One Hundred Years of Open Thread

Jay C's picture

Sad to have to lead off with an obituary, but famous (and by this point in time, probably now-archetypal) Latin American author Gabriel Garciá Marquez has died at age 87.


Personally, I have always been a bit underwhelmed by the "Magic Realism" school of literature, but I have always made an exception for GGM: maybe it's a consequence of his having basically invented the genre (always admirable), but his books were always a pleasure to read, and a disappointment to have to end.   RIP.


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BBC (3min) Christians in Syria



This seems appropriate for Good Friday...and a recognition of the persecution of Christians that awaits them if Assad is deposed.


Interestingly, I can support the Russian Position against that of the US/Saudi Arabia (for whom the US is a sockpuppet) in Syria, and yet fully and coherently support the Ukraine/US/EU against the open aggression of a Militant and Expansionistic Russia in Europe.


Best Wishes, Traveller



Robert Frost : From Iron / Tools and Weapons


To Ahmed S. Bokhari

Nature within her inmost self divides

To trouble men with having to take sides.


I've long since quit Taking Sides in anyone's wars.  The kingdom of God lies within the hearts of men and women of goodwill.  It will never have a flag or a seat at the UN. 


Christus factus est pro nobis oboediens usque ad mortem.

Mortem autem crucis.

I vote and pay taxes, and some of my votes and taxes


necessarily result in taking sides in overseas disputes. I agree with you that common humanity and decency ought to prevail everywhere, and that decent, simple people should ignore the violent fools and evildoers among us. But they don't, and we don't, and sitting on our hands is not an option.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

I sit on my ass, not my hands. Taking sides is for chumps.


Everyone has reasons for what he does, no matter how evil those deeds might be.  I'm sick of the USA wading into everyone else's civil wars.  If I'm also sick of Russia's revanchist madness, I'm sick of Ukraine's inability to come to terms with its ethnic Russians.  If your tax dollars are spent on settling disputes, the gears of the American military are now worn down, the transmissions of ten thousand vehicles filled with dust and metal shavings, the bores of a million rifles shot out.  A generation of troops with more combat stripes on their Class A uniform sleeves than are good for anyone now returns to a society which barely remembers them when they went off to war. 


It's time for the USA to hunker down, tend to its own wounded and let the rest of the supposedly civilised world deal with these perpetual crises.  The USA never wanted to run the world, anyway.  American diplomacy is inept and toothless, our ambassadors a bunch of carpetbaggers and fundraisers, our intelligence services are out of control.  If we cast a long shadow, let the world now see who the Americans are are in our absence.  I am through taking sides with those who are not our our side.

On thi


we agree 100%.


I wager that the GOP will be going full-metal-neocon come 2016 though. And I also wager that view will be getting more and more popular in the USA over the next six or eight years.

The GOP neocons are still in the doghouse.


They're an endangered species, confined to political hothouses, warmed and humidified in the gasbag conservatory, watered with a few crocodile tears.  The neocon rhetoric is toxic, politically.  See, Hometown America sent all those kids off to war.  Many of them did not come home.  So the g/f and I went down to the city hall to get the dog's tags renewed.  Big quilt hanging on the wall, squares for the veterans.  We've lost a lot of people from around here.  Do not expect these people, mostly Republicans, to approve of Moar War.  Anyone making such noises will be shouted down.


It takes about two decades for people to forget the horrors of the previous war before they start glorifying war again.  They get around to it, eventually.  The grass grows up on the graves, as it always does.  People forget.  The lust for glory in battle is always with us.  Even in the wars we manifestly lost, there's some grim, perverse instinct to squeeze the dregs for a bit more juice. 


ASHES of soldiers!
As I muse, retrospective, murmuring a chant in thought,
Lo! the war resumes--again to my sense your shapes,
And again the advance of armies.


Noiseless as mists and vapors,
From their graves in the trenches ascending,
From the cemeteries all through Virginia and Tennessee,
From every point of the compass, out of the countless unnamed graves,
In wafted clouds, in myriads large, or squads of twos or threes, or
single ones, they come,
And silently gather round me.


I'm just speculating of course.


It's a solid way for the gop to eliminate both Paul and Cruz. Scare the hell out of the conserva-base and demand that Something Must Be Done because our way of life is threatened, will we elect the next Chamberlain?, etc.


I'm cynical enough to believe that those phony "register the Jews" flyers could possibly be a part of this trans-national bloodlust. War is good business for these people. The US and professional dope John Kerry is apparently "focusing" on the importance of these flyers, even though they are fake:


The gop isn't going to win with Rand or "Ted." I'm pretty sure the guys in charge are firmly aware of this. And I'm not so sure the neocons can't "re-brand" themselves a la the repackaging known as the tea party. Come up with some more stove-piped nonsense and breathless stories about mushroom clouds that will have the media and the masses clamoring for a man who will Do Something or be seen as anti-American. Just cast some younger guys who wear leather jackets and know a thing or two about the Internets. 


I could easily see a new Astro-turf group called Libertaricons (or something), hip youngsters who are for economic freedom (lower taxes for the wealthy and gutted governmental regulations on all business), but also happen to be in favor of banning abortion, and Protecting America by Doing Something against the growing danger in the east. In other words, the same old gop sold the way the tea party was sold.


OK, enough coffee for today.

Being pro-military in Congress translates to pro-pork.


All these chumps want is to keep their own military bases open and the concomitant sh*thole little burgs which grow up along the main drag into the base.  Lawton, Oklahoma.  Killeen Texas.  Dozens of 'em, fuller of prostitutes and pawnshops and adulterated liquor than geese are full of doo-doo.  It's the flip side of the Welfare State.  Fort Porkulous will never lose funding as long as Senator Hambone T Gravytrain is still on the Defense Appropriations Committee.


The GOP doesn't really want another war.  Not even Crankpants McCain really wants another war.  He's just an old outgassing volcano, periodically farting out some threat or imprecation.   Nobody listens to him any more.  The military does tend to attract more than its share of social conservatives, lots of Republicans in the ranks.  But none of them are in the mood for any more war just now.  And not very many are running for high office.  Used to be that most Congress Critters were veterans.  Maybe a hundred are now.  The GOP has lost the Strong on Defense political high ground and it's not clear how they're going to get it back.


Curiously, of the nine Iraq War veterans I can find in Congress as of 2014, seven of them are Tea Party types.  I believe all seven Republicans, Ron DeSantis of Florida, Brad Wenstrup of Ohio,  Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan (also a Vietnam war veteran), Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Doug Collins of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas.  Tom Cotton is for stabilising Afghanistan but he says he plans on working with Tammy Duckworth on veterans' issues.  This does not bode well for the Neocon Dinosaurs. whom I've always believed were just unreconstructed pinkos of the old school, who wanted the terrible swift sword of revolution more than the weaseltries of statecraft.

Isolationism is probably the worst solution to our problems.


The alternative to our going around the world messing with other people's politics is... Russia and China going around the world, messing with other people's politics. Sitting on our hands is a terrible idea. That said, if you told me that 90% of the other ideas we've tried have turned into a hilarious mess, I'd be forced to agree.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

I've heard that line for long enough to know it's facile.


The alternative is not to take sides in everyone else's civil wars, quit propping up failed nation states, cease believing that today's enemy of our present enemy is our friend.  Russia and China are both on the ropes politically, ripe for revolutions the both of them.  Russia's a nation with an economy in serious trouble.  Property rights in both nations are weak.  State interference is a major problem for both economies.  Russia's manufacturing sector is completely uncompetitive, its revenues derived from selling energy and collecting tariffs.  China's manufacturing sector is completely export dependent, a second-rate would-be empire - let them try to push their weight around in Asia.  They'll end up in the same place France did, in the same landscapes.  China's military hasn't fought a serious war since the Vietnamese kicked their asses.  All either of these regimes can do is to make deals with devils - well let them make those deals, not the USA. 


There is a difference between isolationism and callow interventionism.  Americans learn their geography from the war reporting.  Our grotesque military budgets outweigh the rest of the world combined - and what do we have to show for it over the last few decades?   Two more Islamic Republics, thanks for knowing the correct answer, you're an informed man, I know I don't have to tell you such things.  Two busted-ass stillborn, Islamic republics, neither of which seems terribly grateful to their midwife.  Trillions wasted.  Our national reputation in tatters and a host of cooperative nations hosted our little black sites, where we tortured our captives and annihilated any moral standing we ever had on the issue. 


No, Jordan, it's time for the USA to take a breather here.  Do some self-examination.  Gnothi seauton.  We don't have to take anyone's side but our own.  We might begin with determining what that means.

"A difference between isolationism and callow interventionism"


Well that I wholeheartedly agree with. I don't know how to fix the American polity or make it less stupid, less catastrophically shortsighted and less easily led by the nose by far shrewder nations like Iran, Israel, etc.  


I agree with stepping back (in fact under Obama we have stepped back quite a bit). I don't necessarily agree with cutting military budgets because those budgets in and of themselves serve a key strategic purpose. Spending the actual money more wisely would, of course, be a good thing.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Don't overestimate either Israel or Iran.


Americans seem to revel in this notion wherein we're the Stupid Ones and everyone else who thumbs their nose at us is So Clever.  They aren't.  Israel's stupidity arises from an existential crisis of identity.  Nowhere else seems safe to be a Jew, to their way of thinking.  They're neither wise nor clever, either in the short- or long-term.  Look at them, still unable to harness the one force they could use to their mutual advantage with the Palestinians: nobody hates the Palestinians more than the other Arab states.  Israel's long connivance with Hamas is no different than our own connivance with the Taliban back when we were giving the USSR a black eye in Afghanistan.  Funny how these things work out.  The USA is growing increasingly sick of Israel's dirty finger up its ass.  Sheldon Adelson might be rampantly pro-Israel and assorted GOP types will kiss his withered old buttocks to get some of his money but AIPAC has been seriously set back on its heels of late.  They no longer have the long reach they once did, the Israelis.  Kids are leaving Israel, no longer willing to live in the existential twilight of a fractured, self-defeating Knesset, pushed around by a few arrogant (and seriously corrupt) Hasidim.


As for Iran, their leadership is completely dependent upon the rotten old barrel staves of the embargo against them, held in place by American and EU sanctions.  We don't like the idea of Iran having a nuclear weapon but tolerated Israel and Pakistan getting them.  After the war against Saddam, Iran's leaders were shocked and grateful to have their greatest enemy removed from power.   They could have turned over a new page with the USA and the world.  They didn't.  Iran spoiled its one chance at joining the rest of the world because it was led by religious idiots.  


The USA is seriously overspending on weapons it does not need and the military does not want.  The answer to that problem is clear enough:  put the military in charge of its own requirements.  Eliminate the tiers of parasitic military contractors, whose offices are springing up all around Washington like mushrooms on horse turds after a summer rain.   Start listening to the commanders in the field and not Sen Hambone T Gravytrain and his coterie of military industrial complex types, of which Eisenhower warned us all those years ago.  But like everything else in Washington, it helps to have a strong gag reflex when confronting these issues.  The Neocons created this beast.  Modern Republicans are as sick of this as anyone else.  The Neocons are toast.

Humble Scalia


too humble to identify and protect the rights granted in the Constitution.


The justices did not discuss specific NSA programs. ... Scalia, a leading conservative justice, said the court was not the best body to decide major national security issues because of its lack of expertise. ... "The institution that will decide that is the institution least qualified to decide it," Scalia said.


If Scalia is determined to remain ignorant and unqualified to perform the duties of his job, he should recuse himself from any cases involving the NSA.

But on the other hand when it comes to


political giving, this court (which unlike many in history has had no members elected) is amply qualified to pass laws.

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

Huh? Your excerpt makes it look like he thinks SCOTUS...


shouldn't hear the case but the article you linked to makes it clear that he's willing to. I'm missing what the issue is here.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

Scalia Exists, Therefore WAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

M Scott Eiland's picture

It's pretty much been the online left's playbook regarding Scalia since the election of 2000, if not before.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Scalia exists to shove his forearm up Clarence's fundament


and wiggle Justice Thomas' jaw.  Scalia is sorta like a two-for-one deal.

Even If True. . .

M Scott Eiland's picture

. . .that would just make them the conservative version of William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall, revered icons of the legal left. It remains amusing just how much the very existence of Clarence Thomas on the Court offends liberals, more than twenty-two years after their attempts to slime him in his confirmation hearings failed to hit their mark.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Couldn't have anything to do with the fact that he's


been on the majority for some of the most horrifically messed-up jurisprudence to come from the court in decades, except for those times he wrote a dissent-concurral arguing that things should be even more horrifically messed up.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Clarence Thomas is the most ignorant jurist of modern times.


A sullen, contumacious bag of Inferiority Complex.  In his case, his own self-opinion is completely justified.  Thurgood Marshall's feather was earned in appearances before SCOTUS.  Clarence Thomas was never of counsel before any court in the land.  He was a thoroughly incompetent assistant attorney general in Missouri,  John Danforth's pet, a compliant enough gauleiter, burning the ladders of equal opportunity he had climbed.  Ever since, he's been stinking up a fraction of the Supreme Court's opinions, surely the stupidest prose ever to emerge from a senior judge in a century.

Sock-puppet Table


Conveniently available here.   I'll leave it to you to decide who is the hand and who is the sock in each pair,  but it seems that Scalia-Thomas aren't the most likely suspects.  Kagan is looking kind of woolen and foot shaped.


Percentage agreement in full:


Ginsburg - Kagan          92%

Ginsburg - Sotomayor   87%

Kagan - Sotomayor       86%

Ginsburg - Breyer         82%

Breyer - Kagan             82%

Breyer - Sotomayor      76%

Roberts -  Kennedy       76%

Roberts - Alito               73%

Roberts - Scalia             71%

Scalia - Alito                 73%

Kennedy - Alito             70%

Roberts - Breyer           69%

Kennedy - Sotomayor    65%

Kennedy - Breyer          64%

Alito - Thomas               64%

Kennedy - Ginsburg       60%

Roberts - Kagan            60%

Scalia - Thomas            60%

Roberts - Ginsburg        59%


So,  Kagan agrees with Roberts about as often as Thomas agrees with Scalia.


Maximum Sockpuppetry Coefficient,  by Justice:


Ginsburg,  92%

Kagan,  92%

Sotomayor,  87%

Breyer,  82%

Kennedy,  76%

Roberts,  76%

Alito,  73%

Scalia,  71%

Thomas, 64%


What the data shows is that his opinions tend to be on the fringe.  But he shows the least evidence of being manipulated by one of the other justices.

Don't forget that Thomas often concur-dissents, and/or


writes separate concurrences or dissents, in order to expound opinions that are way more conservative than 85% of America is willing to stomach. How is that factored into the percentages here? 

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

That's a different issue.


You're talking ideology,  Blaise was talking about sock-puppetry.    I'm arguing that Thomas is independently extreme.


I could easily believe that Elena Kagan is much closer to mainstream American opinion.   However,  the data would seem to indicate that she is doing relatively little idea generation independent from Ginsburg.   Don't get me wrong,  I'm sure she's plenty of ability to think independently,  but she's not generating new theories or moving the Overton window anywhere Ginsburg couldn't move it alone. 


When Thomas decides the other conservatives aren't going far enough and takes the time to write a concurrence,  he's working to get his point of view legitimized and set the stage for later decisions.


My complaint stands. If they differ, Thomas is more extreme


than Scalia.  There is no getting around Justice Thomas' wretched writing.  I refer to Connick v. Thompson as the worst single opinion rendered since Plessy.

Poor choice of case, Blaise


The essence of Connick v. Thompson was whether blame for what happened to Thompson was the fault of the corrupt prosecutors who framed him,  or the citizens of New Orleans.

To me it's easy to see that collectivizing responsibility and having the government back up and indemnify its criminal employees only serves to encourage them.  Why shouldn't an attorney in the DA's office screw an innocent person to rack up some career points?  After all,  they have personal immunity,  and if they get caught,  the taxpayers will foot the entire bill.

The answer is to (a) eliminate personal immunity for intentional or gravely negligent actions by police and attorneys,  and (b) prohibit governments from indemnifying their employees for criminal acts. 

