Obama’s Recovery In Name Only

Robert J. Barro:

The Obama administration and some economists argue that the recovery since the Great Recession ended in 2009 has been unusually weak because of the recession’s severity and the fact that it was accompanied by a major financial crisis. Yet in a recent study of economic downturns in the U.S. and elsewhere since 1870, economist Tao Jin and I found that historically the opposite has been true. Empirically, the growth rate during a recovery relates positively to the magnitude of decline during the downturn.

In our paper, “Rare Events and Long-Run Risks,” we examined macroeconomic disasters in 42 countries, featuring 185 contractions in GDP per capita of 10% or more. These contractions are dominated by wartime devastation such as World War I (1914-18) and World War II (1939-45) and financial crises such as the Great Depression of the 1930s. Many are global events, some are for individual or a few countries.

On average, during a recovery, an economy recoups about half the GDP lost during the downturn. The recovery is typically quick, with an average duration around two years. For example, a 4% decline in per capita GDP during a contraction predicts subsequent recovery of 2%, implying 1% per year higher growth than normal during the recovery. Hence, the growth rate of U.S. per capita GDP from 2009 to 2011 should have been around 3% per year, rather than the 1.5% that materialized.

Arguing that the recovery has been weak because the downturn was severe or coincided with a major financial crisis conflicts with the evidence, which shows that a larger decline predicts a stronger recovery. Moreover, many of the biggest downturns featured financial crises. For example, the U.S. per capita GDP growth rate from 1933-40 was 6.5% per year, the highest of any peacetime interval of several years, despite the 1937 recession. This strong recovery followed the cumulative decline in the level of per capita GDP by around 29% from 1929-33 during the Great Depression.

Given the lack of recovery in GDP, a surprising aspect of the post-2009 period is the strong employment growth. The growth rate of total nonfarm payrolls averaged 1.7% a year from February 2010 to July 2016, despite the drop in the labor-force participation rate. The post-2009 period is not a jobless recovery; it is a job-filled non-recovery. Similarly, the drop in the unemployment rate—from 10% in October 2009 to 4.9% in July 2016—has been impressive, though overstated because of the decrease in labor-force participation.

What accounts for the strong recovery in the labor market combined with the non-recovery in GDP? Mainly weak growth of labor productivity. The growth rate of GDP per worker from 2010-15 was 0.5% per year, compared with 1.5% from 1949 to 2009. The recent productivity slowdown is clear since 2011 but may have started as early as 2004.

What could have promoted a faster recovery by enhancing productivity growth? Variables that encourage economic growth include strong rule of law and property rights, free trade, rolling back inefficient regulations and other constraints on market activity, public infrastructure such as highways and airports, strong institutions for education and health, fiscal discipline (including a moderate ratio of public debt to GDP), efficient taxation, and sound monetary policy as reflected in low and stable inflation.

The main U.S. policy used to counter the Great Recession was increased government transfer payments. Federal social benefits to persons as a ratio to GDP went from 8.7% in 2007 to 11.7% in 2010, then fell to 10.9% in 2015. The main increases applied to Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security (including disability) and food stamps, whereas unemployment insurance first rose then fell. Unfortunately, increased transfer payments do not promote productivity growth.

The 2007-08 financial crisis was also followed by vast monetary expansion involving increases in the balance sheets of the Federal Reserve and other central banks. The Fed’s expansion featured a dramatic rise in excess reserves, used to fund increased holdings of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities. Remarkably, the strong monetary growth came without inflation.
The absence of inflation is surprising but may have occurred because weak opportunities for private investment motivated banks and other institutions to hold the Fed’s added obligations despite the negative real interest rates paid. In this scenario, the key factor is the flight to quality stimulated by the heightened perceived risk in private investment.

Given the need for productivity-enhancing policies, it is sad that recent policy suggestions from Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have emphasized restrictions on trade and immigration and higher minimum wages. The former policies are equivalent to constraining technological progress. Expanded trade in goods and people is like better technology—both raise the total real value of goods and services that can be produced for given inputs. Mandating a higher minimum wage amounts to inefficient regulation of the labor market by pricing young and less-productive workers out of the job market.

