Saturday, October 26, 2013

Scanning for consciousness

Can technology tell us whether someone is conscious or not? Just barely.

How does the brain work? What causes or is that most basic phenomenon- consciousness? Many theists and philosophers dispair of ever finding an answer, or indeed of being able to properly pose the question, calling it the "hard" problem. Our intuitions are perhaps too strong to overcome this sense of magical awe, yet materialists plug along, going with the logical indications from evolution and biology that something very physical is going on in there to mount the drama that flits across our inner stage.

Functional MRI is regular MRI abetted by analysis of blood flow, which responds on a few-second time scale to changes in local brain activity, the brain being a big gas hog, as it were. One would think that with such technology in hand, it would a snap to detect the physical correlates of consciousness and describe all the patterns surrounding it. But no- the brain runs all the time, and the differences in blood flow under activity are very small. Also, the time scale of the key brain activities, like most brain waves, are far faster and spatially far smaller than what fMRI can detect, so it remains, sadly, an extremely blunt instrument.

A recent study looked at twelve volunteers as they went under with the anaesthetic propofol, of Michael Jackson fame. I doubt that propofol-induced unconsciousness resembles sleep very much, so while it may knock you out, it can hardly be the way to a refreshing wake-up the next day. Another study in 2011 , incidentally, did very similar work and came to the same conclusions, and also provides the rationale for using propofol in particular: "The reason why propofol was chosen for this study is that this particular anesthetic has been shown not to interfere with regional cerebral blood flow response at sedative concentrations, and does not modify flow-metabolism coupling in humans".

The researchers tried to measure brain activity in the broadest possible way, tracking correlations among far-flung areas. The upshot is that as sedation becomes deeper, even though over-all blood flow does not change as noted above, correlations among brain activities become increasingly local, losing their long-range character. Which is certainly in line with the general ideas in the scientific community about what consciousness is in physical term: large, wide-ranging, and constantly varying coalitions or patterns of neuronal activity, which are coherent in some sense. This coherence would represent thought to the experiencer, and detectable statistical correlations to the onlooker (inlooker?).

A map of the parcels used by the experimenters to divide up the brains of their subjects into regions of interest (ROI), in order to draw inter-regional activity correlations.

How can these correlations be drawn? "In our analysis the connection is the Pearson correlation  statistic between each pair of nodes." So, despite the crude time scale, they assumed that time-coincident activitions in different locations of the brain reflect functional connection, i.e. communication. They parcelled their brains out into 194 small regions, (using someone else's scheme from prior work), and then computed the average time course of activity within each parcel. Then using statistical methods, one can make a matrix of the correlations among all these time courses and parcels, into the figure below:

Region-to-region matrix of correlations under various conditions: W, waking; S, sedated; LOC, loss of consciousness, and R, recovery of consciousness (to Ramsay level 2).

Clearly, the condition of complete anesthesia (LOC) can be picked out as having sharply reduced connections between different regions, while even just after recovery, connections remain significantly impaired. "As expected, we found a significant effect of condition (... ), indicating that correlation strength systematically varied across conditions. Specifically, W consistently exhibited the strongest average correlation level, across all bins, followed by S and R, while LOC consistently exhibited the weakest average correlation across all bins." 

This result is stated more simply in a graph of correlation to distance apart:

The conclusion they  draw from this is that  the correlation at long distances are not specially impaired relative to that at medium distances. Connections at most distances are impaired, which would, however, naturally decimate long-range communication.

Meanwhile, within the individual regions, some showed increased activity (yellow) and some decreased (blue), consistent with the idea that the long-range effects are dominant overall.

Activity within nodes (also called regions, or regions of interest, ROI) at different levels of anesthesia. Yellow denotes higher activity in the sedated or unconscious states, while blue denotes higher activity in waking or recovery.

Let me wrap up with a couple more quotes from the paper:
"... we find that loss of consciousness is marked by an increase in normalized clustering (), which measures the ‘cliquishness’ of brain regions, potentially indicating an increase in localized processing and thus a decrease of information integration across the brain." 
"... our graph theoretic analysis further indicates that, in terms of network information processing, propofol-induced loss of consciousness is marked by a specific change in the quality of information exchange (i.e., decreased efficiency) ..."

