Friday, June 29, 2012

Because Some People Just Shouldn't Vote

CNBC's John Carney has stumbled upon an idea he can really get behind: Eliminate Universal Suffrage.

While hobnobing with the global intelectual elite at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Mr. Carney's fancy was tickled.
His argument had two parts. The first was that some people simply are not ready for democracy. They have no functional conception of the state in their minds, much less an understanding of representative, deliberative democracy. Some are so poor that they can be bribed to vote this way or that for "five dollars," he said. The application of the principle of universal suffrage was not a recipe for successful government in these circumstances, the speaker argued.
Yes, so rather than address the issues of inequality that might lead to these circumstances, much better to strip the poor of their franchise.
The second point of his argument was that the developed Western democracies did not start out with universal suffrage. Almost all allowed only a portion of their citizens to vote at first, only slowly expanding the right to participate in elections over the course of decades. Why force the developing world into instant universal suffrage?
Rather than dismiss this notion out of hand, Mr. Carney suggests that
just because an answer isn't at hand doesn't mean we shouldn't ask the question. Perhaps if people started taking them seriously, we'd be at the beginning of something truly new in world politics.
Yes. Or something truly horrific.

For the Record: A Summary of the Affordable Care Act

I stumbled on this great summary of what benefits the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare") actually provides and when they kick in.  Highly recommended.

The best bit is the debunking section at the bottom...

The Kaiser Health Foundation also has a post-ruling consumer guide which has more details.

Normally Reliable GOP Assassination Team Fails to Hit Target

Remember, Republicans have been campaigning on this since 2009.
[I]f Mitt Romney wins the election and Republicans take control of the Senate, they should repeal the Affordable Care Act. At that point, they will have won two straight elections atop a platform in which repealing the ACA was a central, explicit promise. The American people will have spoken with unusual clarity, and part of what they will have said, whether they meant to say it or not, is repeal the ACA. If Republicans failed to follow through, they would be breaking a central campaign promise.
Do you know the real reason conservatives are angry about the decision of the Supreme Court?  Because now their elected Tea Zombies will actually have to get their hands dirty taking away a popular and important health benefit. They can't simply point to the Constitution and shake their heads solemnly.  "There's nothing we could do to save it," they were counting on saying.  Instead, Justice Roberts has put them in the corner and told them to do their own wetwork.  That is why they are so upset.  They wanted a consequence-free rejection of the law to keep their fat-cat private insurance industry donors from being held to account.

You want this law dead?  Kill it yourselves, punks...

Put your money where you mouths are, bitches. 
Take these benefits away.  
I'm sure that will work out well for you.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Best Flying Monkey ACA Quote of the Day

From Senator Aqua Buddha from Kentucky:
"Just because a couple people on the Supreme Court declare something to be ‘constitutional' does not make it so."
Actually, Senator, that's precisely what it means. You must have missed that day in 7th grade civics.

The Next Big Financial Scandal Now Arriving on Track 12

And let me tell you, it's a doozy.  This is one that Matt Taibbi foreshadowed in a recent piece in Rolling Stone.
More recently, a major international investigation has been launched into the manipulation of Libor, the interbank lending index that is used to calculate global interest rates for products worth more than $3 trillion a year. If and when that case is presented to the public at trial – there are several major civil suits in the works here in the States – we may yet find out that the world's most powerful banks have, for years, been fixing the prices of almost every adjustable-rate vehicle on earth, from mortgages and credit cards to interest-rate swaps and even currencies.
What's at stake is Libor, the inter-bank lending rate and the manipulation of the rate by certain banks.  Why is this important?  Well, first you need to understand what LIBOR is.  From Wikipedia:
The Libor is the average interest rate that leading banks in London charge when lending to other banks. It is an acronym for London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR, /ˈlaɪbɔr/). Banks borrow money for one day, one month, two months, six months, one year, etc., and they pay interest to their lenders based on certain rates. The Libor figure is an average of these rates. Many financial institutions, mortgage lenders and credit card agencies track the rate, which is produced daily at 11 a.m. to fix their own interest rates which are typically higher than the Libor rate. As such, it is a benchmark, along with the the Euribor, for finance all around the world.
Now, why is the rate paid by banks so important? Because many (if not most) variable-rate consumer financial instruments derive their rates from Libor. So bank manipulation of that rate impacts a large portion of the borrowing public. And collusion to set the rate to enhance the performance of the derivatives issued and managed by these same institutions? Well, that's just plain and simple corruption.