At this point, it is hard to imagine U.S. policy makers participating in serious policy discussions aimed at promoting economic growth. But maybe I am too pessimistic—after all, the report on the U.S. fiscal situation in 2010 by the Simpson-Bowles Commission was very good. Too bad the Obama administration ignored it.

Employment growth? What employment growth? As measured by the best of a bad set of measures — the U6 measure of unemployment and underemployment — 10 percent of Americans are not fully employed, and that measure doesn’t even fully measure the number of Americans who have stopped looking for full-time employment because it doesn’t exist. A Republican president would be lynched with that kind of craptacular employment.


False gods

Peter Wehner writes about author C.S. Lewis on something religious leaders who publicly support political candidates (particularly the non-religious Donald Trump) need to read:


Presty the DJ for Sept. 29

The number eight song today in 1958:

Today in 1967, the Beatles mixed “I Am the Walrus,” which combined three songs John Lennon had been writing. The song includes the sounds of a radio going up and down the dial, ending at a BBC presentation of William Shakespeare’s “King Lear.” Lennon had read that a teacher at his primary school was having his students analyze Beatles lyrics, Lennon reportedly added one nonsensical verse, although arguably none of the verses make much sense:

The number 71 …

… number 51 …

… number 27 …

… number 20 …

… number eight …

… number six …

… number three …

… and number one singles today in 1973:

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Sept. 29”

Hillary the racist

Michael  J. Hurd, Ph.D.:

“Implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just police,” said Hillary Clinton during the presidential debate.

Excuse me? Maybe you’re a racist, Mrs. Clinton, but speak for yourself. Of course, would you ever admit to being a racist? Not a chance. Yet your statement implies that everyone, yourself included, is one.

How can one prove that one is NOT a racist? It’s impossible, because you cannot prove a negative. Imagine that I said to you, “You killed my dog,” and you replied in horror, “No I didn’t.” Rationally and objectively, the burden would be on me to provide proof–via facts and evidence–that you did, in fact, kill my dog. It would be logically impossible (and psychologically unbearable) for you to try and prove you did not kill my dog.

(I would have used the example “You cheated on your wife” myself. Of course, Mr. Hillary would have replied, “What’s your point?”, so never mind.)

It’s the same with racism. People like Hillary Clinton claim everyone is racist. It’s like we can’t help it. It’s in our genes (we’re told). Particularly if you’re white. More so if you’re white and male. Absolutely if you’re anything other than a progressive and a socialist.

Although Hillary Clinton damns herself by saying that everyone engages in “implicit racism,” you already know what her self-exoneration consists of: “Well, I have spent decades tirelessly working for the poor and disadvantaged of all races.”

No such thing is true. She has worked tirelessly at achieving and maintaining power over others, and using people’s sometimes legitimate sense of being a victim (due to race, or other factors) as a way to exploit their vulnerabilities, ignorance or weakness in the name of achieving power.

How do you know if you’re a racist? It all depends on how you view individuals. If you recognize people for their individuality alone, then you’re not a racist. Race is either a non-existent factor, or a marginal one, in your appraisal of people in everyday life. If someone is your doctor, you care about what kind of doctor he or she is, not the race. If someone is your car mechanic or friend, it’s the same. If someone is your friend or spouse, it’s the same. People are appreciated or disparaged for the presence or lack of character, personality traits or competence. When this is how you view the world, then you’re no longer (or never were) a racist.

It’s not human nature to be racist. It’s actually human nature to wish to survive. When focusing on survival and (once that’s settled) enjoyment of life, it does not serve one’s interest to practice racism. People only fall into the trap of racism or irrational discrimination when they started out in the trap of viewing people as members of collectives, rather than individuals. Individualism liberates human beings from the mentality of tribalism, and it’s only individualism that will extinguish racism.

Hillary Clinton is no individualist.