Part (b) wouldn't be construed to prohibit governments from compensating people who've been falsely imprisoned, since the average corrupt DA wouldn't have enough personal net worth to cover the damage he/she could do in a few years,  but the authorities and the victim ought to extract whatever they can.

Do prosecutors act in the people's name or their own?


States pay falsely convicted prisoners for time served.  Connick was a blatant miscarriage of justice, all the way to SCOTUS.  Your rationale completely escapes me.  Ginsburg's dissent in Connick is instructive


Based on the evidence presented, the jury could conclude that Brady errors by untrained prosecutors would frequently cause deprivations of defendants’ constitutional rights. The jury learned of several Brady oversights in Thompson’s trials and heard testimony that Connick’s Office had one of the worst Brady records in the country.


Because prosecutors faced considerable pressure to get convictions, id. , at 317, 341, and were instructed to “turn over what was required by state and federal law, but no more,” Brief for Petitioners 6–7, the risk was all too real that they would err by withholding rather than revealing information favorable to the defense. In sum, despite JUSTICE SCALIA’s protestations to the contrary, ante, at 1, 5, the Brady violations in Thompson’s prosecutions were not singular and they were not aberrational. They were just what one would expect given the attitude toward Brady pervasive in the District Attorney’s Office. Thompson demonstrated that no fewer than five prosecutors—the four trial prosecutors and Riehlmann— disregarded his Brady rights. He established that they kept from him, year upon year, evidence vital to his defense.Their conduct, he showed with equal force, was a foreseeable consequence of lax training in, and absence of monitoring of, a legal requirement fundamental to a fair trial.

They act in my name


when the follow the constitution,  and not when they don't.  I'm not sure why you're so eager to absolve those five prosecutors and say it's all society's fault.


The evidence showed that five prosecutors needed to go to jail and/or get sued.  "But wait!" you might say, "the office should have known what they were doing, and fired them."   IMO that's just more failure to assign personal responsibility:  their supervisor was a person,  who also needed to go to jail.  And turtles all the way up.


For all the whining after Citizens United about how corporations and other institutions aren't people,  there seems to be a strong tendency to assign them person-like responsibility for crimes.



Those prosecutors were paid with tax dollars.


As such, they acted in the name of the people of Orleans Parish.  This isn't Society's Fault.  It's Orleans Parish and the State of Louisiana.  Did you read Ginsburg's dissent?  All this is laid out far better than my poor power to add or detract.  When the sign at the gate reads Angola State Prison, yeah, sorry, the state took 18 years of Thompson's life away and damned near executed him.  And you think this resolves to Personal Responsibility?  Baffling.

Plenty of baffle to go around


Answer me this with a straight up yes or no:   should those prosecutors be held personally responsible for they did to Thompson?


I guess the phrase "personal responsibility" has been hijacked by the right to the extent that everyone else just decides they have to be reflexively against it.

Weasel words like Responsible don't cut it.


Precision, ever more precision.  The better defined is the problem, the closer we shall come to its solution. Culpability, prosecutorial misconduct, civil liability, all separate concepts.  Responsible, hell, which part of that word do you wish to explore?  Responsibility implies duty.  It can also imply capability.  It can also imply awareness of such duties and obligations.  It can imply some causal connection.  It does not enter into the concepts of liability or guilt.  Personal responsibility is nonsense.  It's also an oxymoron.  I am responsible, not to myself but to others. 


Simple yes or no?  In the sense that the prosecutors wilfully and maliciously withheld exculpatory evidence, they were responsible for multiple false convictions.   But to the extent that the State of Louisiana was the agent of his imprisonment, the state was responsible.  We have this interesting word in philosophy: agency.  Those prosecutors were agents of the state.  Let's not beg questions about personally responsible.  If they had kidnapped him and held him for 18 years, sure, they would be the agents of his imprisonment.  But that's not where the man ended up.  He ended up in a prison with the word State on the front door.

The Scalia quote was a little foreshortened.


From what I can find on the wires, this from Reuters

Scalia, a leading conservative justice, said the court was not the best body to decide major national security issues because of its lack of expertise. But he indicated that the court would likely decide the issue of whether widespread gathering of telecommunications data violates the Fourth Amendment, which bars unlawful searches and seizures.


"The institution that will decide that is the institution least qualified to decide it," Scalia said. The legal question is about "balancing the emergency against the intrusion" on the individual, he said.



Ginsburg, one of the court's liberal members, said the justices would have little choice but to decide the matter should it come before them.


"We can't run away and say, 'Well, we don't know much about that subject so we won't decide it,'" she said.

Not my intention


to make it sound as if Scalia believes SCOTUS won't eventually have to rule on the NSA programs.


The issue to me is that Scalia is obviously willing to defer to intelligence agencies' decisions on whether they're breaking the 4th amendment. But violations of the 4th amend should be his area of expertise as a SCOTUS judge. 


I'm also trying to ding Scalia with the request that if he regards himself as too incompetent or if he's so determined not to become informed enough to do his job, to remove himself from deciding NSA spying cases.


Wags also points out that Scalia's supposed inexpertise is entirely selective. When a conservative goal is at stake, Scalia can be an expert on any subject. 



There shouldn't even be a debate over whether torture can save lives or whether NSA bulk data collection is effective at catching terrorists.  They violate the constitution, period.  The courts must strike them down and order the programs terminated.  If the executive doesn't like it, they can try to scaremonger the population into a legal spying amendment.


As far as the SCOTUS is concerned, the Constitution IS a suicide pact.  Scalia is picking and choosing which parts of the constitution he thinks the executive should have to adhere to based on his political leanings.  He loves absolutist broad-brushed rhetoric when it comes to things like campaign finance, but shies away from the text screaming at him to strike down obvious violations.

Scalia, the guy that was joking*

brutusettu's picture

that the 8th Amendment doesn't forbid torture of suspects.




*at least I hope he was joking and not going down the list of parts of the constitution that he actually think do not forbid torture of suspects.

The USA can be demonstrated to be an oligarchy






Each of four theoretical traditions in the study of American politics – which can be characterized as theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy, Economic Elite Domination, and two types of interest group pluralism, Majoritarian Pluralism and Biased Pluralism – offers different predictions about which sets of actors have how much influence over public policy: average citizens; economic elites; and organized interest groups, mass-based or business-oriented.


A great deal of empirical research speaks to the policy influence of one or another set of actors, but until recently it has not been possible to test these contrasting theoretical predictions against each other within a single statistical model. This paper reports on an effort to do so, using a unique data set that includes measures of the key variables for 1,779 policy issues.


Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.

I think we should do a diary about this and Piketty. -nt-



"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Isn't a Piketty diary scheduled?

Jay C's picture

Isn't a Piketty diary/book discussion scheduled for the not-interminably distant future? I've actually started C21C, and while I've found it surprisingly readable (for what seems to me very much like a college textbook), there's still a lot to plow through....

Yes, although it's still backordered on Amazon and Powell's.


I almost gave in and bought it off the shelf in Barnes & Noble, but... Amazon's still a better deal even after including shipping.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Alas, Piketty Seems to Me, Incoherent in this Interview...



In Mr. Piketty's defense, this is densely packed book full of big ideas, supported by data, and so does not lend itself to a live 5 minute interview format.


But here it is from Yahoo Finance for your review.


Best Wishes, Traveller

It's economics, Trav...

Jay C's picture

... it comes across as incoherent even when it's coherent, KWIM?



Trav, from what I understand so far, Piketty's book is important


because it's the only one, so far, in all the history of economic bloviation about rich and poor, that has actually collated 3 centuries' worth of tax and income data. So it's the data and its implications, and not necessarily Piketty's own point of view, that's worth paying attention to.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Oh, The book is Thrilling...To Me Literally...Just...Fantastic


...I thought I'd written about my...utter being bowed over by Capital in the 21st Century...but maybe I wrote about it, and the problems with the forward looking implications, elsewhere.


Believe me...the important, a huge tome, a life changing (?) event for me.


This is why maybe the interview was a let down for me.


Best Wishes, Traveller

You and Krugman both


I've never seen such enthusiastic praise for a nonfiction book.  By a Frenchman*, and about economics of all things.  It explains why West Virginia 2010 Senatorial loser John Raese felt no sense of irony when he said "I earned my money the old-fashioned way.  I inherited it."  I think I'll grab a hardcopy.


* Anti-French bigotry self-absolving: I was force-fed heavy doses of Zola, Molière and Prévert throughout high school and junior college.  Wordy and circumspect as hell despite often compelling narratives.  If you've ever seen Les chiffres et les lettres you'll know that the French are great at tricky arithmetic and anagrams but have no idea how to run a game show.  Picketty must be a rare specimen indeed.

I wouldn't wish Zola on anyone.


Voltaire, Balzac, Flaubert, Guy de Maupassant, Rabelais, Rimbaud, Camus, Proust, Verlaine, Montaigne, etc. on the other hand....

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

John Raese could sell the Eiffal Tower more than twice

brutusettu's picture

Thanks brutusettu, that Was an Outstanding & Fascinating Link/nt



Yes, brut, excellent link

Jay C's picture

The most interesting bit I got from the Wiki though, was the following list: I wonder what origin my fellow Forvmoids might posit for this list not knowing the source? For me, it sounds like a political consultant's advice, YMMV


    Be a patient listener (it is this, not fast talking, that gets a [...] his coups).
    Never look bored.
    Wait for the other person to reveal any political opinions, then agree with them.
    Let the other person reveal religious views, then have the same ones.
    Hint at sex talk, but don't follow it up unless the other person shows a strong interest.
    Never discuss illness, unless some special concern is shown.
    Never pry into a person's personal circumstances (they'll tell you all eventually).
    Never boast - just let your importance be quietly obvious.
    Never be untidy.
    Never get drunk.

Great advice. Con men are usually wise.

mmghosh's picture

From the link it seems poor Mr Lustig didn't follow his own advice.  Pity.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Oh Wow, Lunar Eclipse over Los Angeles - April 15~16, 2014



I must say that sometimes I knock my socks off.


In any case, what was interesting was that as the earth's umbra was at its maximum extent...the moon in all its redness was no longer flat, saucer like.


The moon during this part of the Eclipse had was like a marble I could actually touch of pluck from the sky. It was very round, very full of visual was amazing, and I could only wonder what a person, with no other technology 2,000, or 3,000 or 5,000 years ago, with nothing else to do, laying on the ground, looking up, might have thought of this...diminsionality change in the old familiar white moon.


I thought that shooting this, I have shot several others and two total solar eclipse's, would be...blah.


But I drove up to Mount Wilson...only to the 3,500ft level, but this made it quite the experience!


Best Wishes, Traveller

That's fantastic!


It was a good one to watch, for sure.


Really nice pictures, Trav. 

Come, my friends. 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world -- Tennyson

Indeed, I've thought of that too

mmghosh's picture

not so much the past, but what an illiterate person (I believe that is about 33% of the world's pop) thinks about eclipses today.


We have so much knowledge, but are we using it well?


Great image.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Don't Get Me Started on Man's Foolishness,I'll Get Angry+Update


As I Noted in an Email to a friend for the first time in Israel,( but it is all good stuff, so I post it all):


I Thought You'd Like Eilat....

...I also saved for your this BBC link with several images from inside The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem so you get a sense of the place before you get there. Be sure to scroll down.


I know that this is not your kind of thing, but since you will be there regardless, I might also suggest that if the line to actually enter Christ's Tomb is a half an hour or less, that you and the Mrs. wait it out....she will be appreciative upon leaving that small crouching area and, who knows, you might be also.


I will send you privately any quick and dirty advice I can give you on RAW shooting...but mostly, I'll do it now.


1. I was foolish to wait years and years to begin using RAW format...Canon's DPP is such a dumbed down program, that to not use it for the extra two stops of exposure it grants you for free (you quickly lose the ever present worry over exposure being correct...) as well as cleanly adding Contrast and/or Saturation as you might just...foolish. Converting from RAW to JPEG or TIFF, with changes, takes less than a minute per image.


2. I would also say that I now process overall less images....because I know that with RAW and cropping in PS or another cropping image program, so you will get the one shot that you saw in your mind's eye when you took the picture.


3. The above notwithstanding, memory is cheap, you can even shoot RAW and JPEG on the same image...I don't, but you could. (God forbid you have too, buy another big card, I did in what?)


4. The above notwithstanding, continue to shoot away. It is digital, at home you can pare down your product...but now be...relatively certain...that you have sufficient images to choose from.



Personally, I am a little stressed, with the contaminant nerve pain, with me leaving in only a week for London, Barcelona and the Basque country of far North Spain, in the ancient Kingdom of Navarre/Aragon


I think I'm going to stay outside of Barcelona, up river maybe 15km at an Ibis to save some money...this is what a car is for. I haven't booked yet...but Hotel ibis Barcelona Molins de Rei seems about right for me.


Weather looks to be lousy in London when I land, but I am in Bloomsbury near the British I will manage somehow.


This all feels spooky, it being a while for me and not knowing how I will fare healthwise...but as I said up post, What the Hell? Why not...


Be Good & Send my Best to the Loved One...Traveller

I should be in Israel in August, visas permitting

mmghosh's picture

but I'm more keen on visiting Acre and Haifa to see the Bahai temples than the Holy City - what with my antipathy to Semitic cults and all.  I really wanted to see Krak des Chevaliers but I can't see Syria tourism starting in the near future.


Eilat will probably be our entry point.


On RAW, its the only format, really.  We've just come back from the western bit of Tibet which belongs to us  and I'll post a Tibet diary sometime.



freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

I Was Very Impressed by Acre...Dinner on the Sea Wall...


Driving Through Lebanon

Best Wishes, Traveller



to Semitic time we had the good fortune to be the houseguests of some real Bahais for several days.


By "real" Bahai I don't mean a Western weekend Bahai who chose it in college because it aligned with what his secular side already wanted to believe anyway.  I mean people with Bahai grandparents from a Bahai village,  who were born into it, and derive their beliefs from their religion rather than the other way around.


What you've got is very much an Abrahamic religion,  in terms of personal conduct pretty much like fairly strict Christians, and the experience was not unlike spending a weekend with evangelicals or Mormons.  Wonderful, generous people who treated us very kindly.  They showed us an album of the temple.  Elegant and impressive,  but a very modern structure,  as you'd expect.    I must confess, however, that by the last day I'd overdosed on earnestness and sitting up straight, and needed to get someplace where I could be a bit  cynical, use some mild profanity, and scratch where it itched.


So, their temple would be a good place to visit.  But the religion is derived from "Semitic cults" and while some specific beliefs have been superseded,  the general attitude is the same.

Heh. I was being very mildly ironic

mmghosh's picture

of course we will end up in the Holy City - can't go all the way to Israel and not go, especially when there's family involved.

As for the Bahai's, they are as loony as the rest of the Semitic lot - I have noticed though that having loony beliefs is directly proportional to being wealthy, a trait shared by the Baha'i, Bohras, Ismailis, Jains - your Mormons too, I think.

The Baha'i have these fabulous pseudoclassical pastiche temples with their bizarre numerology built in. For someone like me who is really into pastiche its all fascinating stuff.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

My parents (and sister) lived their entire lives inside the wire


so to speak:  it's possible to live your entire life, from cradle to grave, within the arms of the Church.  One hand washes another, my brother in law has made a nice living as a stock broker and financial advisor that way.  Loony beliefs are one thing, a working society is another.  The Church is the one institution which has a place for every age.  If you wished, within the circles I have travelled, never do business with anyone but a Loony Believer.  We're not as loony as all that, you know.  There is power in numbers.  And yes, the "loonier" they are, the better they fare.  Shared belief structures their advantages.  Besides, the Glories of the Individual are highly overrated. 

True. The religious are statistically proven happier people too

mmghosh's picture

so wealth and happiness in this world, and heaven in the hereafter.  What more could anyone want?

