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A Micro Founded Model in Which Trade Causes Higher Productivity Growth

The division of labor is limited by the extent of the market.

The model is a modified version of the simplified Romer 90 model. The modification is that there is a minimum efficient scale for the production of intermediate goods.

Gross output in the growing sector is (sum i = 1 to N of x_i^alpha)L1^(1-alpha) where x_i is the amount of the ith intermediate good used. There is also another way to produce the final product 1 for 1 from labor output = L2. L1+L2 = L which is fixed.

intermediate goods can be made from the final good one for one, but one must make at least one unit.
There is a small closed economy with (alpha)(L^(1-alpha)) <1. So in this economy it is not efficient to use or produce any intermediate goods. So N is fixed at zero and there is no growth. With free trade and no transporation costs, the relevant L is the world labor force, so it makes sense to make intermediate goods. They have to be invented and intellectual property is protected. Except for the minimum efficient scale of 1 unit, this is Barro and Sala i Martin's simplified version of Romer's 1990 model. Well also the number of inventions is a whole number, because making it a continuum is silly. Value added is proportional to N. So is the real wage. Increased N is technological progress and is the engine of growth and increasing produtivity. N only grows if L is large enough. L is world labor supply if there is free trade. Under autarchy small countries have no growth (which costs more than 1% of potential GDP). The model is very simple and actually very old. Here I come to an embarrassing conclusion. I think the minimum efficient scale isn't even needed at all -- it just makes the result extreme. In fact, I think the model as presented in the textbook has the effect high L causes high growth. There is no minimum efficient scale and no backstop no intermediate goods technology. It was decided that the scale effect was unreasonable, so the model was changed to eliminate it. This eliminated the effect of trade on productivity growth. I don't think it was difficulty of finding a model. It was a consensus on what is a reasonable thing for a model to do. In particular, there was a habit in (not so good) empirical work of treating each country as independent. I mean the standard work horse model confronted with data assumed no trade. Then it implied big countries grow faster than small countries. Ooops. So the model was modified. Then removing a counterfactual implication of the counterfactual no trade assumption removed all effects of trade on productivity growth, and at least one very smart person decided that theory suggested that there was no effect of trade on growth. In fact very old simple theory suggested cases where there could be no growth without trade. And I have 12 minutes left. I will not waste your time suggesting you read more just so that I can present the model in 30 minutes.

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I actually really disagree with Paul Krugman this time

Krugman argues that the Bank of Englands worst case scenario for no deal Brexit is implausibly bad. I agree with his conclusion, but strongly disagree with one argument (on a point which he stresses is quantitatively minor)

… the BoE includes some nonstandard effects of trade: they assume that reduced trade (and foreign direct investment) will reduce productivity more than the direct impacts on resource allocation would predict. They cite some statistical evidence, but it’s important to realize that this is black-box, reduced-form stuff: there’s no explicit mechanism through which it’s supposed to happen.

However, these assumed nonstandard effects aren’t what’s driving the really bad scenarios; they only, as I understand it, contribute something like 1 percentage point of GDP to the predicted costs.


On the substance: I’m skeptical about the supposed effects of trade on productivity. I know that there’s some evidence for such effects; trade seems to favor more productive firms. But relying a lot on effects we can’t model seems dubious.

In particular, I have strong memories of the openness-growth debacle of the 1990s.

I comment.

To me sentence “But relying a lot on effects we can’t model seems dubious” seems dubious. What do you mean “we” bright man ? I am willing to bet you could whip up a model where trade causes high productivity growth within 15 minutes.I am not willing to bet on you against you as being the guy who bet he couldn’t do it would creat a bit of conflict of interests.

I will attempt to do it in 30 minutes (OK I have begun thinkin already).