It appears that the dam has broken and the Libor scandal is flooding the financial valley now.
Despite widespread expectation that it would be UBS, it turned out to be Barclays. You know how in Law and Order Jack McCoy always puts the two murder accomplices in separate rooms and tells them both that whoever talks first wins? Something like that happened here. In any case, the Department of Justice filing on the settlement contained excerpts of emails and other evidence that recall the taped phone conversations in the Carollo case: once again, we have seemingly incontrovertible evidence of wide-scale market manipulation.
Do you know what you get when you deregulate financial markets? Financial markets without regulation. And corruption. And crime.

So tell me again how deregulation of the financial markets is so super awesome?

Roberts Controlling Argument on the ACA / Obamacare

The core of Chief Justice Robert's argument that finds the Affordable Care Act is an appropriate use of Congressional power through the form of taxation.  From Justice Robert's opinion (pp. 31 - 32).
That is not the end of the matter. Because the Commerce Clause does not support the individual mandate, it is necessary to turn to the Government’s second argument: that the mandate may be upheld as within Congress’s enumerated power to “lay and collect Taxes.” Art. I, §8, cl. 1.

The Government’s tax power argument asks us to view the statute differently than we did in considering its commerce power theory. In making its Commerce Clause argument, the Government defended the mandate as a regulation requiring individuals to purchase health insurance. The Government does not claim that the taxing power allows Congress to issue such a command. Instead, the Government asks us to read the mandate not as ordering individuals to buy insurance, but rather as imposing a tax on those who do not buy that product.

The text of a statute can sometimes have more than one possible meaning. To take a familiar example, a law that reads “no vehicles in the park” might, or might not, ban bicycles in the park. And it is well established that if a statute has two possible meanings, one of which violates the Constitution, courts should adopt the meaning that does not do so. Justice Story said that 180 years ago: “No court ought, unless the terms of an act rendered it unavoidable, to give a construction to it which should involve a violation, however unintentional, of the constitution.” Parsons v. Bedford, 3 Pet. 433, 448–449 (1830). Justice Holmes made the same point a century later: “[T]he rule is settled that as between two possible interpretations of a statute, by one of which it would be unconstitutional and by the other valid, our plain duty is to adopt that which will save the Act.” Blodgett v. Holden, 275 U. S. 142, 148 (1927) (concurring opinion).

The most straightforward reading of the mandate is that it commands individuals to purchase insurance. After all, it states that individuals “shall” maintain health insurance. 26 U. S. C. §5000A(a). Congress thought it could enact such a command under the Commerce Clause, and the Government primarily defended the law on that basis. But, for the reasons explained above, the Commerce Clause does not give Congress that power. Under our precedent, it is therefore necessary to ask whether the Government’s alternative reading of the statute—that it only imposes a tax on those without insurance—is a reasonable one.

Under the mandate, if an individual does not maintain health insurance, the only consequence is that he must make an additional payment to the IRS when he pays his taxes. See §5000A(b). That, according to the Government, means the mandate can be regarded as establishing a condition—not owning health insurance—that triggers a tax—the required payment to the IRS. Under that theory, the mandate is not a legal command to buy insurance. Rather, it makes going without insurance just another thing the Government taxes, like buying gasoline or earning income. And if the mandate is in effect just a tax hike on certain taxpayers who do not have health insurance, it may be within Congress’s constitutional power to tax.

The question is not whether that is the most natural interpretation of the mandate, but only whether it is a “fairly possible” one. Crowell v. Benson, 285 U. S. 22, 62 (1932). As we have explained, “every reasonable construction must be resorted to, in order to save a statute from unconstitutionality.” Hooper v. California, 155 U. S. 648, 657 (1895). The Government asks us to interpret the mandate as imposing a tax, if it would otherwise violate the Constitution. Granting the Act the full measure of deference owed to federal statutes, it can be so read, for the reasons set forth below.

Affordable Care Act Ruled Constitutional

In a 5-4 decision the SCOTUS upheld the individual mandate as a tax.  The act stands.  More later.

Stand Your Ground Laws like the Castle Doctrine are Ineffective Deterrents to Homicide

A new paper by Chandler B. McClellan and Erdal Tekin, Stand Your Ground Laws and Homicides find that these laws do nothing to deter crime and make America safer.

