Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Elizabeth Warren Nails Them Again

Listen once again to our new standard in eloquence and pertinence.

Conservative's Seeming Hate for Poor People is Incomprehensible

Daniel Little asks: "Why a War on Poor People?" Why indeed?

American conservatives for the past several decades have shown a remarkable hostility to poor people in our country. The recent effort to slash the SNAP food stamp program in the House (link); the astounding refusal of 26 Republican governors to expand Medicaid coverage in their states -- depriving millions of poor people from access to Medicaid health coverage (link); and the general legislative indifference to a rising poverty rate in the United States -- all this suggests something beyond ideology or neglect.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Draft Elizabeth Warren for President in 2016

Since 2009 I've regretted my primary vote for Obama. He's an admirable man and can be an impressive orator, but he's just too conservative, and not pugnacious enough to lead the Democratic party back to its necessary progressive path. It now seems obvious to me that Hillary–with Bill's advice–would have done a better job in neutralizing the Republican crazies.

For 2016, however, it also seems to me that Hillary's time has passed. Not only will she be too old, but she is too compromised with the establishment. Besides, I wonder if she is really progressive enough. So, even if she eventually does find a decent hairdresser, the Democrats would do best to pass her by.

That leaves us the lovely Elizabeth. In the Progressive caucus, I would have preferred Bernie Sanders, but he's obviously perceived as too ideological–I don't know if he's still a fellow member of the Democratic Socialists of America, but he used to be. Besides, he's too old, and we idealists have to realize that purists such as he are rarely effective on the national scene.

That leaves Senator Elizabeth Warren as my current favorite. If she so chooses, she can obviously mobilize the necessary support. Read the whole article:
Populist Left Makes Warren Its Hot Ticket - NYTimes.comMs. Warren’s fiery speech at the national A.F.L.-C.I.O. convention this month set off even more excitement, with some union members standing on their chairs applauding and shouting out to her. And when she joined a conference call this summer to promote her student loan legislation, 10,000 people got on the line — the liberal group’s biggest audience on any conference call in four years.
I don't know where the Times gets off implying that she is a populist. Neither can one characterize her as an ideologue. Rather, she comes across as a pragmatic, down home, ex-Republican, Oklahoma girl, ready to speak truth to power. Perhaps short on ideology, she has at least chosen the right steps on the Progressive path.

Until someone better comes along, let's think seriously about drafting Elizabeth.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Pope condemns idolatry of cash in capitalism | World news |

Pope condemns idolatry of cash in capitalism | World news | 'We do not want this globalised economic system that does so much harm.' At the centre has to be man and woman, as God wants – not money."

At least one world leader is sending the right message. If an agnostic like me can be drawn toward Rome, the Catholic church is starting to have a future again.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Can NSA Know Everything About "The Lives of Others"?

Yesterday in this BlogSpot I wondered about the dangers for you, me and other free citizens of free countries should the big data capabilities of NSA ever come under the control of an authoritarian government. As examples of such governments I cited Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy because certain economic and political conditions which eased those dictators' rise to power are also present–perhaps to a lesser degree– in certain western democracies such as the United States of America.

Today, thanks to this post in Yves Smith's excellent blog, Naked Capitalism, I remembered a better example: the former Democratic Republic of Germany, when East Germany was still a nominally independent country. Their intelligence agency, the Stasi, developed the most detailed big data base on its citizens that the world has ever known. The Oscar winning German film, "The Lives of Others" shows just how nasty the former East German Government could be in using their big data against their own citizens. It is chilling to read in Smith's usually reliable blog that agents of the US government have allegedly made menaces reminiscent of Stasi tactics against citizens of the United States who have dared question the legality of big data operations.

Additionally, it appears that the whole project is just as futile as it is potentially dangerous to individual freedoms, as the title of this post indicates:
Top National Security Experts: Spying Program Doesn't Make Us Safer, and Spying Leaks Don't Harm America.

By the way, If you haven't seen that film, please buy, rent or download it as soon as possible.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Big Data and Other Fascist Tendencies

Just about every blogger and columnist is getting into this act. Here is one of the more perceptive:
The Price of the Panopticon - THE revelation that the federal government has been secretly gathering records on the phone calls and online activities of millions of Americans and foreigners seems not to have alarmed most Americans. A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center over the four days immediately after the news first broke found that just 41 percent of Americans deemed it unacceptable that the National Security Agency “has been getting secret court orders to track telephone calls of millions of Americans to investigate terrorism.”
So most people aren't very concerned about this yet. But just imagine if such big data capabilities came under the control of an authoritarian government such as Mussolini's Italy or Hitler's Germany. Can't happen in my country? Hopefully not.