Individualism is the complete opposite of racism. Clinton does everything in her power to encourage people to think of themselves as members of a class, race, gender, sexual orientation, or whatever other type of group serves the interest of pursuing power. She has a vested power (and money) interest in doing so. Anyone who believes her crap is beyond foolish.

Hillary Clinton seems about to obtain what she considers the most important quest for power one would ever attain: the U.S. presidency. The irony? That office only holds value, esteem and power because of people who believed in very different kinds of ideas than she does … ideas such as economic freedom, the right to bear arms, the right to freedom of association and speech.

Like Obama and many others who put socialism, pressure group politics and the pursuit of personal power above the preservation of the rights of the individual, Clinton will bring to the office lower credibility than ever before. Her corrupt dealings in the Clinton Foundation, bad as they are, will be the least of it. In fact, by the time she’s done with the presidency, there might be little point to being a U.S. President.

The primacy of the individual is something Republicans used to believe, until Donald Trump ran for president.

Mark French is similarly unpersuaded about how racist and sexist we are because:

… equality is equality. If a man or woman steps up to occupy the White House as a major party candidate, in my mind, they themselves are primae facie evidence that racism or sexism isn’t as powerful a force as is being argued. A woman can’t drive or be out alone, much less run for power in many places in the world (many whom have donated heavily this election cycle). As disappointing as it is in this century, I can’t name a first-world power, except for the USA, that has a black head of state in my lifetime. Not France, not England, Ireland or the UK, not the Scandinavian utopias of Denmark, Sweden or Norway, not suave and fashion leading Italy, Spain or Portugal, not our Queen-loving brothers and sisters in Canada. But we’re the racist ones, right?

A black man in the White House deserves respect, but he’s not above criticism. A woman running for president is not above criticism – the Presidency is not a participation trophy, it’s the highest office in the country. Candidates should be vetted, and like it or not, national political figures are celebrities. The media sells ads by whipping up a frenzy around celebrities, and we gobble it up and spray it out everywhere, the good, the bad and the ugly. Celebrity politicians are our new professional wrestlers – they have cults of personality, they have mortal enemies that will not so much as ever lay eyes on them, ever. Trump and Clinton are our Big Brother, and get our undying love, they’re our Emmanuel Goldstein and get our unrequited, spittle-flecked hatred. If we’re honest, we’ll admit we like it that way. But let’s get back to sexism. I was once very close friends with an Army Huey UH-1V Medevac pilot. After one of her flying evaluations by a dustoff pilot who was legendary for his exploits in Vietnam, she called me in tears. He’d been brutally rough on his evaluation. She didn’t care about the criticism, she’d learned a lot from his criticism that wan’t in any books or field manuals. What destroyed her was the compliment that he paid her – that she was the finest woman pilot he’d ever met. To her, the criticism was welcome, but being a woman had nothing to do with her flying. The criticism wasn’t sexist, but judging her abilities on the basis of her gender, that was sexist. Seeing abhorrent behavior and calling a candidate on those behaviors? Not sexist. Ignoring the bad bad judgement and behavior on the basis of the flesh suit they happened to be born into? You know where I’m going with this.

You can’t criticize or even despise a black president without being called racist? You can’t dislike a woman running for president without being called sexist? Is that what you really believe? Well, that’s mighty righteous of you. You think that if we don’t see your point of view, if we don’t love your candidate that we must be evil or stupid? Well, okay. But before you go, I have to say that I don’t think that was Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision about judging on content of character instead of the wrapper we happened to be born into. Worse yet, if you think that a black man in that kind of position of power needs your protection because of his race, or a woman running for that office needs your protection because she’s a woman, your slip may be showing.

Trump vs. Ford

The Chicago Tribune focuses on the first part of Monday’s “debate”:

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump wasted no time Monday hitting one of his signature issues —€“ trade — and attacking Ford by claiming the Dearborn automaker is moving jobs to Mexico during the first presidential debate.

The issue left Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton on the defensive for nearly the first 10 minutes of the debate. Clinton, who supported the North American Free Trade Agreementin the 1990s and initially supported the idea of the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership explained that she only supports trade deals that are fair and benefit the U.S. economy.

