Daily Archives: December 19, 2013


Criminal Justice Reform Just Might Have a New Champion

Boston Magazine has the article Criminal Justice Reform Just Might Have a New Champion.

Democrat hopeful for Governor Juliette Kayyem does not have all the solutions to overhauling the ailing criminal justice system in Massachusetts, but at least she’s put her ideas into a campaign platform. And right now, her ideas for potential reforms seem to be the only ones out there in the gubernatorial race.

The Kayyem web site has the page Reforming the Criminal Justice System which is what this article is talking about.  Below I quote just one of the bullet points from her web page.

Decrease overly lengthy incarceration for non-violent technical violations.

This is not a “soft on crime” plan, as I read it.

We are well beyond believing that criminal justice reform is “soft on crime.” Juliette, who has confronted criminal conduct throughout her career in homeland and national security, knows that those words are just fear tactics. Criminal justice reform is about preparing prisoners who have served their time for re-entry into our state. It is about preparing our communities and our state for a different approach to crime and crime prevention. It is about our progressive politics and our humane treatment. Juliette will push for the more comprehensive overhaul that Massachusetts deserves.

The web page mentions some ideas that I have since found on the web The Justice Reinvestment Initiative: Experiences from the States and Justice Reinvestment State Brief : Texas.  I don’t usually associate Texas with progressive ideas on criminal justice, so I am going to have to read this.  Below is a brief excerpt from the Brief on Texas.

Texas State Brief


Steve Keen: Oh My, Paul Krugman Edition

On Naked Capitalism Yves Smith has the article Steve Keen: Oh My, Paul Krugman Edition.

Yves here. In some ways, I hate to be having such a run of Paul Krugman posts, but his stand on the TransPacific Partnership and his continued defense of dubious economic ideas that were long ago disproven, like loanable funds, in combination with his prominence, means the attention is well warranted.
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Have you heard the old joke that an economist is someone who, seeing that something works in practice, then says “Ah! But does it work in theory?”. I’m not going to pull that swifty here: as I noted last week, I see the role of debt adding to aggregate demand as an empirical reality that economists have to explain – not something that can’t exist unless economists have a model that explains it.

In some  ways, I see this article as economists on both side misunderstanding each other and trying to argue over who is right about what happens in the real world, when a plain look at recent history seems to me to provide irrefutable evidence that debt does have an impact on demand under some (but not all) circumstances.

I don’t understand this wondering if debt creates demand.

I thought the whole housing bubble was about middle-class people artificially maintaining their customary buying power in the face of declining income by borrowing on the rising equity in their homes.

As soon as the rising value of the homes had a hesitation, the whole house of cards collapsed.

Isn’t this proof enough of the impact of debt on consumption?  Let’s move onto the next question already.

I also take the position as does Yves Smith that lowering the cost of borrowing is not going to make companies invest in new capacity if there is no demand for the products of that capacity.  This is a different circumstance from borrowing on home equity during the housing bubble.  Also one situation is talking about the difficulty in getting people to borrow (invest) as opposed to the impact that the borrowing has once the borrowing has been done.


Fiscal Space and Financial Stability: A Differential Analysis

I found the “PowerPoint” presentation Fiscal Space and Financial Stability: A Differential Analysis The U.S. vs. The Eurozone, Stephanie Kelton, Ph.D. FIELDS-INET November 1, 2013 on Scribd.  I call it a “PowerPoint” presentation because it is not an article that fully explains every “slide”.  I also must admit that I did not spend the time to understand all the equations and graphs.  I did get the gist of the story, and I selected two interesting quotes.

Fiscal Space with EMU

“[T]he power to issue its own money, to make drafts on its own central bank, is the main thing which defines national independence. If a country gives up or loses this power, it acquires the status of a local authority or colony.”

~Wynne Godley, 1992

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There are No “Market” Constraints

“The treasury can always raise money by issuing securities. The bond vigilantes really have it backwards. There is always more demand for treasuries than can be allocated from a limited supply of new issues in each auction; the winners in the auctions get to place their funds in the safest most liquid form of instrument there is for US dollars; the losers are stuck keeping some of their funds in banks, with bank risk.”

~Frank N. Newman, 2013



‘Junk insurance’ comes back to haunt its policyholders

McClatchy DC has the story ‘Junk insurance’ comes back to haunt its policyholders.

“These junk policies have been crafted pretty carefully,” he said. “When I talked to people and they shared their contracts with me, the language can be very confusing, even for somebody like me.”

The complaints are a familiar refrain for HealthMarkets, which is owned by three prominent Wall Street private equity firms: Goldman Sachs Capital Partners, The Blackstone Group and Credit-Suisse-DLJ Merchant Banking Partners.

Consumer lawsuits and state insurance regulators across the country have targeted the company for years over its market conduct and sales and marketing practices.
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Last year, state insurance regulators slapped the company with a $325,000 penalty for not meeting five of 95 performance measures that were part of the $20 million 2008 settlement agreement. The unmet measures dealt with training and oversight of agents.

