Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Monday, August 15, 2011 7:31 pm

Affordable Care Act: SCOTUS, here we come

Five federal district courts have had the opportunity to address the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that people buy health insurance. Three courts have ruled that it is constitutional, while two have ruled that it is not.

At the appeals level, a 6th Circuit panel has ruled in favor of constitutionality. Last week, a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit ruled against it. What’s interesting, however, is that while the district judges have ruled along partisan lines, the appellate rulings have been more mixed, as Steven Benen observes: On the 6th Circuit, Bush 43 appointee Jeffrey Sutton voted to uphold the law, while on the 11th, a Clinton appointee, Frank Hull, voted with the majority against the mandate. (Reagan appointee Stanley Marcus dissents furiously, just to keep things interesting.)

So this puppy is headed to the Supreme Court, where a ruling against the mandate would be both the overturning of 70 years of case law and not all that surprising, given the predilection the Roberts Court has shown for legislating from the bench.

UPDATE: Fred points me to this dispatch by former Anthony Kennedy clerk Orin Kerr at SCOTUSblog, who boldly predicts the mandate eventually will be upheld, if the current Court personnel decide the case, by a vote of anywhere from 6-3 to 8-1, with only Clarence Thomas a lock against the constitutionality of the mandate. I think Kerr overestimates Roberts’s philosophical consistency, but were I forced at gunpoint to make the same prediction, I’d call for no worse than a 5-4 majority to uphold. The bottom line is that Justice Kennedy hasn’t gone crazy. Yet.

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Friday, August 12, 2011 8:37 pm

If we HAD high inflation and U.S. debt wasn’t downgraded THEN, why is it being downgraded NOW?

Filed under: Evil,I want my money back. — Lex @ 8:37 pm
Tags: , , ,

In the late 1970s, the U.S. had a big problem with inflation — not as big as, say, Argentina, or post-World War I Germany, but by U.S. standards, huge. Inflation topped 11% in 1979.

Did Standard & Poor’s and the other ratings agencies downgrade the federal government’s debt back then? Why, no, they did not. That debt remained AAA grade, just as it did up until the other day.

But … but … but … the reason Standard & Poor’s downgraded U.S. debt the other day was because they were afraid the national debt was getting out of control and would lead to inflation, right?

Well, that’s what S&P implied, and it’s certainly what the national media and economically illiterate right-wing nutjobs wanted us to think. However, the fact of the matter is that 5-year Treasury notes are currently paying negative real interest rates. It is literally cheaper right now, taking (lack of) inflation into account, for the government to borrow money for five years to do stuff than to pay cash for that same stuff. And that’s the markets’ doing, not the government’s. So, clearly, bond markets do not perceive inflation to be a near-term or medium-term threat.

So why did S&P downgrade U.S. debt? Yves Smith offers a plausible explanation: payback:

The S&P downgrade looks to be politically motivated. The President had several routes by which he could have circumvented the debt ceiling restriction and almost certainly would have used one of them if the debt ceiling talks had dragged on so long that it became difficult to make interest payments out of tax receipts. McGraw Hill, which owns S&P, is headed by Terry McGraw, a prominent figure in the Business Roundtable, which has stated that it wants Social Security privatized. S&P has used its muscle to its advantage in the past, such as a state effort in Georgia in the early 2000s which would have reined in predatory lending and in turn reduced the issuance of private label mortgage backed securities. Rating them was a very profitable business for all the rating agencies. S&P torpedoed that initiative by refusing to rate bonds with Georgia loans in them. That forced Georgia to back down and killed other state efforts underway. Had these laws been in place, it is almost certain the subprime crisis would not have risen to a global-economy-wrecking event.

We now live in an era in which some of our most powerful institutions are perfectly willing to blow up the economy for short-term gain and the opportunity to place bets on the ensuing disaster. The rule of law, if you are big enough and rich enough, has gone by the boards; the umpires, to use Chief Justice John Roberts’s metaphor from his perjured confirmation testimony, have gone beyond calling balls and strikes to taking a side.

That side is not the president’s. The greater problem is that unless you are fabulously wealthy, it is not yours, either.