Then against data you have an example (one (1)). I can think of many debacles of people who decided not to rely on an effect because they couldn’t model it.
1) we can’t explain why nominal stickiness might be optimal & in our models firms maximize profits. The claim is true. Menu costs don’t do the trick as firms synchronize. Calvo fairies are embarassingly implausible. Akerlof said near rational (not optimizing). So they decide they must assume prices are flexible and we get a RBC debacle.
2) “zero isn’t an especially important number” Paul Krugman 1988 (at 1050 Mass avenue). There is no reason why people should accept constant nominal wages with 2% expectable inflation and not accept a 2% wage decline with 0% expectable inflation. So it can’t be true. But it is.
3) There can’t be a liquidity trap because of the Pigou effect. Also there is Ricardian equivalence. No one noticed that Pigou and Ricardo contradict each other until … *you* remember when — it was in the 1990s (and that example is *not* an elephant).

Over at the New York Times I ran out of allowed space so I will continue here with examples after the jump.

But now I wan’t to start a clock. Trade causes higher productivity growth in the model which I will present in 30 minutes or less.

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McCaskill, Donnelly and the poll correction

Recently, I claimed that is too cautious when correcting polls for house effects. Multiplying their correction by 4/3 gives lower volatility of generic congressional ballot polls (and for the past 100 days multiplying by 3/2 works even better). I think the are conservative, because adjusting or correcting polls is bound to be controversal and so they impose a pseudo prior that all pollsters are unbiased. In any case, I would like to play with the numbers.

I am going to very crudely adjust their adjustments by multiplying by 4/3. The adjustment is very important when attempting to forecast two red state Senatorial elections in Missouri and Indiana, because they have been polled almost exclusively by pollsters with strong Republican house effects. This means that the fivethirtyeight correction actually flips the lead — the fivethirtyeight corrected polls give a polls only “light” estimate that the Democrat McCaskill is ahead by 0.9% while the simpler average with no adjustment at realclearpolitics shows the Republican Hawley ahead by 2%. That’s not a huge difference.

Looking at the 10 most recent polls I see an average adjusment of 2.98 %. This means my adjustment to the adjustment gives McCaskill an additional 0.99% slightly more than doubling her estimated lead. Interestingly, the adjusted adjusted polls only estimate of 1.89% is almost exactly equal to the fivethirtyeight “classic” estimate of 1.7% which is based on polls and “fundamentals” including fund raising and incumbency.

Up in Indiana, fivethirtyeight gives Joe Donnelly a adjusted polls only estimated lead of 2.6%. the average adjustment of the most recent 10 polls is 1.76% so my adjustment to the adjustment gives him an additional 0.58% and a lead of 3.18%. The classic estimate with fundamentals gives him a lead of 3.2%.

In both cases, the adjusted adjustment makes the light estimate strikingly similar to the fivethirtyeight classic estimate.

With adjusted adjusted polls and fundamentals I get a not so classic estimate of a 2.7% lead for McCaskill and 3.8% for Donnelly.

Very crudely this seems to imply a roughly 70% estimated probability that McCaskill will be re-elected (I just read the probability corresponding to Donnelly’s light 538 adjusted 2.6 %).

update: Arizona too. Harris interactive is running a tracking poll of the Arizona senate race. This means it has a big effect on the forecast. This is important, because fivethirtyeight estimates that Harris interactive has a 2.3% Republican house effect, and there is evidence that the fivethirtyeight estimated house effects are cautious, conservative and therefoer 0.75 times the optimal estimates .

Based on their adjusted polls, they estimate that Synema is 1.6% ahead of McSally. The average adjustment of the past 10 polls is 1.48% towards Synema. The corrected correction suggests she is about 2.1% ahead not 1.6% ahead. This is enough to have a fairly impressive effect on the calculated probabilities eyeballing a cumulative normal distribution, I think they would give Synema about a 2/3 chance instead of 60.3% if they used my adjusted adjustment.

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Opinions on Text of the 14th Amendment Differ. One side has a point.

Ian Millhouser correctly denounces not only Trump’s assault on the 14th amendment but also reporters who print absolutely false assertions.

The issue is Trump’s clearly false claim that he can eliminate birthright citizenship by executive order.

