Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Or Is It really a Kenyan this time?

Carter, Begin, Sadat, Brezhnev, and Deng are all long gone.

Rumor has it that the last political icon of Tim Curry’s only pop hit has joined them.

Or has he?

The death of Fidel Castro, 88, has also often been mistakenly declared before on social media and this time may have been confused with the recent death in Nairobi of Fidel Castro Obinga, the son of a prominent Kenyan politician.

Either way, an excuse to “kill your ears, man.”

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Just Go Read

As I said on Facebook, it appears that Tim Armstrong—who got paid $12 million last year alone as CEO of the dead-on-its-feet AOL—is even more of an asshole than anyone previously believed.

The pull quote:

Until the morning I woke up in labor, every exam indicated that our daughter was perfectly healthy. In fact, had signs of trouble emerged, such as bleeding or pre-eclampsia, the doctors would have had the chance to mitigate the danger, administering steroids to speed up her lung development or hormones to delay labor. Instead, even with the best medical care available, we had no warnings, and we will never have an explanation for what went wrong. This is why the head neonatologist referred matter-of-factly to our daughter’s birth as “catastrophic.”

In other words, we experienced exactly the kind of unforeseeable, unpreventable medical crisis that any health plan is supposed to cover. Isn’t that the whole point of health insurance?

The story has a happy ending. Except that around ten years from now, that daughter is going to find out what someone who isn’t fit to shine her shoes but somehow runs an American corporation said about her when she was fighting for her life.

The next mofo who makes the absurd claim that “the 1% work harder” better have overcome at least what Deanna Fei’s daughter did and is. In a just world, or even the world of Brad DeLong’s Sensible Technocrat Economist *** dreams, anyone on AOL’s Board of Directors who did not come out publicly for Armstrong’s firing would be summarily dismissed from any other Board on which she or he served due to nonfeasance.

Instead, Armstrong is an invited guest at Davos, though he didn’t show up this year. Saving the Swiss being lectured about how evil it is to allow pregnancies to go to term.

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Because Piling On Is Sometimes Necessary

I was going to leave Richard Cohen alone: Gawker, LG&M, Dr. Black, etc. etc. all covered him.  There’s nothing to say that Katherine Weymouth didn’t already, save possibly that I’m thinking of burning all my non-existent copies of Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy” in effigy.

But I can’t resist coming out of what appears to be a blogging hiatus to hit the highlights:

People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?)

All right, there are no highlights.  But some of those praises seem familiar:

a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children

requires only a small edit

a white man married to a [non-white] woman and with [three] biracial children

to produce the brother of a former Republican Presidential candidate–not to mention the son of another Republican who rose rather high in the Party and the Country.

Oh, and the piece is all about (to quote the illiterate Relative of Tina: “why Cruz beats Christie in iowa.”

Iowa?  You mean, the first state not on the East Coast to legalize same-sex marriage?  That Iowa?  (Maybe there’s another one that only uses a small “i” to start its name.)

And, of course, the coup de gracelessness:

Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?

The answer is probably “no”–The Washington Post clearly needed the editor to read this column before publishing–but since he did, isn’t that perfectly in keeping with Republican Party Declarations?  (Update: Indeed, it’s one of the few Conservative benchmarks that Our Governor violated in the face of a certain override.)

In Richard Cohen’s world, Bill DeBlasio would cause Iowans to “repress a gag reflex.”  In the real world, DeBlasio represents Iowa, the face of the Republican Party, and Republican precepts–all in the same two sentences that are supposed to show how evil New York is.

But I’m still burning “Fantasy” in effigy, even though the video was filmed at Rye Playland around the time I was living there:

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Graphical Representation of Aggregate Demand in the Health Care Industry

Since my current governor (and your future President) is a brain-dead idiot who does not believe in the free market or taking responsibility for his actions,  we are one of the many states whose PPACA sign-up website is run out of Here’s a screen shot of my attempt to create an account 25 minutes ago.

PPACA 20131004-1240



Here’s an image of it twenty-five minutes later:

PPACA 20131004-1305



If today’s Republican Congressmen understood Aggregate Demand, they would have happily claimed ownership, not being spoiled brats.

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For the Record, No: A Review Too Late

Were Lawrence Summers what his critics say he is—a political hack with an inflated sense of his own skills that is matched only by his sense of entitlement, accompanied by a grotesquely non-realistic view of his accomplishments—this is precisely the letter he would write.