Lots of noseless people with spited faces

Filed under: Quote Of The Day,Sad — Lex @ 8:36 pm

From commenter MichaelF at First Draft:

“It never ceases to amaze me the lengths people will go to, the resources they’ll expend, and the privations they’ll accept … just so they can hate.”

Yup.

The Panthers might need a new name for their stadium …

… because financial blogger Yves Smith thinks that there’s a fairly serious question as to how much longer Bank of America (BAC) might be with us:

Bank of America’s situation is a lot like that of the borrower who has a looming obligation he can’t meet. But unlike having a well identified big debt to pay down the road, the financial behemoth faces large but uncertain in size payments in the future thanks to pending and growing lawsuits to recover alleged damages resulting from the misdeeds of its acquisition, Countrywide. The current wave of litigation that has investors rattled results from Countrywide telling investors that the loans they were packing into securities were much better than they really were.

The Charlotte bank tried to put most of that problem behind it by entering into a settlement for $8.5 billion, which if they can pull it off, will be the bargain of the century. But that deal is being challenged on multiple fronts, including by New York state attorney general Eric Schneiderman. It looks like that pact either will not go through or will be renegotiated substantially and cost Bank of America a good deal more.

Another blow landed Monday when it was sued by AIG for $10 billion, for the same sort of liability it was seeking to discharge in the settlement. If one investor thinks it is owed $10 billion on $28 billion of mortgages, or 35%, when the old settlement deal for $8.5 billion was for only about 3.5% of the total amount of bonds, that alone shows how much more Bank of America might have to shell out.

And that’s only one risk Bank of America faces. The meteor-hitting-the-financial-system sort of lawsuit, which no one has dared to launch, would attack originators and packagers like Countrywide for failing to transfer mortgages properly to the mortgages securities in the first place, in violation of their own contract. This astonishing and apparently widespread “securitization fail” is leading to more and more underwater homeowners successfully challenging foreclosures in court. And it is also leading to banks undermining the rule of law. The robosigning scandal of last fall is only the tip of the iceberg. Both Schneiderman and Delaware’s attorney general Beau Biden are investigating conduct by mortgage securitizers on a broad basis.

This brings to mind another thought I saw somewhere today but cannot remember where: Even if you grant that a bank (or other corporation) is Too Big to Fail, the shareholders could still be wiped out and the responsible executives could all be fired. And in BAC’s case, they should be.

 

Who said this?

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 7:51 pm
Tags:

This is not a trick question:

I’m sure you’ve been watching this mess in Washington.

I’d like you to know how I feel about it.

I haven’t voted for one of these lousy budget packages for years and I won’t vote for this one.

It would raise taxes on the wrong people.

Unlike some folks around here I think everyone should pay their fair share. Including the rich.

We need to protect our seniors from Medicare cuts too.

I don’t care if the President or Congressional leaders twist my arm. I won’t support any deal that isn’t a fair deal for the working families.

The answer will surprise you … and give you some depressing insight into how debased and directed away from problem-solving our political discourse and journalism have become.

Thought for the day

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 6:44 am
Tags:

… from Sir Charles at Cogitamus:

As my friend Tim Noah likes to point out, with the blessing of FDR, Harry Hopkins put four million Americans to work in four months through the Civil Works Administration.  The CWA lasted only from November 1933 through March 31, 1934.  But in that brief period, the federal government directly put to work what would be the equivalent of ten million workers today.   Hopkins then went on to run the Works Progress Administration(“WPA”), which at its height employed 3.5 million people and spent the equivalent of 6.7% of GDP in 1935.  In today’s economy, that would require spending about $938 billion annually on a comparable program.

In other words, there really is an alternative vision that could be presented to the American electorate about what to do with the problem of unemployment.  And it’s one that made the Democratic Party the natural governing majority party in the United States for a period of about forty years.

He’s just sayin’.

Thursday, August 11, 2011 9:04 pm

‘nother Quote of the Day

Filed under: I want my country back.,Quote Of The Day — Lex @ 9:04 pm

DougJ at Balloon Juice:

I think a big thing is the idea that being an [expletive] all the time won’t really lead to a perfect free market Galtian paradise, and even if it did, I wouldn’t want to live here.

