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Hometown: Ann Arbor, Michigan
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Member since: Thu Sep 25, 2003, 01:04 PM
Number of posts: 85,373

Journal Archives

Weekend Economists Thanksgiving Leftovers 2013

This is a continuation of Fuddnik's Stock Pot thread...because we have too much free time this weekend...

10 ways to beat CryptoLocker: Protecting your files from CyptoLocker and other malware


• Back up your files. If you use an external hard drive, don't leave it connected to your PC unless you are backing up. Alternatively, pay for an online back-up service – but bear in mind you may still be vulnerable if your backed-up files are mapped as a network drive. Check with your provider if you are unsure.

• Create files in the Cloud and upload photos to online accounts like Flickr or Picasa.

• Switch to a spam- and virus-filtered email service. Google Mail, for example, does not allow you to receive or send executable files (that can install viruses) as email attachments, even if they are hidden in zip files. (It also does not allow you to send them).

• Don't go to online porn sites, which are often the source of malware downloads. Take care when clicking on adverts; never open Twitter links and attachments from people you don't know or trust.

• Make sure your operating system is up-to-date with the latest security.

• Install the latest versions of your internet browsers and update add-ons such as Java and Adobe Flash.

• Get reputable anti-virus software and ensure you update it frequently.

• On Windows 7, double-check that you have set up System Restore points or, if you are using Windows 8, configure it to keep the "file history".

• Act quickly. If you do accidentally download a dodgy attachment, bear in mind it is likely to take some time for the encryption to take place. If you immediately download and run an anti-virus programme, such as the free anti-virus toolkit available from Sophos, it could destroy the CryptoLocker before all your files have been encrypted – however, you will permanently lose affected files.

• Encrypt the files you particularly want to keep private, such as documents containing your passwords or personal information, to prevent criminals from reading what's in them. Read this useful "Ask Jack" post on the Guardian technology blog to find out more about encrypting your files.

Detroit accused of exaggerating $18bn debts in push for bankruptcy



Detroit's debts are a fraction of the $18bn lawyers pushing for bankruptcy say they are, and their costs are "irrelevant, misleading and inflated," according to a report released Wednesday. A Demos thinktank report, issued as a city judge decides whether to allow Detroit to file for the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history, lays the blame for the city's woes at the feet of falling revenues, Wall Street banks and "extreme assumptions" calculated to make its problems worse than they are.

"There is no doubt that the city has suffered from structural decline and that state and city policies have not successfully addressed that decline. But that is not the immediate issue in a municipal insolvency. The issue is that the cash currently available does not cover the current expenses of the city," said Walter Turbeville, the report's author, a former Goldman Sachs investment banker and a leading expert in infrastructure finance and public private partnerships.

Kevyn Orr, the state appointed emergency manager, has argued that the city's pension and healthcare liabilities are a leading cause of the city's woes. City workers and retirees face draconian cuts on the $3.5bn in pension payments, and another $6bn in healthcare benefits they are owed. The average Detroit pensioner gets $19,000 a year. Under a deal now being discussed they would be given 16 cents to the dollar, cutting the average pension to $3,040. The report claims Orr's focus on cutting benefits and other debts are "inappropriate and, in important ways, not rooted in fact." Turberville questions the necessity of those cuts and the assumptions that underpin Orr's foundation for the $18bn total. According to the report:

• The emergency manager includes $5.8bn of debt from the water and sewerage department as a liability of the city, even though the department serves more than 3 million people across southeastern Michigan. Detroit has just 714,000 residents. "This debt is not a liability of the city's general fund; and, even if it were, only a fraction of it would allocable to the city," he writes.

• Orr's assertion that the city's pension funds have a $3.5bn shortfall is an "estimate, very different from the certain liability of a financial debt, based on calculations that use extreme assumptions that depart from most cities' and states' general practice," he writes.


Weekend Economists Go Full Tin Hat November 22-24, 2013

Ah, November! Deprived of the sweet smell of burning leaves by the Clean Air Act, we are instead treated to the hot electric smell of brains on overload.

