Alt-Weekly San Francisco Bay Guardian Goes Under

As a longtime fan of abundant and free alt-weekly newspapers in
major urban areas and someone who loves San Francisco like a second
home, I’m sad to report the death of one of its alt-weeklies, the
San Francisco Bay Guardian.

I was informed about via social network feed of my pal and its
editor Steven Jones (fellow author of a book about Burning Man; his
was called
Tribes of Burning Man
and covered the years after my book

This is Burning Man
.

The Bay Guardian‘s website is already dark.

I
eulogized the Los Angeles New Times
back in 2002 on
the alt-weekly death watch.

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Republicans Are Still Talking About Obamacare Repeal. They Could Be Talking About Obamacare Reform.

In the summer of 2013, Sen. Ted
Cruz (R-Tx.) called repeatedly for Republicans to defund Obamacare
through the budget process and an upcoming continuing resolution.
Cruz insisted that the health law had to be defunded through the
continuing resolution because, otherwise, it would be impossible to
repeal. All President Obama had to do, Cruz argued, was wait it
out; on January 1, 2014, the law’s health insurance subsidies would
kick in, and the millions of Americans would become dependent on
the law for health coverage.

Obama “knows that in modern times, no major entitlement has ever
been implemented and then unwound,” Cruz
told
The Daily Caller in August of 2013, later noting
that “no Republican has effectively refuted that premise.” This was
what gave Cruz his urgency: On January 1, 2014, Obamacare would
become essentially impossible to repeal.

Cruz’s call resulted in an extended budget showdown and a
three-week government shutdown. It was politically ill-advised,
and, as critics predicted, it did nothing to stop Obamacare (the
botched rollout of the exchanges did far more political damage to
the law than the shutdown).

But his underlying idea that January 2014 represented a
point-of-no-return for the health law, after which it would be
largely cemented in place, wasn’t crazy. And yet, more than a year
later, Cruz is still promising to repeal Obamacare—”every blessed
word” of it, as he sometimes
says
—something he admitted would become all but impossible
barely more than a year ago.

Cruz isn’t the only Republican legislator who continues to
aggressively advocate repeal despite understanding its diminished
prospects. Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.), the Republican Senate
Minority Leader, often says that Obamacare should be repealed “root
and branch.” But McConnell has also undercut that message by saying
that Kentucky residents covered by Medicaid under the health law
are
unlikely to lose their coverage
. In a debate last night, he

said
that the state could keep its self-administered Obamacare
insurance exchange, Kynect, which McConnell has previously
described as “unconnected” to the larger issue of Obamacare
repeal.

The most charitable way to describe McConnell’s remarks is as
evasive; at minimum, he is heavily downplaying the ways in which
Kentucky’s exchange, which, far from being “unconnected,” was built
using federal grants provided under Obamacare, and which offers
subsidized coverage funded federally through the health law, would
function differently without Obamacare in place. McConnell surely
knows this, which is why his remarks are better characterized as
intentionally misleading.

But the inherent contradiction in those statements is telling
anyway. What’s tripping up McConnell (and, to a lesser degree,
several other Republican candidates) is the problem described by
Cruz last year: With Obamacare’s coverage expansion in place, and
so many people relying on it for insurance, it has become nearly
impossible to repeal. McConnell seems to want to have it both ways,
repealing the law, but not his constituents’ access or
coverage.

Yet as a
report by Politico’s David Nather suggests
, despite
continuing public calls for repeal, many Republicans now
acknowledge privately that prospects for repeal are slim. “There is
a disconnect between the private dialogue and the public dialogue,”
on GOP health policy expert tells Politico.

But party politicians are still struggling to settle on a
strategy about what to do next. There are several conservative
replacement plans on offer, should the party choose to rally behind
them, but all assume Obamacare is repealed first, and most focus on
tax credit systems that would significantly alter the shape of the
American health insurance market. The problem, though, is that the
GOP has long criticized Obamacare for being too disruptive; with
any of these plans, Republicans would be opening themselves up to a
similar charge. 