“Sir, about the watery grave we are about to enter …”

Filed under: America. It was a really good idea — Lex @ 8:50 pm

The sinking of the Titanic, as reimagined by David:

The time: 2:10 AM, April 15, 1912
Place: Deck of the RMS Titanic, in the middle of the North Atlantic

Capt. Boehner (The icy waters lapping at his feet): Damn it man, when are you and your people going to fix this problem?

First Officer Obama: Well, sir, your people built the ship, told us it couldn’t sink, fought regulations about carrying more life boats as “burdensome government regulation” then you sailed us through iceberg-infested waters at night, at top speed, in order to facilitate the betting pool for the First Class passengers.

Capt. Boehner: That’s so typical of you, inciting class warfare and rooting for the icebergs to win. I bet you are secretly an iceberg.

First Officer Obama: With respect sir, now is not the time for that argument.

Sir Rupert Murdoch: Now is ALWAYS the time for that argument!

First Officer Obama: Why is he on the bridge?

Capt. Boehner: Important business. He’s hacking the telegraph wires so he can spy on the other passengers.

Go read the whole thing.

If you want to go after waste, fraud and abuse in government spending …

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 8:41 pm
Tags: ,

… you could go after nickel-and-dime food-stamp and unemployment fraud. Or, you could take Willie Sutton’s advice and go where the money is, i.e., the Pentagon. But if you can’t or won’t go after the Pentagon, there are other forms of cost-efficient, low-hanging fruit, and it looks like we just found some:

The Department of Justice and four states on Monday filed a multibillion-dollar fraud suit against the Education Management Corporation, the nation’s second-largest for-profit college company, charging that it was not eligible for the $11 billion in state and federal financial aid it had received from July 2003 through June 2011.

While the civil lawsuit is one of many raising similar charges against the expanding for-profit college industry, the case is the first in which the government intervened to back whistle-blowers’ claims that a company consistently violated federal law by paying recruiters based on how many students it enrolled. The suit said that each year, Education Management falsely certified that it was complying with the law, making it eligible to receive student financial aid.

“The depth and breadth of the fraud laid out in the complaint are astonishing,” said Harry Litman, a lawyer in Pittsburgh and former federal prosecutor who is one of those representing the two whistle-blowers whose 2007 complaints spurred the suit. “It spans the entire company — from the ground level in over 100 separate institutions up to the most senior management — and accounts for nearly all the revenues the company has realized since 2003.”

Let’s say that again: the fraud “accounts for nearly all the revenues the company has realized since 2003.” In other words, this corporate entity you’ve probably never heard of was set up for the specific and sole purpose of stealing more than a billion dollars a year from taxpayers, the government alleges.

That’s pretty breathtaking. Who would have the wherewithal, the ingenuity, the resources and the sheer gall to attempt something like that?

Education Management, which is based in Pittsburgh and is 41 percent owned by Goldman Sachs, enrolls about 150,000 students in 105 schools operating under four names: Art Institute, Argosy University, Brown Mackie College and South University.

Did I even need to ask?

(Disclosure: I work for a private, not-for-profit institution of higher education that is at least theoretically a competitor of Education Management Corp. Not being directly involved in admissions, I have no idea whether we actually compete with them in real life.)

Quote of the Day

Filed under: Journalism — Lex @ 8:27 pm
Tags: ,

When all is said and done, David Frum is still probably going to Hell. Ginning up support for an illegal war is a pretty big black mark in anyone’s book.

But it would be churlish of St. Peter not to acknowledge this gem of Frum’s, characterizing his own experience as a one-time writer of op-ed columns for The Wall Street Journal (and keep in mind that he did so well before Murdoch got hold of the publication):

The strict demands of the paper’s ideology do not always lie smoothly over the rocky outcroppings of reality.