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Yet Another Reason To Hate Justin Bieber

M Scott Eiland's picture

The Obama Admistration uses the occasion of ignoring a petition to deport the annoying little twerp to propagandize for amnesty.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Piketty files



M Scott Eiland's picture

So it's a bad thing that the Obama Administration managed to get a substantial number of extremely wealthy and/or connected to wealth young people to attend an event that encourages them to get involved with public affairs and use their wealth in the process? I might not approve of much or most of what they might glomp onto for that, but it beats having a new collection of Paris Hiltons on the scene, particularly if this bunch can manage to sound less mentally challenged than the current generation of young influential lefties (admittedly not a tough standard to beat, though given their apparent choice of mentor means they're working with a built in handicap)

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

"wealthy people"


they're not just wealthy people, MSCOTT, they're dynamic risk takers and leaders in the private sector who've shown the skill necessary to pick winners from losers, to shape large successful organizations, and to find solutions to some of today's toughest problems.


No wonder the most powerful political office in the world is coordinating with these titans of private industry... teenagers and young 20s heirs who have shown no skill at anything other than being born into the world's largest fortunes. 


The point of the link is that this is who society must now increasingly rely on to solve its problems.


M Scott Eiland's picture

When *hasn't* the political class been inclined to curry favor and seek support from people with money, regardless of whether they had resumes to justify the bank account? This strikes me as pining for a "Utopia" that never was.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

So we can count you in favor


of a new aristocracy that controls the vast majority of society's resources but never had to work a day in their life for it?

I Must Have Missed The News Flash. . .

M Scott Eiland's picture

. . .where inheriting large estates was invented in the last few years. Silly MSM missing those seismic developments in property law!

PS--By the way, that's my sarcastic voice.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

I think you missed the gist of Piketty's book which


everyone has been talking about... IOW the idea that returns on capital over time are larger than economic growth, and that therefore absent major Great Depression and WWII-level adjustments to capital and distribution, we are headed back towards Victorian levels of wealth inequality within a few years (5% of the population owns 90% of everything that can be owned).  


I believe that was the unspoken background to catchy's remarks.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

More Rolling My Eyes At It Than Missing It

M Scott Eiland's picture

But in either case, currying the favor of people with money, regardless of source, is nothing new for political types. If the sky is falling, it has been falling for thousands of years.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

The sky isn't falling,


it's just settling back to its old pre-WWII Victorian/Robber Baron position squarely on the shoulders of the working poor. Goodbye, middle class! It's been real swell.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Yes, Yes--I'm Familiar With The Cartoon In Question

M Scott Eiland's picture

I just question whether *this* is the event that should set off all the Chicken-Littling. I mean, could we maybe have some 19 year old heir offering to build a replacement for the Golden Gate Bridge with his name in huge glowing letters on it, or some fried chicken parts heir buying the TVA out of pocket change, to justify this level of existential horror?

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

If the past 6 years don't justify


a little existential horror, I don't know what does.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Existential horror? For whom, where etc? nt

mmghosh's picture


freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

The Great Recession doesn't speak for itself? -nt-



"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

No. People aren't that badly off, as they were, say,

mmghosh's picture

at the time of the Depression.  


I get all the talk about massive increases in wealth for the rich.  But the poor have never had it so good, either.


But...what Picketty et al leave out of their analyses, perhaps, is how much better the plebeians are today than in the 19th century - for the uneducated plebeians, there are great mass spectacles, cheap sugary food, plenty of cheap gewgaws, for the educated plebeians, there is free music, Project Gutenberg, access to all the world's literature and so forth.  The Internet means people are free to write whatever they want without going to prison.


I see plenty of poor people here, more than most people, maybe.  I'm really quite surprised by how content they seem in their poverty, with their TVs especially - watching all those hours of TV must be one of most effective pacifiers of people's discontent ever invented.  Then there's religion as a great mass soporific - apparently religious belief is rapidly expanding.  What do the Chinese people do when they realise that 1/5th of their arable land is poisoned?  Why, they embrace religion!

Faced with growing public anger about a poisonous environment, China's government released a study that shows nearly one-fifth of the country's farmland is contaminated with toxic metals, a stunning indictment of unfettered industrialisation under the Communist Party's authoritarian rule.

The report, previously deemed so sensitive it was classified as a state secret, names the heavy metals cadmium, nickel and arsenic as the top contaminants.

It adds to widespread doubts about the safety of China's farm produce and confirms suspicions about the dire state of its soil following more than two decades of explosive industrial growth, the overuse of farm chemicals and minimal environmental protection.

It also points to health risks that, in the case of heavy metals, can take decades to emerge after the first exposure. Already, health advocates have identified several “cancer villages” in China near factories suspected of polluting the environment where they say cancer rates are above the national average.


freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Good God, Manish. You aren't trotting out the poverty is bliss


defense, are you? People at all socioeconomic levels are content with their lot. Other people at all socioeconomic levels are miserable. This has always been true. There are happy slaves, and there are unhappy kings. Economic policy cannot create happiness (and nobody who's thought the matter through would claim otherwise). In other words, happiness is beside the point.  


How many plebians around the world can afford internet access? In any case, all of the 20th century wonders you list were produced by the postwar Great Society which created a vast middle class capable of acting as a market for all of those consumer goods, for socialized medicine that serves the general public instead of 19th century fee-for-service, etc. Where will your happy plebians be when the Euro-American middle classes disappear, taking their import markets with them?


As far as atheist China's religious revival: you do realize religion can be a form of socioeconomic power, right? Forget for a moment your distaste for supernatural metaphysics: a religion can also be a club, a mutual aid society, a resource for work, childcare you can trust (more or less), dissemination of grievances, a venue for exchange of ideas not unlike the cafes of Paris, etc. Religion can create a community of trust and common purpose, outside the control of the official ideologies of the state. Religion, in other words, can be revolutionary by virtue of the exact same qualities that can make it a tool of hegemony. 

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Internet access? Quite a lot. Most people here access the net

mmghosh's picture

on mobiles.  Nearly 200 million people will access the Internet via mobiles phones this year.  Isn't that a good proportion of your population?


As for disappearing Euro-American middle classes, they will be replaced by Chinese, or Brazilian or somebody else.  But that's not my real point.  I'm arguing against the "existential horror" of the Great Recession.  That there was a recession is not in doubt.  That the wealthy have made huge profits is not in doubt.  What I'm saying is that there is no existential horror, except for a few Europeans and Americans.  The rest of the world is doing relatively OK - of course there is war and hunger and misery, but not any more than is usual.  


I mentioned in another thread the possibility of creating a WW1 like scenario.  But in retrospect, the wealthy have played the game much better this time round, compared to the 19th century.  The plebs are kept in much better order.  Frightened by terrorists, plenty of bread and circuses, vaccinated against disease, happy with trinkets.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

200 million is only a sixth of your population though.


You don't view the Arab Spring conflicts as having been driven by the recession? They seem pretty closely linked to me. Then there's the rise of ethnocentric nationalism, including open fascism, in response to widespread unemployment and other discontents. 


I agree that the elite have handled the initial shock of a market catastrophe much better than they did in 1929. But the reversion to status quo ante 1890 is not going to sit well here or in the other western democracies, regardless of whether it happens quickly or in slow motion. 

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

"this level of existential horror"


For those of you keeping track at home, this is known as the "straw man" defense.

Stardate-- 2045: Gay marriage


or, as us conservatives in the USA liked to call it, "marriage equality" was at its heart a deeply conservative policy, and all along the real conservatives were in favor of marriage in that it's a bedrock of Our Glorious Republic. The True Conservatives always supported this proudly, as long as the whole icky sex part was only mumbled about.


The dirty f***ing hippie liberals ruined everything with they way they shoved it down our throats, over and over, until the country's eyes watered and finally gave in to a full throated embrace of the warm, milky fluid of freedom. Proving once again that liberals are fascists. Like Hitler and all the other anti-gay extremists.


Also, long ago the KKK were all democrats, so black people are simply deluded in that they vote overwhelmingly for democrats these days. Or hooked on fascist-welfare. 


The free market would have undone slavery if only those dirty northern hippies just stayed out of things.


-Jonah Goldberg the Third, 2045.

Not to forget - fights over who gets to keep it, aka WW1. nt

mmghosh's picture


freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

How surprising


Conservatives will care about the rise of a 21st century aristocracy when some political conservative mentions it, *but not before*!!


"tribal uber alles" - the conservative anthem.


M Scott Eiland's picture

"Comment, not the commenter."

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

I beg your pardon


However I still haven't identified your position. Is it: 

(1) I am not opposed to an hereditary aristocracy of family dynasties arising which will control most of the developed world's wealth

(2) I don't believe one is arising

(3) Yawn! Wake me when a conservative raises the topic!


M Scott Eiland's picture

"The linked story is irrelevant to all of the above."

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Irrelevant is a little strong, wouldn't you say?


The linked story is nowhere approaching proof of an aristocracy arising or anything.


But OTOH it's the kind of thing you'd expect to see more often if it were-- teenage heirs with no particular skills being asked to solve large-scale societal problems.  


... nice dodge re: your opinions on aristocracy, btw.

As Opposed To. . .

M Scott Eiland's picture

. . .musicians and/or actors being so consulted?

I'm betting on the random collection of rich kids. YMMV.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

You bet on


old Bush 43, too... another trust fund numbskull.


Quit while you're ahead. There's still time.

"I'm betting on the random collection of rich kids."


In other words, you're fine with the return of an aristocracy -- b/c at least it won't be full of liberal artists?


And here all this time I thought you were a supporter of free markets picking winners and losers, not estate holders picking heirs.

I'm Calling Into Question The Use Of "Return"

M Scott Eiland's picture

At least regarding the prominence of people who never had to work a day in their lives assuming positions of national importance. With the exceptions of the ones who served our nation with honor in World War 2, the Kennedy family certainly comes to mind there.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Quite A Few Times, Actually


Why did so many wealthy people hate FDR?


I agree that most of the time the political class is corrupt, or at least captured, but there have been many politicians who have quite explicitly invested a great deal of effort trying to save the wealthy from themselves.


Not all eras look like ours.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.


M Scott Eiland's picture

Because Old Man Kennedy had qualifications for being the US Ambassador to the United Kingdom other than his wallet. FDR may have offended a good chunk of the rich, but he was sucking up to some of them just like any other politician.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

While taxing them at 96% and passing Social Security. -nt-



"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes


M Scott Eiland's picture

94% was as high as it ever got, and that not until the war was safely on--as MA once pointed out, such things are a little more excusable when more or less the entire economy was devoted to exterminating fascists.* The real offense there was in his successors keeping the max bracket near or over 90% in the absence of a total war going on until JFK eased off the confiscation a tad in the early 1960s.

*--my wording, not his.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Yep, 94%. I mistyped.


Far from harming the economy, that level of taxation & federal spending led to a golden age of American economic wellbeing... one in which GDP gains were shared among 80% of the population rather than 5% as today.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

FDR and Joseph Kennedy

Jay C's picture

I'd disagree with you about Roosevelt's motivations in "promoting" Old Joe Kennedy to Ambassador in 1938: his wallet may have been a non-trivial factor in FDR's considerations (and certainly didn't hurt), but ISTM more likely that Roosevelt's move was more to get rid of a domestic "rival" - Kennedy was not just a money guy; he was a major political "player", and had vague (if unrealistic) ambitions for Higher Office himself. If shipping him overseas to a prestigious diplomatic post where his own bigoted assholery would eventually destroy his reputation was FDR's plan, it certainly worked like a charm. In any case, it was obvious that serious British-American diplomacy was going to be conducted on the Executive level, and Joe Kennedy was tidily sidelined. And finally, after his anti-British obsessions and general defeatism became too much to tolerate, he got the boot with few regrets.  So I suppose "sucking up to the rich" in order to ruin their political aims is a worthwhile strategy in the end.... 

Oh, Come On...


You know just as well as anybody here that politics is the art of making exceptions.


The point that FDR did not dance to the tune of the rich still stands, and you know it. And you know that I know that you know it.


I suppose you had to give it the old college try though.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Against "human trafficking"? But all hotels TVs have porn

mmghosh's picture

channels, so I'm not sure that Mr Gage understands the world well.

A freshman at Georgetown University, Mr. Gage was among the presenters at a breakout session, titled “Combating Human Trafficking,” that attracted a notable group of his peers. “The person two seats away from me was a Marriott,“ he said. “And when I told her about trafficking, right away she was like, ‘Uh, yeah, I want to do that.’ ”

Justin McAuliffe, a 24-year-old heir to the Hilton hotel fortune, was similarly impressed by the crowd. “Hilton, Marriott and Carlson,” he said. “That is cool.”

I'm not at all suggesting that offering porn on hotel TV is wrong, but maybe Mr Rich Kid is being more than a little naive about where some of his money comes from.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Founding dads



Interesting. Almost like they were liberals or something.

Everyone likes Nepalese workers

mmghosh's picture

worked to the death, that is, building stadiums in Qatar, climbing Everest, or simply building a nation.

Sherpa anger at their exploitation, particularly among the young, is straining relationships with foreign commercial expedition leaders. Among those killed on Friday was Dorje Khatri, a campaigner for Sherpa rights who had previously carried the flag of a porter's union to the summit.

With the working conditions of high-altitude workers in the forefront of the public's mind, organisations representing them have been quick to add to the pressure on the government.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

For some, it's too bad Nepal is land locked

brutusettu's picture

Some Bangladeshi people have the good fortune to work around heavy metal of all a sizes, with apparently zero job crushing safety regulations. 


Scroll a bit, then notice how 14 year old Bangladeshi workers look like little kids of a much younger age.  The 14 year old age limit is key, safety is paramount, we wouldn't want kids under 14 crawling around getting crushed during work.

The Dickens novel practically writes itself.


That said, I have to admit there's something absolutely fascinating (I almost typed 'riveting') about that work. I can see the 12-year-old me dying to get to work and find out what kind of treasures I would find each day, cutting into ghost ships, derelicts out of a Robert Louis Stevenson adventure story. I wonder how long the fascination would last. 

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

RE: Piketty et al. wealth inequality. Looking at some models.


Especially the Solow-Swan model, which forms the basis of other models.  Here's the problem I face:  well, I'll just give you the Bloom-Canning paper (PDF) .  Let's suppose we wanted to have a more just, equitable society.  We can't just start up the bulldozers and in the words of Luke's Gospel:  "Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth"  The Levellers have always done more harm than good.  But wealth does concentrate.


What equations might govern a well-run state?  I'm not an economist.  I hate economists.  Their math stinks and they're forever misapplying what little data they have.  Since Maslow came up with his Hierarchy of Needs, thoughtful people have been trying to prioritise the requirements for a working society. 


Harrod-Domar is an older, somewhat discredited model, yet the more I look at its equations, the more interestingly wrong it becomes.  Add a few gears to Harrod-Domar, make a few of its constants into variables. and it gives you a picture of how human capital and technology interact  to create ever more inequality. 


In short, once you've created a sufficiently large pile of capital, like a nuclear reactor, it creates a self-sustaining reaction.  It seems unavoidable, somehow.  I'm not sure how I can escape this conclusion.

The Levelers have always done more harm than good?


I think you need to offer some support for that assertion. Especially since it's easy to falsify, unless you narrow the scope of "levelers" to communists or pure socialists.


I think a leveler is anyone who has attempted to flatten income distribution, not necessarily to make it flat.


FDR was a leveler. Possibly the most important one in US history. The 25 years following his exit were probably the most successful and sustained period of economic growth and middle class progress the country has ever seen.


I believe it is natural and proper, given human nature, for there to be rich and poor. But in terms of aggregate social good, not all wealth distribution curves are the same. A flatter curve helps with social cohesion and prevents excessive concentration of power, while insuring a wider middle. A steep curve leads to such a divergence of interests that social cohesion is lost, power concentrates, and political corruption is inevitable.


Capital does tend to concentrate, which is a problem. But capital is enormously useful. So the solution is to limit the concentration through policy, not to eliminate capital. We can argue about how this should be done, but done it must be.



This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Well made points all. nt

mmghosh's picture


freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Here the debate becomes - erm - "fraught"


It's good to see you hastily stipulate to communists and "pure" socialists, leaving a few antipersonnel mines in place in the form of Purity Tests.  I'm not going there.  You know perfectly well no Levelling Scheme ever left a nice level pitch for the kiddoes to play upon.  It's either the Permanent Revolution or Progressive Taxation or some combination thereof. I can easily demonstrate where Levellers throughout history have attempted to correct the symptoms of inequality without addressing the underlying causes.