Felix, who was The Voice of Reason on this  before and after, has more.

(h/t DeLong; subtitle blatantly “borrowed” from WalterJon)

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The Last Economist to Understand that Bad Policy Has Ill Effects

Nobel Memorial Prize Winning Economist James Heckman has a piece in the Opinionator section of the NYT (is that a printed section, by the way, or online-only?) that reveals the lie behind the farce that is Arne Duncan’s “leadership”:

 Children raised in disadvantaged environments are not only much less likely to succeed in school or in society, but they are also much less likely to be healthy adults. A variety of studies show that factors determined before the end of high school contribute to roughly half of lifetime earnings inequality. This is where our blind spot lies: success nominally attributed to the beneficial effects of education, especially graduating from college, is in truth largely a result of factors determined long before children even enter school.

This comes as a surprise to absolutely no one. The menu at Denny’s adveritises that children who eat breakfast perform 20% better than those who don’t. I’m guessing that one reason the difference is that low is that some portion of those children eat breakfast at Denny’s, and become too soporific by midmorning to concentrate, while the kids whose stomachs are growling until lunch miss even that opportunity.

As Heckman notes, any sane economist would support Earlier and Earlier Interventions:

Critics say that early childhood education is expensive and that it is not effective. They are right about the cost, but terribly wrong about the large return on the investment. Quality early childhood programs for disadvantaged children more than pay for themselves in better education, health and economic outcomes.

Proof comes in the form of a long-term cost-benefit analysis of effective early childhood programs….

[The Perry Preschool project] did not produce lasting gains in the I.Q.’s of its participants, but it did boost character skills that produced better education, economic and life outcomes. The economic rate of return from Perry is in the range of 6 percent to 10 percent per year per dollar invested, based on greater productivity and savings in expenditures on remediation, criminal justice and social dependency. This compares favorably to the estimated 6.9 percent annual rate of return of the United States stock market from the end of World War II to the 2008 meltdown. And yes, these estimates account for the costs of raising taxes and any resulting loss of economic activity.

There’s your bloody Equity Premium.

Heckman’s other example is one place where “ObamaCare”–credit where due, Obama is the first president to live under a few years of state-sponsored health care*–makes replication even easier:

A similar long-term early childhood study, the Carolina Abecedarian Project, better known as ABC, gave cognitive stimulation, training in self-control and social skills, and parental education starting in the first few months of life. The children were also provided with health checkups and health care. Four groups of individuals born between 1972 and 1977 were randomly assigned to treatment and control groups, and their progress has been monitored so far through studies conducted at ages 12, 15, 21 and 30. This program had lasting effects on I.Q., parenting practices and child attachment, leading to higher educational attainment and more skilled employment among those in the treatment group.

Most dramatic were ABC’s effects on lifelong health. Now, over 30 years later, those treated in ABC have lower blood pressure, lower abdominal obesity, less hypertension and less likelihood of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular conditions as adults. This evidence clearly shows the power of quality early childhood programs for producing flourishing people with healthier lives, which increases productivity and lowers health care costs. [emphases mine]

If we’re going to live longer, we also need a workforce that is able to work longer. Otherwise, we end up with what I will call The Mannion Conundrum, after one of Lance’s posts.**

And it’s easier to live longer if you start life on a better footing.  My kids spent a year qualified for Free Lunch, but at least they started on first base.

Of course, Heckman isn’t the first economist to notice that early intervention–including health, nutrition, and education–pays dividends.  It’s just that the most prominent “Nobel Memorial Prize Winning Economist” to point that out is fictional.  Which, sadly, doesn’t mean he wasn’t correct then (and isn’t even moreso now).  So even as John Kasich pillages his own, let’s look back on the better days when people paid attention to an Economics Professor who knew from which he spoke, Josiah Bartlett:



James Heckman couldn’t have said it better. And would probably be very happy with the Korean subtitles, since they followed a version of his recommendations in the post-1953 era.


*Hawaii has had the Prepaid Health Care Act since 1974, when BarryO was 13.

**Not this one  (which is brilliant) or this one (which is a spot-on takedown of too-common economic theory from an economist who should know better), but one I cannot find right now.

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