(h/t: Brad DeLong)

Why you don’t want to try to run government like a business

Because business people haven’t the first clue what they’re talking about, observes Sir Charles at Cogitamus:

One of the things that has kept occuring to me over the last couple of weeks — and with particular potency on Thursday as the stock market tanked — is the consistent uselessness of the American business community in matters of policy.  Business groups like the Chamber of Commerce continuously push to elect Republicans to office despite the fact that they are committed to harmful cuts in government expenditures, cuts that will ultimately harm the Chamber’s own constituency.  The Wall Street community, which got its collective nose out of joint over the all too tepid criticisms levelled at it by President Obama, helped to elect Republicans so out of touch with financial reality that they allowed the prospect of a governmental default to spook the markets.  All of this despite the fact that historically the economy experiences much greater job growth under Democratic administrations and that the stock market has performed far better under Democratic presidents.

Business leaders could have played a useful role in the recent debates over both the move towards austerity and the debt ceiling.  It would have been extremely helpful to have arguments made for expansionary policies posited by the business community, which rightly or wrongly, continues to have a ready microphone in the mainstream media, particularly on cable television.  They chose instead to sit on the sidelines and let the crazies in the Republican Party have their way.  Only after the fact have they reacted to the bad policy decisions foisted on us by the extreme right, past the point where they could have any positive input in the debate.

To be fair to business, not all business groups are alike. The national Chamber of Commerce, which represents primarily the largest corporations while claiming to speak for all business,  is so insane some local chambers are disassociating themselves from it, while groups such as the National Federation of Independent Businesses, which represent more small and medium-sized businesses, have been more reality-based.

But the poster’s larger point stands: Big Business has supported political candidates whose party’s performance history is objectively inimical to its interests. It has supported politicians who are killing it, not politicians who have helped it. And that, friends, is one good reason not to run government like business.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011 8:29 pm

The trolls under the intellectual-property bridge

I have said many times in private communications during the past 15 years or so — since the Telecommunications Act, basically, although that’s not the only thing I’m talking about — that intellectual-property law is where American ingenuity goes to die.

Now I’m saying it publicly because the wonderful people at NPR’s “Planet Money”  have found an example so clear that even I can understand it.

You can either read the text or listen to the audio; it’s good either way. And what it says, in short, is what I’ve been saying for years: A lot of stuff is patented that shouldn’t be, including many kinds of software, and some of the most vociferous critics of those patents are the people who own them.

… we talked to a half dozen different software engineers. All of them hated the patent system, and half of them had patents in their names that they felt shouldn’t have been granted. In polls, as many as 80 percent of software engineers say the patent system actually hinders innovation. It doesn’t encourage them to come up with new ideas and create new products. It actually gets in their way.

Many patents are so broad, engineers say, that everyone’s guilty of infringement. This causes huge problems for almost anyone trying to start or grow a business on the Internet.

“We’re at a point in the state of intellectual property where existing patents probably cover every behavior that’s happening on the Internet or our mobile phones today,” says Chris Sacca, the venture capitalist. “[T]he average Silicon Valley start-up or even medium sized company, no matter how truly innovative they are, I have no doubt that aspects of what they’re doing violate patents right now. And that’s what’s fundamentally broken about this system right now.”

This brings us back to Chris Crawford’s patent, the patent Intellectual Ventures cited as an example of how they encourage innovation by ensuring that inventors get paid. As we’ve said, this patent also seems to cover a big chunk of what happens on the Internet: upgrading software, buying stuff online, and what’s called cloud storage. If you have a patent on all that, you could sue a lot of people.

And, in fact, that’s what’s happening with Chris Crawford’s patent. Intellectual Venures sold it to a company called Oasis research in June of 2010. Less than a month later, Oasis Research used the patent to sue over a dozen different tech companies, including Rackspace, GoDaddy, and AT&T.

We called Oasis several times, but no one ever answered the phone. For a while, the company’s voice mail message directed all questions to John Desmarais , a lawyer in New York.

He didn’t return our phone calls, but we did track him down at an intellectual property conference in San Francisco.

He cited attorney-client privilege, and wouldn’t tell us anything — not even who owns Oasis Research. (He did say he’s a big fan of NPR.) …

All the big tech companies have started amassing troves of software patents — not to build anything, but to defend themselves. If a company’s patent horde is big enough, it can essentially say to the world, “If you try to sue me with your patents, I’ll sue you with mine.”