The abstract reads,
The controversies surrounding Stand Your Ground laws have recently captured the nation’s attention. Since 2005, eighteen states have passed laws extending the right to self-defense with no duty to retreat to any place a person has a legal right to be, and several additional states are debating the adoption of similar legislation. Despite the implications that these laws may have for public safety, there has been little empirical investigation of their impact on crime and victimization. In this paper, we use monthly data from the U.S. Vital Statistics to examine how Stand Your Ground laws affect homicides. We identify the impact of these laws by exploiting variation in the effective date of these laws across states. Our results indicate that Stand Your Ground laws are associated with a significant increase in the number of homicides among whites, especially white males. According to our estimates, between 4.4 and 7.4 additional white males are killed each month as a result of these laws. We find no evidence to suggest that these laws increase homicides among blacks. Our results are robust to a number of specifications and unlikely to be driven entirely by the killings of assailants. Taken together, our findings raise serious doubts against the argument that Stand Your Ground laws make America safer.
I've written tangentially about this before. I believe the data for concealed-carry do support the notion that CCW can deter crime, but that the so-called Castle Doctrine will have no impact or will actually increase crime.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tomorrow's Expected ACA Ruling

Tomorrow is the day we expect to hear whether or not key provisions of the Affordable Care Act are Constitutional.  Of course, most legal scholars don't feel there's a legal leg for the objectors to stand on, it won't stop merciless ideologues like Scalia, Roberts and Thomas from legislating from the bench.

Stephen Griffin at the Balkinization blog comments on recent press coverage of the impending decision and finds the journalists & lawyers commenting on the expected ruling woefully ignorant of how, historically, Constitutional law is determined.
Charles Lane's WaPo column of yesterday illustrates this by reducing the dispute over the ACA to a conflict of values. It's liberty vs. egalitarianism according to Lane (with an apparent assist from Stephen Carter). This is a good example of how some political theorists read the Constitution, as an abstract "ordering of values." But not lawyers. Funny thing is, we think the Constitution is actually a law. As law, the Constitution could only be effective across a wide range of disputes once it was implemented by the judiciary in a system of common law precedent. Lane's approach simply junks the common law in favor of going right to the supposedly underlying values. This has the effect of proving Amar's point that the only way the Court could invalidate the ACA is by ignoring decades of multiple precedents, something that courts do quite rarely.
Nevertheless, the expected overturning of the law and the concomitant legal, policy and political turbulence sure to follow in the ruling's wake should be breathtaking and something we, as a nation, haven't experienced since the 1930s when many of FDRs New Deal laws were challenged and determined to be unconstitutional by a reactionary court.

History doesn't repeat but it does, on occasion, rhyme.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

FDIC Board Member Calls for Return of Glass-Steagall

Sounds like a plan.
A revival of the Glass-Steagall Act, the Depression-era law that separated commercial and investment banking, is “absolutely necessary” to protect the U.S. financial system, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp board member Thomas Hoenig said in a Bloomberg Radio interview.

Using Dodd-Frank Act powers to break up banks one-by-one is the wrong approach to removing the threat that risky trading could spark a repeat of the 2008 credit crisis, Hoenig said today on “The Hays Advantage” with Kathleen Hays.
The Glass-Steagall act was passed in the wake of the catastrophic 1929 crash of Wall Street and created an air-gap between the commercial and investment banking sectors.  I wrote about this exactly a year ago when the FDIC increased capital reserve requirements for banks.

Charlie Sykes: The Once and Future Douchebag

Why am I not surprised?
Michael Maistelman, a lawyer for defendant Timothy Russell, sent an email to radio talk show host Charlie Sykes on Jan. 22, tipping off Sykes to the likelihood that two other former Walker aides would be charged that week. Those aides, Darlene Wink and Kelly Rindfleisch, were charged four days later on Jan. 26.
Sykes and other defenders of the Republican governor have complained of illegal information leaks on the Doe investigation, which was launched more than two years ago. Sykes' radio program is aired on WTMJ-AM (620). Sykes said he has referred to the investigation as "leaking like a sieve," without putting the blame on prosecutors.
Once a douchebag, always a douchebag. Your "free press" hard at work!
Sykes declined to comment Tuesday on the email he got from Maistelman, who didn't immediately return a call.

Mexicans Know... America is NOT the Land of Opportunity

So the next time some wingnut tells you a million people are crossing the border every year, you can share this chart with them.

Bill Maher's New Rules on the Young Conservatives

HINT: If your message can be delivered by a 14 year old, then it reflects the thinking pattern of a 14 year old. There's a reason you don't see 14 year olds delivering the messaging for the left.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Mark Fiore: Deficitbots

Think of the children!

Our Dumb Media: Atlantic Wire Edition

Seriously, Atlantic?

Music Monday: Smashing Pumpkins Live

New tune from their latest, Oceania

Some Solutions are Simple

Charter a few helicopters in Spain and get to work.

