Saturday, March 9, 2013

Let states legalise marijuana, Eric Holder: you know it makes sense

The US attorney general's review of federal policy on Colorado and Washington's new laws must respect voters' rational choice

colorado washington marijuana moment
Pro-cannabis protesters were celebrating in Colorado and Washington, after the 2012 election. Photograph: Alan Porritt/EPA

Every once in a while, an opportunity arises to do the right thing, the common sense thing.

Right now, US Attorney General Eric Holder has such an opportunity. He is "reviewing" the federal government's options for dealing with the nettlesome fact that two US states have now enacted laws legalizing and regulating the personal use of marijuana.

Faced with a similar problem with those several states that have legalized medical marijuana use, Holder and the US attorneys in those states have essentially declared war on cannabis dispensers. They have gone so far as to deploy the heavy hand of the federal government to threaten landlords with seizure of property used for dispensaries operating in accordance with state and local laws. And all this is occurring despite President Obama having suggested the government has better things to do with its limited resources than prosecute medical marijuana businesses and users.

Now, Attorney General Holder – and ultimately, his boss, the president – have to come to grips with the reality of two states whose voters have decided that modern-day Prohibition should end. Interestingly, President Obama carried both Washington and Colorado on the same ballot on which the marijuana legalization measures appeared. That shouldn't matter, but …

As the attorney general maneuvers through this problem, it is important to remember why it is, in fact, a problem. Unlike the failed and ultimately rejected prohibition of alcohol in the last century, allowing states to permit the legal use of marijuana does not involve violating or repealing a constitutional amendment. The federal government has a problem simply because marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substances Act – the same law that lets the government decide that one painkiller requires a prescription and another doesn't.

That simple classification, and the myriad state laws that have resulted from it, have turned millions of Americans into criminals and empowered murderous cartels – in the same way that Prohibition empowered Al Capone and an entire generation of organized crime. Voters in Washington and Colorado looked at those realities, and quite reasonably decided that the questionable benefits of treating marijuana use as a crime do not justify the considerable and unmistakable costs.

Those voters didn't stage a coup. They didn't defy the US Constitution. And they didn't incite a rebellion. Rather, they just made a perfectly rational policy decision.

Now, the Attorney General has an opportunity to do the same. Beyond the oft-stated arguments regarding whether marijuana use should be illegal, or legal and regulated like alcohol, the attorney general has the remarkably American option of invoking the notion of a limited central government and cutting the states of Washington and Colorado some slack to make their own decisions about what is, reasonably, a state issue.

I am among those who have called upon the Attorney General Holder and President Obama to remove cannabis from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act. They have the authority to do so, and it just makes sense. In the meantime, I would argue they have the discretion to choose not to challenge the duly enacted laws of two states whose voters have made a reasoned decision about marijuana policy – a decision that in no way threatens any other states or the fed's precious authority.

I urge Attorney General Holder to do the right thing. Colorado and Washington have taken courageous steps to end another failed Prohibition. Holder doesn't have to like that decision; he just needs to stay out of the way.

Nicolás Maduro tomó posesión como presidente encargado

Después de su juramento se dirigió a la Asamblea Nacional y dijo 'Esta banda, esta presidencia le pertenece a Hugo Chávez'

03/08/13 | 03:31 Disponible hasta 03/08/13
Se hará cargo del país temporalmente

Durante una sesión especial en la Asamblea Nacional, Nicolás Maduro rindió protesta como presidente encargado de Venezuela tras la muerte de Hugo Chávez.

Previo a la toma de posesión el presidente de la Asamblea, Diosdado Cabello, defendió como "constitucional" la sesión a la que los diputados de la oposición anunciaron que no asistirían.

"Estamos apegados a la Constitución, estamos basados en el artículo 233", insistió Cabello tras advertir que no caerían en chantajes de ningún grupo.

¿La juramentación de Maduro se apegó a la Constitución? Opina en nuestros foros

Mientras Cabello presidía la juramentación, fue interrumpido por simpatizantes de Maduro quienes corearon porras a favor de él. "Con Chávez y Maduro, el pueblo está seguro", se escuchaba en el recinto.

Posteriormente Nicolás Maduro subió al estrado para ser investido como presidente encargado de Venezuela.

"Juro a nombre de la la lealtad más absoluta al comandante Hugo Chávez que haremos cumplir la Constitución con la mano dura de un pueblo dispuesto a ser libre", indicó con la Constitución en la mano.

"Que el pueblo y la patria le premie.... Que viva el comandante Chávez", respondió Diosdado Cabello antes de poner la banda presidencial a Maduro.

Recordó a Chávez durante discurso

Ante los asistentes a la Asamblea Nacional, entre los que se encontraban diputados, miembros de la cúpula militar, gobernadores y dirigentes latinoamericanos como Rafael Correa, Maduro pronunció su primer discurso como presidente encargado.

"Perdonen nuestro dolor y nuestras lágrimas, camaradas. Pero esta banda y esta Presidencia le pertenecen al comandante Hugo Chávez", mencionó Maduro.

Asimismo, recordó lo que le dijo Chávez en plena enfermedad: "Tú Nicolás debes asumir como dice la Constitución, y que sean los venezolanos quienes decidan los destinos del país".

Tras recordar los primeros dolores que aquejaron a Hugo Chávez cuando comenzó a padecer la enfermedad, el Presidente encargado de Venezuela aseguró que "jamás" aspiró a un cargo y "menos el de Presidente de la República".

Aseguró que ni él ni los demás integrantes del equipo de Gobierno vienen "de cuna de oro" y que "lo único que hemos sido es militantes de la Revolución, luchadores sociales, amantes de la Patria liberada y socialista".

"Estamos para garantizar la paz y que la Revolución de Venezuela continúe su rumbo socialista, estamos aquí cumpliendo la orden del Comandante en Jefe y cumpliendo la Constitución porque este es un mandanto Constitucional", enfatizó.

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The Most Ridiculous Law of 2013 (So Far): It Is Now a Crime to Unlock Your Smartphone 

When did we decide that we wanted a law that could make unlocking your smartphone a criminal offense? The answer is that we never really decided.

By Derek Khanna

Jan 27 2013, 10:31 AM ET 835


This is now the law of the land:


 PENALTY: In some situations, first time offenders may be fined up to $500,000, imprisoned for five years, or both. For repeat offenders, the maximum penalty increases to a fine of $1,000,000, imprisonment for up to ten years, or both.*

That's right, starting this weekend it is illegal to unlock new phones to make them available on other carriers.