It’s mutually assured destruction. But instead of arsenals of nuclear weapons, it’s arsenals of patents. And this was a problem Intellectual Ventures founder Nathan Myhrvold said he was trying to solve when he first started the company. A problem that he and others from his company talked about at investor meetings around Silicon Valley. Chris Sacca attended one of those meetings a few years back.

The pitch he heard was, basically, Intellectual Ventures helps defend against lawsuits. Intellectual Ventures has this horde of 35,000 patents — patents that, for a price, companies can use to defend themselves.

Technology companies pay Intellectual Ventures fees ranging “from tens of thousands to the millions and millions of dollars … to buy themselves insurance that protects them from being sued by any harmful, malevolent outsiders,” Sacca says.

There’s an implication in IV’s pitch, Sacca says: If you don’t join us, who knows what’ll happen?

He says it reminds him of “a mafia-style shakedown, where someone comes in the front door of your building and says, ‘It would be a shame if this place burnt down. I know the neighborhood really well and I can make sure that doesn’t happen.’ ” …

And companies like Intellectual Ventures and their shadowy partners that do nothing but control and litigate over patents are growing more numerous every day, with untold costs for American industry. Here’s a particularly good example, which caught my eye because my friend Tony used to work for Nortel:

In early July, the bankrupt tech company Nortel put its 6,000 patents up for auction as part of a liquidation. A bidding war broke out among Silicon Valley powerhouses. Google said it wanted the patents purely to defend against lawsuits and it was willing to spend over $3 billion to get them. That wasn’t enough, though.

The portfolio eventually sold to Apple and a consortium of other tech companies including Microsoft and Ericsson. The price tag: $4.5 billion dollars. Five times the opening bid. More than double what most people involved were expecting. The largest patent auction in history.

That’s $4.5 billion on patents that these companies almost certainly don’t want for their technical secrets. That $4.5 billion won’t build anything new, won’t bring new products to the shelves, won’t open up new factories that can hire people who need jobs. That’s $4.5 billion dollars that adds to the price of every product these companies sell you. That’s $4.5 billion dollars buying arms for an ongoing patent war.

The big companies — Google, Apple, Microsoft — will probably survive. The likely casualties are the companies out there now that no one’s ever heard of that could one day take their place.

The current system stifles innovation, and when you stifle innovation, history shows, you stifle long-term prosperity.

Fun fact: My current rep, Howard Coble, is one of the most senior members of the House subcommittee with jurisdiction over IP law, although not having researched the question I have no idea to what extent, if any, he’s responsible for any of this mess.

UPDATE: In catching up on my RSS feed, I see that Kevin Drum at MoJo also has linked to the “Planet Money” piece and come up with another example, this one involving Spotify, a streaming music service that arrived in the U.S. market this summer. I got a membership so recently I haven’t even tried it out yet. And even before I did, Spotify got sued over the (pun intended) patently ridiculous notion that the plaintiff, a company called PacketVideo, could actually own a patent on the simple idea of streaming audio over the Internet.

Kevin checks out the patent that PacketVideo holds and then comments:

There are no specific algorithms involved and no specific implementations proposed. Basically, it appears to be a claim that covers any system in which music is compressed and encrypted by a server, shipped out over a network, and then decrypted and decompressed at a client. The patent claims seem to include pretty much any kind of server, any kind of storage device, any kind of compression, an extremely broad set of communications protocols, and pretty much any kind of remote device. If you’re streaming music this way — and honestly, there’s really no other way to do it — then PacketVideo says you’re infringing their patent.

At least, that’s how it reads to me. Neither the news stories nor the legal filing go into much detail about the precise nature of the infringement PacketVideo is claiming, and they don’t appear to have sued all the other streaming music vendors in the world, so it’s possible their claim is more specific. But my amateur reading suggests they really are claiming patent rights to the whole idea of streaming music from a server. And the fact that they waited to file suit until Spotify had entered the U.S. market suggests that their claim isn’t valid anywhere else. Only in the U.S. do we allow a patent claim this broad.