So it remains extremely difficult to differentiate consciousness from living unconsciousness. This is very early days in the  decipherment of brain patterns, and we are far from having tricorders. But there really is something in there to peek at, and one gets the sense that yet more philosophical conundra will eventually be dissolving in this pool of data. Next week, another post on brain science, from a far loftier perspective- that of Douglas Hofstadter.

"The inconvenient facts that the senior officers of JPMorgan, Bear Stearns (Bear), and Washington Mutual’s (WaMu) grew wealthy through the frauds that drove the financial crisis and that JPMorgan’s senior officers will not be prosecuted and will not even have to repay the proceeds of their crimes never appear in the article."
"The CEOs’ paramount strategic objective is to prevent real investigations staffed by vigorous financial regulators working with FBI agents that lead to hundreds of grand jury investigations of elite bankers and civil suits, enforcement actions, and prosecutions that make public the facts about the elite frauds that drove the crisis. ... Fraud is criminal even if Holder is too spineless to prosecute it."

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The end of Rome

What happens when the old gods no longer work?

The end of Rome is coming, in my listening of the fabulous History of Rome podcast, after countless episodes (~161). The capital of the Western Empire has been transferred to Ravenna, surrounded by impassable marshes and defensively superior to Milan or to Rome, the prior capitals. It is a stark admission that the Roman game from here out is defensive, not offensive. But where did the Roman empire reside? In the hearts and minds of people, not on a map. And when its rationale turned incoherent or sour, it died.

One has to consider the conversion of the Roman empire to Christianity as part of this story. While Christianity and empire coexisted quite well for another millenium in the Byzantine empire, there is an inescapable correlation between conversion and decline in the Western Empire. Perhaps decline came first, and conversion was a symptom, as the old gods fell off their pedestals, disbelieved. In any case, for the West, Christianity seemed incompatible with the traditional Roman empire. Emperors spent their time dickering about the consubstantiality of Jesus, rather than worshipping power, war and violence in frank terms, as they had done in times gone by. It would all have been to the good if what came after Rome was an improvement, but it is another lesson that virtually any governance is better than none. Darkness and anarchy were the dividends. It took a very long time for the Goths, Franks, Vandals, et al. to assume the mantle of cultural renaissance.

Today, we are in a loosely similar moment. The free market god was, up until just yesterday, globally ascendent and hardly contested. Even the last major holdouts in the pagan bloc, China and Russia, converted with some enthusiasm, and now brandish the cross of mercantalism and international trade as cudgels.

But lo, the financial crisis has exposed Milton Friedman's God as less than regal and perfect. The magic of unfettered markets has a dark side: a license to defraud and destroy the livelihoods and savings of millions of people, as well as institutions of long standing. The bull of greed charged through the china shop of our communities and public institutions, and remains on the loose.

Only a few decades ago, the US was far less doctronaire. It had strong government that had learned many lessons from the Depression and world war, which taught that the public good takes precedence over private markets. Markets are great tools, fostering freedom, efficiency, and (some) innovation, but they are fully dependent on the state and have various defects and dysfunctions which mean that we should never imagine that they replace the need for a state or substitute for it to any great degree. Quite the opposite- they depend on the services of the state, and the rest of us depend on state to protect us from them. The health insurance & care industry is a prime example. The pending obamacare program is going to save the private system from itself, making it more efficient and usable than it has managed to be on its own.

Additionally, we have always harbored socialist planning in the very heart of the free market temple- the firm. Which runs internally like some soviet factory with its bosses, its shirkers, its senseless bureaucracy, and the ability of the top brass to skim off the cream .. just because they can. Internally, it is a fundamentally political organization rather than an economic one.

Unfortunately, the current crisis has given us the worst of both worlds. A crisis not severe enough to impair free market fanticism among its most faithful flock, (who continue to throw fundamentalist tantrums, even taking hostages), but severe enough to selectively disempower the poor and weak. There was an edge of revolution in the Occupy movement, but the dominant faith was too strong, and the alternative insufficiently clear. We are now on a longer road ... hopefully to recover our strength through a lengthy deconversion process, changing the basic ideology of the US back to a mixed and well-regulated system (polytheism, one might even call it) that we already know from our own example, and many others around the world, has the capacity to be prosperous, equitable, and durable.