I have deep sympathy for any individual who happens to get jail time for this offense. I am sure that other offenders would not take kindly to smartphone un-lockers.

But seriously: It's embarrassing and unacceptable that we are at the mercy of prosecutorial and judicial discretion ** to avoid the implementation of draconian laws that could implicate average Americans in a crime subject to up to a $500,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

If people see this and respond, well no one is really going to get those types of penalties, my response is: Why is that acceptable? While people's worst fears may be a bit unfounded, why do we accept a system where we allow such discretionary authority? If you or your child were arrested for this, would it comfort you to know that the prosecutor and judge could technically throw the book at you? Would you relax assuming that they probably wouldn't make an example out of you or your kid? When as a society did we learn to accept the federal government having such Orwellian power? And is this the same country that used jury nullification against laws that it found to be unjust as an additional check upon excessive government power? [The only silver lining is that realistically it's more likely that violators would be subject to civil liability under Section 1203 of the DMCA, instead of the fine and jail penalties, but this is still unacceptable (but anyone who accepts payments to help others unlock their phones would clearly be subject to the fine of up to $500,000 and up to five years in jail).]


When did we decide that we wanted a law that could make unlocking your smartphone a criminal offense?

The answer is that we never really decided. Instead, Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in 1998 to outlaw technologies that bypass copyright protections. This sounds like a great idea, but in practice it has terrible, and widely acknowledged, negative consequences that affect consumers and new innovation. The DMCA leaves it up to the Librarian of Congress (LOC) to issue exemptions from the law, exceptions that were recognized to be necessary given the broad language of the statute that swept a number of ordinary acts and technologies as potential DMCA circumvention violations.

Every three years groups like the American Foundation for the Blind have to lobby Congress to protect an exception for the blind allowing for books to be read aloud. Can you imagine a more ridiculous regulation than one that requires a lobby group for the blind to come to Capitol Hill every three years to explain that the blind still can't read books on their own and therefore need this exception?

Until recently it was illegal to jailbreak your own iPhone, and after Saturday it will be illegal to unlock a new smartphone, thereby allowing it to switch carriers. This is a result of the exception to the DMCA lapsing. It was not a mistake, but rather an intentional choice by the Librarian of Congress, that this was no longer fair use and acceptable. The Electronic Frontier Foundation among other groups has detailed the many failings of the DMCA Triennial Rulemaking process, which in this case led to this exception lapsing.

Conservatives should be leading the discussion on fixing this problem. Conservatives are understandably skeptical of agencies and unelected bureaucrats wielding a large amount of power to regulate, and are proponents of solutions like the REINS Act (which has over 121 co-sponsors). However, if Congress truly wants to rein in the power of unelected bureaucrats, then they must first write laws in a narrow manner and avoid the need for intervention by the Librarian of Congress to avoid draconian consequences, such as making iPhone jail-breakers and smartphone un-lockers criminals, or taking away readable books for the blind.

If conservatives are concerned of unelected bureaucrats deciding upon regulations which could have financial consequences for businesses, then they should be more worried about unelected bureaucrats deciding upon what is or isn't a felony punishable by large fines and jail time for our citizens. And really, why should unelected bureaucrats decide what technological choices you can make with your smartphone? These laws serve to protect the interests of a few companies and create and maintain barriers to entry.

But there is another matter of critical importance: Laws that can place people in jail should be passed by Congress, not by the decree of the Librarian of Congress. We have no way to hold the Librarian of Congress accountable for wildly unfair laws. There are still plenty of crazy laws passed by elected officials, but at least we can then vote them out of office.

There are numerous other problems with the DMCA. As I explained in an essay for Cato Unbound:

"The DMCA bars developing, selling, providing, or even linking to technologies that play legal DVDs purchased in a different region, or to convert a DVD you own to a playable file on your computer. Because no licensed DVD playing software is currently available for the Linux operating system, if a Linux user wishes to play a DVD that they have legally bought, they cannot legally play it on their own computer.

In order to regulate this anti-circumvention market, the DCMA authorizes injunctions that seem to fly in the face of First Amendment jurisprudence on prior restraint. The DMCA also makes companies liable for copyright infringement if it doesn't remove content upon notification that someone believes the content infringes their copyright - this creates a very strong business interest in immediately taking down anything that anyone claims is infringing to not be liable. Christina Mulligan's essay for Copyright Unbalanced details how in mid-July 2012 a Mitt Romney campaign ad hosted on Youtube was forcibly removed from the site, and in 2008 Youtube blocked several John McCain ads for more than 10 days. As Mulligan details, the ads were legitimate under "fair use." Allowing individual people to veto political speech that they do not like stifles free expression and political dialogue and even if a rare occurrence under the DMCA should not be taken likely. There are also other examples of abuse, Mulligan details that one group had all Justin Bieber songs removed from Youtube as a prank."
And if you thought this was bad, provisions of the DMCA relating to anti-circumvention are part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Treaty -- and the United States is the party asking for it as part of the negotiations. Placing it in the treaty will enact our dysfunctional system on an international level in countries that don't want it, and it will "re-codify" the DMCA in an international treaty making it significantly more difficult to revise as necessary. Copyright laws are domestic laws and they need to be flexible enough to adjust accordingly to not inhibit new innovation.

I for one am pro-choice with regard to my smartphone. Our representatives ought to be, as well.


* Specifically this refers to Section 1204 of Public Law 105-304, which provides that "any person who violates section 1201 or 1201 willfully and for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain. . .[shall be subject to the listed penalties]." However, given copyright laws broad interpretation by the courts, it could be argued that merely unlocking your own smartphone takes a device of one value and converts it into a device of double that value (the resale market for unlocked phones is significantly higher) and therefore unlocking is inherently providing a commercial advantage or a private financial gain - even if the gain hasn't been realized. In other words, unlocking doubles or triples the resale value of your own device and replaces the need to procure the unlocked device from the carrier at steep costs, which may be by definition a private financial gain. Alternatively, one can argue that a customer buying a cheaper version of a product, the locked version vs. the unlocked version, and then unlocking it themselves in violation of the DMCA, is denying the provider of revenue which also qualifies. There are several cases that have established similar precedents where stealing coaxial cable for personal use has been held to be for "purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain." (See Cablevision Sys. New York City Corp. v. Lokshin, 980 F. Supp. 107, 109 (E.D.N.Y. 1997)); (Cablevision Sys. Dev. Co. v. Cherrywood Pizza, 133 Misc. 2d 879, 881, 508 N.Y.S.2d 382, 383 (Sup. Ct. 1986)).

