"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

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Wire

In the Life of 'The Wire' by Lorrie Moore

Realism and Utopia in The Wire by Fredric Jameson

But it is the genius of Lester Freamon (Clarke Peters) not only to solve these problems in ingenious ways, but also to displace some of the purely mystery and detective interest onto a fascination with construction and physical or engineering problem solving—that is to say,something much closer to handicraft than to abstract deduction. In fact, when first discovered and invited to join the special investigative unit, Freamon is a virtually unemployed officer who spends his spare time making miniature copies of antique furniture (which he sells): it is a parable of the waste of human and intelligence productivity and its displacement—fortunate in this case—onto more trivial activities that nonetheless absorb his energy and creative powers more productively than crossword puzzles, say. But Lester is also the type of the archivist-scholar capable of spending long hours on minutiae and in dusty files, which ultimately cracks open financial conspiracies all over the city; and he has deep, unostentatious, yet invaluable, roots in the community, as when he first uncovers an old photo of the youthful Barksdale in an old boxing hangout not many of his fellow officers would be likely to have any knowledge of: and to many of them he is also an inestimable mentor. This is then the sense in which The Wire not only offers a representation of collective dynamics (on both sides) but also one of work and productivity, of praxis. In both instances, then, there is at work a virtual Utopianism, a Utopian impulse, even though that somewhat different thing, the Utopian project or program, has yet to declare itself.  
But Lester’s creativity may also be said to have a counterpart on the other side. We have not yet mentioned Barksdale’s sidekick, Stringer Bell (Idris Elba), who is something like his executive officer or prime minister in the classic political situation: the police themselves also have a degraded version of this dual structure, where the second in command is however by no means as disinterested or as efficient as Bell...
...This episode then adds something to The Wire that cannot be found in most other mass-cultural narratives: a plot in which Utopian elements are introduced, without fantasy or wish fulfillment, into the construction of the fictive, yet utterly realistic, events.

Yet Sobotka’s Utopianism would remain a mere fluke or idiosyncrasy if it did not have its equivalents in later seasons of The Wire. (We could write it off, for example, by observing that the creators of the show, in their local patriotism, had taken this occasion to add in some more purely local statement.) But in fact it does, and at this point I can only enumerate the later incidence of a Utopian dimension in succeeding seasons. In season 3, Utopianism is certainly present in Major Colvin’s “legalization” of drugs; that is, his creation of an enclave of drug use closed to police intervention. In season 4, on education, it is to be found in Pryzbylewski’s classroom experiments with computers and his repudiation of the exam evaluation system imposed by state and federal political entities. Finally, in season 5, the most problematical, it is to be located in Jimmy’s invention of a secret source for funding real and serious police operations outside the bureaucracy and its budget—and this, despite the artificial crime panic he deliberately fosters, and also somewhat on the margins of what was to have been a series dominated by the newspaper and the media (for each season of The Wire, like Zola’s great series, or like Sara Paretsky’s Chicago crime novels, is also organized around a specific industry).

The future and future history have broken open both high- and masscultural narratives in the form of dystopian Science Fiction and future catastrophe narratives. But in The Wire, exceptionally, it is the Utopian future that here and there breaks through, before reality and the present again close it down.
Peaks, Troughs and Crisis by Krugman
One place where I do disagree with Ryan is in his desire to stop talking about Iceland. Yes, it’s a small island exporting mainly fish and aluminum. But you take your natural experiments where you find them. (Milton Friedman made his original case for floating exchange rates in part by invoking the example of, believe it or not, Tangier). Iceland was the only European-periphery country that received huge capital inflows, then responded to crisis not with a grim determination to stay on or pegged to the euro, but by devaluing. In the process it demonstrated that devaluation is a lot easier than “internal devaluation”, which is actually the main point.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Meloni finally gets his hands dirty on True Blood by Meredith Woerner

Attacking the Treasury View, Again by Dean Baker
The IMF had become an unexpected opponent of fiscal austerity. Its research demolished the intellectual basis for the claim that fiscal contractions could be expansionary. It also showed that, at least in the short term, there was no basis for preferring spending cuts to tax increases to reach whatever deficit goal was set as a target.

Of course getting to full employment is the key question, but in principle if we get back to full employment we can hope to be able to restore the virtuous circle of the decades immediately following World War II, in which gains in productivity translated into gains in wages. This, in turn, led to increased consumption, spurring more investment, and, therefore, more productivity growth. It is important that the public understand that whether macroeconomic policy focuses on full employment or inflation-fighting, it is very much a class issue. Those placing the priority on inflation-fighting have decided to impose higher unemployment and lower wages on ordinary workers as the price of achieving their stated goal.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

No Respite for Liberals by Pamela S. Karlan

How Liberals Win by Bill Scher
Health care was not an anomaly for Mr. Obama. His original stimulus package never faced well-financed conservative opposition in part because the United States Chamber of Commerce backed the business tax cuts in the package. We got a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after Mr. Obama put Wall Street at ease by resisting proposals to cap the size of banks. New standards lifting average fuel-efficiency goals were set once the White House accepted the automakers’ demand for a review in 2021 and flexibility regarding light trucks. The food safety bill empowered the Food and Drug Administration to recall tainted items but won industry support by dropping a ban on bisphenol A, or BPA, a chemical used in food and beverage containers.
The necessity of forging coalitions with corporations is understandably difficult for progressives to accept. Every time it happens, corporations seem to quickly go back to their usual tricks. They lobby to weaken enforcement. They litigate to have rules overturned. They abandon politicians who risked compromise for them. Corporations are exasperating, irritating and untrustworthy partners.
But most of the time politics is exasperating and irritating, not euphoric and cathartic. As Roosevelt himself told a group of dissatisfied youth activists in 1940, “if you ever sit here you will learn that you cannot, just by shouting from the housetops, get what you want all the time.”

Obamacare or the PPACA was aimed at fixing two problems in the broken health care system: millions of uninsured and rising costs.

It helps more people get insurance and get the health care they need.

As Dean Baker writes:
The system put in place under the ACA would put the government in a position where it could squeeze money out of providers. It could specify prices for services and procedures and tell providers take it or leave it. Given the enormous and rapidly growing size of the Medicare market, most would likely take it.
If prices keep rising a public option can still be added to help keep them down. If that works voters may finally decide to follow advanced European countries by using a single payer system which delivers the most bang for the buck.

There will still be people uninsured after 2014 when much of the ACA takes effect. Expanding the ACA to Medicare-for-all would be a major further reform that would cover the remaining uninsured and help contain price increases.


Yglesias has been pushing the idea that Mexico is growing faster than Brazil. Is the implication that Clinton's NAFTA worked?

Dean Baker writes:
The Post's prohibition of honest discussion of Mexico's economy is apparently continuing. In a piece on Mexico's elections today, the Post told readers:
"But annual growth during Calderon’s six years has averaged a middling 2 percent."
This statement gives a whole new meaning to word "middling." If we turn to the IMF's data and look at per capita GDP growth in the years 2006-2011, we find that on average Mexico's per capital GDP shrank by 0.1 percent annually over this period. This is not middling; this performance places Mexico dead last among Latin American countries (several countries in the Caribbean did worse.)
For some reference points, per capita growth in Argentina averaged 5.8 percent, Bolivia 2.8 percent, Brazil 3.1 percent, Ecuador 2.6 percent, and Peru 5.6 percent. There is nothing middling about Mexico's economic performance over this period; it was bad.