It's Conspiracy Month, the month when the deepening gloom of winter, the slough of Economic Despair, and the sheer perversity of Man join together to make 30 days seem like 30 years of a bad marriage....and worse prose!

It is 50 years since our best and brightest was cut down by an assassin, and his brother shortly thereafter. I'm with the conspiracists on this one...something's rotten in the state of Texas, and until Poppy is gone and his heirs richly compensated, we probably won't know who ran the plan that took JFK out of action.

Harry Reid finally took the plunge and nuked the filibuster, for which he would have received the grateful thanks of a nation...4 years ago. Now, the best he can expect is a snarl. Conspiracy? Or just sheer laziness?

But perhaps the longest running conspiracy theory in this nation is the FEDERAL RESERVE BANKING SYSTEM. Here are some photos of the NY branch, which was blown up in Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995), and perhaps other films, although that is the only one I've seen...(3 guesses which side I was rooting for...he may be a nice guy, but I'm not fond of Bruce Willis, and I was always a sucker for an accent).

The Main Entrance: The Bank employs over 3,000 people with careers in economics, law, markets, service, human resources and more. This picture shows employees entering and exiting the Bank through the main entrance at 33 Liberty Street.

The main building of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York was designed by the architects York and Sawyer. The stones are Indiana limestone and Ohio sandstone. The building's lowest floor is 50 feet below sea level.

The Bank: Architects York and Sawyer modeled the Bank after Florentine palaces in Italy. The size of the building and its façade molding suggest both the Pitti and Vecchio Palaces of Florence.

The Strozzi Palace in Florence, Italy, was one of the inspirations for the Bank's architects, York and Sawyer. Our stonework, arches and ironwork were modeled after the Strozzi Palace.

The original lanterns, created by metalworker Samuel Yellin, still adorn the outside of the main entrance to the Bank at 33 Liberty Street.

This is a clock mounted on the wall of the first floor of our main building. It is an original clock designed by metalworker Samuel Yellin, whose decorative work is prominent throughout the first floor.

Board Room Table: Made in 1935, this board room table is made of walnut with burl inlay. Reflected in the shine on the table is a chandelier designed to complement the Yellin metalwork, which graces the remainder of the executive floor of our building.

Of course, the building reflects the time (and the place): Art Deco, ripping off palaces, etc. It wouldn't do to house the Princes of the World in a converted K-Mart big box strip mall, would it?

And perhaps that's where it starts: the smell of money. That's what drives a conspiracy, isn't it? Cui Bono?

Weekend Economists Out on an Idle Idol Idyll November 15-17, 2013

Today's theme is Idleness, especially in contrast to the Capitalist Work Ethic (for it has gone way beyond the Protestant work ethic, which did allow for rewards on earth like wages, time off, holidays, etc...) We have Ghost Dog out in Iberia, to thank for the topic.

If you can put two brain cells together, after such an exhausting week, you can join in, too! Tell us what you are best at NOT doing, or where, or when...or help mock the frantic Banksters and their entourages, as they try to abandon a sinking ship, only to find all the dry land is under water and their baggage drags them under.

Bring us mythic, dreamy music and tuneful myths. Eat lotus! Kick back and enjoy the Weekend.

Vailima, Samoa
Home of Robert Louis Stevenson

We coulda had a

Universal single payer health care system!

Maybe ought to add this to the resource links

Michael Olenick: Comprehensive Review of ObamaCare Plans Reveals Not Only High Cost for Atrocious Coverage, but Also Apparent Violations of ACA Requirements


Yves here. From what Lambert and I can tell, Michael Olenick is the first to publish any sort of comprehensive analysis of Obamacare plans. And when you read his piece, you will see why were are likely to continue to be subjected to barrages of cherry-picked anecdotes in lieu of analysis.

His three-person family in his Florida zip code has 132 plans available to them. As he describes, the one mechanism that Obamacare stipulated to simplify the shopping task a bit, that of showing what the each plan would pay out under two specific treatment situations, was not disclosed for the overwhelming majority of plans on the healthcare.gov site. That meant that Olenick had to find the the information elsewhere and input it into his comparison.