Trump, meanwhile, reiterated his position that NAFTA is among the worst trade deals ever, even though most economists say it had positive benefits for the overall economy.

“Our jobs are fleeing the country. They are going to Mexico,” Trump said during his first answer during the presidential debate on Monday. “So, Ford is leaving — thousands of jobs. Leaving Michigan, leaving Ohio. They are all leaving.”

Trump’s statement about Ford is partly true and partly false.

Ford is moving production of the Ford Focus and Ford C-Max from its Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne to Mexico in 2018. Ford said in April it plans to invest $1.6 billion to build a new plant in Mexico and create 2,800 jobs to build small cars there.

However, Ford also plans to replace the products it makes in Wayne with two new vehicles and has repeatedly said no jobs will be lost.

Ford CEO Mark Fields said Sept. 16 that “zero” jobs will be lost in the U.S. and said “it is really unfortunate when politics get in the way of the facts.”

Trump’s comments also prompted tweets from both Ford and the UAW countering Trump’s claims. …

Still, the emphasis on trade at the outset of the debate gave Trump an opportunity to stick with an issue that has resonated for him among blue collar workers.

“We have to renegotiate these trade deals,” Trump said in reference to NAFTA and the TPP, which has not yet been approved by Congress.

NAFTA is a trade agreement that was signed by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, but was largely negotiated under the administration of George H.W. Bush.

“I think that trade is an important issue….And we need to have smart, fair trade deals,” Clinton said.

Clinton largely tried to pivot to the broader issue of the U.S. economy, the deep recession that occurred in 2008-2009, and ways to create jobs.

“We have come back from that abyss and it has not been easy,” Clinton said. “The last thing we need to do is to go back to the policies that failed us in the first place.”

Clinton said the U.S. needs to work on creating high-tech manufacturing and supporting the creation of a new energy infrastructure with investments in technology such as solar power.

Throughout the evening, Ford continued to reply to Tweets regarding keeping jobs in the United States.

To no one’s surprise, Hillary is a terrible defender of free trade, and The Donald is ignorant about how economics applies to normal people. It should be obvious that free trade benefits consumers, a group that presumably totals all Americans.

They watched, so you didn’t have to

Facebook Friend Michael  Smith starts with …

I heard there was a debate last night. I looked for it but all I found was an episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos with 90 minutes of two old people saying things…and they weren’t funny. One seemed to have Tourette’s Syndrome and the woman was clearly suffering from dementia, remembering things that never happened and forgetting those that did.

The big take away for me (and this will be a shocker…not really) is that neither are acceptable. We all should be embarrassed that these two people made it to the top of our political system. It is a true indication of just how broken our system is. A person of principle has no chance to lead this country – and with Cruz’s endorsement of Trump, the evidence is in that politics will always trump (no pun intended) principle in the current process.

I didn’t think Trump did well at all – he didn’t suck – but all Hillary did was repeat canned phrases from her campaign commercials. It was like she was reading a script – but with Lester Holt “fact checking” every “a”, “and” and “the” out of Trump’s mouth, this “debate” was tailor made for her to just spout off sound bites without challenge. Trump didn’t hurt himself but I don’t see it as a win. His optics were awful – his facial expressions made him look as if he was sucking a lemon all night. His rambling answers and third grade playground ruffian style just turn me off…but on the other hand, Hillary is the daughter of Satan so she has that going for her. …

These “debates” are a farce. Have a real one. Have a single topic, let them go at it for 90 minutes and then have an independent panel decide the winner on points just like a real debate. These televised food fights are a waste of time and are always an advantage to the candidate favored by the media – the Democrat.