In fact “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States … ” – US Constitution Amendment 14.

Millhouser’s post is too good to summarize, click the link.

Importantly he nails The New York Times tweeting the absolutely 100% false assertion that ” It is unclear whether he can do so unilaterally”.

He also catches CNN falsely saying it is “unclear” and NPR falsely claiming it”isn’t settled”.

The FBI has found no clear evidence that they are deliberately undermining the US Constitution and the very idea of Constitutions. In fact (as in the case of the dread New York Times headline) disgracefully printed 2 years + 1 day ago) they consider it safe to assert a negative. The principle that one can’t prove a negative is turned on its head. They assume it is safe to write and say “unclear” and to say “isn’t”.

I absouutely reject the claims that it is unclear whether the reporters who did this shouldn’t be roasted over a slow fire and that it isn’t settled whether the editors who allowed them too shouldn’t be skinned alive.

I just want to add a few comments.

First Millhouser doesn’t waste space noting that Donald Trump has no legislative authority whatsoever. He claims to be able to rewrite the Constitution by executive order. He can’t even rwrite the law. An executive order must be instructions as to how to faithfully execute the law written by Congress.

I think conservatives (if any read angrybearblog) may suspect me of hypocrisy since I never denounced Obama’s executive orders. They would be wrong. Obama (and his hardworking staff) always explained the basis in law and precedent for his orders. Even DAPA and DACA which seemed extreme even to sympathetic observers, were clearly authorized by the Immigrationa and Naturalization Act which grants the executive vast discretion and legally the same as an uncontroversial executive order signed by George H W Bush (not to mention that DACA was uncontroversial when issued). DAPA was blocked by an extremist judge not on the grounds that it went beyond the INA but on the grounds that it wasn’t preceded by a period of public comment as required by some other law (I think it’s called the administrative procedures act).

In contrast Bush’s absurd claim that he could create military commissions by executive order was rejected by a Conservative Supreme Court.

Another minor point — the “subject to the jurisdiction of ” phrase clearly was intended to say that Native Americans who live in territory not claimed by any great power or by the US Government are not US citizens. This is clear from the relevant context in the main body of the Constitution “excluding Indians not taxed” (search for the dread words “three fifths” and scroll left past a comma). The borders of the USA were not clearly defined when the 14th amendment was drafted. There were treaties with Mexico, Russia, and the British Empire which roughly defined approximately the current borders (except for Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, American Samoa and what’s left of the Norther Marianas Islands after typhoon Yutu). There were also treaties with native American tribes which hadn’t yet been broken which defined a smaller but aggresively expanding country. The 14th amendment said that, for example, people born in Oklahoma are not necessarily US citizens (don’t worry doesn’t apply to the native born president eligible Senator Professor Elisabeth Warren because that treaty was broken sooner than she was born).

By the way, Don Jr, Erik, Ivanka and Barron don’t have to worry that their dad will deprive them of US citizenship. He is, to our everlasting shame, a US citizen who lived in the USA at least 6 years after turning 14, so they are native born US citizens just like Rafael “Ted” Cruz and just as Barack Obama would be even if he had been born in Mombassa.

Finally Millhouser undestated his case again when he wrote

the Fourteenth Amendment’s words are clear, and the Supreme Court settled any lingering doubts over their meaning in its 1898 opinion in Wong Kim Ark.

In fairness, Wong Kim Ark was not a unanimous opinion — it was a 6-2 decision handed down over a dissent from Chief Justice Melville Fuller. In his dissent, Fuller argued that the Fourteenth Amendment secretly contains a missing word. “Born in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” he claimed, means that a person was “born or naturalized under such circumstances as to be completely subject to that jurisdiction, that is, as completely as citizens of the United States” (emphasis added). Thus, the child of non-citizens may not be “completely” subject to American jurisdiction because they also may also be “subject” to a “foreign power” — their parents country of origin.