** The Ninth Circuit recently explained in United States v. Nosal, 676 F.3d 854 (9th Cir. 2012) that under a "broad interpretation of the [Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) you could be prosecuted for personal use of work computers]." The court explained that under this approach "While it's unlikely that you'll be prosecuted for watching Reason.TV on your work computer, you could be [emphasis in original]. Employers wanting to rid themselves of troublesome employees. . . could threaten to report them to the FBI unless the quit. Ubiquitous, seldom-prosecuted crimes invite arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement." The Court rejected this interpretation which would have made regular activity by average citizens as a potential felony and ruled that running afoul of a corporate computer use restriction does not violate the CFAA. It's possible that here a court would use judicial discretion to narrowly interpret the DMCA and reject the broad definitions that are typically advanced by the government.

Why the biggest US banks are even bigger and riskier than you think


Just how big are the biggest US banks, and how safe are they? When trying to figure all that out, it makes a big difference if you are analyzing them according to US accounting standards or international ones. The latter makes lenders account for a greater portion of risky derivatives on their balance sheets.

Take JPMorgan, for instance. Under US accounting rules, the bank is just the fourth largest in the world with total assets of $2.3 trillion and capital equal to roughly 7% of total assets. But under international rules, where lots of off-balance sheets assets like derivatives are accounted for, according to Bloomberg, JPMorgan would be the largest in the world with assets of $4.5 trillion and capital equal to less than 4% of assets. The higher that capital ratios are, the less likely banks are to face liquidity and solvency problems.

Thomas Hoenig, vice chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., would prefer using stricter accounting standards. “Derivatives, like loans, carry risk,” Hoenig said in an interview with Bloomberg. “To recognize those bets on the balance sheet would give a better picture of the risk exposures that are there.”

The big banks point out that US rules allow them and their trading partners “to add up the positions they have with each other and show what would be owed if all contracts had to be settled suddenly.” Thanks to this “netting” practice, US bank asset size is, in reality, a lot less. Unless there’s, you know, some sort of crisis – as Anat Admati and Martin Hellwig explain in the must-read The Bankers’ New Clothes:
For example, in the final phase of the Bear Stearns crisis, the attempts of derivatives counterparties to close their positions or pass them to others played an important role and contributed to the run on the bank. Similar dynamics were observed in the case of Lehman Brothers. These experiences suggest that if JPMorgan were to become distressed, the bank’s enormous derivatives positions could be a major source of instability for the bank and for the financial system.
Not only do Admati and Hellwig argue for international accounting rules, but also that banks be forced to hold dramatically higher levels of equity capital against their assets. In other words, more of the funding for banks’ loans should come from equity — whether from reinvested earnings or the stock market — rather than from borrowing.

How much equity capital should banks hold? Something in the range of 20% to 30% would be a solid start. Higher equity requirements would also make it more likely that banks would shrink on their own. Admati and Hellwig: “Higher equity requirements would therefore alleviate the problem of banks being too big, too interconnected, or too political to fail. Not only would banks be less likely to fail, they would bear more of their own losses should they incur losses.”

Capping bank size, limiting bank activities, higher equity capital requirements — all tools in the toolbox for eliminating the crony capitalist subsidy of the US financial system by government.

12 thoughts on “Why the biggest US banks are even bigger and riskier than you think