Another Facebook Friend, a reluctant Trump backer, adds:

Observation: Trump couldn’t explain how to flush a toilet properly, but it would be beautiful, that I can tell you. He HAS the right ideas (on many, many things), let there be no doubt, but his mind is a disarranged gallimaufry of half-remembered talking points that collectively equal balderdash. He is incapable of ordering and then explicating his thoughts in a coherent manner verbally, from a starting point to a conclusion normally, but especially so during a “debate” when the moderator is interrupting and Hillary is sniping back from the other side of the stage thus constantly discomposing an already-terribly incoherent man. It flustered and frustrated and aroused his anger. Devastatingly so. …

It is entirely Trump’s fault for allowing himself to be baited so easily, and failing to be able to respond in anything better than what will be depicted in political cartoons in the papers today as a sputtering, infuriated, confused old crackpot totally out of his depth, and totally outclassed. By Hillary. In the first 20 minutes.

Of course, it’s possible to win on style and lose on substance. Edmund Kozak:

Clinton’s nose began to grow from the very start, as she asserted that the nation needs to “finally guarantee equal pay for equal work” for women in her opening statement. The notion that women on average do not receive the same pay as men — the 77 cents to a dollar myth — has been proven false repeatedly.

The fact is that it is already illegal to pay men and women different wages for the same work if they have the same experience. The 77 cents myth is derived from looking merely at average income accrued over a lifetime, and ignores the fact that men on average tend to work longer hours, often work in higher paying industries, and spend more active years in the work force.

When confronted by Trump about her former strong support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Clinton claimed that she “hoped it would be good deal.” The truth of course is that she called it the “gold standard” of trade deals.

Clinton also advocated raising taxes on the wealthy based on the premise that they do not currently pay enough. “I think it’s time to suggest that the wealthy pay their fair share,” she said. The truth is that America has the most progressive tax system in the developed world — the top 10 percent contribute over half of all income tax revenue.

Bizarrely, Clinton claimed that “slashing taxes on the wealthy hasn’t worked.” Her comment implied that slashing taxes on the wealthy is why the economy is in such poor shape currently. This is an odd thing to say, considering Obama has been in office for the better part of eight years and has done anything but slash taxes for anyone.

When Trump said he wished to lower the corporate tax rate, Hillary said: “We’ve looked at your tax proposals. I don’t see changes in the corporate tax rates … you’re referring to that would cause the repatriation.”

Clinton and her team couldn’t have been looking very hard, as Trump’s plan to lower to corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 is written quite clearly on the economic plan posted on his website.

Taking time to remind the country that Clinton’s success is due in large part to her surname, she asserted that “my husband did a pretty good job in the 1990s.” Clinton, like all Democrats, loves to take credit for the financial stability of her husband’s presidency. Of course, it was the Republican-controlled Congress led by Newt Gingrich that blocked Clinton’s desired spending measures and balanced the budget.

Clinton also claimed that in being party to the Iran deal she helped “put the lid on Iran’s nuclear program.” But many said the deal guarantees no such thing. Indeed, it rests entirely on Iran’s acting in good faith and upholding their end of the bargain.

When Trump defended the use of stop-and-frisk policies in New York City, Clinton attacked them as unconstitutional and asserted “it was uneffective it did not do what it needed to do.” This is simply false.

“Data from the few cities that report police stops show their effectiveness,” Dennis C. Smith, professor of public policy at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University, wrote in The New York Times in 2012 .

“My trend analysis with SUNY Albany professor Robert Purtell found that the increased use of stops correlated significantly with accelerating drops in most of the major crimes. A Harvard study of policing in Los Angeles under William Bratton, when crime dropped significantly, reported a surge in stops by the L.A.P.D. [with per capita stop rate higher than N.Y.P.D.],” Smith continued.

Perhaps Clinton’s most egregious lies were two concerned with emails. “I made a mistake using a private email,” Clinton said. Of course, Clinton didn’t use a “private email.” She used multiple private email servers. The word mistake implies Clinton didn’t know she was doing anything wrong, a claim belied entirely by the fact that so many of her aides and associates pleaded the Fifth or were granted immunity by the FBI — not to mention the fact that many of them engaged in the destruction of evidence and that she herself made false exculpatory statements.

Finally, in visiting her favorite Trump-Putin conspiracy theory, Clinton claimed that “Donald publicly invited Putin to hack into Americans.” The truth, as is obvious from the context of his words, is that Trump was calling on the Russians to release Clinton’s missing emails in the event that they already had them.