The implications of this dissent are simply breathtaking. Had it become the law — and just in case this point is unclear, a dissenting opinion is, by definition, not the law — Fuller’s dissent would establish that any child of non-citizens, even the child of two lawful permanent residents, would not be a citizen.

In fact, the dissent would imply that Don Jr, Erik, Ivanka, Barron and my daughters are not US citizens because their mothers weren’t at the times of their birth. If any taint of foreigness were poison, than one foreign citizen parent would be enough for exclusion.

But, fortunately, Fuller completely invalid assertion of “completely” was absurd and outvoted 6 to 2.

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Does fivethirtyeight process the numbers too much ?

Or not enough. Nate Silver has long performed fairly complicated calculations with (lots of) raw data. Even back when he was Poblano at DailyKos this was highly controversial. Now that he leads a huge team at, it is almost necessary just to decide whether to trust them, because it is very time consuming to read their explanations of their algorithms.

In particular, obsessive poll watchers such as your humble correspondent, have noted that Senate ratings by and don’t always move together. Very often the difference between the complicated calculations at and the simple averages at is greater than the change of either from week to week.

One very important (and controversial) aspect of the approach is correcting raw polls

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How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

This is a somewhat late 10th anniversary of the Lehman failure post. I am not going to write much that is new, but will restate an argument I have been making for years (following John Quiggin and Miles Kimball). It is trivially easy for the US Treasury (and other treasuries) to make huge profits on the carry trade. These huge profits are, I claim, actual wealth created by the operation.

In general, the argument is that, over all recorded long time intervals, returns to a diversified pool of risky assets (such as the market portfolio of stocks) are greater than returns to Treasury bills. The average difference in returns is huge (on the order of 5% per year). This suggests that long term public debt problems could be relieved (or eliminated) if Treasuries issued more low return bonds and purchased a diversified portfolio of risky assets.

The common response seems to be that it can’t be so easy and there must be some catch. I claim it is easy to beat the market, so why am I not rich. The response to that is that the huge gains are available to an agent with deep pockets and a long planning horizon — that is states which can borrow at low rates in their own currency.

I think the 2008 financial crisis was an accidental experiment proving providing very strong evidence for these claims. The US Federal Government purchases trillions in risky assets at prices higher than private agents were willing to pay. This was done to save the economy and it was assumed that it would cost the Federal Government hundreds of billions. In the event, the Tr easury and the Federal reserve system made the highest profits ever recorded.

The reason for the huge forecast error (largest forecast error ever) is that Congress banned consideration of the expected gains from bearing risk. Normally, the CBO scores policies based on the change in the expected value of the federal debt 10 years later. This means that the scores are risk neutral. In the case of the Treasury’s rescue efforts (TARP and the earlier rescue of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) they were ordered to mark assets to market — to assume that risky assets had the same value for the deep pocketed infinite horizon Treasury as for private investors (which include wealth managers investing other people’s money who are fired if they have a few quarters of sub-market returns). It was possible to calculate the expected value of corrections to the estimates as uncertainty was resolved. It was in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Almost everyone was surprised by the result that things turned out as (mathematically not subjectively) expected. Barney Frank was the only policy maker who noted this before uncertainty was resolved. He was pilloried for having been soft on Fannie Mae before 2008, and had a strong personal interest in arguing that the bailout would not be a disaster for the Treasury. Also he turned out to be right.

Just google Fannie Mae profits and get to the latest report

Looking at 2017 as a whole, I am very pleased with our progress. We paid $12.0 billion in dividends to Treasury in 2017, bringing our total dividends to taxpayers to $166.4 billion. This compares to the $119.8 billion in draws that we have received or expect to receive shortly. Our pre-tax income was $18.4 billion, very much in line with pretax income of $18.3 billion 2016.

Now the $119.8 billion does not include interest paid on the Treasury securities sold to get the money to loan to Fannie Mae. These interest rates were near zero (Tand could have been even lower if the Treasury issued only Treasury bills and didn’t pay investors to bear term risk). The money sent by Fannie Mae to the Tresury does not sum up the gains to the Treasury which currently owns preferred shares, 80% of the common stock (if it were higher they would have to consolidate accounts and violated the debt ceiling) and the rights (just take but with the approval of judges) to all future dividends.