  1. Most of the derviative exposure is governed by ISDA contracts that permit the parties to terminate all the contracts if the other counterparty is in default. Additionally those contracts are secured with collateral agrements with relatively low thresholds, so the net owing counterparty typically delivers cash daily to secure the exposure. I agree with you that the size of banks should be limited, but i don’t think using this argument is valid.
    • I think it’s very valid. As we learned during the financial crisis, the actual netting of the deriviative exposure during a time of crisis was far less harmful than the fear and distrust between counterparties which caused the entire financial system to grind to an almost complete halt. The higher the exposure the greater the fear, the greater the fear the larger the effect.
      • No, that is not what we learned. What we learned, or what those of us who know what we are talking about learned, is that writedowns caused the entire financial system to collapse. Not some mysterious, oogedy-boogedy “fear and distrust.” Actual loss of money. That loss of money was caused by mark-to-market, not miscreance by the financial sector. Government. Admit it, Pethokoukis!
        • financial deriviatives are tools for creating fraudulent schemes of circular insurance, aka counterparty risk. This is what we have learned. As long as these instruments are allowed to exist, the financial system will blow up periodically.
  2. It is rather painful, mentally, to read such articles.
    Banksters create crony capitalism.
    Crony capitalism created super banks.
    Super banks created political hegemony.
    Political hegemony is in bed with banksters.
    And, the cycle repeats itself ON THE BACKS OF FOOLS (aka taxpayers).
    “… banking institutions are more dangerous to liberty than standing armies…) Thomas Jefferson
    I will just add to it that from the “necessary evil” that the banks are known to be, the super banks have become pure EVIL…
    The rest is hogwash.
    • Thomas Jefferson never said that.
      “Super banks” did not create “crony capitalism” or “political hegemony.” The people who advocate big government and more interference in the markets, like Pethokoukis, create those. If you are sincere about wanting to stop bailouts, I suggest you start with Pethokoukis and his very anti-American AEI, or prove yourself to be anti-American.
      • Did you even read your link? “I sincerely believe, with you, that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies” Close enough?
      • WM,
        Your comments seem to be reasonable, for a 5 year old.
        If you are older, I would suggest to educate yourself.
        If you are educated, I suggest you stop taking your drugs. Seek another psychiatrist…
  3. This 20% to 30% capital reserves proposal is not some reasoned conclusion. It is deliberate crackpottery. It is occult anti-Americanism unhinged from any contact with reality. This idea would destroy the financial system. I mean literally destroy – you would have to be an idiot or completely ignorant about the financial system to not realize this. Pethokoukis realizes it. He just doesn’t care. Why doesn’t he care?
    Because his neocon superiors at the AEI reward him with extensive PR exposure for intellectualizing and promoting their propaganda (Pethokoukis was really a no-name before the neocons found him). And all the while these brazen, psychotic porcine individuals have the gall to call themselves the “American Enterprise” Institution. They actually tell themselves that our effective national destruction, population decline, and impoverishment from such a policy would make us a better nation by causing us to return to more simple values. Yes, they really believe this. They really are that psycho.
    Pethokoukis, I don’t know what you think you are doing, but did you really think that by parroting your neocon elders’ sick, psychotic agenda, they will accept you into their elite? Did they make you feel like you were somehow special? Hint: YOU WERE NOT BORN INTO THEIR GROUP. THEY WILL NEVER, EVER ACCEPT YOU AS THEIR EQUAL. YOU ARE AN APPARATCHIK, THAT’S IT. That’s how these things work.
    The neocons are on their way out of influence. If you want to be a pathetic hanger-on, a barnacle to a dying movement, be my guest. You will go down with that rickety, filth-infested old ship as well. You have been warned.
    Tick tock.
    • Wow. Have you tried the decaf?
      Not really getting the ‘neo-con’ angle on this either.
      Although I do think you have the better argument his is just an idea. It’s not going to happen tomorrow.
  4. This argument is just wrong. I am no fan of FASB, have criticized many of FASB’s positions. But FASB is right on this. Netting out the exposures is exactly the right approach if you want to measure the real assets at risk.
    As Peter Wallison has well explained in other places, failure to net out exposures produces these preposterous and meaningless numbers about the total volume of swaps and other derivatives in the economy (the hundreds of trillions of dollars in value). Were all of the underlying real financial instruments upon which swaps were built to default all at once, the real value of derivatives at risk would shrink down like water on cotton candy. Each derivative used to hedge another’s risk does not expand the basic underlying risk, it merely transfers it. To add it all together without netting is to create a ridiculous distortion of the value of what is really going on. If you and I were to pass a $10 bill back and forth in rapid succession we could create thousands of dollars of value in trade without creating any new economic activity; the only real exposure would be who had the ten spot at the moment and who did not, and would never be more than $10.
  5. The problem is folks like you failing to understand that mathematics is hard and unyielding and fails to respond to the post-modern whims of progressives.
    This system has no mathematical chance of success. I am the sole breadwinner for my family of five and don’t qualify for insurance through work. I procure my own insurance. It has a $4500 deductible and costs $4800/yr. It pays 100% of costs after $4500. If my kid gets hit by a bus then it will cover $295K of the $300K bill. For day to day medical care I pay out of pocket. I shop around, I’m efficient in my medical purchases. I get steep discounts from doctors for paying cash, because so much of their cost is in billing insurance.
    Under Obamacare, insurance for my familiy goes up 400% to $20K per year. It only covers 70% of costs. If my kid hit get hits by a bus it only pays $210K of the $300K bill. Regular medical care costs the same. There are no more steep discounts for cash, so I pay almost the same amount I was paying before in copays.
    From a cost standpoint, Obama insurace is utterly absurdly costly, and completely unaffordable. So what is a dad to do? Well, this dad will have no insurance for his family. I will pay for regular medical care with cash like I always have. I will pay the stupid $2000 tax penalty.
    If my kid gets hit by a bus I will sign up for Obamcare insurance that can’t exclude pre-existing conditions, and be unable to pay the $90,000 co-pay tanking my credit. Afterwards, I will cancel the insurance.
    All-in-all I will save $2800/yr but get a horrible reduction in medical cost coverage, but ultimately what makes sense for me financially will crash the system when it makes sense for others.
    It is a distortion to equate insurance with care. Having insurance does not get you care. Lacking insurance does not prevent your care. Insurance doubles the cost of most routine care. (If you don’t believe me ask for the cash discount.)

Derek Khanna wants you to be able to unlock your cellphone

By Ezra Klein , Updated:

It was November 2012 and Derek Khanna was working as a staffer in the Republican Study Committee, which acts as a kind of think tank for the conservative wing of the House Republican Conference. Khanna, whose job was to follow issues pertaining to technology, homeland security and government oversight, was asked to draw up a short brief on copyright law — something the group could hand out to House Republicans in the hopes of getting some legislation moving. “The memo wasn’t my idea,” he says.


Read today, Khanna’s paper isn’t particularly explosive. If you’re even glancingly familiar with the tech world’s (richly deserved) hostility toward copyright law, it reads more as a summary of Silicon Valley conventional wisdom than a revolutionary document.

“This paper will analyze current U.S. copyright law by examining three myths,” it begins. They are, in order, 
  1. that “the purpose of copyright is to compensate the creator of the content,” 
  2. that “copyright is the free market at work,” and  
  3. that “the current copyright legal regime leads to the greatest innovation and productivity.”
The paper elegantly argues against each false premise, and ends with a modest call for reform. “To be clear, there is a legitimate purpose to copyright,” Khanna writes, but “it is difficult to argue that the life of the author plus 70 years is an appropriate copyright term.” Indeed it is.

The memo was approved through the normal channels and put online, where the reaction was enthusiastic. “The American Conservative Union put the memo on their front page,” Khanna says. “They’re the ones who put on CPAC. So the support was pretty overwhelming from the right. And I worked late into the night with several congressional staffers whose bosses were interested in moving forward. But the next day, I got a phone call from my boss saying they’d have to walk back the memo because of pushback. Within 24 hours the memo was taken offline.”

Two weeks later, Khanna was told he would be let go at the start of the next Congress.

Khanna had unwittingly stumbled into a deep fissure in today’s Republican Party. The party sees itself as the champion of private enterprise. But which private enterprises? The ones that exist today? Or the ones that might exist tomorrow?

There’s a difference between being the party of free markets and the party of existing businesses. Excessively tough copyright law is good for big businesses with large legal departments but bad for new businesses that can’t afford a lawyer. And while Khanna, like many young conservative thinkers, believes in free markets, the Republican Party is heavily funded by big businesses.

To see how this play outs, consider the debate taking place in conservative circles over financial regulation. A growing cadre of thinkers are coming to the conclusion that the big banks have become a kind of oligopoly protected by the inescapable taxpayer subsidy for financial institutions that are too big to fail. The pro-market solution to this, some Republicans argue, is to get rid of too-big-to-fail banks altogether — that’s the only way to foster a competitive market.