John D. Rockefeller, that wizened old hymn-singer, was out on his golf course with his fellow industrialists.  The Trust Busters were hard at work, attempting to break up the Standard Oil monopoly.  Everyone else on that little outing was bitterly complaining about the villainous government, oppressing folks, breaking up fine American institutions of capitalism.  Rockefeller waved his hand, silenced the pity party and told everyone present to buy every share of Standard Oil they could.  Rockefeller ended up three times richer after the breakup of Standard Oil as before.  So much for antitrust making the problems of concentrated capitalism go away.


FDR did not solve the problems of inequality.  I urge everyone to read Ben Bernanke's essays on the Great Depression.  Be sure to purchase it through our link, gentlemen.  I would argue FDR was not a Leveller.  FDR and his Congresses inoculated the sick cow of American capitalism with a dose of socialism, for which he has never been forgiven.  And no, I'm not going to engage anyone on the basis of Purity Tests, Dr. Franklin D. Roosevelt's dose of socialism was exceedingly pure.  SCOTUS knew it at the time and slapped down his socialist schemes almost as fast as he could build them.  The purity tests were done at the time and were recognised for what they were:  Socialismus marxii.  I would also argue WW2, not FDR's alphabet soup, fixed what was wrong with the USA's economy. 


Kenneth Waltz observed "Once socialism replaces capitalism, reason will determine the policies of states."  I would amend that statement, reversing the terms:  Until reason determines the policies of states, socialism cannot replace capitalism.   Natural and proper are such judgmental terms, don't you think?  Those adjectives have been used to justify all sorts of hateful nonsense.  Reason is not natural and every man thinks his own actions quite proper, given the circumstances.  Mankind prefers what capitalism produces to the consequences of such production.  The Levellers have all failed because they cannot escape the paradox of Who Shall Do the Levelling.   It's Animal Farm, time after time after time.   


Fact: Western Europeans have been better off


under postwar socialism than they ever were in all of the centuries preceding those decades. Until 2008, of course. 

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

What did I say about Reason and Socialism?


The European Welfare State has taken a terrible beating as its citizens grow older and its young people can't find decent jobs.  Why have Europe's politics gone so hard to the Right?  Seems everywhere I look, there's some Conservative bonehead like Cameron, not only pulling down what little remains of Postwar Socialism, but accusing Labour of not mending the roof whilst the sun was shining.   Germany, same story.  France, hell -- even Sweden's admitting it can't afford its Welfare State.  

All part of a deliberate, 34-year effort to undermine


and dismantle Eurostate socialism. Does not change the fact that while those states endure, the common European citizen has access to far better quality of life and standards of living than at any time in the preceding thousand centuries. 

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Why hasn't socialism been able to defend itself


against all these charges?   If everyone was so much better off under socialism, and here you preach to the choir, for I believe socialism does produce better outcomes, why have these long-term deliberate efforts succeeded so brilliantly? 


The answer seems pretty obvious to me.  The Levellers have forgotten who pays the bills.  They thought they could soak the rich and the rich would just shrug their shoulders, accepting their fates, like so many Boxers in Animal Farm:  "I shall work harder."  They did not foresee the rise of the Pigs, those clever little rascals with their degrees from LSE and Polytechnique, who set about destroying the very society which gave rise to them.  Labour in the UK prided itself in its ignorance, demonised the industrialists and were drummed out of the modern political process.  Now look at them, weird little monsters like Ed Milliband, still spouting the same old rhetoric which cost them their majorities.  Well, Tony Benn is dead now and sincerely mourned in a few circles.  Old Labour is as irrelevant as the pterosaurs.  It will never return, so badly did they befoul their own nest.


Socialism needs an Intervention.  Of course wealth concentrates.  Of course the industrialists will attempt to deregulate themselves and markets will tend toward speculative destruction, given half a chance.  But capitalism pays the bills for these Far Better Quality of Life Outcomes.  The socialists need to learn to harness the power of capitalism to the ends of the many.  That will start when they turn off the Bulldozers of Levelling. 

Labor has spent the last several decades getting crushed


by overseas competition. Why is it surprising that unions and labor syndicates have lost power, while the privateers of capitalism have been able to board, loot and scuttle pension program after pension program? 

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Why? Evolutionary pressures, of course. Labour never adapted.


The unions never worked out how to run efficient governments, wouldn't allow industry to privatise where it might better have suited their purposes.  In short, Labour didn't understand how capitalism has always worked, especially not how financial markets work.  I would only repeat myself in saying they did not foresee the rise of the Pigs.  Perhaps you can explain this blind spot.

Labor has adapted plenty. Not sure why you think it hasn't.


The real problem is structural. Unions only have power to the degree that they can meaningfully restrict the supply of labor. When manufacturers can simply open plants in Karachi and undercut union contracts, workplace safety regulations *and* cost of living in one fell swoop, then union power is automatically reduced.  


In other words, they can't possibly adapt enough to overcome the differential between impoverished third world cost of living and their own. 

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Unions could have enormous power via ownership.


They could have invested their union dues in voting stock.  Many successful unions do exactly that, CalPERS and others have adapted.  That's why they're now powerful.  If your firm makes it to the CalPERS Focus List, they will go through your outfit like a dose of salts and you will Get Right in a Big Hurry.


Restricting labour is a strategy for idiots.  Ownership is the only vector of power and always was. 

That's exactly why some of us are so concerned


about the fact that ownership is becoming ever more concentrated in the hands of the very few.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

The answer is trivially obvious.


Put worker representatives on the boards of directors of publicly traded companies over a certain size.  Germany's done this for years. 


EDIT:  More here

The proletariat must seize the means of production!


I like your thinking here, Blaise. We should get right on that. 

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

The shortages will be divided among the worker class.


I'll be the seizer.  You'll be the worker.  Sho' nuff. 

Not Really Sure What Your Point Is


FDR was a thoroughbred member of the elite and had no intention of foisting socialism on the US, no matter what conservatives might have thought or think. I'll wave away their inability to forgive him thus, they are a resentful crowd if ever there was one: they never forgive anything that puts a dime into the pockets of workers, even if ultimately that dime will return to them in the form of sales.


As a group, the inherited wealthy, old money, are a stupid, entitled, reactionary bunch to whom everything is expensive because everybody wants too much of their money. Unlike Piketty I don't believe capital should be taxed, but inheritance of capital should be highly taxed. The Estate Tax is a cornerstone of democracy. If we do not accept inherited power; we cannot accept inherited power through wealth.


Wars don't fix economies. More often than not, they break them. World War II was a huge positive because it provided leverage for FDR to tax the rich at high rates for a prolonged period of time, while stimulating the economy, things he wanted to do anyway, except with the war no Supreme Court could stop him. There were many ways to fund the war and to run it. The particular choice made matters. Compare and contrast with Iraq, which was coupled with a tax cut for the rich.


You seem to hold a binary view. It's either Animal Farm or laissez-faire? I think there is a whole spectrum between them and the ever shifting optimum point is somewhere on it, depending on time and place. Either extreme is unworkable and breaks down catastrophically. The middle points are merely unstable. Human societies require constant effort and struggle between interests. There is no such thing as a self-stabilizing, self-regulating system. The best systems allow for the most possible players to influence society. To me the problem always boils down to limiting the concentration of power. In socialism the danger is the concentration of power by government. In capitalism the danger is concentration of power by wealth. Either system ends up being a command and control economy. The end state of unlimited capitalism is the company town. What is the difference between a company town and a socialist town?


And why has socialism failed in Europe? Why is it not the failure of capitalism? Does Europe lack private property? Does it lack capital? Does it lack private companies and banks? Does it lack financial markets and currency exchanges? I cannot help but notice that the wolves were in charge of the chicken coop. You say in Sweden they can't afford their welfare state now? In Sweden monetary policy is so tight they are having deflation. Who controls monetary policy? Bankers do, not socialists. Can Sweden afford its welfare state? Certainly not while being squeezed by its banking class. And that has been the pattern. The wolves cause the problem and then demand austerity to solve it, as if high interest rates and deflation were neutral acts of frugality, rather than gigantic transfers of wealth to bondholders.



This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

My point was about Capital forming a self-sustaining reaction


obeying the same laws as a nuclear reactor.  Substitute Capital for Mass and you get the same results.  The Levellers don't understand how this works.  If everyone is to benefit from capitalism, it will be when the forces inherent in capitalism are harnessed to their benefit.  They must become part of the Owner Class.  They will never improve whilst they continue to believe they can extort wages from the owners with tired old tactics the Owners have long since learned to successfully oppose. 


All I'm looking for is a meaningful description of how wealth inequality actually works.  Solow-Swan looks at capital accumulation in terms of capital intensity.  My own rhetoric has always suffered from a tendency to resort to Friedman-isms, he of the Big Moustache, jumping to metaphor and simile, the nuclear reactor is just one of many.  I was not anticipating a critique of the proposition that Levellers do less good and more harm than they suppose by attempting to solve for a symptom and not work toward a lasting cure.  The Levellers will never achieve their goals.  At best, they will always be ineffectually attempting to bring low every hill and mountain. 


The physicists tell us Work may be distinguished from Effort by the fact that work actually does something.  Heats a cubic centimetre of water by one degree.  Moves one kilo one meter up a slope of ten degrees.  The Levellers fail because they achieve nothing.   To truly level the world, power must be distributed more widely.  Capitalism is how anyone makes money.  Capitalism concentrates power into the hands of the owner class.  The two forces are perpetually in opposition to each other.   The owner class will always win because - after all - they own more than the means of production, they own the financial industry, the means of the means of production, the investment capital which funds the creation of jobs.  Workers are simply so many replaceable cogs in that machine.  They wouldn't be merely cogs if they were also part of the ownership structure --- but attempting to make this point leads to all sorts of maudlin nostalgia about the Good Old Days of Franklin Roosevelt the Great Leveller.  He was no such thing.  He was the Employer of Last Resort.   Liberals, I have come to believe, are as lost in the funhouse of mirrors as the Conservatives, believing they can bring back the Good Old Days.  Newsflash:  there were no Good Old Days.  If there are any Binary Thinkers out there, it's the Liberals, who want the benefits of Capitalism but not its costs, reward without risk, improvements without side effects.  They have made a dog's dinner of their own arguments.  



Of Costs And Benefits


I am a liberal, in the classic American sense, and I make no apology for it.


As a liberal, I do not in fact believe the days of FDR are going to come back. Conditions have changed dramatically. The main problem is automation. Unlike 100 years ago, it is now possible, and will be easier as time goes by, to run an entire economy with substantially less than full employment. Not only that, but where there is work to be done, workers are now rarely massed by the thousands in advanced countries. Huge factories have few personnel and sometimes none at all. We live in an era with concepts such as "lights out manufacturing", where a production floor has literally no human on it as the machines toil away day and night.


In China, massive numbers of people are still used. But this too will change. Foxconn, the contractor Apple and others use, has announced that they will purchase one million robots over the next few years. Robots don't jump from the roof and don't care if they are exposed to hexane or aluminum dust.


With labor having lost so much leverage, this is not FDR's world. Whatever solutions are brought to bear on the problem, they will be new solutions.


Do I want the benefits of capital while minimizing the side effects? Absolutely. That's the essence of being human; to use fire without getting burned, to get in a car without dying in a crash, to fly on an airplane without falling out of the sky, to chew gum without rotting your teeth, to have sex without making babies or catching a disease, to eat animal meat without having to risk life and limb in the hunt. Our species is always trying to maximize the gain presented by a phenomenon or a technology while avoiding risk. That's the whole point and I make no apology for that either.


Your reactor analogy is surprisingly apt, for capital does not concentrate naturally any more than uranium does, and once concentrated needs to be kept from overheating.


Capital is not in opposition to government, it is a product of it. The modern state was virtually invented by capital for precisely this reason. You cannot own anything beyond your view absent the state. You cannot secure it or have it recognized by others. You cannot use legal vehicles of risk management, such as limited liability companies, without government. Since the state makes capital possible, the state has the right to regulate it. This isn't coercion: this is a tradeoff. Any capitalist who doesn't like it should try feudalism for a while. You don't like taxes? You better raise your own army then.


You have it backwards. The problem is not that the liberals want the benefit of capital without the disadvantages of it. The problem is that the capitalists want the benefits of government without its disadvantages.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Been building robots a long time. Never saw one replace a human



Come on, Blaise


Not in the sense of firing an assembly line worker and ordering a humanoid to punch in at 8 every morning and stand in the same spot doing the exact same thing.


But the factories running pick-and-place machines pretty much drove the maquiladoras with rows of women out of the business of populating PCBs.  Same thing with wirebonding IC dies into packages.  Thousands of other examples.  You know this.

Not once Not even in a maquilladora. I know maquilladoras.


The workers simply move up the ladder to feeding spools of ICs and diodes and caps to the robot.  You stick to what you know.  AI and robotics pay my bills.


Here's what happens to the older workers who used to sit in the soldering stations.  They do QC/QA work.  They aren't inhaling solder fumes any more.  Now they sit over a microscope and inspect the DUT.  Nobody's happy until they're failing 5 percent of the production.  There's still plenty of work.  Even in QC, the older workers supervise the robots.  Nobody is rendered redundant. 

The maquila closed. -nt


Huh? The maquila moved to the States.


Tax advantages.  These states and municipalities will fight for these screwdriver factory jobs.  The company pours a slab of concrete, puts up a pole barn, runs the factory until the tax advantage runs out, then moves to another state.  See how great it works out?  This is what I do.  I move factories to the States. 

So the bottom line


is the Mexican women who were running the manual wirebonders are out of a job.  An autobonder at some other company or location is now doing it.  Sure, there is a tech and a programmer running the autobonder,  but there are fewer of them.  Fewer is the whole point.


PS Although I'm an electrical engineering instructor,  my recent outside contract work has been with maquilas that do electronics,  so the argument from authority isn't going to work on me.

That presumes the manual wirebonder isn't applicable


to the scale of operations.  The girl working the old wirebonder isn't going to be able to do a flip chip MCM stack anyway.  She's better used in QC/QA on an inspection microscope.  

No presumption involved.


We're not talking about a hypothetical case here.  You can always say that someone could go get some other job doing QC/QA or airline pilot or whatever, therefore, there is no such thing as losing a job.  But that would be twisting the ordinary everyday meaning of "lose your job".


The point is,  the job the women were doing and were trained for disappeared because they were not competitive with an automated process,  and the location they worked at was shut down.  Whether you could think of some other nicer job for them to do is irrelevant.  That particular job disappeared.



You made this about a manual wirebonder. That's specific.


I'm saying nobody wants to use a manual wire bonder on the new generation of cell phones.  Buggy whip manufacturers found the transition to the new-fangled auto-mobile a bit difficult, too. 

Well, yes, that's the point


People working in buggy whip factories did in fact lose their jobs.  That's part of progress.


Maybe most of them got better jobs doing something higher tech, eventually.   But let's not pretend there was no displacement or at least temporary unemployment.


On the specifics:   QC inspector vs.  Wire Bond Operator.


If you were hiring a bunch of new QC/QA inspectors,  would you (other than for humanitarian reasons) single out ex-Wire Bond Operators for recruitment?   The jobs are somewhat related in that they require someone who can remain focused and alert on a repetitive task for hours at a time (rules me out,  BTW), and there's the general experience of working with electronic parts.   


In any case,  on high-volume low-end chips most testing is automated also.  Someone's got to analyze failures but that's a higher level job and not done in real time.

Uh, yeah, I would single out those wire bonder women.


What did Woody Allen say?  80% of life is just turning up.  Those dear ladies had never seen a wire bonder before they walked in the door of that maquila and by God, if that wire bonder disappeared, they would not think twice about it.   I hire people for their ability to adapt and take orders effectively.  Not merely take orders but understand why they're doing things.  I can train a chimp to code.  Pretty sure I've done it, and more than once.  I've taught so many people to code now, it's just a matter of what they're interested in doing so I can give them a project they'll care about finishing.   I can't teach that chimp to care about the client's users.  People are hired for their abilities and sacked for their personalities.