As it happens, these are exactly the problems that The Manhattan
Institute’s Avik Roy has attempted to solve with his recently
released health care plan
, which he pitches as a way of
“transcending Obamacare.” It’s meant to overcome the law’s flaws in
a way that does not require wholesale repeal. 

“Disruption is extremely important to the average American,” Roy
said at a private dinner last week. He urges a cautious approach.
“What we have to do is be very gradual” in transforming the
system. 

Roy’s plan is designed to be “maximally plausible,” both in its
policy reforms and its politics. The basic idea is to keep
Obamacare’s exchanges, as well as some of its popular insurance
reforms, but deregulate those exchanges to allow for greater
insurance plan flexibility, end the individual mandate, and—in the
plan’s boldest move—slowly transition Medicare and Medicaid into
the exchanges as well.

In some sense it is a trade: accepting Obamacare, in its broad
strokes, but using it as a vehicle to reform the nation’s two big
health entitlements, which, Roy notes, are responsible for the
biggest portion of the nation’s long-term fiscal problems.

Roy argues that the plan would mean better coverage for poor
Medicaid beneficiaries, who would have access to privately
subsidized coverage, as well as more options for seniors, who would
no longer be forced to shift to Medicare at 65 or risk losing
Social Security benefits. 

In the long term, the transition would produce enormous
budgetary savings—an estimated $8 trillion in deficit reduction
over 30 years—by transforming Medicare, which now covers seniors
regardless of their income, into a means-tested system for the
middle class.

With fewer rules governing their products and no mandate
forcing people to buy, insurers would have more incentive and more
opportunity to compete and innovate. And the nation’s overall
coverage levels would actually
increase by
12.1 million relative to Obamacare, according to estimates produced
by University of Minnesota health economist Stephen T.
Parente.

The political argument, meanwhile, could give Republicans the
advantage. Yes, Democrats might object to shifting seniors onto the
exchanges. But that would mean criticizing an updated version of
Obamacare, and explaining why exchange-based coverage was great for
64 year-olds but not for 65 or 68 year-olds. Republicans could say
that “this is the program that you all”—Democrats—”installed,” Roy
says. Part of the idea is that it “puts Democrats on the
defensive.” 

The plan is not without its own potential challenges. Even
though today’s seniors could keep their existing coverage, it might
be described as gutting the program, which is quite popular. Roy
responds that the same charge was leveled at Mitt Romney and Paul
Ryan during the 2012 presidential election, and yet seniors were
the one group that voted decisively in favor of the GOP ticket.
Some higher-income seniors would see their premiums rise, but Roy
says these hikes could be mitigated by a transitional fund.

More generally, it would require Republicans to level with
voters about the likelihood of repeal, and take an affirmative
reform position on health care, an issue the party has long been
content to ignore. “Who benefits from the status quo?
Employed and retired people,” Roy says, noting that these are the
same people who tend to vote Republican. Thanks to Medicare and the
tax break for employer insurance, two massive budget items that
subsidize health coverage, “it’s actually Republican voters who are
on the dole,” he says.
 

One possible advantage for GOP legislators is that it would help
smooth out some of the contradictions from politicians like
McConnell. Under Roy’s plan, Kentucky could keep its exchange, and
residents could keep their coverage. And while the health law would
not be repealed root and branch, it would be significantly
reformed, which is something that even many Democrats say they
want. Like many Democratic candidates this year, McConnell’s
opponent, Alison Grimes, has promised to fix the law but provided
almost no specifics of how she would do so. Keeping the law in
place but working to improve it polls well, and Roy’s plan could
plausibly provide specific fixes. 

Essentially, Roy’s plan would take Ted Cruz at his word when the
Senator argued last year that unwinding a major entitlement after
its benefits kicked in was practically impossible. But rather than
continue to call for Obamacare’s end, as Cruz has done, Roy would
attempt to craft a new beginning, one that, yes, leaves some of
Obamacare’s words in place, but that on the whole, he says,
“expands people’s choices rather than takes them away.” No, it
wouldn’t be repeal, but with its overhaul of Medicaid and Medicare,
it might be something better: the system-wide, root-and-branch
reform we’ve needed since long before Obamacare became
law. 