Were you as surprised as I was to find out that Wall Street private equity firms: Goldman Sachs Capital Partners, The Blackstone Group and Credit-Suisse-DLJ Merchant Banking Partners are involved in this story?  (That was sarcasm, in case you didn’t recognize it.)

It wouldn’t surprise me if most of the people who claim that they have cheaper, catastrophic only health insurance policies, actually have policies like the ones described in this article.  They believe the fallacy that they don’t need no stinkin government help to make these complex decisions on buying health insurance.  After all, they have had a wonderful experience with their insurance companies and have saved a lot of unnecessary expense. (As long as they don’t get sick.)  If you have health insurance that is only good if you don’t get sick, you aren’t saving money; you are wasting money.  Why pay a cent for an insurance policy that is actually worthless?  If you are going to spend any money at all on insurance, at least buy a policy that insures you for something.


Syrian rebel group rejects talks with U.S.

McClatchy DC has the story Syrian rebel group rejects talks with U.S..

Last week, Islamic Front units stormed the remaining military council bases, seizing equipment donated by the U.S. and forcing its leadership to flee to Turkey. Kerry had suggested that the equipment could be returned in exchange for direct talks with the U.S., an overture that Ford said was rebuked.

I am not sure that I was aware, before this article, of who exactly seized the U.S. equipment nor what that equipment was.

Two comments on the story were very critical of the Obama administration’s handling of events in Syria.

I withhold judgment on whether or not the criticism is completely warranted, until I hear a reasonable alternative to what the Obama administration did or didn’t do.  Don’t read my remarks as an endorsement of Obama.  I, for one, do not know that the right reaction on our part  to the rebellion would have been.

I have been a firm supporter of the idea that we did not need to go to war with Syria over the chemical weapons incident.  Beyond that, I have no idea as to what we should do in Syria.


McCarthyism Made Us Veer Away From a Systemic Doctrine for Change – Ralph Nader on RAI (1/3) 3

The Real News Network has started a series of interviews with Ralph Nader with the video McCarthyism Made Us Veer Away From a Systemic Doctrine for Change – Ralph Nader on RAI (1/3) .

NADER: Well, it’s really amazing that one senator, Senator Joseph McCarthy, who defeated La Follette in Wisconsin on the grounds that he wasn’t liberal enough, rather, that La Follette was not liberal enough. Joe McCarthy, it was like a reign of terror. He’s scared people. He intimidated people. He ruined people’s careers through his highly publicized congressional hearings, his wild accusations anonymously against people in the federal government.

But, you know, it spilled over. I mean, there were students at university, college, they didn’t want to show up at what they thought were activist symposiums. They didn’t want to do any marching. They just–they figured, you know, they’d be stigmatized as soft on communism or, you know, reds.

And the overall impact was–on the progressives and liberals was it made them veer away from any kind of systemic public philosophy to change things for the better. So they just became very empirical. They’ll try to get a labor union organized or try to get better working conditions or something like that because they didn’t want to be accused of isms, you know, like socialism or communism. And the other side was, of course, they were all about capitalism.

So just amazing effect, Joe McCarthy and his acolytes, not just on civil liberties, but on the whole mindset of people.

JAY: And how did it affect your mindset?

NADER: Well, it affected it in the sense that you didn’t come forth with any doctrine of social change, because if you had any kind of coherent doctrine or platform, they would label it as a ism. You know, it would be socialism or any kind–syndicalism. You know? So we became very empirical. You know, we went after the auto companies’ unsafe cars. No ism there. People are being killed every day, injured because of unsafe cars, lack of seatbelts and padded dash panels.

And that has affected the left all the way to the present day, whereas the right wing, they’ve got this capitalism–although, you know, it’s–corporate capitalism is the antithesis of capitalism. I mean, owners of corporations, they have no control, the shareholders have no control over General Electric or IBM or General Motors.

So it really had an amazing impact. As a result, there were no big thinkers on the left the way the right wing had Friedrich Hayek, even though they distorted what a lot of–Ludwig von Mises and so forth.

And I thought that the lack of big thinkers on the left was a recent phenomenon.  Maybe it is just that after the left stopped thinking big, it took the Republicans a lot of time to catch up and surpass the left in big ideas.

I am beginning to appreciate Ralph Nader more and more.  I just didn’t believe him in what he said about Al Gore in 2000, but I am finally coming around to seeing what I didn’t see then.  After reading Chris Hedges’ complaint that Nader is being shut out by the press these days, I am glad to see The Real News Network have him on.

My apologies to ChuckS for my defense of Al Gore when Chuck tried to explain Ralph Nader’s value to me.

See the other parts of this interview at my blog posts –

Are Nader-Like Reforms Still Possible? – Ralph Nader on Reality Asserts Itself (2/3).

and

On Florida in 2000 and What to Do Next – Ralph Nader on Reality Asserts Itself (3/3)