Now, think back to the circumstances surrounding Hitler's and Mussolini's rise to power:

  • Deep economic depression.
  • Resurgent extreme nationalism.
  • Strong alliances between big business and government.
  • Convergent interests between big business and a professional military establishment.

Does any of this look familiar?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Excess German savings, not thrift, caused the European crisis

Michael Pettis explains this so thoroughly and clearly that even members of the Merkel government should be able to understand why their policies are the problem - not those of Spain, Portugal or Italy. Here is Pettis's conclusion, but I encourage you to read the whole long blog post, especially if you don't yet agree entirely with the following:

Excess German savings, not thrift, caused the European crisis: "As long as it is part of the euro Spain has no choice but to respond to changes in German savings rates. There is nothing mysterious about this process. It is simply the way the balance of payments works, and thrift has nothing to do with it. If Germany does not take steps to force down its savings rate by increasing the household share of GDP, then either all of Europe becomes like Germany, in which case growth slows to a crawl and some other country – maybe the US? – will be forced to resolve Europe’s demand deficiency either through higher unemployment or through higher debt, or Europe must break apart to free Spain and the other peripheral countries from German savings imbalances.

I don’t imagine the rest of the world can absorb demand deficiency from a Germanic Europe, and if Europe tries to force it the result will almost certainly be an eventual collapse in trade relations, so either Germany rebalances or Europe breaks apart. It is hard for me to see many other options."


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Subversive Rectifier Won't Give Up

Somehow this delights me. I can't quite explain why.

‘Vigilante Copy Editor’ - ‘Vigilante Copy Editor’

Vigilante Copy Editor: A filmmaker searches for a mysterious vandal who has been correcting grammar on placards in the sculpture garden of the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Where Have All the Jobs Gone? -

Why can't we organize Job Guarantees for everyone? Jared Bernstein makes a convincing argument here. Ed Balls, British Labour Party leader, today announced that they are for it. MMT economists have been proposing Job Guarantees for years. What's not to like?
Where Have All the Jobs Gone? - While the high jobless numbers are partly a legacy of the Great Recession, the fact is that our economy has generated too few jobs for most of the last 30 years and is likely to continue to do so. The only viable response is a return to an idea that once animated domestic policy making: full employment, the notion that everyone who wants to work should be able to find a job, and if the market isn’t up to the task, then the government must fill the gap.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Why strong regulatory agencies matter | The Center for Public Integrity

More deaths and injuries here than in Boston, but which one got more headlines?
Why strong regulatory agencies matter | The Center for Public Integrity: I have always believed that if we are doing our job right at the Center for Public Integrity, then our investigations should anticipate the news. That was the case on Wednesday. The Center posted an important story early that morning about the U.S. Chemical Safety Board’s failure to complete its investigations into chemical accidents in a timely manner. Further, we reported that a former member of the board believed the agency was being “grossly mismanaged.”
Later that same day, an explosion tore through a fertilizer plant north of Waco in Central Texas, killing more than a dozen people and injuring more than 150, authorities say.

Why the Environment’s Trashed, You’re Broke, and Wars Drag On

Why the Environment’s Trashed, You’re Broke, and Wars Drag On: How corporate power is ruining your life, explained in animated GIFs� �

mainly macro: The Stupid Cruelty of the Creditor

Hit'em again, hit 'em again, harder harder!

mainly macro: The Stupid Cruelty of the Creditor:
In the middle ages those who could not afford to pay their debts were sent to prison by their creditors. An efficient solution to the moral hazard problem? Hardly, because the chances that the debtor could earn some money to repay something to the creditor from a prison cell were not high. So countries gradually developed rather more civilised bankruptcy laws, like Chapter 11 in the US.
Yet we are seeing the equivalent of these medieval practices in Europe at the moment. Arguably the harm being inflicted on the people of Greece by its creditors is even more cruel, and more stupid. More cruel, because the harm is being done to those totally innocent of the original contract - children indeed, as Karl Smith notes. More stupid, because those doing the damage cannot see what they are doing, either by refusing to open an economics textbook, or believing that they somehow know better.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Brad DeLong : Europe Fails to Learn the Lessons of History