Commenter Jon F. asks, “How do we fix it?” I haven’t had a lot of time to think about it, but I honestly don’t know, and here’s why: A big chunk of the source of this problem isn’t statutes (although they certainly contribute), but Supreme Court decisions. Given the makeup of the Supreme Court and the difficulty that even Democratic presidents can have in getting appointees confirmed who aren’t more or less allied with big business interests, this pooch might not be unscrewable for at least a generation. Meanwhile, other countries are going to be eating our lunch.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011 8:11 pm

“How do you have a discussion with someone when language is intentionally denied the purpose of conveying meaning?”

Quote of the Day, language edition, from Roch Smith in the comments at Ed’s place. He’s talking about economics but the phenomenon he describes applies to pretty much all our public discourse of late:

I used to try to argue with people who detached meaning from words, but it’s impossible. There are people for whom a legitimate “argument” involves ignoring the meaning of words or imbuing them with a meaning that they do not have, sometimes to the point of making them even the opposite of what they mean.

How do you have a discussion with someone when language is intentionally denied the purpose of conveying meaning? Some people view the purpose of a “debate” as constructing an impenetrable barricade against the intrusion of a new idea. Language is not for getting an idea from one mind to another, it is for keeping preconception unmolested; as such, it need not have any fidelity to meaning. The purpose of a “discussion” for the meaning-snatchers is to gainsay, block and frustrate — abandoning meaning serves that purpose well. But you can’t engage it except as a futility.

It’s like arguing with gibberish. One might as well be arguing with: “You said, ‘Keynes suffocated oranges for the transport of the orbiting oak spoons,’ but his dog collar chastity is more of an aerobic digestion, not the marbled decorum you wrongly espouse. So there!”

Roch poses the question mostly rhetorically, but its answer has real, and pernicious, real-world consequences — consequences that those in Washington who work with words for a living could, but choose not to, ameliorate. (And I know they know better because I trained some of them.)

Insert ritual condemnation of violence and/or inevitable “London Calling” headline here

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 8:03 pm
Tags: , ,

This … is London:

Violence is rarely mindless. The politics of a burning building, a smashed-in shop or a young man shot by police may be obscured even to those who lit the rags or fired the gun, but the politics are there. Unquestionably there is far, far more to these riots than the death of Mark Duggan, whose shooting sparked off the unrest on Saturday, when two police cars were set alight after a five-hour vigil at Tottenham police station. A peaceful protest over the death of a man at police hands, in a community where locals have been given every reason to mistrust the forces of law and order, is one sort of political statement. Raiding shops for technology and trainers that cost ten times as much as the benefits you’re no longer entitled to is another. A co-ordinated, viral wave of civil unrest across the poorest boroughs of Britain, with young people coming from across the capital and the country to battle the police, is another.

Months of conjecture will follow these riots. Already, the internet is teeming with racist vitriol and wild speculation. The truth is that very few people know why this is happening. They don’t know, because they were not watching these communities. Nobody has been watching Tottenham since the television cameras drifted away after the Broadwater Farm riots of 1985. Most of the people who will be writing, speaking and pontificating about the disorder this weekend have absolutely no idea what it is like to grow up in a community where there are no jobs, no space to live or move, and the police are on the streets stopping-and-searching you as you come home from school. The people who do will be waking up this week in the sure and certain knowledge that after decades of being ignored and marginalised and harassed by the police, after months of seeing any conceivable hope of a better future confiscated, they are finally on the news. In one NBC report, a young man in Tottenham was asked if rioting really achieved anything:

“Yes,” said the young man. “You wouldn’t be talking to me now if we didn’t riot, would you?”

“Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard, more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you.”

Eavesdropping from among the onlookers, I looked around. A dozen TV crews and newspaper reporters interviewing the young men everywhere.

There are communities all over the country that nobody paid attention to unless there had recently been a riot or a murdered child. Well, they’re paying attention now.

Rioting is wrong. We know enough about human nature to know that it also is a nearly inevitable consequence of pinning people up without logic, justice, opportunities or hope. That’s not to say everyone who is poor riots, or that none of those who riot are consciously choosing to be criminal; some certainly are. But for a subset of a subset, rationality exists in a different, distant dimension, while in the here and now there is nothing but terror, grief, frustration and rage.

