"It is easy to confuse what is with what ought to be, especially when what is has worked out in your favor."
- Tyrion Lannister

"Lannister. Baratheon. Stark. Tyrell. They're all just spokes on a wheel. This one's on top, then that's ones on top and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground. I'm not going to stop the wheel. I'm going to break the wheel."

- Daenerys Targaryen

"The Lord of Light wants his enemies burned. The Drowned God wants them drowned. Why are all the gods such vicious cunts? Where's the God of Tits and Wine?"

- Tyrion Lannister

"The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends. It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are."

- Jorah Mormont

"These bad people are what I'm good at. Out talking them. Out thinking them."

- Tyrion Lannister

"What happened? I think fundamentals were trumped by mechanics and, to a lesser extent, by demographics."

- Michael Barone

"If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to."
- Dorothy Parker

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Secret of Our Non Success by Krugman

The corporate media really is in large part corrupt. Mostly it's the he said/she said non-partisan convention. We don't want to offend anyone, since we have ads to sell.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Zach Galifianakis will have his show Between Two Ferns on Comedy Central May 6th. He'll interview Tina Fey(!), Jon Stewart and Richard Branson.

Here There Be Spoilers!

In the fourth book of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire saga, A Feast for Crows, Jaime's aunt Gemma tells him that she once told Tywin, his father and her brother, that Tyrion was Tywin's son. Tywin didn't speak to her for 6 months after that. Last week's show set up that symmetry nicely with Tyrion saving Sansa and Tywin saving Arya.

Looking forward, they should cast Toby Kebbel as Oberyn Martell. He played Johnny Quid in RocknRolla and had a few great scenes, like this one. Here's some more. And another compilation. He was also in Control, Prince of Persia, Wrath of the Titans and War Horse.
"Dornish law does not apply." Tyrion had been so ensnared in his own troubles that he'd never stopped to consider the succession. "My father will crown Tommen, count on that."

"He may indeed crown Tommen, here in King's Landing. Which is not to say that my brother may not crown Myrcella, down in Sunspear. Will your father make war on your niece on behalf of your nephew? Will your sister?" [Oberyn] gave a shrug. "Perhaps I should marry Queen Cersei after all, on the condition that she support her daughter over her son. Do you think she would?"

Never, Tyrion wanted to say, but the word caught in his throat.... "I don't know how my sister would choose, between Tommen and Myrcella," he admitted. "It makes no matter. My father will never give her that choice."

"Your father," said Prince Oberyn, "may not live forever."

Something about the way he said it made the hairs on the back of Tyrion's neck bristle. Suddenly he was mindful of Elia again, and all that Oberyn had said as they crossed the field of ash. He wants the head that spoke the words, not just the hand that swung the sword. "It is not wise to speak such treasons in the Red Keep, my prince. The little birds are listening."

"Let them. Is it treason to say a man is mortal? Valar morghulis was how they said it in Valyria of old. All men must die. And the Doom came and proved it true."
        George R.R. Martin -- A Storm of Swords


Bernanke Responds by Krugman

Federal Reserve Board Credibility, Plus 50 Cents, Will Get You a Cup of Coffee by Dean Baker
If this policy was successful, it would lead to lower real interest rates, which would in turn lead to more consumption and investment. Ideally we would also see a decline in th real value of the dollar, leading to more net exports, the essential long-term path to full employment.
My view is that this path would likely be successful, if the Fed were really committed to it. That means continually buying up vast amounts of assets if the inflation rate did not appear to be rising. This should ultimately freak enough investor types into thinking that Bernanke was sufficiently nuts that he could cause inflation. They would then hedge themselves against this risk by buying up all sorts of commodities to protect against inflation, which would then lead to inflation.
Did Ben Bernanke Just Say That the Fed Made a Mistake by Allowing Inflation to Get Above 2% During the Great Depression? by DeLong

Fed Policy Remains on Hold by Mark Thoma

And this has been another edition of FED FAIL in the 21st Century.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Strike and Its Enemies by Seth Ackerman

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Fantasy, Modernism, and Capitalism

Tyrion: If I told you to murder, say, an infant girl still at her mother's breast. Would you do it, without question?
Bronn: Without question? No. I'd ask how much.