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The QE4 Countdown Has Begun

Actually, it may well be QE5, or QE6 depending on how one counts Operation Twist and the extension of QE3, but what matters is that the countdown to whatever it is, has begun courtesy of none other than one of the Fed’s biggest doves, the head of the Fed which spawned Janet Yellen, San Francisco Fed’s John Williams

  • FED’S WILLIAMS SAYS QE MAY BE NEEDED IF ECONOMY FALTERS

This is what a happy, money-printing John Williams looks like:

Mor from Reuters:

The head of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank on Tuesday said he would be open to another of round asset purchases if inflation trends were to fall significantly short of the U.S. central bank’s target.

 

Although he said it would take a big shift in the U.S. economic outlook for the Fed to restart its bond buying, John Williams said the possibility of a new downturn in Europe and other global economic woes pose a risk to the United States. “If we really get a sustained, disinflationary forecast … then I think moving back to additional asset purchases in a situation like that should be something we should seriously consider,” Williams said in an interview with Reuters.

Rinse, repeat, for round number 4 (or 5, or 6), in the process completely destroying what little is left of the middle class and making the uber super rich uberer, superer richer. Because when all is said and done, the Fed will either get runaway inflation through money printing or hyperinflation through collapse of the US reserve currency. There is now no middle ground, further compounded because the Fed has sole control of the CTRL and P buttons.

Needless to say, Williams is right and more QE is just a matter of time before the data-dependent (dependent on the data describing the drop in the S&P that is) Fed realizes that this aggression against rigged markets can not stand. What’s worse, this lunacy will continue until the US people finally go all “French revolution” on the Marriner Eccles building and give the locals the Marie Antoinette “haircut.”




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On The Precipice Of A Breakdown In Confidence

Submitted by Ben Hunt via Salient Partners' Epsilon Theory blog,

People think it must be fun to be a super genius, but they don't realize how hard it is to put up with all the idiots in the world.

? Bill Watterson, “Calvin And Hobbes”

Here is the most fundamental idea behind game theory, the one concept you MUST understand to be an effective game player. Ready?

You are not a super genius, and we are not idiots. The people you are playing with and against are just as smart as you are. Not smarter. But just as smart. If you think that you are seeing more deeply into a repeated-play strategic interaction (a game!) than we are, you are wrong. And ultimately it will cost you dearly. But if there is a mutually acceptable decision point – one that both you and we can agree upon, full in the knowledge that you know that we know that you know what’s going on – that’s an equilibrium. And that’s a decision or outcome or policy that’s built to last.
 
Fair warning, this is an “Angry Ben” email, brought on by the US government’s “communication policy” on Ebola, which is a mirror image of the US government’s “communication policy” on markets and monetary policy, which is a mirror image of the US government’s “communication policy” on ISIS and foreign policy. We are being told what to think about Ebola and QE and ISIS. Not by some heavy-handed pronouncement as you might find in North Korea or some Soviet-era Ministry, but in the kinder gentler modern way, by a Wise Man or Woman of Science who delivers words carefully chosen for their effect in constructing social expectations and behaviors.

The words are not lies. But they’re only not-lies because if they were found to be lies that would be counterproductive to the social policy goals, not because there’s any fundamental objection to lying. The words are chosen for their truthiness, to use Stephen Colbert’s wonderful term, not their truthfulness. The words are chosen in order to influence us as manipulable objects, not to inform us as autonomous subjects.

It’s always for the best of intentions. It’s always to prevent a panic or to maintain confidence or to maintain social stability. All good and noble ends. But it’s never a stable equilibrium. It’s never a lasting legislative or regulatory peace. The policy always crumbles in Emperor’s New Clothes fashion because we-the-people or we-the-market have not been brought along to make a self-interested, committed decision. Instead the Powers That Be – whether that’s the Fed or the CDC or the White House – take the quick and easy path of selling us a strategy as if they were selling us a bar of soap.

This is what very smart people do when they are, as the Brits would say, too clever by half. This is why very smart people are, as often as not, poor game players. It’s why there aren’t many academics on the pro poker tour. It’s why there haven’t been many law professors in the Oval Office. This isn’t a Democrat vs. Republican thing. This isn’t a US vs. Europe thing. It’s a mass society + technology thing. It’s a class thing. And it’s very much the defining characteristic of the Golden Age of the Central Banker.