  • Surowiecki on inequality. 
  • Stiglitz on inequality. "The gross domestic product of the United States has more than quadrupled in the last 40 years and nearly doubled in the last 25, but as is now well known, the benefits have gone to the top — and increasingly to the very, very top."
  • The GOP has cost us $700 billion, and counting. And that isn't counting the latest week of antics from the clown posse.
  • Annals of the easily led: Republicans wilt before faux-populist lobbyists.
  • Annals of religious brainwashing, cont.
  • Yet another Christian delusion.
  • Some basic / applied principles from MMT.
  • Bill Mitchell deconstructs one nobel prize winner.
  • Even the Fed finds that QE is useless. "Currently the U.S. real GDP is about 10% below its long-run trend (see Figure 2) and total asset purchases stand at $3.7 trillion (or less than 25% of GDP). Our model predicts that this level of asset purchases (even if permanent) would have little effect on aggregate output and employment even though it could reduce the real interest rate significantly by 2 to 3 percentage points."
  • Quote of the week: Andrew Fieldhouse on why inequality is getting worse, much worse:
"Meanwhile, the U.S. labor market is only about one-fifth the way to a full recovery; and as long as the jobs crisis festers, inflation-adjusted wages will stagnate or fall for the vast majority of workers."
"Recent U.S. income inequality data published by economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty show that the top 1 percent of households by income has captured a staggering 95 percent of total income gains between 2009 and 2012, compared with 68 percent of gains between 1993 and 2012."
"I have been to many meeting where policy makers, usually very well adorned in the latest clothing, plenty of nice watches and rings, and all the latest gadgets (phones, tablets etc), wax lyrical about how complex the poverty problem is. I usually respond at some point (trying my hardest to disguise disdain) by suggesting the problem is relatively simple. The federal government can always create enough work any time it chooses at a decent wage to ensure that no-one needs to live below the poverty line. Read: always!"
  • And, Bill Black spells out the nitty gritty of lending fraud:
"It was lenders and their agents who overwhelmingly put the lies in “liar’s” loans."
"The fundamental point is that by 2006, fraudulent lenders were originating over two million fraudulent liar’s loans annually and that the only way to sell such loans to the secondary market was to compound the loan origination fraud with fraudulent “reps and warranties” about the quality of the loans."
  • And, Yves Smith, on the next fixation of the right, not entirely without merit:
"So now you can see how the assault on public sector workers fits in. When I was young, teachers and government employees were modestly paid, but they did have job security and decent pensions. Now that the wages of well and even merely adequately paid private sector workers have been beaten down, suddenly these not all that terrific compensation levels arouse jealousy among the newly disenfranchised, who now demand that public sector workers join them in the race to the bottom. Once this sort of beggar thy neighbor attitude is institutionalized, and it has been in many circles, it’s hard to reverse. But if we are going to restore the standing of the middle class, it’s time to reject the notion of competitive pay levels which can be used to justify class warfare, and return to the older, successful model of sharing the benefits of productivity gains between workers and management, rather than having it all go to the rentiers."

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Unconstitutional practices in both houses

Majority rule is constitutional. Minority rule is not.

We have been through the sorry spectacle of the Senate being held hostage by a minority of its members, via the filibuster and other "rules". Indeed in much of its business, a single senator may "hold" action indefinitely. It is thus not only a dysfunctional, but also an unconstitutional, body. Much of this derives from the wish of each member to be a prima dona and mini-president, but for the institution as a whole and for the country, it is a disaster.

The current Republican hostage-taking over Obamacare, "spending", and the misunderstood debt puts a spotlight on the same phenomenon in the House of Representatives, where a straight vote would pass both the budget and the debt ceiling, but the Republicans deny such a vote due to their "Hastert rule", which renders the House both dysfunctional and unconstitutional. This self-imposed rule uses the procedural powers of the speakership to deny any bill a vote unless it has majority support of Republican members. Not a majority of the House at large, but only of the Republicans.

The founders didn't even think it worth mentioning in their masterwork- the constitution- that each legislative body would pass bills based on a majority vote. It was so blindingly obvious and implicit that only a dolt would imagine that other rules might be brought into play. But here we are.

What the constitution does say on the matter is:
"Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a law, be presented to the President of the United States: If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law."
"Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member."

Here, as in only a very few other cases, super-majority requirements are mentioned, clearly because it is so rare relative to the default case of majority rule.