Kaizen is funny.  If you can get the production line to fail exactly five percent, the Japanese will scream with happiness and dance around like little girls, shouting Banzai.  I am not kidding.  They expect everyone to pay attention to quality.  And they're very good at teaching Americans that attitude, too.  Americans hate doing crappy work.  They take pride in their work.  Give them something to be proud of.  That's what makes Americans happy on the job.

Here's what bugs me about this argument, eeyn...


Look, people aren't extensions of their machines.  There are better uses for people than running machines.  My entire argument about how people handle exceptions better completely escapes you.  I've tried to get vision systems to do QC inspections and it's never worked very well in practice.  People do it better.   Out in Phoenix, lots of electronics firms have found something curious.  Turns out the local native American women are hella good at doing defect detection on inspection scopes.  Nobody knows why.  Some people think it's because their culture produced weavers.  Intricate patterns, handed down for generations.  Personally, I think this conclusion is kinda suspect.  But the Mohawk tribe has dominated high iron work for many decades.  They don't have fear of heights.  


I don't know what the answer is.  This much I can tell you, the robots are not gonna displace human beings any time soon, doing anything significant.  People aren't extensions of their machines.  They can be trained to do many different tasks.  If people get bored, they make mistakes.  Better to have the people checking the robots' work than to treat a human being like a robot.  I've never yet seen anyone summarily dismissed because a technology replaced their old job.  They just get new ones.  But then, I've only worked for Japanese outfits and that mostly in terms of bringing factories to the States, where they like American initiative and resourcefulness. 


There's been some discussion about Money and Capital around here.  I found out my consulting fees were being booked as Intellectual Capital.  The Japanese never treat me like I'm Doing a Job.  I'm literally treated as if I'm adding knowledge to their bottom line.

And, Right On Cue



I rest.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Heh. I've seen those milkers reject cows, push them out.


Then the cow goes bellowing out into the barnyard, swollen up and hurting.  The auto-milker hasn't quite got all the bugs worked out of it, yet.  Lots of dairy around here, most of it's turned into cheese.  But my sorta-brother in law runs a dairy operation north of here.  Talked to him about a robot to clean his barn floor.  He sorta likes the idea, he's seen a few in operation.  But again, that requires re-engineering the barn floor.


Rest as easy as you like.  There's an old robotics joke.  In future, they'll have automated the business of flying aircraft to the n-th degree.  Still, people won't feel comfortable flying in a completely automatic aircraft.  So they'll have a pilot at the door, you know, the avuncular type of guy, completely qualified.  Except for emergencies, he's forbidden to touch the controls....


But alongside the automajickal robo-pilot, they'll be breeding a dog.  A smallish version of the Australian shepherd.  He'll be riding shotgun with the pilot, just waiting for the pilot to go to sleep - so he can bite that pilot in the gonads.


The joke is so well known in robotics circles, you can ask someone if his software has a Collie Dog routine.   Usually, in a free-standing robot, it's two buttons, one on each side of the robot.  The operator has to press both for the robot to work.  This keeps the operator's hands out out the robot's work area.  Collie Dog circuit.

I know what you mean,


but I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle.


You are right in that machines do need operators and techs, they need supply from the warehouse and so on. In my experience of the manufacturing industry 95% of the line workers I've seen fired have gone because the jobs have gone to lower wage economies in the east and most of the automation work I did was aimed at increasing yields and detecting defects as early int he value chain as possible. 2nd on the list was probably work around track and trace and third in terms of hours were probably safety improvements for workers.


But we did also get rid of people by adding automation (in an attempt to compete with the east). I can remember one project right away where we doubled the number of vibratory bowl feeders at the start of a production line and piped in some detergent chemicals from a central store rather than dropping a 3m3 block of them onto the floor every few hours. This meant fewer trips for the stores guy s out the the floor and fewer interventions for the operators to replenish supplies. That translated to one fewer stores guy and, along with some other changes, one fewer operator per line.


Of course the kind of assembly we were doing could not be done by hand. The machines were always there at every step of production, but more automation did mean fewer operators.

Yeah, I used to do straight assembly line robotics.


Now I mostly do QC/QA robots, pushing kaizen type efficiencies into defect detection.  People are still better at QC, at least handling the exceptions.  A robot can find a problem but it can't diagnose it, find its root causes.  I do capture that sort of thing in expert systems.  But really, the machines are only as good as their operators.  Bucho-san the line supervisor is interested in getting 1800 units in boxes every shift.  My experience has been moving factories out of Japan to the USA.  The Japanese like American workers.  When the machine goes down, an American won't just stand there like a pig looking at a wristwatch.  He'll recycle the machine, get a coat hanger and fix the damned thing, in short, the American will give a damn where the Malaysian or Chinese worker won't. 


Should tell a story here about 12 cell phone QC workers.  I was doing three bots, freeze-thaw, power-on diagnostics, vision system panel check, call placement, speaker test.   The QC workers thought they were gonna be replaced.  They weren't.  They merely moved into kaizen defect detection and actually worked with me on the expert system, training it .  All of them got a raise, none lost their jobs, more were hired.  Their input led to a major redesign of the amp and speaker.  Humans are not going away.   They're needed, more than ever.

This is one of the best-written damn comments


on this site in quite a while. I'm going to have to save this one.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Simply a superlative comment


This sums up the current state of play better than anything I've seen anywhere:


"The problem is not that the liberals want the benefit of capital without the disadvantages of it. The problem is that the capitalists want the benefits of government without its disadvantages."

Yeah. Matt Taibbi and Krugman should be reading this blog. -nt-



"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

I'm not a classic Liberal. Just an old one.


FDR was a creature of his times.  I'm a creature of my own - the present.


Employment as a paradigm will change, is changing.  Used to be that capitalism used to demand some differential between wages paid and actual value to justify hiring anyone.  Exploitation, Marx called it.  Value-add is the current buzzword.  Same thing.  Exploitation isn't bad, though there is a species of Idiot Liberal who still thinks Marx is still scribbling away in the British Library.  Exploitation just means someone's making enough money to pay you to do a job worth doing.


People aren't paid for what they do.  They're paid for what they know.  So what if Foxconn is hiring a zillion robots?  You're all worried about those workers doing meaningless jobs, well, we're not quite done with the meaningless job yet.  But we're getting close.


Here's how this is going to work out:  until Africa has been industrialised, those meaningless jobs will continue to go in search of exploitable workers.  But once Africa is on the grid, the meaningless job will die a miserable death and good riddance to it.  But we're not there yet. 


People handle exceptions.  They're far better at it than the robots, mostly because quality resolves to the perception of quality.  Shoddy workmanship means manufacturers are cutting corners.  People won't tolerate bad quality, not even in Africa.


Watch Africa.  It's already the destination for shiploads of our discards.  All those resale stores where you donate clothes and such?  Most of that stuff ends up in Africa and Central America.  Only a tiny fraction of it ends up on the racks at Goodwill.  Africa's so full of these discards, it's reached the point where even the Africans don't want their kids running around in worn-out clothes.  That stuff ends up being turned into rags or paper.  Same applies to old electronics.


Africa is coming online.  So is India.  It's mostly wireless at this point but that will change, once fibre and microwave have penetrated far enough into the bush.  All major African cities have cell phone service.  It's changed the nature of commerce already:  entire villages will send one guy with a truck to the big marketplace and call back with sales, so all the farmers know what's going on.  Used to be that everyone had to go to town and spread out his okra and yams on a mat.  That era is gone. The cell phone allows for price discovery, the key to efficient markets of every sort.


China's going into Africa in a big way.  They're intent upon exploiting Africa exactly as they were exploited by the Americans and the Japanese.  But it wasn't so long ago when it was the Americans who were exploiting the Japanese.  I can remember when "Made in Japan" meant shoddy knockoff.  But before then, it was the American workers who were being exploited.


Labour hasn't lost leverage.  Sure, the meaningless job can run away faster.  But the world is round.  Eventually, the meaningless job will run out of Away to run to, as America ran out of frontier.  Nice myth, the frontier.  But soon enough, that's all it will be.


Liberals need to grow the hell up and quit spouting all this psychobabble about Being Human.  Humans take risks and they exploit each other as thoroughly as possible.  They're busily ruining this planet, befouling the water and the soil and the air.   They don't care because they don't have to care.  Yet.  But once Africa comes online, they'll be Out of Frontier and their grubby little faces will be rubbed in the consequences of their shortsighted greed. 


Capital is a human invention and nobody has yet improved on the concept of money.  But the nation state is not the final arbiter of the value of money.  That would be the market for money.  And that market is outgrowing the nation state.  When Africa has been fully penetrated and its citizens online, there will be no more Cheap Labour to Exploit and there will be a new paradigm of labour.  The nation state is presently losing all meaning.  Either it will begin to work on behalf of the humans or it will be replaced by the corporations, who really do care about sales and profits and yes, their customers, for they understand human needs and desires, none better.  They will cast an eye upon the Shoddy Workmanship of Government and they will apply a few principles of Kaizen to it.  The future will look more like the Hanseatic League, where traders and merchants will rule the world.

Haven't read him yet,


but as I understand it Pickety is makign a very strong case that capital will accumulate absent war or major disrution. It will accumulate faster than wages will grow. He also says that those with larger stores of capital have over the last hundreds of years always been able to get it to grow faster than those with smaller stores.


The world has a sort of financial gravity where wealth rolls uphill and pretty soon the vast majority of wealth in the world is inherited and there is nothing the poor can do to break the cycle. Hard work will not cut it, lotto winners and other rags to riches propaganda cases asside.


So your Q&A people might keep their jobs, but they will get poorer and their children will be poorer still, relative to the rich.


It seems like an interestingbook. Reminds me a little of "Progress and Poverty" - or at least how I remember P&P. It's been a long time since I read it. 

I've got the book on back order, too.


Elsewhere, I said capital will accrete into large-ish piles, rather like Newton's Laws of Gravity will clean out the detritus of a supernova, accumulating it into another star and planets.  That's why we have antitrust laws, to keep these massive gravitational wells from monopolising a given sector of the economy.  But very little can be done to keep capital from, as you say, Rolling Uphill and I would say, where larger lumps can attract all the smaller lumps, becoming ever-larger and ever-more-attractive in the process. Estate taxes can be avoided with good attorneys.  I say we ought to create some way of allowing that wealth to migrate into the private sector, before Old Rich Dude is dead.   Just giving it to Da Gummint only makes the attorneys ever richer.


The QA people don't have to get poorer.  Eventually, as I also said, there won't be a ready supply of terminally-exploitable labour.   Meaningless jobs will disappear.  And yes, without some sort of estate taxation, the rich will get astronomically rich.  And, I suppose, in comparison to the Worker Bees, the gap might even widen. 


But really, as I see it, the Job as We Understand It is going to change.  Look, just this morning, I was trolling around craigslist.  Decided I'd stop by the Classifieds, saw a consulting gig just too good to resist, remote gig, pretty good money.  Sent out a link to my website and attached a CV, I got a call within ten minutes.  Full-time work is for fearful people who aren't willing to charge for their services.  What will it be like when people stop working full-time jobs?   They'll have a lot more free time.  Me, I can't work more than ten months a year in any one place.  Tax implications.  Truth is, I usually don't work more than eight months a year.  I make enough money for this lifestyle.  The sun is shining, my cat is sitting in the window, I've got a nice cup of coffee, I don't have to sit in a goddamn cubicle or go back to a hotel room.  It's pretty nice, actually.  And don't say I'm some special case.  I made some interesting decisions, anyone could make them, it pays well and I get as much time off as I want.


Most people could make arrangements such as I've done, even for fairly menial jobs.  Who needs a full-time job with all the benefits?  Thank God for Obamacare, I say.  Until Obamacare, sole proprietors were being screwed on insurance.  What might happen if damned near everyone went sole proprietor, charged full value for their work?  Employers would love it.  Work slacks off, hey, contractor, go home for a few weeks, I'll give you a call when things pick up.  The old paradigms of millwork and the factory are two centuries old.  It's not working, any more.  Everyone needs some temp work done from time to time, graduate the concept to the new paradigm of employment. 

You would lose that argument


I would also argue WW2, not FDR's alphabet soup, fixed what was wrong with the USA's economy.


On two grounds:

(a) the US economy was vastly improved and unemployment significantly lower by '37, even before the foreign war orders started to take off

(b) WWII was itself a gigantic government program, so the war-based recovery showed the basic soundness of government programs returning depressed economies to full output potential 

I would neither win nor lose that argument. There isn't one.


Vast fortunes were made in the 1930s by beneficiaries of the Smoot-Hawley Tariffs but they only served to worsen the Great Depression.  Those tariffs kept the world economy in a perpetual deep freeze.  Yes, the US economy had improved somewhat, inoculated by a dose of socialism, but it was a fragile and unhealthy thing, incapable of bearing much taxation.  In the wake of WW2, the Bretton Woods accords allowed for a relaxation of the tariffs.  


Again, Bernanke is the authority here and I'm not.  At the end of WW2, the USA was the only great power which hadn't been bombed to rubble.  This was both a benefit and a curse:  everyone else got to rebuild with brand new factories and brand new constitutions.  We did okay for a while.  Things were helped along by the USSR and China's gross ineptitude: they would have sucked up great sums of investment capital had they been properly managed.  They weren't.  But when Communism failed in both nations, they did attract that capital, boy howdy did they ever.  Now China's ready to surpass the US economy.  In many ways, it already has.  But both those nations are presently run by idiots.  Trouble is, so is the USA.  Squandering its wealth on stupid wars, there's been no benefit to the American economy from them.  It's true, as you say, WW2 was a gigantic government program.  But in the wake of WW2, unlike most wars, there were factories to rebuild and nations to reconstruct.  Not in Iraq and Afghanistan, anyway.

Why is Bernanke an authority?


Monetarists like Bernanke have come out looking very poorly since '08. 


Bernanke has tripled the money supply, yet the economy has remained significantly depressed. Meanwhile a relatively small fiscal stimulus had a significant positive impact.


What does that tell you about Bernanke et al's diagnosis that tight money is mainly what caused the GD, that it's what held back recovery, and that the New Deal was mostly irrelevant?


We shouldn't be celebrating monetarists and Bernanke's ilk as unquestioned authorities, we should be forcing them to tell us how they've revised their theories and beliefs in light of recalcitrant data.

So many begged questions, so little time.


Perhaps you should actually read Bernanke on the Great Depression. 

Perhaps Bernanke should restore some of his credibility


His speech in honor of Milton Friedman was an embarrassment to the profession:


Let me end my talk by abusing slightly my status as an official representative of the Federal Reserve. I would like to say to Milton and Anna: Regarding the Great Depression. You’re right, we did it. We’re very sorry. But thanks to you, we won’t do it again.

Best wishes for your next ninety years.


Then the guy watched as the Fed showered money down during a depressed economy and ... the banks just increased their reserves. 


Let's not pretend the issue is more complex than it is: it's obvious he's been significantly mistaken and like so many conservatives hasn't shared his belief revision with the public in light of the Great Recession.

Let's not pretend Bernanke took back a word


of what he wrote about the Great Depression.  You might not agree with him about it, I don't pretend to be able to explain the Great Depression.  I do think Bernanke did about as good a job as anyone of explaining it.  And I'm tired of making this point for the umpteenth time.  In a choice between your credibility, my credibility, Milt Friedman's and Bernanke's cred on the Great Depression, I'm going with Bernanke. 

Yes, thank you!


I wonder if their record would look a little better if they'd taken to the helicopters for increasing the monetary supply rather than sending it all to the banks and the stock market.

The banks got their cash as vast icebergs.


All they needed was a big lump of cash on the asset side of their books.  They didn't spend a dime of that money.  They didn't even lend it.  A bit of it melted, not much, essentially all of it was repaid.  Had we gone to the Helicopter Approach, we would have ended up with massive inflation, which didn't happen, precisely because it went to the banks.  The money didn't go to the stock market, either.  The old investment houses are now hiding under bank incorporations and are now regulated as such, subject to stress tests and the like.


But in fact, many corporations did get emergency money.  Things were so bad, everyone was lined up at the Fed discount window, getting enough to make payroll. 

The US could've and still can use more inflation


helicopters from the Fed should be welcomed, but largely b/c the US has a massive trade deficit that's sucking away jobs and demand that inflation would help solve.