“Capping bank size, limiting bank activities, higher equity capital requirements,” writes Jim Pethokoukis [next blog post]at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, “all tools in the toolbox for eliminating the crony capitalist subsidy of the US financial system by government.” This thinking is leading to some unexpected alliances. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), a hard-core conservative, is co-sponsoring legislation with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), a leading liberal, that would break up the big banks.

But the rebellion hasn’t spread far, and it probably can’t spread very far. As Ramesh Ponnuru, an influential conservative writer, told Politico, “if [breaking up the banks] even got to the stage where politicians were talking about it, then there would be a discussion of, ‘Well, how are we ever going to fund our campaigns?’”

Freed from the confines of the Republican Party, though, Khanna no longer has to worry about such questions. In recent months, Khanna has focused on an obscure provision of the 1998 Digital Millenium Act, which due to a recent ruling by the Librarian of Congress makes it illegal to unlock your cellphone. 

He wrote an article [following post]for the Atlantic calling the ruling “the most ridiculous law of 2013 (so far).” The piece received more than 58,000 Facebook shares and 5,000 tweets. He joined with Silicon Valley entrepreneur Sina Khanifar, who used to sell software to unlock smartphones before Motorola used the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to shut down his business, to promote a petition on the White House’s Web site hit the 100,000 mark necessary to trigger a response from the executive branch.

It turned out the Obama administration was, in this case, on the young Republican’s side. “The White House agrees with the 114,000+ of you who believe that consumers should be able to unlock their cellphones without risking criminal or other penalties,” began its response.

“In fact, we believe the same principle should also apply to tablets, which are increasingly similar to smart phones. And if you have paid for your mobile device, and aren’t bound by a service agreement or other obligation, you should be able to use it on another network. It’s common sense.”

Conservatives responded, too. Khanna got the support of the College Republicans and Tea Party Nation, and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) is sponsoring a bill on the subject.

But he’s not done. “Cellphone unlocking is just the start,” Khanna says. “For conservatives who are naturally skeptical of government being involved in the private sector, they need to realize that intellectual property law is a way government is naturally involved in the private sector, and entrepreneurs will say these laws, at this point, are killing them.”

Khanna may not have meant to pick this fight. But now he’d like to finish it.

Sally Jewell's Hearing Made SCOTUS Confirmations Look Like 'Gladiator'

By Andrew Cohen

On Thursday morning, while Washington's chattering class was still agog over Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul's filibuster, something far more relevant to the lives of ordinary Americans occurred and was largely ignored: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a confirmation hearing for Sally Jewell, the engineer, business executive, and conservationist whom President Obama nominated earlier this year to replace the desultory Ken Salazar as Secretary of the Interior.

 Here's the video, courtesy of C-SPAN:

Drones finally are a sexy topic. Good. The Interior Department? Still not so much. This is odd because if there is one federal beat worth covering aggressively, if there were one single address at the intersection of federal power and naked greed, it would be squarely in front of the Interior Department. The federal government, after all, owns approximately 28 percent of the 2.27 billion acres of land in the United States. And the Department of the Interior, after all, maintains stewardship over those hundreds of millions of federal acres.

The Interior Department also serves, according to its mission statement, as "one of the principal stewards" of America's "Ocean, Coastal and Great Lakes resources," which means the good folks over at Interior possess some degree of dominion over both the land and the sea, the fish and the fowl, and every creature in between. This broad power over big things far away from the East Coast, and the concomitant lack of media attention, helps explain why the Interior Department has been the subject of so many political scandals over the centuries.

Today Sally Jewell, the former Mobil Oil employee who says that "leaning into oil and gas development is an important part of the mission" of the Interior Department, is poised to be in charge of this federal agency. This means she will control an agency with approximately 70,000 employees and a budget of tens of billions of dollars. Never mind the seas and oceans, Jewell will largely shape the fate of vast swaths of public ground under which oil and gas companies want to drill and upon which millions of animals graze. This from a woman who proudly told the committee at the start of the hearing: "It's been a while since I fracked a well."

All of which might lead a reasonable observer to conclude that the distinguished members of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, both the Democrats and the Republicans alike, would be keen to ask Jewell one trenchant question after another about her commitment to national conservationism, her perceived fealty to the oil and gas industries, her position on the state of Indian affairs, and her views on the current plight of the federally protected wild-horse herds -- to list just a few of the items that will cross her desk when she gets the job.

What happened instead on Thursday -- what you missed while you were Standing With Rand -- was a love-fest that makes the love-fests that are modern Supreme Court confirmation hearings seem like gladiator battles in the Coliseum. "The questions were generally polite," offered John Broder in The New York Times, in perhaps the biggest and most under-reported understatement of the week. But at least the Times covered the hearing. The Washington Post evidently did not, content to rely instead upon this report by the Associated Press.

The questions posed to Jewell weren't just polite -- you can ask a tough question politely, after all -- they were sycophantic even by Congressional standards. "A gem from the Northwest," proclaimed a beaming Patty Murray, the Democrat from Jewell's home state of Washington. "Oftentimes I've run into Sally at 10,000 feet, or followed her blog as she climbed Mount Vincent, the highest mountain in Antarctica," said Maria Cantwell, another Democrat from Washington. Yes, but is Jewell going to stand up to Mobil on behalf of the American people?

And the questions weren't just sycophantic, but shamelessly pedestrian. Lisa Murkowski of Alaksa, the ranking Republican on the committee, spent part of her opening statement kvetching to Jewell about a 10-mile-long dirt road in Alaska that had been blocked by federal officials. Joe Manchin, the Democrat from West Virginia, naturally wanted to extol the virtues of coal. And Lamar Alexander, the Republican from Tennessee, pitched to Jewell for an uncomfortable long period the virtues of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

More ominously, there were only a few moments in the 2-hour, 45-minute hearing where it was evident that committee members were more concerned about protecting public resources than about discovering ways to enable industry to exploit those resources. This is not a new development in this corner of the world. For centuries, Interior Department administrators have been beholden to the industries -- ranching and livestock, oil and gas -- they are supposed to regulate. Watch the hearing and judge for yourself whether that's different in 2013. I think not.

Ron Wyden, the Democrat from Oregon who chairs the committee, set the tone in his opening remarks. It's about jobs. It's about using public lands to create jobs and to maintain jobs. "We've got to get our people back to work in the woods," he told the nominee, "we've got to make sure that we can increase the number of jobs in resource-dependent communities where there is federal land and federal water and we believe that can be done consistent with protecting our environmental values."