One of the things that first made the fantasy genre popular was that it became a new way for literature to battle back against modernism. It was a genre filled with good guys and bad guys, with the kinds of larger-than-life stories that were once the provenance of mythology and national epics. Game Of Thrones works best when it suggests the good guys aren’t all that good and the bad guys aren’t all that bad, then asks just what all of them are going to do about the truly awful elements in their midst, like the White Walkers, or King Joffrey, or the torture of smallfolk.

The second quote is from Todd VanDerWerff's Onion recap (for experts) of season 2/episode 4 "Garden of Bones."

What's attractive about the fantasy genre for me is that modernism entails capitalism and the cash nexus. The cash nexus dissolves bonds of social solidarity and value until you are left with nothing but price and cost. After the Cold War, welfare capitalism has given way to "greed is good" capitalism.  There is no (or not much) honor, chivalry, loyalty, integrity, or virtue which were once the the redeeming aspects of capitalism's predecessor Feudalism. (Although obviously not everyone was honorable back especially given material circumstances.) Also late capitalism entails consumerism, and wall-to-wall advertising (flashing billboards, telemarketers calling during dinner, spam and pop-up ads), environmental disaster, urban blight, and an economy dominated by the financial sector and speculation/gambling. The Fantasy genre is a respite from all of that. Perhaps it's escapist to harken back to a lost age, but the fantasy genre does hold up the good virtues even if like in Game of Thrones, it's a brutal time of war.

Capitalism is undeniably a giant progress in a number of areas. Feminism and notions of human rights arrived in late-capitalism and welfare capitalism had less of a stratified, class structure. One of the undeniable reactionary aspects of Feudalism is its authoritarian appeal to a rigid social structure where everyone knows their place. Also obviously capitalism has less starvation during winter. Westeros is chock full of prostitution and the suffering small people. Esteros is full of slaves and brutality. What is compelling about Game of Thrones is that it explores the dark side of Feudalism in a realistic manner and doesn't romanticize it.

But some of the admirable Feudal values have been lost to an extent. There is just the cash nexus. And it seems to be corrupting the political/public sphere in a corrosive feedback loop. Witness the housing bubble and economic crises and the Republican Party being taken over by frauds and fanatics. Free-market welfare capitalism has morphed into rent-seeking crony capitalism and socialism for the rich where slow growth, low inflation and high unemployment is a regressive tax on wages. Inequality increases as past progress is lost.

Ned Stark exemplified the redeeming values of Feudalism for me and hence the attraction of fantasy fiction.* For one even though he was the ruler in the north and a noble he was accountable to his  people. He performed his own executions and did his own dirty work so that power wouldn't corrupt him. (Or maybe it was more of a symbol of accountable rulership.) And Maester Luwin told Bran that a good lord needs to listen to his subjects. Ned Stark also expressed some sympathy for the low born butcher's boy to Varys last season, after Varys mentioned the unpleasantness on the Kingsroad. And he was against assassinating Daenyres Targaryen.

Ned Stark also had honor and integrity, which meant telling the truth. If he hadn't, Stannis and Renly wouldn't be challenging King Joffrey's claim to the throne. And the North wouldn't have rebelled. If he wasn't loyal to his friend he would have remained in the North and no doubt the Lannisters would have taken over.

As Robb tells Talisa, if there had not been a war, the realm would be subject to Joffrey's cruel and capricious rule. Maybe that would be better war. But the reign of Joffrey Baratheon could be a disaster also. He probably would have sparked a rebellion sooner or later just as the King Aerys did as he descended into madness.

And in the background you have the Red Comet, the return of magic, The Others, The Lord of Light, and Daenerys's dragons.