A marvelous, high-flying, multi-millenial overview of why Europe and the Euro are having so many problems even now. Be patient with the typos and read it all.
Brad DeLong : Europe Fails to Learn the Lessons of History: Notes on Political Union for Barry Eichengreen's "Future of the Euro" Conference, as Delivered: First, I would have to be even more rash than Charles le Temeraire, last duke of sovereign Burgundy, to opine about classical Dutch history with Jan de Vries in the room, but let me do so to point out that this session's topic, "political union", is a vague and sketchy concept. The political union of the strongest power in 17th century Europe, the seven United Provinces of the Netherlands, was made up of the components. First, there was a talk shop in the Hague--which had rather less power than is currently assembled in Brussels and Strasbourg. Second, the same guy, the Prince of Orange, was nearly always the stadthouder, the chief executive, of all seven provinces. Third, one of the provinces, Holland, was 60% of the total, and so if consensus was not reached could threaten to go it alone and do what was necessary--but when it did so take down names and have a long memory of who had played ball and who had not.

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Tax System Stacked Against the 99 Percent -

A Tax System Stacked Against the 99 Percent -
LEONA HELMSLEY, the hotel chain executive who was convicted of federal tax evasion in 1989, was notorious for, among other things, reportedly having said that “only the little people pay taxes.”
Most of us know this already, but Joe Stiglitz says it so much better than I could. Read it all and weep—again.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Chrystia Freeland "gets it" again. This Girl is Great.

Chrystia Freeland | Analysis & Opinion | Within the constraints of American politics and the American�economy, Obama is addressing the issue he cares about most with a lot of energy. The tragedy is that the problem is still getting worse.
Wall Street has surged to pre-crisis highs, even as median incomes stagnate. At the very, very top, incomes are higher, and wealth is greater, than ever before. But for the 99 percent, unemployment remains crippling, and perhaps even more worryingly, the jobs that are coming back aren’t as good as the jobs they are replacing.

Read it all.

Monday, April 1, 2013

People Like Chrystia May Yet Save Capitalism

Chrystia Freeland | Analysis & Opinion | One of the most important political and economic facts of this young century is that capital has been slipping the traces of the nation-state. Business is global; government is national. That mismatch is one of the big sources of tension in the world today: Whether it comes to taxes, bank regulation or immigration, the fact that money and politics no longer live in the same neighborhood makes consensus harder to achieve.

Once Again Proud to be a Native Californian

Lessons From a Comeback - Again, however, reports of the state’s demise proved premature. Unemployment in California remains high, but it’s coming down — and there’s a projected budget surplus, in part because the implosion of the state’s Republican Party finally gave Democrats a big enough political advantage to push through some desperately needed tax increases. Far from presiding over a Greek-style crisis, Gov. Jerry Brown is proclaiming a comeback.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Nancy Folbre: Our Carbon, Our Climate, Our Cash -

Bernie Sanders is still my favorite Senator. Here Nancy is blogging about a carbon tax proposal:
Nancy Folbre: Our Carbon, Our Climate, Our Cash - A new Climate Protection Act introduced by Senators Bernard Sanders, the independent from Vermont, and Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, proposes such a tax. About 60 percent of the revenues would be returned directly to consumers, 25 percent allotted to deficit reduction and 15 percent devoted to investments in renewable energy.

Rand Paul’s Loopy Ascent -

Aside from the Paul Family's opposition to imperialism (US variety) there's not much to like.
Rand Paul’s Loopy Ascent - When you’ve got loons the likes of Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin fluttering about, I suppose it’s easy not to seem like such a wacko bird yourself.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Happy Cheater

The Twitter feed work around for NY Times access still works! At least for now.

Cheaters Never Prosper, Not at NYTimes Anyway

Getting around the NY Times pay wall just got harder.

I used to be able to read any number of articles for free simply by subscribing to their daily email summary of headlines, and clicking on the link. Today that doesn't work.

A few days ago, I found that my old trick of moving the link from the newsletter to the Mac desktop no longer worked either.

What can we do as a matter of principle to keep the internet free (and save a little change at the same time)? Sometimes, if you google the exact headline, you will get a direct link to the article. Or maybe you will find that another cheater has posted a link, which google search picks up and will lead you to the article. Try this site, for example:

Perhaps some of the Times Twitter feeds will work. I haven't tried that yet.

If any other principled cheaters have found workarounds, please let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

John Taylor Must Retire

Remember the good old days when Stanford economists were Keynsian Miles Kimball can't stand him either

A Sunny Day–I'm Happy

A beautiful sunny first day of spring here in Bordeaux. No reason for this grumpy old man to be grumpy today. Wishing you the same.