“Japan’s experience shows central banks can mitigate the worst effects of the current environment, but it’s going to be very hard for them to stimulate demand,” said Peter Dixon, global equities economist at Commerzbank AG in London. He predicts a lengthy period of “sluggish growth and high unemployment” in the debt-ridden industrial nations.

Conservative Social Cohesion -or- Ants At Work

Social cohesion is the key to conservative success.  And what's ironic?  They generally hate "socialism" in any form and many don't believe in evolution.  Yet they rely on the evolutionary advantage of social evolution... Wow.
When two groups compete, the one with the most social cohesion wins in the long run.

This insight arises from research on group selection that reveals how social animals capable of working as a team readily out compete those individuals who must struggle on their own. The astute observer will already note the profound irony here — a political group whose ideology elevates the individual over the group (Conservatives) has managed to cultivate more group cohesion than the political group whose ideology blends community well-being with that of the individual. I’ll come back to this irony in a moment.

Progressives are easily kept on the defensive through the age-old strategy of Divide and Conquer

A fantastic overview of group selection can be found in E.O. Wilson’s groundbreaking new book, The Social Conquest of Earth, which builds a powerful argument for how humanity’s social nature enabled us to dominate every ecosystem we have entered in our 2 million year history.*

The argument goes something like this:

  1. Throughout history, a tiny number of species have developed a capability known as eusociality — advanced social organization comprised of large numbers of individuals with differentiated roles including members that span more than one generation
  2. Most eusocial species discovered in the fossil record are the social insects — ants, bees, termites, and wasps. Every one of these species has been so successful at thriving that their bodies contained more than half of the biomass in the ecosystems where they lived, meaning that they completely dominated the niches populated by them. This pattern continues up to the present.
  3. Humans are the only eusocial species to have the additional properties of strong emotional bonds between group members and advanced cognitive abilities that enable us to form coherent gestalts of meaning — especially the capacity for shared cultural narratives and tribal identities — which have enabled us to out-compete and dominate less socially adept animals in every ecosystem we have entered.
  4. The key strategy underlying this pattern is that well-organized groups, which elevate the needs of the whole over those of individuals, are more successful at acquiring resources and consolidating power than those individuals or groups that are less organized.

Sound familiar? In American politics, we see the top-down authoritarian worldview of Conservatives enabling them to fall in line and take marching orders. They form strong loyalty bonds through religious affiliation, old money networks, and various social clubs that give them an immense capacity for social cohesion.

And what about Progressives? We are divided into issue silos, unable to form lasting coalitions that bond us together under the same ideological flag, and easily kept on the defensive through the age-old strategy of Divide and Conquer. We have difficulty trusting each other and our funders are unable or unwilling to invest in talent for talent’s sake — they always need to monitor the outcomes of their giving and almost never fund the operational needs of our advocacy organizations.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Leave It Alone

Stop talking about "fixing" the state pension system.  It's not broken!
Madison - As state officials eye ways to improve the pension system serving hundreds of thousands of public employees and retirees in Wisconsin, a national study is singling out the state's retirement fund as the strongest in the nation.

The Pew Center on the States last week found that only Wisconsin out of the 50 states has enough money set aside to meet its current obligations to pay the pensions that have been promised to public employees. Wisconsin is also the only state in the country to receive a "solid performer" ranking from Pew for both its funding of pensions and health care obligations for retirees.

Karl Rove and Plato


Your Brain on Austerity

Kinda looks like this...
Without cuts to government jobs, unemployment would be about 7.1%.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Debt Ceiling Follies Redux

We're coming up to the debt ceiling. Again... Oh joy.  Here are some suggestions for ways President Obama can manage it without succumbing to Republican terrorism.
Obama could cite the 14th Amendment to blow past the debt ceiling, Geithner could mint platinum coins, Bernanke could order the Fed to buy $2 trillion in postage stamps (I hope they’re Forever stamps so they’re hedged against inflation) or Obama could stick to form– stand firm for 15 minutes and then act like General Hull at the Battle of Detroit (“General Hull’s own forces still outnumbered those of the approaching enemy, but he did not know this. Feeling the situation within in the fort hopeless, he ran up a white flag and quickly agreed to surrender”).
I quite like the idea of buying stamps.  That would solve the USPS budget problem, the debt ceiling problem and boost the sale of the coolest stamp in recent memory!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Great, I Need More Bleach For My Eyes Now

Sometimes the insanity of the rightwing media drives me nuts.  Take this racist cartoon by Tim Campbell for instance.
Can we at least agree that the children who immigrated to the United States >as children don't dress in a caricature costume with a big sombrero and that they're native English speakers just like the children of children born in this country?