Am I personally worried about an Ebola outbreak in the US? On balance … no, not at all. But don’t tell me that I’m an idiot if I have questions about the sufficiency of the social policies being implemented to prevent that outbreak. And make no mistake, that’s EXACTLY what I have been told by CDC Directors and Dr. Gupta and the White House and all the rest of the super genius, supercilious, remain-calm crew.

I am calm. I understand that a victim must be symptomatic to be contagious. But I also understand that one man’s symptomatic is another man’s “I’m fine”, and questioning a self-reporting immigration and quarantine regime does not make me a know-nothing isolationist.

I am calm. I understand that the virus is not airborne but is transmitted by “bodily fluids”. But I also understand why Rule #1 for journalists in West Africa is pretty simple: Touch No One, and questioning the wisdom of sitting next to a sick stranger on a flight originating from, say, Brussels does not make me a Howard Hughes-esque nutjob.

I am calm. I understand that the US public health and acute care infrastructure is light years ahead of what’s available in Liberia or Nigeria. I understand that Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas is not just one of the best health care facilities in Texas, but one of the best hospitals in the world. But I also understand that we are all creatures of our standard operating procedures, and what’s second nature in a hot zone will be slow to catch on in the Birmingham, Alabama ER where my father worked for 30 years.

The mistake made by our modern leaders – in every public sphere! – is to believe that they are operating on a deeper, smarter, more far-seeing level of game-playing than we are. I’ve got a long example of the levels of decision-making in the Epsilon Theory note “A Game of Sentiment”, so I won’t repeat all that here. The basic idea, though, is that by announcing a consensus based on the Narrative authority of Science our leaders believe they are stacking the deck for each of us to buy into that consensus as our individual first-level decision. This can be quite effective when you’re promoting a brand of toothpaste, where it is impossible to be proven wrong in your consensus claims, much less so when you’re promoting a social policy, where all it takes is one sick nurse to make the entire linguistic effort seem staged and for effect … which of course it was. The fact that we go along with a game – that we act AS IF we believe in the Common Knowledge of an announced consensus – does NOT mean that we have accepted the party line in our heart of hearts. It does NOT mean that we are myopic game-players, unerringly led this way or that by the oh-so-clever words of the Missionaries. But that’s how it’s been taken, to terrible effect.  

I am calm. But I am angry, too. It doesn’t have to be this way … this consensus-by-fiat style of policy leadership where we are always only one counter-factual reveal – the sick nurse or the sick economy – away from a breakdown in market or governmental confidence. I am angry that we have been consistently misjudged and underestimated, treated as children to be “educated” rather than as citizens to be trusted. I am angry that our most important political institutions have sacrificed their most important asset – not their credibility, but their authenticity – on the altar of political expediency, all in a misconceived notion of what it means to lead.

And yet here we are. On the precipice of that breakdown in confidence. A cold wind of change is starting to blow. Can you feel it?

 




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Justin Haskins on Mike Huckabee, Social Conservatism, and Hypocrisy in the GOP

Mike HuckabeeLess
than a week after former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee threatened to
leave the Republican Party over its allegedly soft approach to
dealing with gay marriage, Huckabee called out Republicans again
over the weekend on his Fox News Channel show Huckabee,
asserting that many in the GOP need to “grow a spine” by defending
the traditional definition of marriage.

Huckabee is right that many in the Republican Party, especially
younger members, no longer believe that the government should be
enacting laws that define marriage as a union between one man and
one woman only. What Huckabee and many other social conservatives
like him do not understand, writes Justin Haskins, is that the
reason a growing number of conservatives are rejecting the typical
social conservative agenda has little to do with political
correctness or fear that society may reject them. It’s not about
politics; it’s all about liberty.

View this article.

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Washington D.C. is Now the Most Expensive Place to Live in the USA

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 3.49.52 PMThere is no greater signpost of the decay in America’s cultural, economic and spiritual life than Washington D.C.’s ascendancy into the most expensive spot to live in within these United States.