The stop-and-frisk point is one Trump needs to hammer on repeatedly the rest of this trainwreck of a campaign, whether or not stop-and-frisk is constitutional. (Neither he nor his supporters care if it is, and you’ll never convince Hillary and her Black Lives Matter supporters that it is.) If people feel less safe, stop-and-frisk is a way for police to keep a constant eye on the bad guys. Trump also needs to keep hammering on Hillary’s horrible Iran deal, though, again, Hillary’s toadies will continue to claim, right up until the mushroom clouds materialize in front of their eyes, that we need to give money to Iran’s illegitimate government.

I watched about 10 minutes of the debate by accident. Trump was his usual blustering mouthy idiot, saying “bigly” twice and getting off one and only one good line, saying he’d release his income tax records when Hillary released her 30,000 deleted emails. Hillary looked like something the labs of Harcourt Fenton Mudd developed.

See if you can  make any sense of this Trump “statement”:

As far as the cyber, I agree to parts of what Secretary Clinton said, we should be better than anybody else, and perhaps we’re not. I don’t know if we know it was Russia who broke into the DNC.
She’s saying Russia, Russia, Russia. Maybe it was. It could also be China, it could be someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds. You don’t know who broke into DNC, but what did we learn? We learn that Bernie Sanders was taken advantage of by your people. By Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Look what happened to her. But Bernie Sanders was taken advantage of. Now, whether that was Russia, whether that was China, whether it was another country, we don’t know, because the truth is, under President Obama we’ve lost control of things that we used to have control over. We came in with an internet, we came up with the internet.
And I think Secretary Clinton and myself would agree very much, when you look at what ISIS is doing with the internet, they’re beating us at our own game. ISIS. So we have to get very, very tough on cyber and cyber warfare. It is a, it is a huge problem.
I have a son. He’s 10 years old. He has computers. He is so good with these computers, it’s unbelievable. The security aspect of cyber is very, very tough. And maybe it’s hardly doable. But I will say, we are not doing the job we should be doing, but that’s true throughout our whole governmental society. We have so many things that we have to do better, Lester, and certainly cyber is one of them.

Not a single viewer’s mind was changed last night. Not a single American should think either of these people (to use that term loosely) should be president.


Breaking news from 74 years ago

The Chicago Tribune editorializes on a story it ran June 7, 1942:

With each court ruling, the secret testimony that a Chicago grand jury heard during World War II edges closer to public scrutiny. If that testimony is unsealed, all of us will know more about the government’s only effort to prosecute the news media for an alleged violation of the Espionage Act of 1917. The journalists in the dock? Our predecessors at the Chicago Tribune.

This as yet unfinished yarn traces to the U.S. Navy’s ambush of an Imperial Japanese navy strike force near Midway Island. The little atoll halfway between Asia and North America was a steppingstone in Japan’s plan to seize the Hawaiian Islands. As the U.S. neared victory on June 7, 1942, the Tribune published a front-page scoop, “Navy Had Word of Jap Plan to Strike at Sea.” The story reported the size and schedule of Tokyo’s armada. The story’s richness of detail strongly implied (without stating explicitly) that Washington had cracked Japan’s secret naval code: The Tribune evidently had obtained the Japanese plan from an official U.S. source — someone who had access to decoded Japanese secrets.

The Tribune’s tacit revelation of the code-breaking coup infuriated Washington. President Franklin Roosevelt wanted to have Marines occupy Tribune Tower. Under pressure from Roosevelt and Navy officials, a special prosecutor impaneled a federal grand jury here to consider espionage charges against reporter Stanley Johnston, managing editor J. Loy Maloney and the Tribune itself. The grand jurors decided not to indict. But for 74 years the testimony they heard from some 13 witnesses — including naval officers and staffers from the Tribune and two other newspapers that ran its story — has remained sealed.