The converse of that fact is that for those of us who actually have a little, it is in our best interests to share because then people are less likely to be driven to the kind of irrationality that leads them to destroy what little they have and — oh, by the way — take what’s ours. That’s not paying blackmail, because the concept of blackmail, or extortion, involves premeditation and willful intent — a measure of rationality, in other words. But when you drive people crazy, sometimes — Stop the presses! — they don’t act rationally. As Athenae observes:

Giving people who need assistance a stake in society doesn’t just help individuals. It tethers people in, so that even if they don’t have what you have, they see the value in what all of us have, and feel a part of things. This isn’t charity.

Nope. Indeed, even under close scrutiny it looks remarkably like enlightened self-interest.

One other thing: I can’t prove it, but I can’t help wondering whether the riots in the UK (and demonstrations ongoing in Israel) aren’t a more-or-less direct consequence of the so-called austerity measures taken by the IGMFY factions controlling those respective governments. If so, then it’s entirely possible we can look forward to the same thing here. Not immediately, of course, because as all the critics pointed out, the $2 trillion in cuts that got our debt ceiling lifted recently don’t all take place anytime soon. But given how much a significant chunk of the most vulnerable Americans already have been through in the past four years, it could be sooner than those of us who are comfortable think.

Saturday, August 6, 2011 11:10 pm

Quote of the day

Filed under: I want my money back.,We're so screwed — Lex @ 11:10 pm
Tags: ,

John Cole asks, of the 2011 edition of Economics 101, “What don’t you understand?”

Our Galtian overlords have the most money they ever have [had], their taxes are at the lowest levels they have [been] in many decades, and they have plenty of money to blow on luxury items. Why? BECAUSE THEY HAVE ALL THE [expletive] MONEY. It’s no coincidence that luxury items are flying off the shelves while concomitantly, the middle class is slowing down their spending on food, furniture, etc. In fact, this is precisely the point many dirty hippies have been trying to make — we are never going to have an economic recovery until some people other than the Kochs and Warren Buffet have money to spend. And with unemployment at astronomical levels and with the official government policy to make things worse with austerity and then hope a magical unicorn comes sliding down a rainbow showering jobs on the middle class, it is going to stay this way.

If you can’t understand Krugman, maybe you can understand Cole. And if you can’t understand Cole, you’re screwed anyway.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011 8:18 pm

On calling people terrorists

Hostage-taking is an act of terrorism. If you don’t want to be called a terrorist, don’t farking act like one.

Thus endeth the lesson.

To the last drop

Filed under: Journalism,Sad — Lex @ 8:00 pm
Tags: , , ,

The Brewery, a Raleigh nightspot that was a minor but significant part of my misspent youth, was demolished Tuesday. Tony and I once saw X perform there, and I got to interview the band for a radio station.

Raleigh News & Observer video here.

Speaking of demolition, former colleague Steve Allen reports on Facebook that as a result of consolidation of the Raleigh and Charlotte papers’ design desks by corporate parent McClatchy, the new “lead sports designer” for the Raleigh paper, the primary sports-news outlet in one of the nation’s hottest college sports markets (the hottest during basketball season), has a grand total of 61 days — days — of experience. I’m sure he/she is a very nice person. I’m equally sure that anyone that inexperienced who was really all that would’ve landed somewhere other than Raleigh.

 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011 8:19 pm

Even though — or maybe because — I spent 25 years in journalism …

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns!,Journalism — Lex @ 8:19 pm
Tags: ,

… I have a certain sympathy for people, and even for Matt Damon, when they get asked a question so overwhelmingly idiotic that they lose the ability to respond courteously [language NSFW — duh].

(And, no, I don’t think it’s even close to coincidence that this idiotic a question comes from a reporter for Reason.TV.)

UPDATE: I thought that “10%” bit sounded familiar. Commenter baldheadeddork adds this bit of context at Nance’s place:

The “10% of people in any profession are bad” is a bit of cultural herpes left to us by Jack Welch from his days of running GE. He created/pulled out of his ass this idea that all of GE’s companies should find the worst-performing 10% of employees every year and fire them. It doesn’t require thinking, so conservatives and the idiot wing of the libertarian movement have latched on to it as gospel, never mind that it’s one of the reasons Welch left GE a train wreck of a company that had to be saved by TARP two years ago.

 

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