Monetarism isn't supposed to just apply in depressed economies running massive trade deficits however, it's supposed to provide solutions to depressed economies generally.


It's a theory that's been found wanting, and its loyal adherents have signaled that economics barely functions as a scientific discipline.

No argument with any of that, well, not much anyway.


Depressions, like wars, are unique entities, with their own causes and their own cures.  Monetarism isn't a solution to anyone's problems, that is to say, in the hands of the likes of Allan Greenspan, the sleep of fiscal reason bred monsters.  Greenspan, like the Wizard of Oz, was a very good wizard but a very, very bad man.  The 2008 crash was Toto pulling back the curtain on his fire-puffing ass. 


I'm not an economist.  I've said so.  But I have a suspicion, a prognostication, a prediction:  with the rise of machine intelligence, we will start to see Economics graduate from its current disreputable status, down there with astrology and phrenology, to become an actual discipline. The markets are sick of bad governments screwing up the world.  It's bad for business.  Someone will crack the code, rather like Black-Scholes broke through the veil of risk analysis, and give us meaningful monetary policy, fit for the 21st century.

I think many economists and laypeople can figure out


what to do, or at least a very obvious solution that should be tried to benefit the country as a whole.


It's the politics of the situation that's getting in the way and that's corrupting the part of the economics profession which is denying the solution.


Machine intelligence can't help with that, and I'm skeptical that it's on the verge of being useful in economics in general. Economic problems turn mostly on how to frame the initial, goal and intervening solution space in the first place, which isn't where machine intelligence excels. 


I would imagine all the risk modelers in the financial industry used Black-Scholes in the run-up to '07, but got garbage results b/c they put garbage in.

It wasn't Black-Scholes which got the markets in trouble in 08


It was market opacity.  No actual exposure data to price the risk.  Standard probability theory.  A makes a bet with B who makes a bet with C who completes the circle, making a bet with A, who then hedges his bet with an insurance firm like AIG.  None of them are aware of the others' exposure.   Over the counter trading. Unregulated exposure.  Everyone's betting on the market going up, betting that out of a thousand mortgages, only a few will default at one time - mountains of risk secured on an increasingly fragile tier of bets over bets - it's only a miracle it didn't blow up sooner.

Bullies! Part II


On February 20, 2013, three high school classmates got off a school bus on the way home after school. After exiting the bus, D.S. yelled, “T-Bitch,” to get the attention of her friend T.B. The victim in this case, also having the initials T.B., thought D.S. was yelling at her so she turned around and said “what?” to D.S. D.S. replied to the victim, “I wasn’t talking to you, you fat, skanky bitch. I’m way better than you and prettier than you, and I’m not desperate like you to sleep with the bus driver.” The victim replied, “I don’t care about looks, at least I have a heart.” D.S. and the victim were approximately ten feet from each other during this exchange.

D.S.’s friend than approached D.S. and said, “let’s go.” The two left the scene and went to D.S.’s house. The victim was hurt by these words and went home and cried, reporting the incident to her mother.

On March 11, the State filed a petition alleging D.S. committed a delinquent act based on violation of Iowa Code sections 708.7(1)(b) and 708.7(4), harassment in the third degree.

From an appeals court opinion overturning a lower court's sentencing of D.S. to probation and community service,  via Volokh.


So, there seems to be quite a diversity of opinion here.


1. Iowa police think the correct response is to file charges in court.

2. One commenter here recommends having an adult train T.B. on how to inflict serious physical injuries on D.S.,  serious enough that D.S. would require admission into a hospital.

3. And some school officials,  thoroughly condemned here at the Forvm, think T.B.  should ignore or laugh off D.S.'s insults and move on with her life.


Don't know about the rest of you,  but I heard stuff like the above quote approximately every single day in 9th grade.  I'd say rather than getting the police involved or encouraging violence against children,  maybe we could raise kids with thicker skins.






But Memo-Gate has already irrevocably scorched this nation. ;)

In Order

M Scott Eiland's picture

1. Excessive. Seriously so. Even if I allowed that non-physically violent bullying behavior could rise to the level of criminal conduct, this wasn't it.


2. I'm fairly certain that no one is advocating hospitalization as a recourse for single phrase d***ishness. If ever there was evidence that the term "bullying" has been stretched too far, this might be it.


3. If the young lady had chosen to walk away from this incident, I would have supported her decision. On the other hand, I also would have supported her decision if she had fired off a far more harsh verbal response to what was an utterly unprovoked attack, and I certainly support her reporting the other girl for extremely uncalled for behavior--it's not on her that the authorities had a completely OTT response to the incident.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

I would be OK with DB getting detention


the courts getting involved is absurd.

This exactly. In loco parentis needs to be restored,


probably through legislation, since only the force of law is going to claw schools back from their excessive terror of civil & criminal liability. 

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

So After All Of This. . .

M Scott Eiland's picture

. . .we more or less agree what the solution needs to be?

Man, I need a drink and it's way too early in the morning for that.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Whatever gave you the idea we didn't?


We were disagreeing about an arcane tangent to the main point, something about how US public schools nationwide used to have an explicit stand-your-ground article in their codes of conduct.  


I don't think anyone who has contact with public schools (I've got two friends in the system in NYC) has any illusions that the system is badly, stupidly out of control. 

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

But To Be Fair


In that discussion you claimed that 30 years ago there were rules about fighting, and that wasn't the case either.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

My school(s) definitely had rules against fighting.


Lot of good they did too. There were fights and scuffles on every day of the week ending with y. I would be blown out of my socks if we managed to dig up, say, 100 high school codes of conduct from 1965-1975 and didn't find more than 60 variations of "fighting is not allowed and may result in suspension or expulsion." 

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Which Would Not Be Inconsistent With My Experience

M Scott Eiland's picture

Since we were also told that fighting could result in suspension or expulsion; self-defense, after all, is an exception to the basic rule "assault and/or battery is not allowed and can get you sued or prosecuted."

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Well you should tell MA, who still believes he's in agreement


with you in saying essentially "there were no rules." 

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes



I'm the only one here who actually has a copy of the rules from the period.


Now it could be that my school was unique. But I doubt it. At the very least I would guess the rules were common in New York State. These things are usually templates copied all over the place. It was a standard public high school in what was then a fairly typical upper middle class suburban district. We did not have problems with knives or weapons. Fights were not a daily occurrence either. The campus then was ungated; you could walk in from the road all the way to the inside of any building without being stopped. I suppose if you looked weird or menacing enough, students would report you and somebody would question you, but there was no particular point where this would happen. I don't recall any such incident. It was a three mile drive from the nearest town, anyway.


So you guys can remember what you want. Let's just stick with the agreement part: current rules do not leave enough discretion to the people actually running them and are thus rigid and counterproductive. We do all agree on that, right?

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Definitely Agree With That

M Scott Eiland's picture

Now we can all argue as to the specifics of what tools they should have at their disposal to use their discretion with. I'll start the bidding with "continuation school for problem students" and "being allowed to use their personal observations in deciding who to believe in discipline situations." Oh, and "tort reform."

Call it "one no-trump." Your bid, M.A.! ]:-)

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Agreed as well. The problem with continuation schools


is that they tend to produce a subculture of students with permanent discipline problems. There has to be a way of a) isolating problem students so that regular students can learn without disruption/intimidation but without b) creating a permanent dual-track stigma that would violate the purpose of universal education.  


I'd look at things like fines for parents, mandatory counseling & training, home visits, possible removal to foster care as a last resort in order to reinforce the idea that discipline "starts in the home." Although maybe that's exactly the wrong way to go: criminalizing lack of discipline appears to often have a paradoxically negative effect. The desired solution is to get people to take responsibility for themselves, and putting a gun to someone's head produces the exact opposite effect.  


Tort reform is nearly always shorthand for jury award caps: essentially you would fix the problem of school administrators lacking the discretion to use their own judgment by taking away the ability of judges and juries to use their own judgment. I'd be open to other types of genuine tort reform, but merely addressing the financial cost issue isn't a solution, it's just a sop to those who have something to lose. 

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Your initials are T.B. ?


I always figured you for a skanky bi**h who slept with the bus driver but the initials threw me.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

Slight correction


As D.S. correctly stated,  desperate to sleep with the bus driver.   It's hard to believe today,  but in the mid 1970's the schools in Raleigh employed high school students as bus drivers,  and the driver for my route (seriously no kidding) was a tall, remarkably good looking female cheerleader. I've still got a yearbook with her picture lying around someplace.

That sounds


like one of the top five worst ideas of the 20th century.



Which idea are you criticizing?  Being attracted to a bus driver?  Middle aged guy still possessing a high school yearbook?  If you're going to ding me I want to know why.


Oh wait, maybe you meant having 17 year olds driving busloads of fellow students to class.   I agree,  not a good idea.  They mitigated it by having governors set to 30 mph on all the buses.   A lot of stuff happened in the back of the bus,  though.   Since we're discussing bullying,  I remember a case where a guy had been tie-wrapped to a seat frame.  The bully was relatively moderate and intended to cut "the twerp" loose at his bus stop,  but sort of accidentally cut into the wrist while doing it.   Worked out poorly for the bully,  his girlfriend didn't like the sight of blood and got really upset.   


In my district they hired out of work soap opera actors.


Part of an anti-truancy campaign, something about how bombshell good looks and chiseled, heroic jawlines (I'm speaking here of male and female drivers, respectively) would get kids to stop missing the bus. That was the theory anyhow. Eventually they had to can the program: too much drama. But that was nothing compared to the driver's strike. The superintendant hired scabs who happened to be performance artists. Well, it turns out they were in cahoots with the strikers from the get-go, and long before the higherups caught on, us kids were deep into the act, beating ourselves with cabbages, lying down across the sirloins in the Winn-Dixie meat cooler screaming Rachmaninoff tunes, hanging a Che Guevara sex doll from the flagpole (the interrogations went on for a week, but they couldn't break a single one of our agents), staging an impromptu bring-your-pet-to-school day, putting on a one-act play version of Paths of Glory where we all wore football uniforms (go Echidnas!) and the actor playing Colonel Dax had a combover that made him a dead ringer for our principal. 27 of us brought prostitutes to parent-teacher day (volunteer of course: working ladies are surprisingly generous patrons of the arts). I don't think the truancy numbers budged at all.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes



The 17 year old cheerleader bus driver and the tie-wrap incident were both real,  although they were different years.   It was the first time I'd seen a tie wrap, and the part where it couldn't be loosened was the surprise trick - that's how they got the guy tied to the seat without a huge scuffle.


Also JFTR,  the schools I went to had a rule exactly like yours:  in any fight where both guys were throwing punches,  both got a paddling and/or detention,  no exceptions.  This whole concept MA and MSE have where the student tells his side of the story and there's some kind of attempt at judgment just didn't exist.

Great, Scott's never going to believe you


since you posted this to an obvious balarney thread. 


"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

No, He Already Told That Story Before

M Scott Eiland's picture

I never claimed that *no* schools operated on that basis, however unjust it may have been. I stated that the ones I attended announced such a policy (in an orientation assembly, in all three cases), and that a *lot* of people remember similar situations, based on their descriptions and their anger at the "victims get the same punishment as the bullies" modern system. M.A. isn't finding any evidence of an *explicit* policy in writing (which I never saw, either) and doesn't remember any verbal instructions to that effect, but his memory is that the *practice* was much as I remembered it.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Scott Walker for President


"Walker's Path" refers to Gov. Walker's promise to create 250k jobs when elected in 2010, which was a modest goal to simply keep pace with the rate of average private sector job growth of the rest of the country.

Sorry, Race Hucksters

M Scott Eiland's picture

You're going to have to make your case state by state without the Supremes stacking the deck for you.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

And here, all this time, I thought it was Congress


making laws affecting equal outcomes.  Well, yanno, some will always be more equal than others and we must accept this fact in Michigan, if nowhere else. 

Legacy admissions


are still full-steam ahead. Ah to be part of the good part of our New Gilded White Age! 

Another small piece


of the 4th Amendment chipped off today.


For the police:  Thomas (author), Roberts, Kennedy, Breyer, Alito.

For the people:  Scalia (author), Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Ginsburg





On the other hand, wealthy, deserving people can hire very expensive lawyers and get away scot free. Ever so glad I didn't have kids.



Should have been Scalia, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan on the losing side.

Damn Breyer


canceling out Scalia's occasional reasonableness on the 4th amendment. 


Look for a 6-3 ruling in favor of the NSA enjoying unfettered powers, with Breyer joining the conservatives.


M Scott Eiland's picture

1. That's one rebellious sock puppet there. Recent petty sniping aside, it's also a reasonably well-written opinion (albeit that's almost certainly a compliment to Thomas' clerks, who--like many other Justices' clerks, according to all accounts--almost certainly largely write the opinions published under his name) that cites abundant precedent;

2. There's Scalia hanging out with the liberals again (including Ginsburg twice, apparently--did you mean Kagan for that second one, or did she recuse herself and it was 5-3?). They don't make conveniently intellectually dishonest conservatives like they used to, do they?

3. What exactly is the horrible here? I find Scalia's dissent unpersuasive, and will be amused if his usual detractors start singing his praises to attack the majority opinion. The main oddity is that the Supremes granted review in the first place for an outcome that made sense, was consistent with prior decisions in the area (though it clarified certain issues) and which was affirmed at the trial level, by the intermediate appellate courts, and by the California Supreme Court before it got there. Pot is still illegal, and the drivers were stupid enough to carry it in a way that it could be detected in a legitimate and now constitutionally affirmed stop for other purposes. Sucks to be them.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

3A: Bogus calls to cops? And pick-up beds aren't closed systems

brutusettu's picture

The California Highway Patrol in this case knew noth­
ing about the tipster on whose word—and that alone—
they seized Lorenzo and José Prado Navarette


But seriously, anonymous person got ran off the road and got a full plate #?  How does that work?

The Pickup Bed Observation. . .

M Scott Eiland's picture

. . .is a valid argument to bring up by the defense, but the same would have been true if the driver had been seen making a California roll through a stop sign and been stopped by the cops in a way that even the ACLU wouldn't have blinked at--it's not really relevant to any constitutional issues here.

As for the number, the person might just have been lucky and gotten a good look at it when it went by--some people are better than others at quickly absorbing information.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

If the person actually existed


and wasn't in collusion with the police officers.   I have no reason to believe the cops in this specific case were lying or had a ringer who called in whatever number they were told to;  however,  now that this excuse to generate "reasonable suspicion"  is officially on the books,  it's an absolute certainty that some cops who want to pull someone over but have no legal grounds will just ask their anonymous friend to make a 911 call.


The SC, through a sequence of several cases each of which appears small,  has created a sequence where nothing can be bootstrapped into an unlimited exception to the 4th Amendment.


1. Phony call to 911, generated by the police themselves, creates reasonable suspicion.  (yesterday's case)

2. Reasonable suspicion generates cause for a "temporary" stop.  (Terry)

3. A temporary stop allows the probable cause dog to be brought in.  The dog is trained to bark and the barking is probable cause.  (Florida v Harris)

4. Probable cause permits arrest and unlimited personal searches,  including searches that would be first degree rape in many states.


The anonymity is the key problem here, since it eliminates any accountability for step (1).   Thomas claims that the 911 system can track down false callers - probably true to some extent.  So fine,  I would allow Step (1) if and only if the caller is in fact tracked down and can be held to account.

The fact that the informant was never deposed


is disturbing. Obviously it's a lot harder for police to use a crooked CI, prep them for trial, rely on them not to squeal, etc. than it is to base a search and an arrest on a phony "anonymous" tip.  