It is unimaginable that the founders would have accepted the kind of "rules" or proceedings that both the Senate and House have since lashed themselves to, requiring special or super-majorities for any action but those explicitly mentioned in the constitution. They were opposed to party politics in any case, but to see our great deliberative bodies so hamstrung not only by partisan rancor, but by insidious "rules" by which partisan minorities can stifle public action, would be most maddening. The constitution they constructed already had so many divided powers, elite-friendly voting mechanisms, and brakes on precipitate action that this extra degree of dysfunction is, frankly, sadomasochistic. Or sclerotic, take your pick.

Imagine if the House leadership decided on a rule that Speaker Boehner gets one vote and all others get none. They can make their own rules, right? That would certainly simplify matters, and even promote expeditious decisionmaking. The bounds on these internal Senate and House rules seem to be whatever they can get away with without raising too many suspicions of unconstitutionality. And their point is generally to give power to the powerful, instead of promoting deliberation and the equal distribution of power in what were clearly constructed to be one-man one-vote bodies.

We need to find a way out of this mess. The Republican party may be doing the nation a favor by immolating before our eyes, thus perhaps losing the next election. But a more durable way to address these legislative dysfunctions might be for the President or others with standing to take the matter to the Supreme court and have them put some bounds on the internal procedures with which the congressional bodies can steal the rights of the majority. Even within the now-rabidly conservative court, the clear intent of the founders should not pass completely unnoticed.

Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist #78:
"If it be said that the legislative body are themselves the constitutional judges of their own powers, and that the construction they put upon them is conclusive upon the other departments, it may be answered, that this cannot be the natural presumption, where it is not to be collected from any particular provisions in the Constitution. It is not otherwise to be supposed, that the Constitution could intend to enable the representatives of the people to substitute their will to that of their constituents. It is far more rational to suppose, that the courts were designed to be an intermediate body between the people and the legislature, in order, among other things, to keep the latter within the limits assigned to their authority"

  • Honestly, the tea party is really just the South, all over again.
  • Smart or dumb? Either way the contemporary right is toxic.
  • Is something wrong at the Fed?
  • The devil is still about, and wilier than ever!
  • Democracy for sale.
  • How to make extremely important web sites not work.
  • Newt led the slide in our political system to terrorism.
  • Mariana Mazzucato- is the economic ship starting to turn?
  • Swiss basic income proposal.. better to have guaranteed income, or a guaranteed job?
  • Annals of the easily led: how FOX|RUSH operates like a religious cult.
  • Economic and/or political quote of the week, from Bill Mitchell, quoting Mason Gaffney:
"... the American education system had been corrupted especially in the era of secret ballot and direct democracy where 'voters could no longer be bought … they had to be brainwashed' and the device chosen was 'Neo-classical Economics, which blurred all distinctions between producers and rentiers'."

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Nietzsche, nyet

The boorish philosopher, Friederich Nietzsche

There seems to always be room for a few prominent atheists, perhaps just to keep the pot boiling. From Voltaire to Dawkins, a sort of prophetic / jester slot exists in the culture ... a talk show provocateur, out to unsettle the settled pieties of the age, even if the age, like ours, is largely atheist to start with.

Nietzsche briefly played this part with his famous pronouncement that god is dead, we killed it, and we had better come up with some other moral landscape for ourselves in its absence. An excellent review of Nietzsche's thinking is Rüdiger Safranski's philosophical biography, which lopes through Nietzsche's life and works with enthusiastic but also critical eyes.

I have to say, however, that I do not share Safranski's enthusiasm. I find Nietzsche in the end undisciplined, unsystematic, unsympathetic, and unconvincing. For all the flashes of insight, his thought does not lend itself to a coherent critique of his own or the contemporary age, let alone to the progressive, liberal, meliorist political and social direction that I believe is culturally desirable.