Then it was Jewell's turn. First, there was the brief paean to conservatism:
The crown jewels of our nation are our parks, forests, deserts, rivers and sea shores. They are  places which tell the story of our diverse history, our struggle, our triumph and our tragedy. And it is through the wisdom of many congresses and presidents that we've protected and celebrated these assets, recognizing their deep enduring value.
And then, immediately, was the pivot and the obligatory bow to industry and development:
Public lands are also huge economic engines. Through energy development, through grazing, logging, tourism and outdoor education, our lands and waters power our economy and create jobs. Balance is absolutely critical. Our public lands and our waters have to be managed wisely. If confirmed for this position, I will use the best science available to harness their economic potential, preserving their multiple uses for currents generations and future generations.
And then there was the corporate gobbledygook, the kind you might see and herein those slick oil-company commercials:
On thing that I learned in my journey through 19 years of banking is that I have a deep appreciation for the creativity, the entrepreneurship and the commitment of our nation's business people, not only to economic development but also to the support and development of their communities and the care of their environment ... ... On energy, I have a commitment to the president's "all of the above" energy strategy, increasing our nation's production of both traditional and renewal sources of energy on our public lands, implementing innovative technologies and new frontiers both on shore and offshore to encourage both safe and responsible development of our resources.
I also understand, as a businessperson, it's important to bring certainty and clarity to industry. Industry doesn't mind the rules, they just want to know what the rules are, and they want predictability as they make investments that power our future.  
And so on. There are two takeaways from Thursday's hearing. The first is that in Jewell, the forces of industry and commerce once again have someone they can work with at Interior. The second is that Congress is utterly uninterested in checking the scope of those commercial interests on behalf of the general public. That's why Thursday's confirmation hearing was so utterly devoid of any genuine insight into the future secretary's stomach to fight her old oil company friends, or her new corporate buddies, with public land on the line.*

"Science. Science will be her compass, not an ideological bent," Cantwell declared in her opening statement. We'll see. The "best available science," after all, is only as good as the people in power who get to determine which science is "best" and which is "available." Besides, being head of the Interior Department, like being part of the tectonic plate, is all about the relationship between time and pressure, between the push and the pull of disparate forces. Clearly Jewell will be pushed more by the forces of development than she will be pulled by the forces of conservation. How she bends, or whether she cracks, is today's open question.

*For example, although outgoing Secretary Ken Salazar created a looming catastrophe for the nation's wild horses, leaving tens of thousands of them penned and in jeopardy of being slaughtered, not a single senator asked Jewell about her views on horses (views which, as far as I can tell, have never been publicly aired). Jewell, meanwhile, for all her talk about conservation, never once mentioned these federally protected horses or the Bureau of Land Management's dubious role in managing them.

What Would Happen If the Earth Spun Backward?

By Rebecca J. Rosen
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Earlier this week, in honor of special guest Neil deGrasse Tyson, The Daily Show featured a new opening credit, fixing once (but not for all) the scientifically inaccurate globe that nightly graces the show's first few seconds.

As Jon Stewart explains:

Tyson has good reason to be concerned: The planet's spin is not to be messed with if you like life on Earth pretty much the way it is.

"The Earth spins the way it does because it was basically born that way," Penn State astrophysicist Kevin Luhman explained to me. "When the sun was a newborn baby star, it had a whole bunch of gas and dust circling around it in a big disc-like structure." As that material clumped together to form the planets, they retained this spinning motion. Venus is the only planet that spins in the opposite direction, which is believed to be because of a major collision billions of years ago. (Uranus spins on an extreme angle, but not backwards.)

Though Luhman says that our planet has "almost certainly" spun in its current direction, the speed of the spin has changed dramatically over time. "When the Earth was born, it was probably spinning about once every six hours, so the length of a day would have been only about six hours back then," Luhman says.
The only real way the Earth could start spinning in the other direction would be if there were a massive collision, such as with another planet. "That event itself would be disastrous," Luhman 

But say you could by magic change the direction of the Earth without that sort of calamity, what would happen then?  

The BBC's meteorogist Peter Gibbs has worked through this thought experiment, and his answers, though very back-of-the-envelope, give you an idea of just how much of our climate depends on the planet's current rotational direction -- beyond the obvious shift to a sun rising in the west and setting in the east.

The more consequential result of a reverse spin, Gibbs explains, would be to upend the pattern of the Coriolis effect, which "transfers the spin of the earth into the motion of winds around a weather system." The Coriolis effect is why northern-hemisphere storms turn counterclockwise and cyclones, in the southern hemisphere, go clockwise. The jet stream too would reverse, and that would dramatically change weather patterns. He explains:

This river of high altitude, fast-moving air steers the mid-latitude depressions across the planet from west to east. Swirling masses of cloud and rain are pushed from Japan to the Pacific coast of America, and from Newfoundland to Cornwall. Reverse the flow and climate changes dramatically. The British Isles loses the moderating effect of weather from the Atlantic. A harsher continental climate becomes more likely, with a predominantly easterly flow bringing bitter Siberian winds in winter and hot, dry weather in summer. Goodbye green and pleasant land.
Tradewinds too would switch. What once flowed north and east would now flow north and west. "Patterns of human discovery, subsequent empire-building and the resulting political geography would all be different," Gibbs writes. Rains would no longer fall on the planet's lushest environments, and deserts could become jungles or forests. All told, he says, "It's reasonable to assume that a reversal would alter the pattern of habitable land."

But the really dangerous thing would be if the Earth stopped spinning all together. "That could be really bad," says Luhman. "The Earth is surrounded by a magnetic field, and that magnetic field is generated by the core of the Earth in its spin." No spinning liquid iron core, no magnetic field. "We need the magnetic field of the Earth to shield the Earth from the sun. If we didn't have the magnetic field, life on Earth would be in really bad shape."

The Daily Show's mistake is a reminder of the particular admixture of conditions that makes Earth habitable. But as Bill Bryson put it in A Short History of Nearly Everything:

A big part of the reason that Earth seems so miraculously accommodating is that we have evolved to suit its conditions. What we marvel at is not that it is suitable to life but that it is suitable to our life -- and hardly surprising, really. It may be the that most of the things that make it so splendid to us -- well-proportioned Sun, doting Moon, sociable carbon, more magma than you can shake a stick at, and all the rest -- seem splendid simply because they are what we were born to count on.