From everyone I've ever spoken to with dealings with the criminal justice system, "testilying" or organized perjury is rampant. Police officers do it, expert witnesses do it, CIs do it, turncoat suspects do it, etc. There seems to be no particularly willingness to acknowledge the scope of the problem or even begin to contemplate solutions to it.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

No Criminal Procedure System Is Fraud-Proof

M Scott Eiland's picture

If participants in the court system are caught lying under oath, they should be dealt with harshly--I'm not willing to expand the already problematic exclusionary rule to allow for the possibility of coordinated fraud beyond allowing the defense to examine available evidence and look for holes in the story. In this case, even an anonymous 911 call should have been logged by the system--that log should be provided to the defense if they ask for it. That's as far as I'm willing to go to accomodate defendants who have, after all, been caught in the act.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

But you're willing to accomodate wholesale perjurers? -nt-



"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

No, They Should Be Prosecuted When Caught

M Scott Eiland's picture

But since the exclusionary rule is irrelevant to guilt, that's as far as I'm williing to go.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Doesn't this decision make it harder to catch them?


As far as I can tell all you need is a person with a phone in the signal area willing to lie to a 911 operator, and boom you've got yourself an illegal search. That seems awfully lenient on crime to me.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

In Theory, Perhaps

M Scott Eiland's picture

But if a pattern of anonymous, ID blocked 911 calls as establishing factors for stops in drug busts--which, let's be honest, is what the likely preponderance of "staged" incidents of this kind would be likely to be--emerges, trial court judges are likely to get annoyed and start throwing out cases and daring the authorities to appeal, costing them time and resources.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Two problems I see


First,  on what basis would the trial judge throw out the case,  and be backed up on appeal, if the Phony 911 Call is now in the official SC-seal-of-approval tool box?


Second, why focus on the exclusionary rule.  Making the Phony 911 Call legal doesn't just turn off the exclusionary rule,  it will also turn off civil lawsuits and the (rare but technical possible) prosecutions for illegal search.    The purpose of the 4th Amendment is not to help hide evidence of crimes,  it is to protect innocent people's privacy and dignity.   In cases where a search is conducted for purposes of harassment, humiliation, or the sexual gratification of the police officers (see this case),  the officers can more easily get themselves off the hook if they can cite the 911 Dodge as their justification.

Because The Call Isn't "Legal"

M Scott Eiland's picture

It's just harder to disprove the alleged circumstances under which it is made. It still has to show up on the logs at the right time and place to be consistent with the story, and if a particular cop or police department develops a pattern of these suspicious calls, a judge is likely to start saying "I don't believe you" (just as they've always been able to do if they don't believe the "articulable reasons" for a Terry stop), and while that can be appealed, the judge as a finder of fact at the trial court level has a strong presumption of being correct, and even if an appellate court might disagree it is expensive and time consuming to appeal (note that the prosecution prevailed at every stage in the current case--if they had lost at any stage it might well have ended the case right there for those reasons).

Also, to point out the obvious, idiots really do run people off the road, and stopping them when called on it is legitimate. I'm not willing to throw out whatever crimes fall into the laps of the police in such cases over fear that the original call might have been faked--again, no criminal procedure system is immune to fraud and a solution that assumes it is worse than the disease.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Harder? More like almost impossible.


Casual roadside rape by police officers is a serious problem. I don't think it's enough to tell victims that they get no recourse,  except that if the officers have a pattern of doing it dozens or hundreds of time their conviction rate will go down a little.  The conviction rate is irrelevant to the victims in this case linked here or in the previous comment, since they were never going to be charged with anything.


idiots really do run people off the road, and stopping them when called on it is legitimate.


Strange.  I've called 911 in emergencies and the dispatchers won't even listen to what the call is about until I give them my name, address, and phone number.  In any case,  we now know that the metadata is always available. 


When the police say the phone is untraceable (as distinct from anonymous),  they are lying period and as far as I'm concerned it is always to cover up illegal conduct.  I'd be willing to make the claim itself a firing offense.


Of course it's possible to know the phone number and cell zone,  but not the person speaking.   I'll buy that if the police track down the owner of the phone and get answers under oath about who could have accessed the phone.


There a few cell phones out there bought for cash and untraceable.   I'm willing to toss those few cases to address the larger problem of systematic perjury and rape by police.



In This Case, Four Levels Of Courts Disagreed With You

M Scott Eiland's picture

And having the Supremes come up with a new way to cut loose people caught dead to rights having committed a crime isn't the way to deal with the problem that does exist.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

The problem is


that I don't see much distinction is made between "illegal" and "excludable".  The exclusionary rule has,  as an unintended consequence, done a lot of damage to the 4th Amendment.   Judges don't want to let obviously guilty people go,  so they have a strong incentive to declare searches legal. 


I'd be willing to create new exception to the exclusionary rule.  Illegally obtained evidence is can be admitted after the officer who got the evidence has been fired and permanently banned from working in any position that has search or arrest authority.

Some Cases Would Justify That

M Scott Eiland's picture

Making law enforcement officers personally liable--possibly even strictly liable--in such cases might also be an attention getter.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

While all that is true, here's the flip side of the argument.


Law enforcement is forever baffled from solving actual crimes and prosecutors are stymied - by the general unwillingness of people to report and testify at trial.  And there's this:  if a good defence attorney can create reasonable doubt, that always works in the defendant's favour.  All those anonymous Crimestoppers tip lines have been in operation for decades, nobody's complaining about them.  All they generate is leads.  Vindictive exes have been calling those numbers forever and law enforcement is sick of getting second-hand reports from wine-addled folks about how every sad sack no-good lover is also a criminal of some horrid description.  Law enforcement just hates domestics.  Also fears them, for that's where a fair number of officers are killed in the line of duty.


If we're going to clean house over at the cop shop, we need civilian oversight boards and good internal oversight.  A bad cop is a truly evil beast but I don't think that's the issue at hand in Prado Navarette v California.  It's probable cause for the stop. 

That's A Good Summary

M Scott Eiland's picture

There are a lot of areas--in and out of law enforcement--here that could benefit from reform without more power creep being added to the mess that is the exclusionary rule.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).



At the start of the paragraph you're claiming people aren't doing enough reporting,  and by the end of the paragraph you're saying the police are sick of so many crimes being reported.


If you'll clearly state whether the problem is too much or too little reporting, we could move on to debating how to fix it.


As far as anonymous tip lines,  I don't have any problem with the police using them to investigate a case they were unaware of.  However,  "investigate" doesn't mean suspend or limit the fourth amendment rights of anyone.  So, for example,  they can drive to a house and knock on the door,  or follow a vehicle around on the street for a while, which they can do anyway.   But to enter a house or detain someone,  they should still have to generate a justification based on real evidence.

So, How Would That Have Applied In This Case?

M Scott Eiland's picture

The caller claimed he was forced off the road--the subsequent behavior of the car (Scalia's involved diatribe notwithstanding) wouldn't really provide useful information as to whether that happened. Stopping the car and speaking with the driver--which ended up leading to the discovery of the pot due to less than brilliant choices for method in transportation--led to discovery. What's the problem here?

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

  So, for example,  they can

brutusettu's picture

  So, for example,  they can drive to a house and knock on the door,  or follow a vehicle around on the street for a while, which they can do anyway.   But to enter a house or detain someone,  they should still have to generate a justification based on real evidence.

-----the most important TLDR part is underlined---



"Stopping the car and speaking with the driver--"



Didn't the anonymous caller basically relay that the driver with the exact long plate # was reckless and the cops thought they might have an impaired driver, which hastened the search?  I skimmed through it fast, but I don't think the caller implied the running off the road was intentional and that the cops were under the "reckless driver" mindset.



Seriously, would anyone not like getting "questioned"/detained on the side of the road by armed officers?  


Some more info about the caller would be super nice before the state sends armed people to go stopping people from freely moving around.


-How many times would cops from the same precinct need to do the same MO before they get caught?

-How much trust should be put in the judges not to just let the cops do want they want if they randomly catch criminals?

-How much trust is there in court appointed attorneys/elected judges to have enough cases where cops from the same area used the same MO for more than one of their clients/defendants?

What did the caller want?


Someone to be arrested and charged for bad behavior that is already done?  Sorry, that isn't going to lead to anything unless the caller is willing to go to court and face the accused,  so there is no point to getting started.  Punishment should only be the result of a conviction or guilty plea.  It is wrong ethically, legally, and constitutionally to use arrest/charging with no intention of going to trial for purposes of punishment. 


If, one the other hand, you are worried about continuing bad behavior,  then subsequent behavior is not only useful,  it is the most useful thing to observe.


"Stopping the car and speaking with the driver" should require some threshold of evidence.  You might say it's a minor intrusion, and normally I'd agree,  but the SC,  through earlier cases, effectively said any stop whatsoever can automatically justify arrest and forcible penetration of body cavities, through the expedient of having a trained dog bark.  That is not a minor intrusion. 


So, due to SC's own earlier jurisprudence,  I would say society needs to set the threshold for stopping and talking to whatever threshold we are comfortable setting for forcible penetration.   To me that threshold would be probable cause supported by firm evidence and non-anonymous testimony that there is something in the body cavity that is both illegal and presents a clear and present danger to life and safety.


But wait, you say, that would mean no stopping and talking ever,  even if the driver is weaving and violating traffic laws.   Yes!  Unless of course the SC reverses their idiotic barking dog rule .  Then we can talk reasonably about when the police can pull over a vehicle.


Anyway, a more general point:  the Fourth Amendment will result in some crimes going uncaught and unpunished.  That was known and accepted when the amendment was passed, and by placing it in the constitution this tradeoff was deliberately taken out of the discretion of law enforcement,  courts,  or even electoral majorities. It isn't some new surprise factor that justifies new exceptions,  so I'm inclined to be against any line of argument that starts with "someone might get away".




Sorry, I'm Not Willing To Go There

M Scott Eiland's picture

And given the Supremes' outlook on recent cases, neither are they. My honest prescription is to use the court of public opinion (and the product of dashboard cams and the like) to make the conduct in question by police unacceptable, not handcuff the police from dealing with actual crimes.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Basically no need to confirm anything before making a stop

brutusettu's picture

The cop that pulled over the truck seemed to have thought he was searching for an impaired driver and pulled over the truck w/o seeing any impaired driving himself.

Once a person gets sent down the tracks that they got the right perp, stuff can happen.


That's what civil suits long after the damage is done is for?

How many people would be willing to sue the police?  Other cops wouldn't find out about who filed the suit, right?

Did you notice those two words "at trial" ?


Anonymous tips are now viable basis for probable cause.  Every time some white girl goes missing, (not quite as true for other sorts of girls) the switchboards of America light up with just such tips.  Situation's getting so bad, all around the world, that some ferry goes down in Korea and a host of cruel people start sending fake tweets.


James Jesus Angleton, a weird and brilliant man who was later consumed by paranoia, once said a marvellously true thing:  The best place to hide a leaf is the floor of a forest.  Law enforcement is a vital part of a working society.  If SCOTUS now allows any anonymous tip to become the basis for a Terry Stop or suchlike, Sod's Law will come into play.  Confronted with a flood of anonymous tips, law enforcement will act on far fewer of them, knowing the case will likely be tossed out because nobody will actually testify in court, where they will be asked to give their true name and swear or affirm to tell the truth, etc.

I don't really care about the trial


The point of the 4th Amendment is to protect people who AREN'T breaking any laws from intrusion.   If there was some magic, infallible way to make sure the police only hassled bad guys we wouldn't need trials,  much less exclusionary rules.  

I'm not particularly happy about Navarette v California


but I tend to the belief that the universe is maximally perverse. Law enforcement is a job.  These people in uniform have to stay sane. working on the ragged edge of society.  America's prisons are full to bursting.  Given half a chance, a law enforcement officer will give a reasonably polite suspect the benefit of the doubt.  The Fourth Amendment has been so shot full of holes in recent years, for all practical purposes, it's gone for good.  The gods grant wishes to the stupid, promptly and literally:  eventually even the Conservatives will get a gut full of government intrusion and put a stop to it, this time with meaningful laws, for SCOTUS and the Executive have torn the Fourth Amendment out of the Constitution as we know it today.  Let the dissents in Navarette show where all this is heading, legislatively.

"police only hassle bad guys"

Jay C's picture

Isn't that (the face and intent of most of our legal structure notwithstanding) pretty much the existing de facto operating principle of most American law-enforcement agencies already? The trend of most US jurisprudence in recent years, AFAICT has been to grant "police" (i.e. ANY armed, official representatives of "government") an ever-increasing amount of power, an ever-increasing amount in Constitutional leeway to exercise that power, and an ever-decreasing exposure to liability for any but the most blatant and egregious abuses of their power. And even then, rarely.


And public attitudes (again, AFAICT) don't seem to be much different: I just wonder that if, for example, one polled the general public with the proposition that "The police only arrest guilty people" what the percentage answering "Always True" might be?


Oh, and BlaiseP @ # 317227:


Given half a chance, a law enforcement officer will give a reasonably polite suspect the benefit of the doubt

SRSLY? The big problem is that for most of that other "half a chance" (especially where it correlates to the skin-tone of the "suspect"), the "benefit" often turns out to be "shoot first and rely on the badge to cover up responsibility"  Just ask Amadou Diallo....

How tiresome. Poor people go to jail. The rich have attorneys.


It's not people's skin tone which sends them to jail.  It's their lack of representation at trial. 

Diallo didn't get a trial.


Diallo was loaded full of lead and died in seconds.   How in the world is your comment about legal representation relevant?

Diallo didn't go to SCOTUS. How is Diallo relevant?


If you think representation at trial doesn't make a difference, I have a Nigerian Prince you ought to meet.

You're assuming these are genuinely anonymous tips.


Eeyn is talking about the police using criminal informants to phone in fake "anonymous" tips in order to authorize a stop or search.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Quoting from the decision


Like White, this is a "close case." 496 U. S., at 332. As in that case, the indicia of the 911 caller's reliability here are stronger than those in J. L., where we held that a bare-bones tip was unreliable. 529 U. S., at 271. Although the indicia present here are different from those we found sufficient in White, there is more than one way to demonstrate "a particularized and objective basis for suspecting the particular person stopped of criminal activity." Cortez, 449 U. S., at 417-418. Under the totality of the circumstances, we find the indicia of reliability in this case sufficient to provide the officer with reasonable suspicion that the driver of the reported vehicle had run another vehicle off the road. That made it reasonable under the circumstances for the officer to execute a traffic stop. We accordingly affirm.


Thomas, writing for the majority, includes instances of bogus tips, which are governed by White.  By my reading, usual stipulation IANAL, Navarette only affects probable cause in a Terry Stop, with additional sauce from White.  For your scenario to play out (and I hasten to add it very well might play out!), the crooked cop would have to know the suspect is in the vehicle, make the bogus call, then pull over the suspect.  I've called 911 on reckless drivers.  Middle of the night, driving from Chicago to St. Louis, did it several times, bozos tearing down the road, crossing lanes like maniacs.  I hope to hell those guys got busted.

Were you willing to give your name and testify?


I'm sure you were, and that would be a different case.  But if you weren't, your desire for them to be punished shouldn't get any consideration.

Nobody asked for my name. Just my current location.


Before the call ended, 911 had already patched in the Illinois State Patrol.  I gave them my mile marker number and direction of travel and a callback number if they needed anything further.  I know the State Patrol got one of them because I saw the guy pulled over about fifty miles down the road. 

Seems to me the Bogus 911 call wouldn't be needed.


Let's suppose a crooked cop wants to bust someone.  He tails the suspect for a while, pulls him over for no good reason, then testifies the defendant was driving recklessly, already grounds for a Terry Stop. Hayes v. Florida confines such searches to vehicles, not to domiciles.  Vehicles have always been treated differently than domiciles or places of work.  I don't see Navarette making any practical difference for law enforcement:  the crooked cop would just lie on the stand about the reckless driving allegation.  Why would he have someone else make a bogus call, thus creating an accomplice who just might rat him out to the Investigative Division given half a chance?


M Scott Eiland's picture

The only scenario where I can imagine that the bogus 911 call replacing the officer falsely testifying that the car was moving erratically before the stop is if there are cameras in the police cars that would disprove that story--and in cases like that said cameras are a built in disincentive for the officer to pull any particularly egregious stunts at the stop, as the footage will be discoverable by the defense.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

That had crossed my mind, after I wrote the comment.


Still, everyone's sphincter does a reflexive pucker when he sees a copmobile in his mirrors.  The officer just waits for him to commit some minor infraction of the rules of the road. 