* Was humanity hard-wired with morales and social solidarity? In Feudalism you had chivalry, loyalty and codes of honor. In welfare capitalism you had progress on a number of fronts of well being.

What I like about Game of Thrones is that there is a wide spectrum and variety of evil. Tywin Lannister may be bad, but he's more reasonable than his mad dog, the Mountain That Rides and The Tickler and Polliver. Tyrion is good but maneuvers within the system in the belly of the beast. On the good side I'd list the Nightswatch, Davos Seaworth, Brienne, Daenyres, Robb, Jorah Mormont, Brienne, Maester Luwin. Arya, and even Sansa saved Ser Dantos. Varys, Stannis and Renly are little complicated. Same with the Tyrells.

On the bad side, Arya's hit list (Joffrey, Cersei, Ilyn Payne, the Hound, Polliver, the Mountain) and Littlefinger, Pycelle, Craster, Walder Frey, Balon Greyjoy, Theon, Roose Bolton, the Tickler, Jaime, Ser Meryn Trant). Although I kind of like the Hound - "I ain't no ser" just as Brienne says "I'm no Lady" but he serves the wrong crowd.

Again I am taken back to the exchange between Roose Bolton and Rob Stark. When Robb objects to Roose employing torture, he replies that "the high road is pretty, but you can't march your army down it" and Robb replies that he doesn't want to give the Lannisters an excuse to hurt his sisters. Maybe that reasoning is partly why morality and codes of honor were developed in human societies.

Call for Growth to Counter German Push for Austerity by Nicholas Kulish
In the Netherlands, Prime Minister Mark Rutte handed his resignation to Queen Beatrix on Monday after his government failed to pass new austerity measures over the weekend.
Chairman Bernanke Should Listen to Professor Bernanke by Krugman
I suspect that the old Bernanke would have scoffed. He would have pointed out that the Fed could still keep inflation within bounds — that 4 percent inflation (which is what we actually had during the late years of the Reagan administration) need be no more unsettling than 2 percent inflation. He would also, I suspect, have argued that the risks of losing credibility pale beside the risks of inaction. Bear in mind, whenever someone invokes the specter of a return to ’70s-style stagflation, when the economy is weak and inflation is high — a greatly overrated risk — that what we are going through now is much, much worse than anything that happened in the ’70s. It takes a certain mind-set to worry more about a hypothetical loss of confidence than about the clear and present suffering of the unemployed — the mind-set, one might say, of a conventional central banker. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

As the Second Phase of Europe's Second Great Depression Rolls Forward... by DeLong

Big election in France on May 6th as the Socialist candidate could win the runoff according to polls. He has expressed skepticism over the EU's austerity policies.

Also an election in the Netherlands has been called.

The Roose Is Loose!

Robb takes a liking to the Volantene Florence Nightingale named Talisa.

We met the Tickler and Roose Bolton whose sigil is the Flayed Man. We met Xaro Xhoan Daxos, one of the 13 of Qarth, (the actor played Tank as in think tank in RocknRolla.). We got a look at Qarth and Harrenhal, which didn't move in the opening credits.

Game of Thrones Week 4: True greatness means letting others do your dirty work by Charlie Jane Anders
At the top of the hour, Lord Roose Bolton cautions Robb Stark that he can't march his army down the high road. And the episode ends with a similar homily: King Stannis tells his most faithful servant, Ser Davos Seaworth the Onion Knight, that "cleaner ways don't win wars."
Tyrion to Meryn Trant: "I'm not threatening the King. I'm educating my nephew. Bronn, the next time Ser Meryn speaks, kill him. (pregnant pause) That was a threat. See the difference?"

Bronn to Tyrion: "There's no cure for being a cunt."

Tyrion to himself: "Lady Stark, you may survive us yet."

Peter Jackson poached season one's Mountain for the Hobbit.

"Garden of Bones" Onion recap (for experts)

(plus good comments)

"Garden of Bones" Onion recap (for newbies)

(more good comments)
Distributional Impacts of Monetary Policy by Tim Duy