But splendid nevertheless.


Arkansas Just Adopted a French-Style Abortion Policy

The state's new law restricting abortions to the first 12 weeks is blatantly unconstitutional -- and not that different from what a lot of European nations have in place.
By Garance Franke-Ruta
rapert2.banner.jpgState Sen. Jason Rapert (

One of the great ironies of American abortion-rights law is that it is one of the few areas of social regulation where America is to the left of Europe. The latest explosion in one of the laboratories of democracy is a piece of legislation in Arkansas outlawing abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy, which passed this week when the Republican legislature overruled the gubernatorial veto of Democrat Mike Beebe.

Should this clear violation of the viability framework laid out in Roe v. Wade be allowed to stand -- and experts on both sides of the abortion fight predict that it won't be -- it would serve to make Arkansas the most restrictive state in the nation when it comes to the legal availability of abortion. (It may not actually become the hardest state to in which to obtain an abortion; other states already have less functional though more legal access to abortion). It also serves to make Arkansas the one American state to take a direct European-style approach to the regulation of abortion.

It's hard to imagine that's what bill sponsor State Senator Jason Rapert -- who previously gained notoriety for racially charged anti-Obama remarks made at a 2011 Tea Party rally -- was going for.

But it's been the case since their abortion laws were liberalized in the 1970s that many of the European nations have abortion laws not much less strict than the one Arkansas just passed. France permits abortions up until the 14th week of pregnancy (which is counted from the date of the last menstrual period, even though ovulation doesn't usually occur until one to two weeks after that). After that, abortions are only available in exigent circumstances, such as severe fetal deformities, or to save the health or life of the mother. France also has a mandatory one-week waiting period for all abortions (they prefer to describe it as a "cooling-off" period), unless by so waiting the woman would pass the 14-week cut-off, which coincides with the end of the first trimester. Other nations that restrict abortions largely to the first trimester include: Germany (14 weeks), Italy (90 days from the last menstrual period), Spain (14 weeks), and Portugal (10 weeks).

Most women in the United States who seek abortions do so within these early weeks as well; according to the National Abortion Federation, 88 percent of all abortions "are obtained within the first 12-13 weeks after the last menstrual period." A third of those obtained after 12 weeks are sought by teenagers, whose irregular menstrual cycles, lack of knowledge about sex and biology, lack of resources, and complex family dynamics combine to make it harder for them to recognize they are pregnant and seek an abortion in a timely manner. "Fewer that 2 percent" of abortions take place after 21 weeks, or in the third trimester, according to NAF.

"This is a very unique bill," said NARAL Pro-Choice America spokesperson Samantha Gordon, speaking of the Arkansas act. "It's the first one of its kind."

The Arkansas bill is the most stringent anti-abortion measure enacted by a state since South Dakota legislators voted to outlaw abortion entirely in 2006; that law was eventually overturned when subjected to a direct vote by citizens after pro-abortion rights forces organized to put it before them as a ballot initiative.

The Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU of Arkansas have announced that they intend to challenge the law, which they call "clearly unconstitutional under four decades of U.S. Supreme Court precedent" and which would not take effect until 90 days after the legislative session ends, in federal court. "Attempts such as this to turn back the clock on reproductive rights will not stand," said Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a statement.

James Bopp Jr., the Indiana-based general counsel of National Right to Life, told The New York Times the Arkansas law was pointless, because so likely to be overturned. "As much as we would like to protect the unborn at that point, it is futile and it won't save any babies," he said.

In short, America won't be heading in a European direction on abortion regulation any time soon. What Rapert did next after his law passed helps explain why: He submitted a fresh piece of legislation intended to defund Planned Parenthood in Arkansas. In places like Spain, abortion is regulated through a law that situates it within a complicated weighing of the rights of women and of children, and is part of a comprehensive approach to women's reproductive health care that includes contraception. In the United States, the effort to restrict abortion often goes hand-in-hand with uncompromising efforts to restrict contraception and override the rights of women more generally (for example, the right to bodily autonomy by requiring invasive and medically unnecessary pre-abortion transvaginal ultrasounds, which Rapert pushed before they became controversial). There cannot be any grand European-style compromise on abortion in the United States so long as the goal of abortion opponents is to eliminate all access to abortion, rather than to make it, as a wise man once said, safe, legal, and rare.


February 24, 2013, 1:17 PM

A former member of SEAL Team 6 recounts the raid that killed the world's most wanted man: Osama bin Laden

'Lucrative Work-for-Free Opportunity'

By Ta-Nehisi Coates

inShare Mar 9 2013, 10:30 AM ET 369

This week Nate Thayer kicked up some dust after The Atlantic asked him to repurpose a previously published piece for our site. The editor here said that her freelance budget was spent, and that she couldn't pay Thayer:

Thanks for responding. Maybe by the end of the week? 1,200 words? We unfortunately can't pay you for it, but we do reach 13 million readers a month. I understand if that's not a workable arrangement for you, I just wanted to see if you were interested. Thanks so much again for your time. A great piece!
Thayer sent her the following response:
I am a professional journalist who has made my living by writing for 25 years and am not in the habit of giving my services for free to for profit media outlets so they can make money by using my work and efforts by removing my ability to pay my bills and feed my children. I know several people who write for the Atlantic who of course get paid. I appreciate your interest, but, while I respect the Atlantic, and have several friends who write for it, I have bills to pay and cannot expect to do so by giving my work away for free to a for profit company so they can make money off of my efforts. 1200 words by the end of the week would be fine, and I can assure you it would be well received, but not for free. Frankly, I will refrain from being insulted and am perplexed how one can expect to try to retain quality professional services without compensating for them. Let me know if you have perhaps mispoken.
Thayer then took the e-mail conversation he'd had with the editor and published it, name and e-mail of the editor included. When asked about writing "for exposure" by New York magazine, Thayer said:
I don't need the exposure. What I need is to pay my fucking rent. Exposure doesn't feed my fucking children. Fuck that!" he continued, adding that he can't even afford to get online. "I actually stick my fucking computer out the window to use the neighbor's Internet connection. I simply can't make a fucking living."
When asked whether he'd warned the editor at the Atlantic before publishing her name and e-mail. Thayer said he had not, and then added:
"I understand the position she is in and I do not know her and I am sure she is simply doing her job," said Thayer. "I would reject such a position on ethical and moral grounds, personally, which is maybe why I'm broke."
I've been watching all of this with some curiosity, mostly because, as Matt Yglesias notes over at Slate, I got my start at the online Atlantic working for free. In May of 2008 Matt wrote me a note entitled "Lucrative Work-For-Free Opportunity" with the following text:
Hey -- we don't know each other, but I've been reading and enjoying your blog since I read your great Bill Cosby piece in the Atlantic and I saw I'm on your blog roll, so I figure you probably know who I am and I might as well reach out. In part, just to say that I like your blog, but more selfishly because I'm trying to put together an elite roster of guest-bloggers to help me out the week of Memorial Day (May 27-30) when I'll be on vacation. The idea is to get a bunch of people so that nobody in particular is expected to produce much volume. I'm not in a position to offer any compensation, but I think it is a good opportunity for a newer site to get introduced to a wider audience and build traffic, and self-promotional posts about a new book aren't out of bounds.