In 2014 a coalition of historians and the national Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press asked the U.S. District Court here to open the grand jury records. Government lawyers fought that request and, when they lost, appealed. Last week a panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to open the records. The legal dispute has little to do with the Midway story and much to do with the rare circumstances in which grand jury proceedings can become public. Courts have permitted that in such historically significant cases as those of accused Soviet spy Alger Hiss, executed “atomic spies” Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa. Historical relevance adds heft to a release request, as do the deaths of the principals and the expiration of security threats, as is the case here.

The testimony might detail how war reporter Johnston got his controversial scoop. We don’t know. But we’ve written before that many historians think Morton Seligman, a U.S. Navy commander, intentionally or inadvertently leaked the info. A month earlier, during the Battle of the Coral Sea, Johnston had raced below deck to rescue badly burned sailors on Seligman’s sinking carrier, the USS Lexington. On June 7, as the Navy’s angry commander in chief Adm. Ernest King absorbed the Tribune’s Midway report, he had on his desk a draft citation honoring Johnston for his heroism aboard the Lexington.

What happens now? Katie Townsend, litigation director for the Reporters Committee, tells us the feds have until Sept. 29 to appeal to the full 7th Circuit, or until mid-December to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. One of Townsend’s filings neatly synthesized the stakes here: “The Tribune case speaks directly to a fundamental tension at the core of our democracy, involving the public’s right to know and the government’s duty to protect its citizens in time of war.” FDR and naval officials thought the breaking of the Japanese code should remain secret because doing so would make it useful as the war progressed. The Tribune thought it had a right to publish its thinly veiled disclosure of the code-breaking. It’s possible the grand jury testimony offers evidence on those points.

We’ve also written that our predecessors knew what it was to have the full force of the government, from the White House on down, try to punish this news organization for publishing information it held, in a manner that did no harm. The Tribune’s response to word that the feds would convene a grand jury: “We have said and proved that we cannot be intimidated and now, once again, we are going to prove it.”

Fighting unwarranted government secrecy is a big part of what news organizations like the Tribune do, in wartime and peacetime. That’s one reason we hope government lawyers admit defeat and end this lingering battle of Midway.

Taxpayers United of America adds in a news release:

Recent unprecedented disclosures of government malfeasance have forced Americans to confront unpleasant truths about the nature of our government. Americans do not trust the government – and in record numbers. It is understandable, and equally troubling, then, for Americans to come to expect opaqueness from a government that commonly flouts the U.S. Constitution and the laws intended to bind its authority. We shouldn’t be too surprised to learn that the government is still fighting a seventy-four-year battle over transparency and the historical record, dating back to World War II. …

The implications of these revelations are far-reaching, just as Taxpayer Education Foundation reported previously. In a December 2011 analysis of the extensive body of scholarship concerning FDR’s foreknowledge of the Japanese military’s naval codes and planned attack at Pearl Harbor, Taxpayer Education Foundation’s research director, Dennis Constant, wrote, “In September and October of 1940, Army and Navy cryptographers solved the principal Japanese government code, the Purple code, which was the major diplomatic code. The naval codes were a series of 29 separate operational codes. According to Stinnett, Japan used four of these codes to organize and dispatch her warships to Hawaii by radio. American cryptographers had solved each of the four by the fall of 1941, even though the Japanese were introducing minor variants every three months to foil cryptographers.”

“Taxpayers, regrettably, are forced to fund the government even when its policies are opposed to the interests of Americans and our liberty,” said Jared Labell, executive director of Taxpayers United of America (TUA). “While it is clear that the government is naturally incentivized to over-classify information and maintain strict secrecy over its vast realm of perceived interests, Americans must demand transparency and support all efforts to pull back the curtain on the machinations of the government. Disclosures not only help clarify the historical record and provide further insights into past policies, but they are tremendous opportunities to learn how tax dollars are spent by the government and in pursuit of what ends.”