The huge profits were a side product of the effort. The main point of the rescue is that it was necessary to prevent a total collapse of the housing industry. In the crisis years, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were bearing the vast bulk (80% IIRC) of default risk on newly issued mortgages.

Of course Congress’s conclusion is that something has to be done to eliminate the terrible problem that a Federal Government agency is too successful in a market. That has to be inefficient because it is socialism and look at Venezuela. There are proposals to do something about this problem of a hugely profitable government agency. They never go anywhere fortunately. The arguments are
1) Fannie and Freddie are subsidizing residential investment
This is true. No one is forced to do business with them. Mortgage initiators do because unloading risk on Fannie and Freddie makes it possible for them too to get high profits. But the cost of this subsidy was negative 12 billion last year. So why is it a problem ?
2) Fannie and Freddie are sucking money out of the economy. Their profits are like a tax.
Not so true. Their profits are the result of private sector agents choosing to trade with them.
3) If there is another great recession, they will have huge losses automatically implying a larger budget deficit exactly when the economy is depressed.
True. They also serve as an automatic stabilizer. This is a good thing. It is better for the Treasury to lose money during recessions than for private agents to lose the money. Since the Treasury belongs to citizens, rational people would cut spending if it lost money (this is called Ricardian equivalence). But you make policy for the people you have not the people Fresh water economists want. In the real world Treasuries hide profits and losses from people who don’t act as fully rational agents (this is what Ricardo actually wrote).
4) It can’t be that easy. Why doesn’t everyone do that ?
Not everyone can borrow trillions at low interest rates
5) It’s socialism
Yes. So ?

This was supposed to be a brief post. After the jump, I discuss TARP and the really big bailout — QE 1.

Before I want to complain. My assertion is that partial public ownership of the means of production would benefit the country. Yet I often find myself criticized by leftists who think I am soft on bankers. I don’t understand this. It is certainly true that the 2008-9 bailouts were good for bankers. That doesn’t mean they were bad for the rest of us.

It also doesn’t mean that similar operations now that the financial system isn’t in crisis would be good for bankers. The other complaint is that, since the Treasury can borrow at low interest rates, publicly owned financial services agencies (such as Fannie and Freddie) have an unfair advantage. They can easily drive private firms out of currently profitable markets because the immense debt capacity of the US Treasury makes risk bearing and maturity transformation cheap. This is unfair to the poor bankers who can make huge incomes doing something that modestly paid bureaucrats can do better. Cry me a river.

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The Future Isn’t What It Used to be But I will Alway Comment on Krugman

I try to avoid forcasting, but I confidently forecast that, in the future, I will continue to try and try to find cases on which I disagree with Paul Krugman.

In The Economic Future Isn’t What It Used to Be (Wonkish) Krugman notes that forecasts of potential output of the US and the EU are now far below what they were in 2008. He argues that this probably shows a genuine long run damaging effect of the great recession (following Ball,Fatas, & Summers (listed in alphabetical order)). Following Blanchard and Summers, he calls this hysteresis (introducing the word to economic was brilliant) . Finally he argues that this is immensely important, because if demand shortfalls cause permanent damage it it is much more important to fight them compared to say, inflation.

I agree, but I want to stress a point of partial disagreement.

Krugman notes the reported decline in estimates of potential output for given years (so the 2018 estimate of 2018 potential output is far below the estimate of 2018 potential output in 2008). He considers 3 cleverly named explanations of the pattern happenstance, hypochondria and hysteresis. The third is his favored hypothesis that most of the change is a true change in potential output due to slack demand.

Happenstance would be a coincidental exogenous decline in the rate of growth of potential output which happened, by pure coincidence, to occur at roughly the same time as the great recession. Krugman dismisses this (following others) by noting that the decline in estimated potential output is greater in countries who experienced more severe recessions. The happentance argument requires not one coincidence but dozens across countrie.