"Hell On Earth"

I've written several times over the past few months about America's Prison-Industrial Complex and the risk we, as a nation face when we privatize what should be a public function (here, here, here).  Now Paul Krugman weighs in with a succinct summary of the sham of privatization in the context of recent revelations about the private administration of halfway houses in New Jersey. A program championed by that man-of-the-people, Chris Christie.
But if you think about it even for a minute, you realize that the one thing the companies that make up the prison-industrial complex — companies like Community Education or the private-prison giant Corrections Corporation of America — are definitely not doing is competing in a free market. They are, instead, living off government contracts. There isn’t any market here, and there is, therefore, no reason to expect any magical gains in efficiency.
The phony "competition" argument falls apart when you have giant corporations rigging the bidding system to ensure they get to suck off the government teat.  Which means they are the real parasites.  Not the teachers, firefighters and other public employees, but these giant corporations.   But why the push for privatization then?  It's not that hard to work out when you're dealing with greedy private corporations: Money.
But the main answer, surely, is to follow the money. Never mind what privatization does or doesn’t do to state budgets; think instead of what it does for both the campaign coffers and the personal finances of politicians and their friends. As more and more government functions get privatized, states become pay-to-play paradises, in which both political contributions and contracts for friends and relatives become a quid pro quo for getting government business. Are the corporations capturing the politicians, or the politicians capturing the corporations? Does it matter?
If they can step into that public funding stream they get a guaranteed return from a virtually guaranteed revenue stream: citizens paying taxes.  It's too tempting to resist.  And they'll continue to lobby to ensure we have "tough" penalties, especially for non-violent drug offenders who, in general, are quite easy to warehouse.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Republican Liars

It's who they are.

Matt Taibbi on Imus

A good segment with Matt Taibbi talking about his new investigation in municipal bond rigging.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Real News Organization

The Wisconsin Reporter bills itself as a "real" news organization.  Their charter states,
WisconsinReporter launched in January 2011 as a division of StateHouseNews. It is a nonpartisan organization, dedicated to playing the watchdog role on state government, while localizing stories to certain districts: La Crosse, Kenosha, Eau Claire, Wausau, Stevens Point, Chippewa, and Beloit.


StateHouse News Online began in June 2010 and is a product of the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to promoting non-partisan, new media journalism.
Sounds like a legitimate news organization.  Until you actually, you know, encounter them in the real world.  Then they look like this exchange with Cognitive Dissidence blogger Jeff Simpson:

Yes, a serious news organization indeed populated by Very Serious People™.  When you can't play the ball, play the man.  That always works.

This tune's for you, Wisconsin Reporter! We can see you for what you are!

Because the Private Sector is ALWAYS Bestest!

Your healthcare dollars at work.
The study found that physicians spent an average of three hours a week interacting with health insurance plans. For each physician in a medical practice, nursing staff, in the aggregate, spent an average of 23 weeks per year interacting with health plans, and clerical (non-clinical) staff, in the aggregate, spent an average of 44 weeks per year. The study estimated the total cost to each practice at $68,274 per physician per year.


In addition to Medicare and Medicaid, there are more than a thousand health insurance companies in the United States. Individual physicians may only accept insurance from a few of them, but most insurance companies offer several different plans, which provide different coverage at different costs.

Navigating that system requires a huge administrative effort, Woolhandler said. Most physicians, even those in small, family practices, need to employ non-medical staff members to keep track of dozens of differing criteria depending on which insurance plan their patients are using. Nurses, physician assistants, and physicians themselves each are burdened with administrative tasks associated with billing and insurance.
Yes, let's keep the government out of the healthcare business because private sector insurance is so much more efficient.

We are so stupid...

Cruel Summer

Because what the nation needs right now, more than jobs, more than affordable healthcare, more than a strong economy, is more hungry children.

Well done, America... Well done, indeed.

A Crisis of Faith

Economist Brad DeLong is suffering an epistemic crisis and he's quite upset about it.
I used to--six years ago--be certain that people like Emerson were wrong. 
It seemed to me that economics had a powerful technocratic core and a powerful set of analytical tools that helped to make sense of the world. 
But the treatment that the world has gotten from the Lucases, Cochranes, Famas, Kocherlakotas, and many others, not to mention the Prescotts--none of whom seems to have made any effort to mark their prejudices to reality--has shaken my confidence to the core. They seemed to me and seem to me to have simply not done their homework, and not be trying to do their homework.
I trust that this will, in the fullness of time, become a full-blown existential crisis for him.  I know it has for me.  The policy failures of the Very Serious People™ in the economics field is nearly complete.  Their ability to sustain a line of customers for their supply-side snake-oil and their magic expansionary austerity powders from the back of a rickety, broken-down policy cart will never, ever cease to be a source of amazement.  People really are stupid.