“These recent legal developments further threaten the government’s ability to act in complete secrecy without risk of exposure,” said Labell. “We aren’t certain of the precise revelations contained in the sealed grand jury testimony. The documents might further corroborate longtime claims made by numerous historians implicating FDR and his administration in failing to protect the American military personnel based at Pearl Harbor, although the Japanese naval codes were deciphered. The code-breaking revelations the following year in the Chicago Tribune did not please the administration, to say the least.” …

President Woodrow Wilson signed the Espionage Act of 1917 into law in June of that year, only a couple months after the United States entered World War I. The case against the Chicago Tribune, its managing editor, and its reporter, Stanley Johnston, is the only known attempt to charge journalists with violating the Espionage Act, although the panel eventually declined to indict.

The government has until September 29 to appeal to the full 7th Circuit Court, or opt to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court until mid-December 2016. Litigation director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Katie Townsend, summarized what’s at stake in this case that dates back nearly three quarters of a century, “The Tribune case speaks directly to a fundamental tension at the core of our democracy, involving the public’s right to know and the government’s duty to protect its citizens in time of war.”

The every-four-year freak show starts tonight

Erick Erickson has nothing good to say about tonight’s first presidential debate:

Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump is fit for the office of President of the United States.

They are both appalling, immoral cretins and their parties should live in everlasting shame that they foisted the two turds from the bottom of the bowl and floated them in the pool of American politics.

Tonight they will meet in New York and remind the nation just how awful, vain, and self-interested both are. Hillary Clinton will come across as completely unlikeable and so will Donald Trump. The Amorphophallus titanum will meet the bastard love child of Bozo the Clown and Chucky. Manhattan will meet Queens and it will be as smug, condescending, and pretentious as all that such an encounter entails.

We will really learn nothing about either one except that it will be possible to hate both more after tonight. It is my hope and prayer that the voters who voted for these two be permanently compelled to put their heads in paper bags and live in undying shame for having supported them in primaries. …

As we prepare for the shrill hell of monotony and are only spared old-people smell by virtue of not being in the same room with these reanimated corpses, I root for injuries. May both so thoroughly destroy each other than the American people look elsewhere, or at least look in the mirror and reassess the lack of seriousness of the several million voters who are to blame for those two creatures being on stage.

A pox on both of them.

A pox? Is it improper to wish that they both drop dead tonight?

Arthur Brooks asks whether the debates matter, and answers …

First of all, general election debates seem to matter less than everyone thinks. Surveying the literature, Professor John Sides at George Washington University concludes that presidential debates usually have little to no effect on general election outcomes. One study he cites, by political scientists Robert Erikson and Christopher Wlezien, examined a big set of elections from 1952 to 2008. Their finding? “The best prediction from the debates is the initial verdict before the debates.”
So the general election debates hardly ever yield earth-shattering inflection points. But the data can still help us guess what might happen [tonight[. In 2012, Nate Silver looked back at the historical record and found that the first debate usually helps the candidate whose party is out of power. Interestingly, he published his piece just a few days before Mitt Romney turned in an enormously successful performance in his first debate with President Obama. Romney’s big night won him a real bump in the polls (as per Silver’s analysis), but it soon faded away, and the underlying fundamentals of the race returned to the fore (as per Erikson’s and Wlezien’s hypothesis).
But this contrasts sharply with the research on primary debates, which seem to matter a lot. One 2013 study found that after primary debates, a whopping 35 percent of viewers said they changed their candidate preference. After the general election debates, only 3.5 percent of viewers said the same. People’s minds are seemingly only 1/10th as open during the general debates as during the primary debates. Why? I’ll make a few guesses.
For one thing, the primaries usually feature candidates with similar views. If voters can hardly distinguish between their options on policy substance, it makes sense that stylistic differences would exert a larger impact. What’s more, we hear a lot from primary voters that they are actually value debating skills pretty highly as an important trait that they’re looking for. (“I want someone who can really take the case to the other guy on national TV in October!”)
In sum, we are left with a bit of a paradox. While many primary voters seem to care a lot about rhetorical skills when they’re choosing who will represent their “team” in the general election, very few general election voters seem to be swayed permanently by those prime-time performances. As a result, debates matter a lot in the primaries but only a little in October.
Try dropping that factoid into the conversation at your debate watch party. It might be the most substantive talking point people hear all night.

In addition to the fact that I work, I am not watching because debates have nothing to do  with being president.