The hypochondria hypothesis is that potential output is what was forecast and actual output is far below potential output. Krugman argues against this by considering the simplest model of potential output which is output plus a constant times the unemployment rate (maybe minus that constant times a constant guess of the natural unemployment rate). This model is called an Okun’s law model. Like all sensible people, he assumes that official etimates of the natural unemployment rate are nonsense, but he notes that the actual unemployment rate in the Euro-zone is now 8.2%, shockingly high by US standard but lower than the average from 1990 through 2008. If one assumes that the Eurozone natural rate is actually 4%, then one concludes that potential output is higher than current output, and that potential output in the 90s was higher than then current output. This means that the change in potential output is not misseatimated and has, in fact, been extraordinarily small, and that forecasts of potential made in 2008 were too pessamistic to exactly the same degree as current forecast, so the change in the forecasts reflects a true change.

This would be convincing except for the facts that actual estimates of potential output are based on much fancier models, which are less robust that the super simple Okun’s law model, and that forecasts of potential output are based on a third model (that it it is standard to not evaluate the model used to estimate potential output by comparing out of sample forecasts to outcomes — the result of this standard exercise would be too humiliating).

ultra wonkery (which may be totally wrong) after the jump

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Sour Grapes

As I write, Brett Kavanaugh is not yet a Supreme Court Justice. I assume he will be one soon. I am going to argue that this is the best of the bad possible outcomes.

Yes this is making the best of a bad situation and pathetic motivated reasoning. Yes Collins’s speech drove me into an almost insufferable panic and despair (don’t ask me ask, my soon to be ex-wife if I don’t get a hold of myself [by blogging]). Consider this post emergency marriage therapy (or my bothering you by my recognition of her 8th amendment rights).

First it is clear that a very large fraction of the US public believe that Kavanaugh is a criminal and think it is very wrong for him to serve on the Supreme Court. In polls this seems to be a plurality not an absolute majority.

Also, on Thursday, he demonstrated that he is a raging partisan who aims to use his robe to punish his political adversaries. I think this was already clear to anyone who paid attention, but it is now clear to many people who looked the other way. They include lifelong Republican Justice John Paul Stevens a retired justice who argued against confirmation of a new one. This is unprecedented. The ABA reopened their evaluation of Kavanaugh when it was too late to influence the Senate. I am pretty sure that is unprecedented too. 2,400 law professors signed a viral petition arguing against confirmation of someone who was likely to be incredibly powerful. I suspect this is unprecedented event 3.

This means that the perceived legitimacy of the Supreme Court is in great danger (as it was in 2000 and as it was when the Warren Court decided to take the Constitution seriously). I’d also say that Justice Kavanaugh will attract attention to the misdeeds (torts not crimes) undoubtably committed by Justice Thomas and his felonious denial of those facts under oath. He was never a legitimate Justice, and that will no longer be over looked.

5-4 decisions with Kavanaugh and Thomas in the majority will be perceived to be illigitimate by a very large fraction of the population (I guess eventually reaching a majority but maybe just a plurality). This is exactly what Chief Justice John Roberts fears most — and can prevent any time he wishes. 5-4 decisions with Kavanaugh in the minority will not destroy the perceived legitimacy of the Court or endanger the constitutional order. I hope Justice Roberts (who clearly votes based on the outcome he prefers and can rationalize anything) will act accordingly.

Also packing the court is a very extreme act which would definitely endanger the Republic. It was done — in the 1860s. The congress that changed the number of justices also impeached President Andrew Johnson and refused to seat representatives and senators elected in Confederate states. This followed the Civil War — after killing each other for 5 years Americans were prepared to change the number of justices if necessary.

It was threatened by F. Roosevelt leading to “a switch in time saves nine” a sudden shift from declaring the New Deal unconstitutional to accepting it, because the alternative was a packed court. I may have made a mistake above. I guess Roberts fears court packing even more than he fears perceived illigitimacy — the two are so closely linked it would be hard to tell even with ESP.