[UPDATED: Now with SCIENCE!] New Berlin School District Hemorrhages Employees

When you act like a bunch of vengeful douchebags towards your employees, don't be surprised when all the good ones quit.
At a recent School Board meeting, when departing staff members took the floor to explain their resignations, a common theme emerged. Guess what? The mass exodus is not about money or benefits.

No, the reason employees are leaving in droves is they feel disenfranchised and devalued by the district. They're willing to take a cut in pay to work for employers who will listen to them, include them in decision-making and treat them as assets, not liabilities.

New Berlin's district leadership is enamored with what it terms a "business model" of operation. Perhaps the leadership team would benefit from some research on the human resource habits of effective corporations.

Skilled human resource managers know that as imperative as it is to toe the fiscal bottom line, it's equally important to ensure that employees feel appreciated and respected. When employee morale falters, productivity suffers and the end result is bad for business.

In the private sector, high rates of attrition are not a badge of honor; they're indicators of organizational dysfunction. If one-third of a company's workforce resigned en masse, it would be calamitous enough to prompt an involuntary turnover of corporate leadership.
Well done, Walker-bots, well done.  So when your properly values plummet because nobody wants to live in a school district which more closely resembles Biloxi than Madison, you'll have nobody to blame but yourselves.  And Obama...  Yeah, that's the ticket.

[UPDATE] Well, it turns out this is not entirely unexpected given scientific research into what makes people happy at work.  Turns out, they don't want money, what they want most is respect.
New research suggests that overall happiness in life is more related to how much you are respected and admired by those around you, not to the status that comes from how much money you have stashed in your bank account.

Psychological scientist Cameron Anderson of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, and his co-authors explore the relationship between different types of status and well-being in a new article published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“We got interested in this idea because there is abundant evidence that higher socioeconomic status – higher income or wealth, higher education – does not boost subjective well-being (or happiness) much at all. Yet at the same time, many theories suggest that higher status should boost happiness,” said Anderson.

So if higher socioeconomic status doesn’t equate with a greater sense of well-being, then what does? Anderson and his colleagues hypothesized that higher sociometric status – respect and admiration in your face-to-face groups, such as your friendship network, your neighborhood, or your athletic team – might make a difference in your overall happiness. “Having high standing in your local ladder leads to receiving more respect, having more influence, and being more integrated into the group’s social fabric,” Anderson said.
Imagine that... Oh wait, we don't have to imagine it, we can watch it play out in New Berlin and other Wisconsin communities where the citizens turned into taxpayer thugs and vomited their vitriol all over the teachers, nurses, firefighters and police officers who dedicate their lives to public service.

Karma's a bitch, ain't it.

Take it away, Aretha!  The Queen of Soul understands.  Do you?

We're Already Over the Fiscal Cliff

There's been a lot of chatter among the chattering classes about our impending fiscal cliff.  What the chatterers don't tell you (well, most of them anyway) is that we're already over the cliff and we're falling fast without a parachute.

The catastrophic drop in aggregate demand resulting from this drop in public-sector employment is killing our recovery.  It's killing it dead.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Très Amusant

My goodness but reality is a harsh mistress!

Is it possible that Obama is not a Marxist Kenyan Nazi un-American Big Government Librul?

Short-Selling the Public Sector

It's what the foul beasts who own our economy live for.  And they ensure we elect politicians who will accede to their demands, regardless of the long-term consequences of their decisions.
[I]t kind of sucks when a politician decides to reach decades into the future to sell piles of public treasure to unaccountable private (and occasionally foreign) interests in order to solve a present-day budget problem. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer my elected officials, particularly my sneering, superior, billionaire public officials, to lean toward protecting and safeguarding public property, as opposed to selling off the public's future to finance their own short-term political ends.
 Scott Walker is one of those politicians adored by the foul beasts of industry.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Coup d'état at Mr. Jefferson's Academical Village

The Rotund and The Lawn at The University of Virginia
In the town of Charlottesville, in the center of Virginia, sits a very, very important institution, The University of Virginia (known locally as simply The University).  Founded in 1825 by Thomas Jefferson, UVa has a long history of academic excellence.  If you ever have a chance to visit, you should.  It's where I did my graduate work in anthropology and lived for 15 years.  Notable alum (besides me!) include Georgia O'Keefe, Edgar Allen Poe, and Katie Couric.