But the most stunning part is the degree to which the plans fall short of their stipulated “actuarial” payouts. At least for Olenick’s family, the plans fall well short of the mandated level of reimbursements (for instance, a bronze plan is touted as covering 60% of expected medical costs). It’s unlikely that Olenick’s family would produce results that are out of line with results for states with similar regulations (note that some states have additional requirements that will influence plan structure and pricing).

It is finally important to recognize that the overwhelming majority of reporters and commentators have not been gone the route Olenick has, of obtaining actual detailed plan data for a particular family or individual. Instead, for the most part, they have relied on a dataset provided by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for every health care plan in the Federal marketplace. It has the appearance of being comprehensive, as Charles Ornstein tells us in his post “Not a good price calculator“(hat tip Lambert):


Weekend Economists Honor Our Veterans November 8-10, 2013

Veterans Day is an official United States holiday which honors people who have served in armed service also known as veterans. It is a federal holiday that is observed on November 11. It coincides with other holidays such as Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, which are celebrated in other parts of the world and also mark the anniversary of the end of World War I. (Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the Armistice with Germany went into effect.)

Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day; Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, while Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veterans_Day


U.S. President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed Armistice Day for November 11, 1919. In proclaiming the holiday, he said

"To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations."

The United States Congress passed a concurrent resolution seven years later on June 4, 1926, requesting that President Calvin Coolidge issue another proclamation to observe November 11 with appropriate ceremonies. A Congressional Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U.S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday: "a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as 'Armistice Day'."

In 1945, World War II veteran Raymond Weeks from Birmingham, Alabama, had the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans, not just those who died in World War I. Weeks led a delegation to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, who supported the idea of National Veterans Day. Weeks led the first national celebration in 1947 in Alabama and annually until his death in 1985. President Reagan honored Weeks at the White House with the Presidential Citizenship Medal in 1982 as the driving force for the national holiday. Elizabeth Dole, who prepared the briefing for President Reagan, determined Weeks as the "Father of Veterans Day."

U.S. Representative Ed Rees from Emporia, Kansas, presented a bill establishing the holiday through Congress. President Dwight Eisenhower, also from Kansas, signed the bill into law on May 26, 1954.

Congress amended this act on June 1, 1954, replacing "Armistice" with "Veterans," and it has been known as Veterans Day since.

The National Veterans Award, created in 1954, also started in Birmingham. Congressman Rees of Kansas was honored in Alabama as the first recipient of the award for his support offering legislation to make Veterans Day a federal holiday, which marked nine years of effort by Raymond Weeks. Weeks conceived the idea in 1945, petitioned Gen. Eisenhower in 1946, and led the first Veterans Day celebration in 1947 (keeping the official name Armistice Day until Veterans Day was legal in 1954).

Although originally scheduled for celebration on November 11 of every year, starting in 1971 in accordance with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, Veterans Day was moved to the fourth Monday of October. In 1978, it was moved back to its original celebration on November 11. While the legal holiday remains on November 11, if that date happens to be on a Saturday or Sunday, then organizations that formally observe the holiday will normally be closed on the adjacent Friday or Monday, respectively.

The markets will be open Monday, but just because the DOW sees fit to ignore the soldiers, sailors, air corps and Marines that risked their lives and futures for the 1% Bankster Elite's right to do what they do so well (and it ain't printable, so use your imagination)....as I say, just because the markets are closed to the idea of celebrating veterans, doesn't mean we have to be...

Drones from the Other Side War Is A Crime .org

Imagine you awake to the sound of a machine noisily buzzing over your house, and another machine nearby in the sky, and another. These machines and others like them have been around for months. They never leave. While you live in the United States, the machines belong to the government of Pakistan. The machines are unmanned drones armed with missiles. Every once in a while they blow up a house or a car or a couple of kids playing soccer or a grandmother walking to the store, sometimes a McDonald's or a shopping center.

Imagine that you've learned to live with this. The popularity of homeschooling has skyrocketed, as nobody wants to send their kids outside. Telecommuting is now the norm for those able to maintain employment. But there's no getting used to the change. Your kids wake up screaming and refuse to sleep. Your rage makes you physically ill. Antidepressants are on everybody's shopping lists, bu t shopping is a life-and-death proposition. Canada is facing an immigration crisis. So is Mexico.