One point is that he can avoid both by voting with the Democrats.

Another is that desperate times call for desperate measures. Court packing is preferable to submission to an undemocratic oligarchy and armed revolution and the GOP may leave us only those three choices.

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Dumb and Dumber

Two bits of news from Twitter.

The GRU employed 305 morons who have been identified as GRU operatives, because they registered their cars at a GRU office address to intimidate the traffic police. In theory automombile registries are not available to the public. In Russia everything is available for a price.

Click the link and read the thread.

Yep they are a bunch of corrupt buffoons who probably didn’t manage anything except for hacking the DNC, John Podesta and Smartech. What is Smartech ?
It’s the internet company that the Bush administration used to evade the Presidential Records Act hiding 22,000,000 e-mails which should have been preserved (“but her e-mails”). Unlike, it definitely was hacked by the Russians . Projection it’s always projection. Always.

It was also used by Senator Graham whose sudden switch from Trump critic to Trump fan has lead many people to assume he is being blackmailed. It was also use by Senators Corker and Flake before their mysterious retirements (and Flake’s incomprehensible Kavanaugh related decisions — damn I was trying to not name he who can not be named).

Click this link. It’s just a thread on twitter, but it has links to sources. Also I knew many of the facts (from various sources some of them reliable) but didn’t know about Flake and Corker.

So the corrupt idiots seem to have managed to get kompromat on 3% of the US Senate — probably enough to decide who will be on the Supreme Court.

I have one question which I urgently want answered. Did Susan Collins use Smartech ? I won’t care in 100 minutes when she announces her final vote on Kavanaugh, but I want to know now.

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Textualism and The Exegesis of the 1982 Georgetown Preparatory School Yearbook

My understanding is that Bret Kavanaugh presents himself as a textualist, following Antonin Scalia he argues that words in the constitition and laws should be interpreted using their conventional meanings when they were written. This is in contrast to the different approach based on considering legislative history (which is impossible for the main body of the Constitution because the procedings of the Convention were secret). It is in very marked contrast to the approach based on following precedent and deferring to the interpretation made by other judges in the past. This third “living constitution” approach makes statute law like common law mainly a body of precedents. Notably over here (in Rome) no one argues for the third approach. It is a truism that “giurisprudenza non è legge” (jurisprudence is not law I translate un-necessarily since English legal terms come from right here in Rome (unlike the English legal tradition)).

Although not a lawyer, I felt the need to present pretentious introduction so that I might address the question “have I boofed yet”. Don’t worry, I have absolutely no intention whatsoever to answer this question, but I hope you are not shocked to read my confession that, at an earlier period in my life, I have, in fact, farted.

Addressing the Senate Judiciary Committee eminent judge Bart Kavanaugh argued that the slang term “boofed” which he wrote on his page of the 1982 Georgetown Prep yearbook should be interpreted as meaning “farted”. I see that he has no respect for or loyalty too textualism.

First an actual textualist would consider context. The slang term appears in the printed passage (among the oldest surviving exemplars of Judge Kavanaugh’s opus) “Judge, have you boofed yet?” Judge Kavanaugh asserts that he was publicly asking a close friend if he had, as of then, at any time in his life, farted. The word “boofed” alone doesn’t clearly refer to something other than farting. The additional (highly ironic) proper name “Judge” and the words “have”, “you” and “yet” provide enough context to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Judge Kavanaugh is a perjurer, criminal, and felon.

But a textualist considers more than the context within the document undergoing learned exegesis. It is necessary to inquire as to how the word was used by contemporaries of the author. Kavanaugh must explore, and must ask the eminent Senators to explore, 35 year old discussions of anal sex by teenagers to be true to his stated principles.

Or he could just admit that when he was 17 he publicly asked a friend if that friend had fucked a butt yet.

An embarrassing youthful indiscretion is not a felony. But Kavanaugh chose to lie, because that’s what he does.

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