Let's do some quotes, to get a feel for the area. Safranksy describes Nietzsche's mid-career infatuation with Wagner, and the possibilities of art serving religious functions for modern man:
"If art is to rescue the essence of religion, it must succeed in bringing about a lasting inner transformation of people. Ephemeral pleasure in art will not suffice. The will to art as religion pushed at the boundaries of the merely aesthetic event, wihch is a source of great distress to artists who, like Wagner, regard themselves as founders of a religion. ...
Wagner sought to achieve a sacral, redemptive effect by means of his *Gesamtkunstwerk. Art must mobilize all of its power. The music supplies a language for the 'inexpressible,' which comprehends only feelings, and combines with the action on the stage, the gestures, the facial expressions, the sert design, and, above all, the solemn ritual of the festival days in which people gather around the altar of art."
All this is certainly well known on the religion side of the culture, from the sumptuous Catholic processions to the pop-guitars at your local megachurch. But always, there is a point. What is the point of Wagner's über-art, or in turn, of Nietzsche's version of the same principle? As far as I can make out, it was not the spreading of compassion, or the communal nationalism founded on an enacted origin myth. It seems to have been self-reflexive, art for art's sake, because art makes us feel so great.

I agree with the importance of art in this way, but it will hardly supplant religion on this principle alone. Something more would be needed - content.

The content, as far as any exists, is hazy nationalism and general Germanic cultural triumphalism. In this, neither Wagner nor Nietzsche were Nazis before their time. But the Nazis were heavily Wagnerian and Nietzschean. They saw quite clearly the tone of what both had done. The total artistic spectacle was something the Nazis were particularly enamored of, as documented so well by Leni Riefenstahl.

But Nietzsche did have some penetrating insights into the science-religion and science-art debates, as summarized by Safranski:
"It is common belief that the mere presence of something is the simplest thing in the world, but actually it is the most puzzling thing of all. It is easier and more natural to imagine a God and an entire animated nature, because in doing so we project onto the external world what we ourselves are- namely spirit, consciousness, and soul. The greatest challenge is to posit a blind, opaque, merely existing being. .. By immersing himself in the attributes of knowledge, Nietzsche touched on the enigma of being devoid of consciousness. He contended that it is the spontaneous tendency of knowledge to encounter its own principle in all of nature precisely because being devoid of consciousness is actually inconceivable and unfamiliar to it. 'In the great prehistorical era of mankind, spirit was presumed to be everywhere and it did not occur to people to revere it as a privilege of man'".
Which is what Freud would later term "projection". And what relationship do either science or art have to truth?
"Artists shape, create, and produce a new reality. Scientists observe reality. The artists provides forms, and the scientist supplies truth. From the perspective of the artist, Nietzsche discovered in science a fictionality that tended to remain suppressed and unacknowledged. Science seeks truth, but the imagination is also engaged in the process- more than scientists care to admit. Science aims at finding truths, but invents them as well. Art readily acknowledges its basis is imagination; it creates a world of illusions and weaves a beautiful cloak to lay over reality. Whereas science demands that truth be unveiled, art loves veils. Since art is well-versed in invention, it is no secret to art how much invention and drive for refined education is involved in science, much as science is loath to acknowledge that. Nietzsche called this disparity the 'problem of science' as seen from the perspective of art. 
When Nietzsche ventured to contemplate art from the perspecitive of science, he found that its central quandry was a claim to truth. This claim to truth is generally just as unacknowledged in art as is fictionality in science. Art wraps its implicit claim to truth in illusions, and science conceals its implicit fictionality in its claim to truth. Nietzsche attacked art for feigning truth that it cannot provide."
Obviously, this applies particularly to that art called religion, whose veils are steeped in the deepest shades of denial.

Safranski discusses the Greek culture of scientific truth and philosophy, as exemplified by Socrates:
"According to Nietzsche, however, if reality is regarded as increasingly penetrable and controllable, if the first material successes of this culture of knowledge occur in the areas of technology, production, medicine, and the social sphere, and if the hitherto alarming phenomena of natural forces become natural and thus calculable and theoretically controllable causalities, a feeling of optimism extends irght down to those in the lower social strata, who will now begin to share in the dream of the 'earthly happiness of all'. If it become increasingly more feasible to control nature by means of the sciences, why should it not be possible to eliminate the injustice that in inherent in society as well?"
But Nietzsche was not pleased by this prospect at all.
"Nietzsche regarded the Socratic spirit, scientific progress, and democratic upheaval as linked together in this manner. Why, then, was this state of affairs so unappealling to him? Why was he afraid of democracy? We have already seen the answers to these questions in our earlier discussion of his defense of slavery. ... 'In order to have a broad, deep, and fertile soil for  artistic development, the overwhelming majority must be slavishly subjected to the necessities of life to serve a minority beyond the measure of its individual needs.'"
This brings us to the Übermensch, Nietzsche's model of his ideal, a person with no morals or scruples, other than self-actualization. A psychopath, in short. But a highly artistic one, with lots of slaves! One can tell that the Nazis were reading closely here, despite their lip service to socialism and "Volk". The Führer principle is laid out here, in a way.
"In great men, the specific characteristics of life- injustice, lies, and exploitation- are at their greatest."
While one can make many allowances for a philosopher being provocative and seeking book sales, (at this point late in his [sentient] career, Nietzsche had sold hardly any books), the drumbeat of elitism, anti-democratic principles, and valorization of power and ruthlessness is as persistent and unmistakable as it is unforgivable. Nietzsche knew very well what he was doing. He knew the slave societies of antiquity, and took them as his model so that exemplary thinkers and artists (such as himself!) could justify humanity by their own existence and works, and somehow push it forward to something solipsistically called "progress".