Now, Pakistan claims to be targeting evil criminals with surgical precision. And some in the U.S. government go along with this. But others object. The U.S. Supreme Court declares the drone deaths to be murder or war -- murder being illegal under U.S. law, and war being illegal under the U.N. Charter via Article VI of the U.S. Constitution.

The U.S. Congress insists that criminals must be indicted and prosecuted, that negotiations with hostile groups cannot succeed while drones tear the negotiators limb from limb, and that Pakistan has no right to put its robots in our skies no matter what its good intentions. Statements agreeing with this opposition to the drones are signed by everybody who's anybody. Popular demonstrations against the drones, and -- bravely -- in the face of the drones, dwarf anything seen before. In fact, the world joins in, and people protest Pakistan's murder spree all over the globe. Human rights groups in various countries denounce it as criminal. The Pakistani prime minister reportedly checks off men, women, and children to kill on a list at regular Tuesday meetings. He's burned in effigy across the United States.

But Pakistani human rights groups take a different tack. In their view, some of the drone murders in the United States are illegal and some are not. It depends on the knowledge and intentions of the Pakistani officials -- did they know those kids were just playing soccer or did they believe their soccer ball was an imminent threat to the nation of Pakistan? Was blowing up those kids necessary, discrete, and proportionate? Were they militants or civilians? Was blowing them up part of an armed conflict or an act of law enforcement, and what type of armed conflict or what law was being enforced? Paki stan, these groups argue, must not blow people up without identifying them, without verifying that they cannot be captured, and without taking care not to kill too many civilians in the process. Further, Pakistan must reveal the details of its legal reasoning and decision making, so that the process has transparency. Indeed, Pakistan must begin running its proposed drone killings by a judge who must sign off on them -- a Pakistani judge, but a judge nonetheless.

The Pakistani human rights groups are not made up of evil people. They very much mean well. They want to reduce the number of Americans killed by drones. And they are not permitted to declare all drone killing illegal, because these killings might be part of a war, and these groups have adopted as a matter of strict principle the position that wars must never be opposed, only tactics within wars. They believe this makes them "objective" and "credible," and it certainly does do that with certain people. These Pakistani human rights groups are not pulling the trigger, they're trying to stop it being pulled as often. Lumping them together with the Pakistani military would be Bushian (with us or against us) thinking. But it's harder to see that from under the drones here in the United States with the kids wailing and Uncle Joe's brains still staining the side of the Pizza Hut, than it would be perhaps in Pakistan or at the United Nations Headquarters in Islamabad.

From here in the United States, the cries are for justice. Many want the prime minister of Pakistan prosecuted for murder. Many are beginning to view the absence of such legal justice as grounds for violence. I'm growing worried over what my neighbors and even myself might unleash on the rest of the world. I'm beginning to fall in love with the feeling of hatred....


Lessons from the Fall of RomneyCare By Michael D. Tanner FROM 2008!


When then-Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney signed into law the nation's most far-reaching state health care reform proposal, it was widely expected to be a centerpiece of his presidential campaign. In fact Governor Romney bragged that he would "steal" the traditionally Democratic issue of health care. "Issues which have long been the province of the Democratic Party to claim as their own will increasingly move to the Republican side of the aisle," he told Bloomberg News Service shortly after signing the bill. He told other reporters that the biggest difference between his health care plan and Hillary Clinton's was "mine got passed and hers didn't." Outside observers on both the Right and Left praised the program. Edmund Haislmaier of the Heritage Foundation hailed it as "one of the most promising strategies out there." And Hillary Clinton adviser Stuart Altman said, "The Massachusetts plan could become a catalyst and a galvanizing event at the national level, and a catalyst for other states."

Today, however, Romney seldom mentions his plan on the campaign trail. If pressed he maintains that he is "proud" of what he accomplished, while criticizing how the Democratic administration that succeeded him has implemented the program. Nevertheless, he now focuses on changing federal tax law in order to empower individuals to buy health insurance outside their employer, and on incentives for states to deregulate their insurance industry. He would also use block grants for both Medicaid and federal uncompensated care funds to encourage greater state innovation. He encourages states to experiment, but does not offer his own state as a model.

