This is what I said.

I support Common Sense Legislation to End Gun Violence because human life is more important than ideology, business considerations, or the power of lobbyists.  The Sandy Hook tragedy is terrifying, but 34 other people get murdered by gun-users every day.  In the sweep of a month or a year Sandy Hook is just a blip.  But awareness is now high and emotions are charged, hopefully in a positive way.  Somehow it's never been the right time to talk about gun control.  Let that time be now.

 It's not much, but I'm doing what I can.

Letter to the President of the University of Rhode island

President Dooley -

I am increasingly concerned with right wing influence in academia. You can see this perhaps most plainly in Koch-funded ventures, such as the Economics Dept of George Mason University. But it manifests itself in many other large and small ways. The current witch hunt involving professor Loomis is a signal event in this phenomenon.

For this reason, I was deeply disturbed and disappointed to see this response come out from URI over your name.

The University of Rhode Island does not condone acts or threats of violence. These remarks do not reflect the views of the institution and Erik Loomis does not speak on behalf of the University. The University is committed to fostering a safe, inclusive and equitable culture that aspires to promote positive change.

Sir, you should be ashamed of your cowardice.

Professor Loomis' rhetoric might have been ill-advised, but no reasonable person could ever construe his words to be a threat of violence.

Clearly, I consider those who have called for Professor Loomis' head to not be reasonable people.

On the other hand, I'm hopeful that you are one.

A good way to convince the world of your reasonability and integrity would be to retract your equally ill-advised statement; and even better, issue a new one promising Professor Loomis your clear and unconditional support.

Thank you for your consideration to this important matter.

{I signed my real name
Along with address
And Phone No.

No Guns In MI Schools

In an uncharacteristic moment of sane concern for the actual well being of his constituents, Michigan's increasingly unpopular governor Rick Snyder vetoed the conceal-carry law that would have allowed guns into schools, day care centers, churches and stadiums, that was passed last Thursday in a marathon session of egregious over-reach by our lame duck Rethug controlled legislature.

Per the report in today's Freep, "Snyder acknowledged Tuesday that the Newtown killings factored into his decision."  Let me translate that for you. Following the "Right-to-Work" legislation passed that same day by these same lame scoundrels  no good, rotten, democracy hating sons-of-bitches, Snyder's popularity took a nose dive from 47 to 38%, with his disapproval rating now at 56%.  In the wake of Sandy Hook one can reasonably presume that signing this atrocity into law would have dropped his approval number into the low 20's.  Realistically, there is no way in hell he would have vetoed this if Sandy Hook had not happened in between.

This does not raise my opinion of this craven, crass elitist oligarch by the slightest increment.  This is merely an exercise in political opportunism by a rat whose ship is rapidly sinking.

Don't worry about his sorry ass, though.  When he gets bounced  in the next election, he'll have a cushy, high-paying job at some Koch-funded reich-wing think tank talking point generator.  The elites do have a way of taking care of their own.

In other news, The Wicked Witch Robert Bork is deadBoo-fricken-hoo.  In some tiny way, the world is now a slightly better, more humane and loving place.

In the Committee's report, Bork is portrayed as an opponent of civil rights legislation, a critic of decisions banning racially restrictive covenants and of bans on segregation, a critic of one person/one vote, a critic of decisions upholding bans on poll taxes and literacy tests, and as a judge who took a limited view of the Equal Protection Clause.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Tragedy in a School Yard

Today a psychopath attacked school children at their school with murderous intent.

He wounded 22, but there were no fatalities.

This happened in China, where, due to the lack of readily available guns, he had to use a knife.

It's still a huge tragedy, but the parents of these children will be seeing them in recovery rooms, not morgues.

I am not making this up. Google it.

Also note, you almost never read about drive-by knifings, or innocents getting caught in the cross-stabbing.

Yes, people kill people. Guns simply make it a whole lot quicker, easier, more efficient and indiscriminate.

It's why we don't go to war wielding swords.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Conversation with a Conservative

A couple of weeks ago reader Cooljazz (no relation) left a long and detailed comment at the post where I asked Romney supporters to explain their preference.  I've hoisted his comment from the archive and will give it a detailed response.

Cooljazz said:

The Democratic Party has the perception of pandering to liberal social issues, i.e. immigration, woman's rights, same sex marriage, etc. I consider this to vote buying where democratic candidates gain support from special interests (groups organized on specific social issues) in exchange for promises to pursue those interests. In general I consider this to be a weakening of national moral fiber, which is a precursor to mob rule.

I am bothered by the ability of special interests groups, via undisciplined media, to distort political issues such that rational discussion cannot take place. The Susan Komen Foundation and Family Planning debate or UAW support of Matty Maroun's opposition to the International Trade Crossing are excellent examples of where special interests were able to distract and confuse the public. It is difficult for me to support the Democratic Party because I do cannot find common ground and even my willingness to compromise on issues is polarized by special interests groups. Essentially, by voting for the Democratic Party, I feel compelled to give up on my principals.

For instance, if I vote down proposals to change the Michigan constitution to add additional protections for unions then I must be a right-wing conservative pushing "right-to-work" legislation. This is not the case but I will be darned if I can have a rational conversation on this issue in my neighborhood Coney, which is mostly populated by retired UAW automotive employees. I am not necessarily against universal health care but I think it would have been more appropriate to identify means to bring down the cost of rising health care than to push legislation that might exacerbate the situation. I believe in the institution of marriage but might compromise on civil unions, depending on whether I perceived this to further weaken the family structure. In short, voting for the democratic party would push me further into hypocrisy than I can tolerate.

Alternatively, the Republican Party resonates better with my Christian views and beliefs. By virtue of having a position, conviction or religious perspective, I can then debate the merits of proposals that support or detract from this foundation. This foundation base is not something I find in the Democratic Party, other than a sense of fairness, which I believe is a primary objective of the Democratic Party. This platform is why I don't think that the Democratic Party will accomplish much in the next four years, which I may expand upon later assuming that this discussion is of any interest.

Before I even start, it should be plainly obvious that I am in near total disagreement with almost all of this.

I'll also reiterate that what I am looking for is a way to comprehend the conservative position.  I'm seriously astounded that intelligent, educated, thoughtful people of integrity - and I know Cooljazz to be just such a person - can support what the Republican party has degenerated into, and specifically an arrogant squirmy ethical chameleon like Willard Romney.  I will state my opposition to Cooljazz's arguments as forcefully as I am able, but I am not foolish enough to think I can change anybody's mind.

My response:

You first paragraph describes a perception of Democratic pandering. Let's first agree on what pandering is.   From Wikipedia we get this: "Pandering is the act of expressing one's views in accordance with the likes of a group to which one is attempting to appeal. The term is most notably associated with politics. In pandering, the views one is verbally expressing are merely for the purpose of drawing support up to and including votes and do not necessarily reflect one's personal values."

So I have to say you are badly mistaken in this accusation.  Do you really believe that Dems, in general, are less than serious about the issues you mentioned?  In fact, a fundamental difference between  progressives (not that all Dems are) and regressives (which, unfortunately all modern Rethugs seem to be) revolves around issues of human rights.  If you can see questions of immigration, women's rights and gay marriage being decided on the basis of granting life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to all, as opposed to repressing the rights of certain targeted groups, then we can come closer to an agreement.

Further, I can think of no greater panderer in recent history than Mitt Romney, who first, has never taken a principled position on any issue (this is also true of previous candidate John McCain), and second, in the debates reversed himself on almost every issue that was addressed, while espousing positions on several of them that were in direct opposition to his own platform, as presented on his web site.  If this is a weakening of national moral fiber, then the guilt clearly lies with Mitt Romney and his team.  You don't see this kind of shape-shifting from Dems.

If you are bothered by the influence of special interest groups, I recommend you look into and then do some serious thinking about the K-Street lobbying organizations and their vice-like grip on the Republican party.  The beginning of your second paragraph ought to be addressed to Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck and the vast right-wing media machine funded by the Koch brothers and their rich allies, and think tanks, and the regressive agenda put forth by the American Legislative Exchange Council.   To relate special interest influence and media over-reach to the Democrats or any pursuit of a progressive agenda is a serious misunderstanding of the bought-and-paid-for contemporary American political landscape.  I have to wonder where you get your information, and to what extent you are being misled by the kinds of grotesque reality distortion that is characteristic of right wing media.

I don't think your examples are particularly cogent.  Maroun's attempt to distort the state constitution went down in flames, so it's hard to see how the public was confused. And I think you have the Komen issue exactly backwards - it was anti-abortion crusaders who distorted and misinformed.  More broadly, misinformation and distortion are now characteristic of, and in fact [along with blatant voter suppression and gerrymandering] vital to the success of Republicans.  Look also at the bait and switch tactics of the governors in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and Florida who campaigned as moderate and reasonable, but have implemented the extreme regressive ALEC agenda.  How is this not a violation of principles - both yours and theirs?

As it turns out, by not supporting the state constitutional amendment to protect unions you have enabled the "right to work" actions just rammed through the lame duck session here in MI - with no public debate or support.  Note that Snyder was never in favor of this - until he was.   Note also that "right to work" states always have lower salaries, poorer working conditions, worse safety records, and a lower standard of living. This action is very bad for Michigan.  In fact, the middle class life style you and your family have been able to enjoy, and the benefits, holidays and vacations we took for granted while we were working together came to us - even in our salaried positions - because of the bargaining power of unions.

Regarding health care, all credible studies indicate that the ACA will lower health care costs by a considerable margin, not exacerbate them as you have suggested.  In fact one great way to even more effectively lower health care costs would be to get the non-value-added for-profit insurance companies out of the loop.

On the gay marriage issue, I challenge you to demonstrate how gay marriage in any way threatens the institution of marriage or family structure.  I don't have stats at my finger tips, but I think the record shows that same-sex couples have success rates no worse than hetero couples, and actually have more stable family structure.

So where is the hypocrisy of voting Democratic?

On the religion issue, I have to wonder how a party so strongly influenced by a rich elite, that fosters blatant greed, places material things above people at every opportunity, not only sanctions but is enthusiastic about torture, and is willing to wage war - the greatest evil ever visited upon humankind - on flimsy or totally trumped-up pretenses can resonate with anyone's Christian values.  What I see in the message of Jesus is love, forgiveness, acceptance, generosity to the less fortunate, a strong disdain for wealth and materialism, and an admonition not to judge others.  Also, he healed the sick - for free, if I have this right.  These values are essentially 180 degrees away from the Republican platform and belief system.

I would like to see you consider these things when you debate the merits of proposals that support or detract from your religious foundation.

To your last point, if this administration doesn't accomplish much in the next four years, it will be directly and specifically due to the obstruction of the most recalcitrant and disloyal congress in the the post civil war history of our country.  Their stated goal since the 2008 election, under the direction of Rush Limbaugh, has - quite openly - been to make Obama fail.  Anything tragic that happens to the country, like derailing the economy, is mere collateral damage, and not worth thinking about. Plus, since it happens on Obama's watch, they'll be able to blame him. [I think enough people are starting to see through this that Obama was able to be re-elected.]  To my mind, this goes far beyond hypocrisy and partisanship and constitutes actual treason.  Note that nothing even remotely like this has ever been perpetrated by Democrats.  Or by Republicans either, prior to 1992.

My assessment is that starting with Gingrich's contract on America [though the roots of this really go back to Nixon and Atwater], the Republican party has set a course that has veered off the legitimate political map to a terra incognita of repression and intellectual nihilism that defies alignment with any valid political ideology, and has culminated in the willful ignorance and de facto insanity represented by the tea party.

I welcome your response.

I also invite any interested reader to participate.  But I warn you that any comment that displays the slightest disrespect to either of us will be deleted immediately and with extreme prejudice.

12/13 Update:  This week the Lame duck Rethug congress in Michigan, in addition to  the "right-to-work" legislation mentioned above also passed - without any public support or input - 1) an emergency manger law nearly identical to one tossed out by the voters in a referendum just last month, 2) some of the most draconian anti-abortion legislation in the country, and 3) laws allowing guns to be carried in schools, day-care centers, stadiums, and churches.  [Vetoed by Snyder] What could possibly go wrong?  After all, we aren't Connecticut.

None of this represents the will of the citizens of Michigan.  In fact, it is distinctly counter to it. What you see demonstrated here, even beyond craven partisanship, is the right wing contempt for democratic principles and disdain for governance that have characterized the Rethug party for the last two decades.

This is what you get when the Rethugs have power.  They don't govern; they rule.  They are the deciders, and democracy be damned.   This is just part of why I say that it is virtually impossible for a decent person to be cynical enough when thinking about the Rethugs.  You are just very reluctant to put your mind in a place where you can face their rampant evil.

I mentioned Rethug nihilism above.  Here it is described in lurid detail by a genuine conservative, and devout Christian who realizes how thoroughly loathsome the Rethugs have become.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sad Obit

Today, we lost a great musician and composer and a thoroughly wonderful human being.

He would have been 92 tomorrow.

Let us all dance unsquarely while we may.

As a humanist, he was at the forefront of integration, playing black jazz clubs throughout the deep South in the ’50s, a point of pride for him.
"For as long as I’ve been playing jazz, people have been trying to pigeonhole me,” he once told the Tribune.
"Frankly, labels bore me."
                           --From The Chicago Tribune obit.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Today we lose one more
Great - He gave us the sound track 
For life's Unsquare Dance