What do you say?
Effectively Matt was asking me to work for exposure, much like the Atlantic editor was asking Thayer. In 2008, I was not some young fresh-faced college kid. I was 32. I had worked in print for twelve years, virtually my entire adult life. I had been on staff at The Village Voice and TIME magazine. I'd freelanced for The New York Times Magazine and had begun dipping my toe in the online water by freelancing for Slate and blogging on my own.

I made very little money freelancing. Indeed, when Matt wrote me I had just published a freelance piece for The Atlantic's print magazine. The piece paid me $16,000--the largest amount of money I'd ever been paid for a story. It sounds like a lot until you factor in that I had worked the story since late 2006 when I was still at TIME. I was laid off in early 2007 and spent most of that next year doing more reporting, and finishing my first book. That $16,000 was basically all I made in that one year period.

To put it bluntly, I was--like most freelancers--hurting. My wife had been unerringly supportive. My son was getting older. I was considering driving a cab.

Here is what I wrote back:

I say I'd love to do it, but I need a day to juggle some things and make sure I can. My main concern is I've got a couple pieces do right around then, and I need to make sure I'm not over-committing. You and Andrew post a TON, whereas a good day for me is probably, five or six posts. What would you be looking for from each person, in terms of daily post rate? And wouyld I be able to cross-post from my blog or would you want exclusivity?

The compensation is a non-issue for me.
Matt agreed to cross-posting and I did it. And it was delightful. It was especially delightful because there other professional journalists there with me--Kay Steiger, Kathy G, Isaac Chotiner, and the awesome Alyssa Rosenberg.

I agreed to write for Matt because I wanted exposure. I was not a "young journalist." This was not my chance to break into the profession. What I was was a product of a time when you could be brimming with ideas and have no place to say them. People who talk about "gate-keepers" have mostly had the good fortune of living inside the castle walls. I lived outside. I had a style and voice that had never seemed to fit anywhere (except my first job at Washington City Paper.)

I could not convince editors that what I was curious about was worth writing about. Every day I would watch ideas die in my head. When I was laid-off from TIME, the lack of a job was bad. But what hurt more was that this story, which I felt in my heart to be so important, was going to die. What the internet offered was the chance to let all of those ideas compete in the arena, and live and die on the merits. And Matt was offering a bigger arena. I was ecstatic.

Matt wasn't the only person to ask me to "work for exposure." Earlier that same year Talking Points Memo had done the same, and I was ecstatic. I was ecstatic any time anyone took my ideas seriously enough to offer them a platform. Most people never get that.

Over the years I've had writers come here and "work for exposure" with some regularity. My friend the historian Jelani Cobb has done yeoman's work, some of it based on actual reporting. Judah Grunstein was nice enough to allow me to publish an e-mail, which I thought had a lot of substance, as a piece. Aaron Schatz from Football Outsiders has been here. The great historian Thomas Sugrue has come into this space and done awesome work. So has Adam Serwer. So has Brendan Koerner. So has Ayelet Waldman. So has Mark Kleiman. So has Michael Chabon. So has Shani Hilton.Last year we brought historian Kate Masur, film critic A.O. Scott and writer Tony Horwitz together to discuss Lincoln. None of them were paid.

And lest you think The Atlantic is somehow unusual, ask yourself how often you've seen writers/thinkers/historians/intellectuals etc. in online "conversation." Ask yourself how often you've seen guest-bloggers at sites like The Daily Dish. Do you believe these people to be paid? Do you believe them to not actually be doing work? Tomorrow I will go on television, a prospect that I try (lately unsuccessfully) to avoid. I try to avoid it because it is work. I have to prepare information that I hope to provide. I have to think about what I'm saying. I have to make sure I know what I'm talking about. I have to tell my nervous self to shut up. No one pays me--or any other guests--for these contributions. We work "for exposure."

Nate Thayer wrote a long reported piece and was being asked to chop down that piece, and provide it for this platform. He was asked to do this for free. That would have been work. All journalists have had to chop down longer pieces into something shorter. Some of us have had to do it for whole books. I assure you that the time it takes to cut 5,000 words to 1200 words is nowhere close to the time it takes to blog here twice a day for a week. And as someone who's done straight reporting, as well as opinion writing, I can also assure you that the notion that doing one well is "less work" than doing the other well is very wrong. The Lincoln roundtable was hard. We had to consider each other's thoughts and criticisms and engage them seriously. Each time Kate, Tony S., or Tony H. wrote I felt the game getting harder, and each piece after became harder. When I write op-eds for the Times, I often start writing a week in advance, and spend hours each day getting myself closer to what I want to say. Often I have to consult with historians or with other books. It's work.

Writing is always hard. I understand why someone might not want to do it for exposure. I've certainly had professional journalists like Thayer turn me down. But those journalists have also taken the title of "professional" seriously enough to not print my e-mail address and all of my private correspondence without asking me. Indeed, it's the high morality and offense-taking which most puzzles me about all this, given that writers, all around us, are "working for exposure," given that every one of us is participating in a system in which they consume for free.

I think journalists should be paid for their work. Even here at The Atlantic, I think it would be a good idea to provide a nominal amount, if only as a token of respect for the work. But more than that, I want more jobs at more publications wherein journalists have the basics of their lives (salary, health care, benefits) taken care of. Whatever The Atlantic isn't, right now, the fact is that it currently employs more journalists than it ever has in its entire history. There are real questions about whether we will always be able to do that in this new world. But that is landscape on which all media currently tread. It's not perfect. But it never was.