But all is not well in Mr. Jefferson's Academical Village.  The President of the University, Teresa Sullivan was forced to resign by the University's Board of Visitors.  Why this happened has been the subject of numerous articles but suffice it to say that it was a move orchestrated by the backers of the Darden School of Business who felt that the President was insufficiently deferent to their desires.

I've long detested the whole notion of a business "school" as a useful part of any liberal arts university, especially with one with such outstanding commitment to research and learning like UVa.  Business is best taught at a trade school.  It's been clear to me for some time that the mission of a business "school" is at odds with the mission of a research institution.  Why?  Because business demands conformity and liberal arts demands creativity. The two do not co-exist well.
There are few institutions, organizations, or people in America who can escape being subject to the cold breath of market discipline at some time or another. 
In the academic context, this influence is often actively pernicious. The foundation of market discipline is failure, not success: unsuccessful businesses are forced out and the path cleared and resources (customers, workers, capital) freed up for the more successful ones (this does not always work perfectly in practice). In the UVA situation, one of the complaints seems to have been that Sullivan was unwilling to cut “obscure academic departments in classics and German.”
But beyond that, the very notion that business and academe can find common ground is preposterous.
[The] purpose [of an academic university like Virginia] is the creation, preservation, and transmission of knowledge, both for the current generation and future ones. This is not merely for current or prospective students, but for American (and even global) society in general. These lofty ambitions are frequently met more in the breach than the observance, and academia has all sorts of corruptions and problems unique to itself, but they nonetheless exist. One of the fundamental parts of that responsibility is actively to study, save, and talk about the obscure, the lost, the unpopular, and the unfashionable. In fact, in many ways that is the most important responsibility. Famous, popular, and fashionable knowledge tends to preserve itself, at least in the short term. Marginalized knowledge disappears. If classics was truly obscure, that would be all the more reason for the University of Virginia to study it. There are, of course, all sort of limits on this, but the fundamental point remains. Cutting things simply because they are obscure, lost, unpopular, and unfashionable, the heart of the market’s discipline, cuts out the core of the scholarly discipline. If business and academia function exactly as they should, especially if they function exactly as they should, they are antithetical to each other. The American secular religion may be business and its temple Wall Street, but scholars and their institutions should avoid genuflecting. There are few universities in the United States with more such responsibility than one birthed by a founding father. 
It's time to take a stand against the Darden School heathens who seem determined to knock down Mr. Jefferson's Academical Village to make way for a strip-mall.  Shame on them and shame to any alum who lets this happen.

Shrill Harpy Remains Shrill

One of the people behind the dust-up at Blogging Blue that got me booted was a shrill harpy named Monica.  Monica is a quality human being, if by "quality" you mean "horrific."  Her latest rant about Zach's expression of appreciation for my contributions to Blogging Blue is a paen to self-indulgent, misanthropic harpy-ness spiced with a dash of conspiratorial accusatory drivel.
Really, Zach. You are “thanking” Phil Scarr for not having any hard feelings? You are thanking him when he links to a post that calls me a “troll”…when you know nothing could be further from the truth.

First…to cover his bad behavior he calls me a “conservitard” which you know is not true but you don’t say anything…and now he calls me a “troll” and you still don’t say anything except…”thanks Phil”. Wow.

Well…let me put this in perspective. I posted a completely legitimate question about sexist “wise cracks” being made by Phil Scarr and some liberal commenters. I got attacked by Phil Scarr and then he purposely sent my comment to SPAM land. Now…the way wordpress works is it saves all spammed comments…but mysteriously my comment was not saved. Where did it go? Did Phil Scarr…the IT manager…hack into Blogging Blue and delete it before Zach could see it? My belief is he did…and even Zach posed this same question to me in an email. If this is the kind of behavior you all respect and “thank” people for you all are hypocrites.
I love blogging.  It brings out the best in people.  I especially love the Kafka-esque accusation (in her ranting she hints that Zach was somehow complicit in this accusation, something that I will deal with another time) that I somehow "hacked" into the system and erased a comment?  Really???  Wow...   Evidence, though, will be hard to come by since it never happened.

Well, perhaps it's for the best that I have moved on (or, more accurately was terminated from my blogging role at Blogging Blue).  Several other progressive Wisconsin blogs have expressed interest in having me join their stables of writers but I think I'll run on my own for a bit.  I'm less likely to get kicked out that way.