I've been looking at Ornelas v. U.S., 517 U.S. 690


We have described reasonable suspicion simply as a particularized and objective basis for suspecting the person stopped of criminal activity and probable cause to search as existing where the known facts and circumstances are sufficient to warrant a man of reasonable prudence in the belief that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found. We have cautioned that these two legal principles are not finely-tuned standards, comparable to the standards of proof beyond a reasonable doubt or of proof by a preponderance of the evidence. They are instead fluid concepts that take their substantive content from the particular contexts in which the standards are being assessed.


Does Navarette now supersede Ornelas?  Seems to me Ornelas left the barn door wide open and Navarette just drove the whole herd out into the pasture.  Fluid concepts.  Particular contexts.  Seems to me the Fourth Amendment doesn't apply outside your front door any more.

It's Always Amusing. . .

M Scott Eiland's picture

. . .when a Supreme Court decision sets off one side or another about this being "THE WORST DECISION EVAR! THAT (SCALIA/BREYER/GINSBURG/THOMAS) IS THE WORST JUSTICE IN HISTORY!" when reading the prior precedents elicits a "duh" reaction to the new decision. Kelo is the most egregious case of this, but there are others as well.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Sigh. Reading these cases, they're all cited in the decisions..


it's so much work, work, work.  Why bother parsing all this stuff, working out the basis for these decisions based on the ackshul fackshul backgrounds and precedents - when you can just grandstand and wave your hands around and shout?  

That Excuse Works For Laymen

M Scott Eiland's picture

Lawyers--particularly ones familiar with the area of law in question--have less of an excuse for Chicken Littling in this area.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Shouldn't even work for laymen.


The Internet was built around the concept of the hyperlink.  Now we've got all these search engines and  No excuse remains, unless you want to Proudly Fly the Banner of Stupidity. 

I'll wave my banner


and you're of course entitled to decide what the banner represents.


This isn't the worst case ever,  and Thomas isn't the worst justice,  and I didn't make either claim.  Nevertheless,  the SC did just make it substantially easier for the police to deliberately get innocent people booked into jail.  I'll say it one more time succinctly because you and MSE don't seem to get my main point:  This isn't about getting pulled over for a chat,  it's about being booked into jail when you haven't done anything.   That's because, in previous cases they created an unlimited, zero-accountability,  no-recourse path by which anybody who is pulled over can be jailed and subjected to unlimited searches.


In Florida v. Harris,  Kagan ruled that a barking dog is probable cause.  She put up a bunch of verbiage about how the dog's reliability could be challenged after the fact, etc, which is all irrelevant because police officers will not have personal liability for the dog's failures.   Evidence can be tossed but in the cases that the Fourth Amendment was intended to address,  e.g. the privacy of innocent people, there is no evidence and never was any.  A person who wasn't really suspected of anything, and was just brought in for the purpose of entertaining officers for an evening in the jail medical room, has no recourse.


There is a long list of cases in which the SC has ruled that the Fourth Amendment with respect to your person disappears once you are arrested.  In their grand finale to this list,  Florence v. Board they ruled in favor of a unlimited searches even when the police openly acknowledged that the arrest warrant was invalid.


PS:  You noted that police can just lie and say your vehicle was weaving without any 911 call.  True,  but that requires them to lie on the arrest report, for which they can be held accountable.   If they are allowed to just say "phone call" that's the end of it, and won't be challenged until after they've had their entertainment, at which point they just drop the charges and decline to elaborate under oath.

For Which They Could Be Sued. . .

M Scott Eiland's picture

. . .and forced to testify under oath in deposition and at trial--and their claim at the time that a genuine anonymous 911 call was the trigger will either lead to a lie under oath or be used to impeach his testimony at trial. There's no zone of safety here, though it does require a lawsuit to be pursued--the original claim has legal consequences that can haunt the police just as it would in a criminal case.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Supposing one sued and won


In Florence the case was a person who sued.  The police were making a habit of repeatedly taking him down to the station and having him do a Kennedy spread for the officers' entertainment.   They openly admitted in court that the arrest was invalid.  The court ruled that once some one is arrested the police are absolutely entitled to a spread show,  even if the arrest is invalid.   The guy lost.


So,  IANAL so correct me if I'm wrong, but if one sues,  all you can get money for is the inconvenience of being stopped up to the moment of arrest.   Would the judge even allow the jury to hear what the consequences of the stop were?


If not,  the amount won would be negligible,  and would be paid by the city/county/state,  not the officers themselves.

The Plaintiff In That Case Had Been Arrested For A Crime

M Scott Eiland's picture

Also, the arrest was made due to error, not due to intentional misconduct by the officers. Not remotely on point, IMO.

The judge would allow the jury to hear evidence relating to the damage suffered by the plaintiff, particularly if intentional misconduct by the officers was alleged and proven. Also, attorney's fees are a remedy in civil rights actions on top of any compensatory damages--which can easily run into a six or seven digit bill for a city that puts up with this behavior.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Also. . .

M Scott Eiland's picture

. . .even if the jury found no compensatory damages and awarded only a dollar of nominal damages, that opens the door for punitive damages in cases of extreme misconduct. Again, a city that puts up with this does so at its own peril, and would probably act quickly to fire any officers it suspected of manufacturing the grounds for a stop in this manner.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Error, hah. Blaise, I need your help here.


According to  the wiki article:  "the computer erroneously listed an outstanding warrant".  Blaise, what do you think of that?


So the claim is the computer made an error,  so no human being is responsible.   This decision was even worse than I thought. 

So Your Position. . .

M Scott Eiland's picture

. . .is that the authorities should be *strictly* liable for any errors in the system that lead to a mistaken arrest, regardless of the lack of any evidence of bad intent?


Sorry, I'm *really* glad the position you seem to be advocating isn't the law. Particularly since the exclusionary rule is very much in existence.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Errors in the system


OK,  if a meteorite struck the hard drive,  or by 1 in 10^20 chance right at the moment of a hard drive write,  radiation particles simultaneously flipped both the data bits and the CRC bits,  then sure, it's a "error in the system".  The other 99.(imagine 18 more 9's) percent of the time, the error was someone's negligence at best.


Is it your position that the authorities can simply collect fine money,  fail to record it,  and execute arrest warrants anyway, with no liability?  That would save on the IT budget.


Florence sure is an ugly case, no doubt.


I hate the idea of bad data in criminal databases.  The case didn't resolve to the bad data but rather to the strip searches.  It was jail protocol to do a strip search upon entry.  An airport scan is far more intrusive and I don't much like those either.  Turns out some of that scan data has been hanging around longer than it should - and that's a problem for me, too.  Though it's wretched reasoning, with which I don't agree in practice, as long as everyone entering the jail was strip searched, in the interest of the safety of the other prisoners - which was the Third Circuit's reasoning - Florence passes muster.  


But confining the argument to the bad data, which led to this fiasco, this is a civil issue, not a criminal one.  I'm more concerned with Minority Report type data, "precrime" stuff.  On the flip side of that, there's the Tsarnaev data, which due to a different conversion from Cyrillic, led to the Boston Marathon bombing - what say you to the FBI's inability to corner this guy?  Bad data is everywhere.  Take a look at your own credit report data, bet you ten bucks I can find an error in there.  When's the last time you looked hard at what those guys have on you?  Them I worry about more than FBI.  The credit agencies sell that data.

Phase One: Toss stuff in truck bed

brutusettu's picture

Phase Two: Give description to cops about *dangerous driver*

Phase Three:  Cops pull over the driver of the pickup based on anonymous "tip"



skimmed through the pdf, a car got ran off the road AND the driver was able to get a full license plate # and accurate description of the truck?



The cops were pretty sure the stolen cell phones wouldn't be used for false 911 calls?



How far down to I have to skim down to see if the cops ever found the alleged tipster?



La Machina: Quinientos

M Scott Eiland's picture

Albert Pujols goes deep twice to reach 500 home runs in his career.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Take a part out, things would probably not end up as bad

brutusettu's picture


  •   roll-on roll-off ferry was known to list heavily under strong currents travels ocean waters


  •   additions to ship raised the center of gravity


  •   more vehicles were brought aboard than listed on the manifest


  •   highly unlikely that enough time was given to properly secure loads before leaving port
  •   Captain not in the cabin, crew member not legally eligible to steer the ship was at the helm


  •   Boat list and continues to list, no contact with closest port
  •   Most, but not all, of the crew apparently abandons ship with minimal effort to get passengers out.

It takes a village (of idiots)... -nt-



"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Apparently, They Were Taught The Code Of The Sea. . .

M Scott Eiland's picture

. . .by Otto from A Fish Called Wanda: "When the ship is endangered, every man for himself!"

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

"Do As We Say, Not As We Do"

M Scott Eiland's picture

"And doom is right around the corner--we've been telling you it's twenty years away for forty years now."

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Mr Steyn is a moron. nt

mmghosh's picture


freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Which Part Of The Linked Material Was Moronic?

M Scott Eiland's picture

--the part where he chronicled the discredited Chicken Littlling from various sources over the past forty years, the part where he pointed out that the public figures who are most vocal about the virtues of a simple life appear disinclined to live it themselves, or repeating the George "Ur Moonbat" Monbiot quote about the ennobling virtue of poverty? The mocking pseudo eyewitness report on the Earth Summit was a bit weak as fanfic goes, I must admit.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

There's the author and the entire post. Moron and moronic.


I do wish I could take a few of these Prattling Naysayers and show them what's happening to the Sahel region of Africa.  Guess you'd have to see it to believe what's happening there.  Places I knew as a kid, peanut fields, now covered in sand, a complete howling desert.  Dried out wells, ghost towns, camel and cattle skeletons bleaching in the sand. 

You are correct in that Mr Steyn may not be a moron.

mmghosh's picture

Seeing as I don't know him at all, it is possible that he is smart, and does understand both physics and statistics and indeed public advocacy.  


But then that makes him a deliberate liar, and he is deliberately peddling lies.  I do accept that this is a point of ambivalence and difficulty, and matters could go either way of liar or moron, but I suspect, in spite of my retraction, that he is a moron on these issues.  Let us discuss which it is. 


We'll start with Ehrlich.  The point that Ehrlich made, as did Mr Carter, the Club of Rome and indeed the United States Government at the time, was that if population growth and resource utilisation continued in the same manner as they had in the world of the 1960s the world would indeed be completely unliveable today.  The fact that my car today runs at 30 km per litre, rather than 3 km per litre is a direct outcome of policy decisions made in response to correct predictions of energy use.  The fact that US Government started the funding of the research into alternative energy sources under Mr Carter's Administration has allowed the emergence of fracking as a method of natural gas exploitation today.  The  fact that the population growth rate has dropped by an incredible 300% since 1965 is another.    Neither fact invalidates what the predictors were saying in the 1960s, it reinforces them.


Mr Steyn's criticism of the IPCC members flying to conferences is particularly noteworthy.  It is because of people such as him that there needs to be an IPCC at all and conferences continue to be unfortunately necessary to pool information, have discussions and publicise the science of climate change and oppose the FUD.  It is because of people such as him that there has been very little progress in any effort at CO2 mitigation, which, today, is neither very difficult nor particularly expensive.


Even with information available, even advanced, educated and informed societies can be made to believe that the opposite of the truth is true - witness the US elections of 2000 and 2004.


So perhaps you are right after all - liar is a better fit than moron.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

I'll let MSE fix his link but reply here.


Actually, in the 1970s, there were famines.  Africa blew up with one of the worst drought induced famines in history, right across the continent.  And in fact, Carter was right.  The proven reserves of oil at the time have pretty much been exhausted.  We're now reduced to going miles offshore, on floating platforms using technology unheard of in Carter's era. 


Not with a bang, but a whimper.  The Sahel is growing.  Huge numbers of refugees are on the move. Seems some folks won't be happy until we've sufficiently wrecked the world to the point where we have to wear a space suit to go to work in the morning.  AGW deniers like Mark Steyn are the scum of the earth. 

Famine Has Always Existed

M Scott Eiland's picture

And Paul Ehrlich's Chicken Littling about impending doom from growing population in the 1970's was throughly discredited before he scuttled off to the comfortable refuge of the environmental movement.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Famine has not always existed and you know it.


Are you saying the Sahel hasn't grown over time, or that the famines from Senegal to Ethiopia in the 1970s were par for the course?   It's an existential problem for some of us, I guess.  If you didn't know about it, and nobody knows jack about Africa these days, I guess it's all good.

Ehrlich Was Predicting World Devastating Famine. . .

M Scott Eiland's picture

. . .in the (relatively) short term, and drastic shortages in crucial minerals in the same time frame. It didn't happen. Full stop.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Here I must hold you to your Perpetual Famine statement.


Not only did those famine predictions come true, they came true in spades.  Africa has become a veritable sh*thole.  That's the interesting thing about famines, they happen in an information vacuum.  They're completely silent.  Most people, not even the people who should know, become aware of it.  The refugees come in off the scrubland, not in hordes, but in ones and twos, mothers with their gaunt children on their hips.  Hard to spot them. 

Yes, Famine Has Always Existed

M Scott Eiland's picture

And Ehrlich was wrong. Full stop.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Don't wiki me, Scott.


Two can play at that game.

Ehrlich was right


and I suspect you have not been getting information from reliable sources if you think otherwise. To put it another way a company with an operating loss can survive by depleting it's capital assets -- for a time. The world has been using up it's natural capital for many years and the consequences are starting to become apparent.  Look up Saudi Arabian wheat production for a good example.


Improved crop varieties, artificial fertilizer, groundwater irrigation etc (the Green Revolution) led to reliable increases in yields year after year but yield plateaus have been reached in many of the worlds major food producing areas. While Saudi Arabia is an extreme example large parts of the US depend on rapidly depleting aquifers to maintain high productivity. The same is true for China which is facing severe depletion issues. Meanwhile the worlds population continues to grow. When will the collision occur? Some people contend it already has with food prices in poor regions of the world triggering unrest and societal breakdown (e.g. Egypt).

The Boko Haram phenomenon is triggered by mass migrations


of Muslim nomads coming off the Sahel into northern Nigeria. Their herds mostly died from lack of water and grazing.  Now they predate upon the settled people. 

No He Wasn't

M Scott Eiland's picture

If he had said "sooner or later, we're going to hit limits in these areas and that will be bad," then he would have been right (Isaac Asimov wrote a book in the mid-seventies where, through simple, non-panicky math, he proved that it was literally impossible for the population to continue increasing at the then current annual rate of 2% in the coming centuries, or even for more than a few decades--it was lost in the pile of the hundreds of other books he wrote and the Chicken Littling from others). The hysterical nonsense he actually published and was--and still is--praised for was completely, provably wrong.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Here's where you're right: every prophecy fails to predict


the exact future because every prophecy errs in declaring some variables are actually constants.  The fallacy of ceteris paribus.  Let's suppose your complaint about Population Bomb is the same as an equally valid complaint about Malthus, whose own predictions failed, sailing up onto the reef of Ceteris Paribus.  So stipulated.


But Asimov wrote another book, with Frederick Pohl:  Our Angry Earth.  Published in 1991, it outlines the problems but more importantly, outlines some viable solutions to what might be done.  Denying AGW or the consequences of doing nothing is also a fallacy of ceteris paribus. 



Famine has always existed.


But it's no longer excusable, and hasn't been for decades.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

One of case studies I looked at, long ago, was India.


Before India got independence, India suffered from famines.  But since the advent of democracy in India, there have been crop failures but no famines.  I repeat myself in saying famine is silent and thrives in silence.  Successful intervention in a famine has to start when the crop actually fails.  By the time those signature women with starving infants start turning up in the cities, it's too late.  The underpinnings of society have already failed by that point in time.  India's parliament could sound the alarm and begin intervention early. 


Without an information vacuum, famine can't happen.  Nowadays, we can get information from satellites, pinpointing crop failure, almost before the crops have entirely failed.  To pull a society out of a famine requires long-term assistance:  getting seed and fertiliser to the farmers, working with local authorities on water management.  India may be a troubled nation but the cure seems to have been a measure of democracy and with it, a communications infrastructure.

SpaceX rocket takes off ... and lands. Simply too cool


Over here. 

EDIT:  link fixed.

Elon Musk for next IPCC chair. nt

mmghosh's picture


freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency