Supplemental: From the Trans-Pacific Partnership to the role of race at UT!

TUESDAY, JUNE 30, 2015

Also, Bessie Jones meets Hobart Smith:
Given the way our up-country journalism works, does anyone ever understand any policy issue?

For example, could you explain the issues involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership in any way at all? There have been very few attempts to explain what that whole thing’s about—or to explain why Obama is siding with the congressional GOP more than with his own party.

Over the weekend, we took the obvious step. We reviewed what Krugman has said about the TPP in his columns and on his blog.

Some day soon, we’ll show you what Krugman has said. (We were a bit surprised.) In the meantime, let’s admit it. None of us understands the TPP, and no one is making the slightest attempt to explain the relevant issues.

Second issue: Obamacare.

We don’t intend what follows as a criticism of President Obama. But we’re often struck by the way the liberal world seems to have settled regarding this general topic.

We’re so old that we can remember when President >Clinton tried to create a national health care program or something of that sort. No one ever understood that program either, but it seems to us that the original goal was something like “universal coverage.”

Twenty-two years later, the Supreme Court saved Obamacare’s bacon last week. That said, we still aren’t hugely close to universal coverage; we still spend two to three times as much on health care, per person, as other developed nations spend; and we watched Ezekiel Emanuel on C-Span last weekend telling a caller why the deductibles in Obamacare are so darn high.

Is it just our imagination? Or, judged on a global basis, is this a comically awful program, even after all these years?

(Some day soon, we’ll show you the Q-and-A with Emanuel.)

Third issue: affirmative action procedures at the University of Texas.

In this morning’s New York Times, Adam Liptak reports on the Supreme Court’s decision to review UT’s affirmative action admissions program again.

Liptak’s front-page report struck us as perhaps a bit propagandistic, and perhaps a bit poorly explained to boot. After reading it, we don’t even feel clear about which part of UT’s admission procedure will be under review.

In this passage, Liptak describes the current admission procedure, which has two basic parts:
LIPTAK (6/30/15): Most applicants from Texas are admitted under a part of the program that guarantees admission to top students in every high school in the state. (This is often called the Top 10 program, though the percentage cutoff can vary by year.)

The Top 10 program has produced significant racial and ethnic diversity. In 2011, for instance, 26 percent of freshmen who enrolled under the program were Hispanic, and 6 percent were black. Texas is about 38 percent Hispanic and 12 percent black.

The remaining Texas students and those from elsewhere are considered under standards that take account of academic achievement and other factors, including race and ethnicity. Many colleges and universities base all of their admissions decisions on such “holistic” grounds.
Later, Liptak describes the Top 10 program as “race-neutral,” implying that it won’t be under review. Here’s the problem:

If we understand the matter correctly, the Top 10 program was adopted in part to produce racial diversity. Among various theoretical downsides, it can have bad consequences for ambitious black kids and for diversity in Texas high schools. (In theory, it could give black kids a reason to stay in all-black high schools instead of transferring to more challenging magnet schools, where they might not end up in the top ten percent.)

We didn’t think that Liptak’s report was especially clear. For that reason, we had the analysts file “UT admission procedures” in the drawer with TPP and O-care.

Our national discourse is a daily ridiculous mess. This fact, though, may be hard to discern, given the platforms from which our journalists and our professors perform.

Those high platforms may convey the sense that the moral and political intelligence resides in Gotham and DC, not in the Carolina low country, where people talk love and forgiveness and may even lapse into Gullah.

Do yourselves a favor! Imagine the possibility that those families in Charleston may know more about various things than their condescending city-dwelling cousins, who pushed back against them last week.

Why not take a trip on that old gospel ship! For more on the so-called “Lowcountry clap,” you can examine a book from the Duke Books Scholarly Collection, Talking to the Dead: Religion, Music, and Lived Memory among Gullah/Geechee Women.

The low-country clap is explicitly mentioned. Readers, we’re just saying!

Ranging a bit further afield, our personal preference, even in music, is for so-called black and so-called white together. For that reason, we offer this link, in which the Georgia Sea Island Singers engage with Hobart Smith.

Our up-country ways may not be all that. Except when we’re doing the telling!


  1. This has to be one of the worst bloggers online.

    1. This has to be one of the worst commenters online.

    2. I know you are, but what am I?

    3. I agree. The things that are said online on this blog are beyond the pale and worst.

    4. The posts and what is said are what the howlers are. Not the other ones he talks about.

    5. Anon 7:07, here I am stuck reading this blog, which is one of the worst on-line. What blogs do you recommend?

  2. If you really want to know why TPP is a bad idea, go to Beat the Press and avoid this yahoo.

    1. Really, an insult is all you have to add to this discussion- and you thought you'd take the time to hurl it?

      Krugman said [LINK]::

      [QUOTE] Dean Baker takes me to task over the Trans Pacific trade deal, arguing that it’s not really about trade — that the important (and harmful) stuff involves regulation and intellectual property rights.

      I’m sympathetic to this argument; this was true, for example, of DR-CAFTA, the free trade agreement with Central America, which ended up being largely about pharma patents. Is TPP equally bad? I’ll do some homework and get back to you. [END QUOTE]

      Dean Baker had said [LINK]:

      [QUOTE] I've got to take some issue with my friend Paul Krugman over his blog post pronouncing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) no big deal. As a trade question he is undoubtedly right. The countries in the pact are ones with whom the United States already has extensive trade ties and generally low barriers. Eliminating or reducing the remaining barriers cannot possibly have much impact on the U.S. economy.

      However it is a misunderstanding to see the TPP as being about trade. This is a deal that focuses on changes in regulatory structures to lock in pro-corporate rules. Using a "trade" agreement provides a mechanism to lock in rules that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to get through the normal political process.

      To take a couple of examples, our drug patent policy (that's patent protection, as in protectionism) is a seething cesspool of corruption. It increases the amount that we pay for drugs by an order of magnitude and leads to endless tales of corruption. Economic theory predicts that when you raise the price of a product 1000 percent or more above the free market price you will get all forms of illegal and unethical activity from companies pursuing patent rents.

      Anyhow, the U.S. and European drug companies face a serious threat in the developing world. If these countries don't enforce patents in the same way as we do, then the drugs that sell for hundreds or thousands of dollars per prescription in the U.S. may sell for $5 or $10 per prescription in the developing world.... [END QUOTE]

      Krugman now says [LINK]:

      [QUOTE] The fact is that at this point trade is fairly free, and estimates of the cost of protectionism from standard models are quite small. Trade restrictions just aren’t a major drag on the world economy these days, so the gains from [any further] liberalization must be small....

      Leaked documents suggest that the US is trying to get radically enhanced protection for patents and copyrights; this is largely about Hollywood and pharma rather than conventional exporters. What do we think about that?...

      Well, we should never forget that in a direct sense, protecting intellectual property means creating a monopoly – letting the holders of a patent or copyright charge a price for something (the use of knowledge) that has a zero social marginal cost. In that direct sense this introduces a distortion that makes the world a bit poorer....

      You might try to argue that there is a US interest in enhancing IP protection even if it’s not good for the world, because in many cases it’s US corporations with the property rights. But are they really US firms in any meaningful sense? If pharma gets to charge more for drugs in developing countries, do the benefits flow back to US workers? Probably not so much.... [END QUOTE]

  3. Michael from BaltimoreJune 30, 2015 at 8:30 PM

    this may help with UT:

    1. It is a good discussion of the case Michael for those who want more information than the New York Times article provides.

      The New York Times article, however, is quite clear, and the lack of clarity and propaganda are primarily from the blogger.

      For example, the blogger writes:

      "Later, Liptak describes the Top 10 program as “race-neutral,” implying that it won’t be under review."

      Liptak implied nothing. He said this:

      "The question in the Texas case was whether the flagship state university was entitled to supplement its race-neutral Top 10 program with a race-conscious holistic one."

      He stated clearly the only aspect of the admissions program under review by the court is the holistic supplemental program.

      He did not "describe" the Top 10% program as race neutral he stated it as fact, because it is. It is a state law. High school class ranking is the only criteria used for admission.

      The propaganda comes from Somerby when he offers his "theory" of the harm to black students the Top 10% law could do in attracting them to high school diversity programs such as "magnet schools." Magnet schools were themselves "theoretical" constructs to attract whites to diversify otherwise minority high schools in place of forced busing. Magnet schools in practice often create two segregated programs with little interaction between white students and minority students on a single campus.