I don't mind disagreements, but I will certainly not stand by and have my integrity impugned by a shrill harpy like Monica nor will I tolerate this kind of unfounded accusation.

If you have evidence, bring it forward.  I welcome it.  Until then, you can shut the fuck up.

The Confidence Fairy Takes Flight!

Apparently the confidence fairy is not all that confident that the Greek elections on Sunday will prevent the Eurozone from plunging further into uncharted chaos.

Spanish 10-year bonds have risen rapidly to new highs.  Explain to me again how pursuing austerity in the Eurozone is going to bring the Confidence Fairy home to roost?  So far, I'm not seeing it.

Paul Mason, the BBC's economics editor opined
Many political commentators here (in Athens), and much of the wisdom in taxis and coffee bars, says we get an ND-led coalition tonight, which collapses six months later, and is replaced by a strengthened Syriza, which leads to the final showdown.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Socialists Sweep French Parliamentary Elections

French President François Hollande

Good news for France; the Socialists have taken more than the 289 seats necessary to control the French Parliament giving President François Hollande a free hand to shape the French economic response to the Eurozone crisis.
Historically, the French have usually given a new president a working majority in the legislature, and Mr. Hollande will have the votes he needs to pass legislation and carry out his plans, whatever they turn out to be. But he will not have the three-fifths majority needed to carry out constitutional changes, which may prove to be important if France and Germany agree on ways to create more of a political and fiscal union out of the countries that use the euro.
The French economy, like most of the Eurozone, is limping along under the catastrophic policies of austerity driven by the ECB and the Germans.  Hollande is pressuring German Chancellor Angela Merkel to slow the drive for austerity and push harder on fiscal plans to grow the collective Eurozone economies.

I wish President Hollande the best of luck in navigating the shark infested Eurozone waters.  He's going to need it.

What Happened at Blogging Blue

It's no big mystery... Zach felt I reacted inappropriately in a comment exchange with a particularly nasty troll and based on that exchange, he removed my posting privileges from BB.  He has not kicked me off per se, I can still comment on posts but I will no longer contribute content to the site.
I just wanted to express to you how disappointed I was by your comment,"I will use whatever language, words or epithets I want and nothing you or any other conservitard will change my mind."  I hope by now you know that I'm loathe to step in and "censor" someone, whether a commenter or a contributor, but with all due respect you can't simply write whatever language, words, or epithets you want on the blog, because ultimately I'm the one who bears responsibility for the words, language, and epithets used by commenters and contributors alike.
Zach is right.  I got sucked into a troll flame-war.  Mea culpa.  I shouldn't have but I did.  Although Zach and I may disagree over the appropriate response to an author who goes off the reservation, he did what he felt was necessary to maintain the editorial integrity of Blogging Blue.  I respect that.

Ironically, one of the things I was arguing about with Monica, the troll in question, was "who owns Blogging Blue?"  My response was that I own what I write, the rest is academic.  Well, I was wrong and Monica was right.  Zach owns Blogging Blue and he can do with it as he pleases.

So don't cry for me...  It's probably for the best.

NFL Players Suing the League

Bad news for NFL fans, it looks like the league is in trouble.
2,450 players have now filed 89 concussion related law suits against the NFL and Riddell Athletics (helmet manufacturer).
The suits against the NFL/Riddle are based on the fact that a significant number of players have received permanent brain injuries while playing for the NFL. There are dozens of reports that prove this. A Michigan University study of former players found that: 
Alzheimer’s disease or similar-memory related diseases occur ‘vastly’ more often than the national population – including a rate of 19 times the normal rate for men ages 30-49.
That's a catastrophic outcome it it's true.  Now one might say that NFL players receive significant renumeration to get the shit pounded out of them every Sunday for 18 weeks, but the real question is whether or not the NFL and Riddle knew how dangerous these head related injuries really were.

A critical issue for the teams/players is, "What did the teams do when a player incurred a head injury during play/practice?" As far back as 1999 it was shown that players who received a concussion during practice or a game were 4Xs more likely to receive another concussion in the following 10 days. 
The NFL ignored this information. It was not until 2009 that it established rules that required players who exhibited any sign of concussion had to be removed from a game or practice, and be barred from returning the same day. 
But there are hundreds of documented cases since 2009 where players who received a head injury that produced symptoms of concussion who were returned to the playing field within minutes of the original injury. 

Back To Life

Time to resurrect the old blog since I won't be posting over at Blogging Blue any longer.  More on that later.