A Double Failure

There's good reason for his change of position. The Massachusetts plan was supposed to accomplish two things — achieve universal health insurance coverage while controlling costs. As Romney wrote in the Wall Street Journal, "Every uninsured citizen in Massachusetts will soon have affordable health insurance and the costs of health care will be reduced." In reality, the plan has done neither. Perhaps the most publicized aspect of the Massachusetts reform is its mandate that every resident have health insurance, whether provided by an employer or the government or purchased individually. "I like mandates," Romney said during a debate in New Hampshire. "The mandate works." But did it? Technically the last day to sign up for insurance in compliance with that mandate was November 15, (2007) though as a practical measure Massachusetts residents actually had until January 1, 2008. Those without insurance as of that date will lose their personal exemption for the state income tax when they file this spring. In 2009, the penalty will increase to 50 percent of the cost of a standard insurance policy. Such a mandate was, of course, a significant infringement on individual choice and liberty. As the Congressional Budget Office noted, the mandate was "unprecedented," and represented the first time that a state has required that an individual, simply because they live in a state and for no other reason, must purchase a specific government-designated product.

It was also a failure.

When the bill was signed, Governor Romney, the media, state lawmakers, and health care reform advocates hailed the mandate as achieving universal coverage. "All Massachusetts citizens will have health insurance. It's a goal Democrats and Republicans share, and it has been achieved by a bipartisan effort," Romney wrote. Before RomneyCare was enacted, estimates of the number of uninsured in Massachusetts ranged from 372,000 to 618,000. Under the new program, about 219,000 previously uninsured residents have signed up for insurance. Of these, 133,000 are receiving subsidized coverage, proving once again that people are all too happy to accept something "for free," and let others pay the bill. That is in addition to 56,000 people who have been signed up for Medicaid. The bigger the subsidy, the faster people are signing up. Of the 133,000 people who have signed up for insurance since the plan was implemented, slightly more than half have received totally free coverage. It's important to note that the subsidies in Massachusetts are extensive and reach well into the middle class-available on a sliding scale to those with incomes up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level. That means subsidies would be available for those with incomes ranging from $30,480 for a single individual to as much as $130,389 for a married couple with seven children. A typical married couple with two children would qualify for a subsidy if their income were below $63,000. What we don't know is how many of those receiving subsidized insurance were truly uninsured and how many had insurance that either they or their employer was paying for. Studies indicate that substitution of taxpayer-financed for privately funded insurance is a common occurrence with other government programs such as Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP). Massachusetts has attempted to limit this "crowdout" effect by requiring that individuals be uninsured for at least six months before qualifying for subsidies. Still some substitution is likely to have occurred. The subsidies may have increased the number of Massachusetts citizens with insurance, but as many as 400,000 Massachusetts residents by some estimates have failed to buy the required insurance. That includes the overwhelming majority of those with incomes too high to qualify for state subsidies. Fewer than 30,000 unsubsidized residents have signed up as a result of the mandate. And that is on top of the 60,000 of the state's uninsured who were exempted from the mandate because buying insurance would be too much of a financial burden.

Billion-Dollar Overrun

According to insurance industry insiders, the plans are too costly for the target market, and the potential customers — largely younger, healthy men — have resisted buying them. Those who have signed up have been disproportionately older and less healthy. This should come as no surprise since Massachusetts maintains a modified form of community rating, which forces younger and healthier individuals to pay higher premiums in order to subsidize premiums for the old and sick. Thus, between half and two-thirds of those uninsured before the plan was implemented remain so. That's a far cry from universal coverage. In fact, whatever progress has been made toward reducing the ranks of the uninsured appears to be almost solely the result of the subsidies. The much ballyhooed mandate itself appears to have had almost no impact....


Michael Tanner is director of health and welfare studies at the Cato Institute. He is the author of Leviathan on the Right: How Big-Government Conservatism Brought Down the Republican Revolution and coauthor of Healthy Competition: What’s Holding Back Health Care and How to Free It, just released in a new edition.
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