      The humor of Somerby's misguided theorizing can be found in recalling his long series sugesting segregated schools such as D'Leisha Dents in Tuscaloosa were not that bad due to segregated housing programs and the lack of white students.
      Heck, liberals were silly to worry that these schools didn't have advanced classes because the kids couldn't pass them. Now he worries the smart black kids in such Texas schools will stay there and miss out on transfers to magnet schools so they can get into a four year college.

  4. Bernie Sanders addresses this quite directly. He is still pushing for universal coverage and a right to care.

    1. I would imagine HRC, one of the original architects of universal care, still favors it too. She did in 2008.

    2. Real simple then, HRC could state she is unequivocally in favor of Medicare for All. Or the cultists can just assume in her heart there are all sorts of wonderful things she wants to do but, given the givens, she can't advocate for them in this lifetime because she has more important things to do like get herself elected, then re-elected, and then do further good by maintaining her viability as an elderly serious person.

    3. So far, she is the only candidate who actually tried to implement single layer. I don't think she's the one who has to prove her sincerity.

    4. ...she is the only candidate who actually tried to implement single [payer]...

      I'm not sure what you mean by that. First Lady Clinton's plan was layered, that's for sure, but multi-layered [LINK]:

      [QUOTE] Elements of Reform

      Clinton’s plan, the Health Security Act, called for universal coverage, employer and individual mandates, competition between private insurers, and was to be regulated by government to keep costs down. Under managed competition private insurers and providers would compete for the business of groups of businesses and individuals in what were called “health-purchasing alliances”. Every American would have a “health security card”.

      Congressional Environment

      Congressional leaders waited as the Health Care Task Force, chaired by First Lady Hillary Clinton and managed by presidential aide Ira Magaziner, processed the input from 34 closed working groups comprised of over 600 experts, aides, and officials. Not until after the budget was passed were copies of the complex plan shared and presented by the president before a joint session of Congress in September 1993.

      While the Democrats held the majority in both houses, they were divided on some issues, including how to achieve health reform. They sponsored other NHI bills, including a single-payer bill backed by labor and various consumer and advocacy groups (Rep. McDermott and Sen. Wellstone) and a managed competition plan without universal coverage and price controls (Rep. Cooper)—both of which splintered the support of Democratic lawmakers, interest groups and the general public.
      [END QUOTE]

  5. We now know that, despite the President's promises, ObamaCare didn't allow us all to keep our insurance or to keep our doctor, didn't cut costs, and didn't provide universal coverage. However, another problem is that the coverage is does provide may not be adequate.

    My niece needs ObamaCare to cover her for Multiple Sclerosis. There is a very, very expensive medicine she takes which retards progression of this diseases. This medicine is not covered by ObamaCare.

    1. Of course before ObamaCare people with Multiple Sclerosis selected from a myriad of reasonably priced private medical insurance plans which paid for the cost of any medication, no matter the price, and without the premiums ever rising from one year to the next faster than inflation. That's the way you remember it was back when Glorious Leader W was president, right David?

      The indisputable fact is that people with serious preexisting medical conditions who need to rely on the private insurance market are spectacularly better off with ObamaCare than they were before it was mandated. They are the big, big winners from ObamaCare. (And, obviously, if your uncle is Dave in Cal, who, to hear him tell it, is getting more than he knows what to do with it in Social Security money, and you have Multiple Sclerosis you are certainly enrolled in the most suitable Platinum Plan every year. If that ain't cuttin' it, anything short of a Powerball win wasn't ever going to help you.)

    2. D in C. I assume you knw that Obamacare derives from a Heritage Foundation plan. What's your or the GOP's plan for an alternative to Obamacare? How do you explain why in most other advanced countries, everyone is covered (even for nursing homes if I'm not mistaken); per capita health care expenditures are 50% or less than in the US; and the average life expectancy is greater than the US? I agree - Obamacare is deficient. What is needed is something like universal medicare. It almost sounds like you would agree...

    3. cicero's blowup dollJuly 1, 2015 at 4:36 PM

      Keep in mind that Reichwing morons like David in Cal believe the America's problems began in January 2009, that contrary to actual facts and statistics, healthcare in America was the best in the world before the implementation of the ACA, and that his miserable tribe had nothing to do with ACA's creation. Finally, if you keep track of this "thoughtful, sincere, and polite" scumbag's alleged family tree, the Duggars seem like a spinster couple.

      What a consummate creep!