The irony is that, for all his vaunted re-evalution of all values, and dismissal of the sheep-ethics of Christianity, Nietzsche was the ultimate Victorian, a prisoner of his time, infatuated with the romanticism of power and of the "great man": in history and in art (and in philosophy!). A romanticism that led straight into the world wars of the next century. It was almost as bad as the Hegelian romanticism of inevitable historical dialectic, which led to its own brand of horrors.

A great culture is made up of more than great men, great works, and great passions. It is made of everyone else too, and of empathy and decency and self-discipline. Of functioning institutions, broad prosperity, and cosmopolitan values. Apollo had a point, as much as Dionysus, and indeed, without patient Apollonian cultural structure and continuity, no Dionysian exuberance can develop into great works, however defined. I'll end with Nietzsche's sneering put-down of bourgeois values, in "Thus Spoke Zarathustra":
"What is love? What is creation? What is longing? What is a star?" -- so asks the Last Man, and blinks.  
The earth has become small, and on it hops the Last Man, who makes everything small. His species is ineradicable as the flea; the Last Man lives longest.
"We have discovered happiness" -- say the Last Men, and they blink. 
They have left the regions where it is hard to live; for they need warmth. One still loves one's neighbor and rubs against him; for one needs warmth. Turning ill and being distrustful, they consider sinful: they walk warily. He is a fool who still stumbles over stones or men!  
A little poison now and then: that makes for pleasant dreams. And much poison at the end for a pleasant death. One still works, for work is a pastime. But one is careful lest the pastime should hurt one. One no longer becomes poor or rich; both are too burdensome. Who still wants to rule? Who still wants to obey? Both are too burdensome.  
No shepherd, and one herd! Everyone wants the same; everyone is the same: he who feels differently goes voluntarily into the madhouse.
"Formerly all the world was insane," -- say the subtlest of them, and they blink.
They are clever and know all that has happened: so there is no end to their derision. People still quarrel, but are soon reconciled -- otherwise it upsets their stomachs. They have their little pleasures for the day, and their little pleasures for the night, but they have a regard for health.  
"We have discovered happiness," -- say the Last Men, and they blink.

  • America, breaking bad.
  • How did the homeless get here?
  • Why we are for Obamacare.
  • We can cleanly resolve the debt ceiling issue.
  • Republicans and democracy. Note how Republicans are trying to get by extortion what they can not get by democratic means- you know, by electing a majority of lawmakers, or by persuading them by policy arguments. Looks like they have taken a page from Al Qaeda. There are any number of issues, such as NSA lawlessness, high unemployment, lack of prosecution of white collar crime, where the Republicans as a party out of power could mount a very persuasive case for policy change on the merits. But the proposals they choose to make have no merits, at least not in a democratic system, to the majority of citizens, so they resort to terrorism. It is shameful and appalling.
  • But hey, at least the base respects their GOP.
  • Joan Walsh seems a little fed up.
  • Why the mortgage market will never go private.
  • “It was also generally accepted that the incomes of the wealthy should be left untouched in all but the gravest emergencies.”
  • Media patsies didn't do much investigating of the financial crisis either. Fraud and embezzlement were rampant.
  • Markets aggregate perspectives, not just information. But are they rational? Not really.
  • Winner-take-all, or cheater-take-all?
  • Financial advisors are routinely unethical and do not meet a fiduciary standard.