Yes, according to a recent government study, the nation’s capital is even more expensive than New York City, ground zero for America’s most unscrupulous banking criminals, as well as San Francisco, the epicenter of the latest tech venture capital binge. This is extraordinarily disturbing, considering the primary products created in the D.C. area consist of death, destruction, criminality, propaganda and lies. In a nation in which the primary driver of GDP growth has become fraud, I suppose this shouldn’t be that surprising.

The Washington Post noted the following:

continue reading

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Douglas Butzier, Libertarian Senate Candidate from Iowa, Dies in Plane Crash

Sad news
via Radio Iowa
 regarding the passing of Libertarian Party Senate candidate
Douglas Butzier
:

The pilot who died in a plane crash near Dubuque late last night
was the Libertarian
candidate
 for Iowa’s U.S. Senate seat.

The family of Douglas Butzier has confirmed Butzier was piloting
the plane that crashed near the Dubuque Regional Airport at about
11 p.m. Monday. No one else was in the plane.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the
single-engine plane took off from the Ankeny Regional Airport at
about 10 p.m. and crashed at about 11 p.m., about a mile north of
the runway in Dubuque. Butzier, who was an ER doctor, was born in
Mount Pleasant and grew up in Cedar Falls. Butzier, who was 59
years old, has been working at Dubuque Mercy Hospital for the past
17 years.

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U.S. Slightly Improves Economic Freedom Ranking—as Most of the World Slides

Last year, the Economic Freedom of the
World Report
ranked the United States in 17th
place
; this year the U.S. has risen to number
12
.

Woo-hoo!

That’s good news. But…Ian Vasquez of the Cato Institute, which
is a partner in producing the report, notes,
“For decades, the United States ranked in second or third place on
the index. In 2000 it was #2, yet by 2005 it ranked 8 and it
continued its precipitous fall until recently.”

The press
release
announcing the latest report’s release points out that
“Globally, the average economic freedom score dropped slightly to
6.84 out of 10 from 6.87 last year.”

By contrast, the U.S. improved its score a tick from 7.73 to
7.81. It may not be a return to a high-ranked position, but it’s a
welcome slow swim against a tide moving in the wrong direction.

The biggest hit to America’s score—the reason the country is no
longer in second or third place—has been in the area of Legal
System and Protection of Property Rights. The report attributes the
“huge” decline in this area to increased use of eminent domain to
swipe property from legitimate owners and award it to the
politically connected, holes blown in traditional legal protections
by the wars on terror and drugs, and the legally dubious the auto
bailout. Add in the proliferation of intrusive regulation, and the
report points out, “to a large degree, the United States has
experienced a significant move away from rule of law and toward a
highly regulated, politicized, and heavily policed state.”

Ouch.

The economic freedom ranking isn’t an abstract question of
ideology, or speculation that it might make it more
difficult to do business or create jobs. No, there are real
consequences here for standards of living for ourselves and our
kids in the years to come.

scholarly work on this topic indicates that a one-point decline
in the EFW rating is associated with a reduction in the long-term
growth of GDP of between 1.0 and 1.5 percentage points annually…
This implies that, unless policies undermining economic freedom are
reversed, the future annual growth of the US economy will be only
about half its historic average of 3%.

So even a small improvement in the rating matters in real
terms—even if it’s not nearly enough. And a global slip in economic
freedom is bad news for the prosperity of much of the world’s
population.

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A Non-Performing Loan BWIC Out Of Where!?

For years traders have had to contend with billions upon billions in monthly, weekly and even daily (yes, we all remember 2011) BWICs out of Europe’s periphery, as countries from Italy to Ireland to Portugal to Spain to Greece scrambled to find greater fools to offload their non-performing, aka distressed, loans to. One thing that was missing was even the faintest hint of trouble at the European “core” mothership: Germany. That has now changed.

Hm, so €247MM in 31 loans “collateralized” by €4.6MM in rental income? Where does one sign?

But if at least one bank in Germany is choking with NPLs, that means that… Oh no.

So with this rather surprising BWIC, we declare the European NPL floodgates – by some estimates well in the trillions – to be officially open.




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