Sunday, 11 October 2015 - 11:58am

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 11/10/2015 - 11:58am in

This week, I have been mostly reading the Internet. All of it:

  • People's QE: no big deal - Chris Dillow: "In fact, it could be that the problem with PQE is that - if undertaken at a time of recession - it would not be radical enough."
  • Welfare's last stand - Jennifer Mittelstadt in Aeon: "Military leaders embarked on a new and more ambitious social welfare programme after 1973. That year, President Richard Nixon and Congress ended the draft and mandated an all-volunteer force. Military leaders could no longer force citizens to join – they had to convince them. And one of their most vital tools was social welfare benefits."
  • Japan Dumbs Down Its Universities - Noah Smith at Bloomberg View: "Essentially, Japan’s government just ordered all of the country’s public universities to end education in the social sciences, the humanities and law. The order, issued in the form of a letter from Hakubun Shimomura, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, is non-binding. The country’s two top public universities have refused to comply. But dozens of public schools are doing as the government has urged."
  • Economic policy often seems to have little to do with economists. Why? - Simon Wren-Lewis in the Independent: "The problem is that City economists are not the best source for advice on major macroeconomic policy issues, like what to do with the deficit. This does require a knowledge of “proper research”, the academics’ area of expertise. What we often get reported instead is what “the market” thinks about policy. This is code for the speculation of City economists who have little policy expertise and a set of biases that come from the financial sector (deficits are bad, low taxes are good)."
  • A Handy Guide for Using the Oxford Comma - Akira Okrent and Mike Rogalski
  • The (near) inevitability, and who and when, of Helicopter Money - Nick Rowe at A Worthwhile Canadian Initiative: Struggling to get my head around the details on helicopters, easings (quantitative), where monetary ends and fiscal begins, and have a lurking suspicion that the details don't matter.
  • If You See a Little Piketty in This Tax-Haven Book, That's Fine - Jesse Drucker reviews Gabriel Zucman in Bloomberg Businessweek: "During his research, Zucman had a eureka moment. For years, economists have puzzled over a mystery in obscure economic data: financial liabilities around the world consistently outstrip the reported financial assets held by investors –- by trillions of dollars. […] Those trillions were missing because they were showing up as shares of mutual funds incorporated in tax havens, primarily in Luxembourg, Grand Cayman and Ireland. His theory: wealthy investors around the world have used the investments, often made through Swiss bank accounts, to hide their wealth." And…
  • Why is so much wealth hidden? Failed democracy. - Marshall Steinbaum at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth: "Subverting democratic control of economic policy is a big reason why inequality has gotten so high across the developed world. Zucman’s book carefully documents the result in the case of tax havens, but the lesson is far more general: Inequality is high because of past inegalitarian choices that policymakers have made, and we must revisit those choices if we’re to address inequality going forward."
  • It’s not a lack of self-control that keeps people poor - Elliot Berkman in the Conversation: "The very definition of self-control is choosing behaviors that favor long-term outcomes over short-term rewards, but poverty can force people to live in a permanent now. Worrying about tomorrow can be a luxury if you don’t know how you’ll survive today. […] People who grow up in poverty quickly learn that it doesn’t pay off to save for an uncertain future if the reward they are waiting for sometimes isn’t there after the wait."
  • Why Is College So Expensive if Professors Are Paid So Little? - Michelle Chen in the Nation: "SEIU's adjunct-organizing project estimates that as of 2013, "22 percent of part-time faculty live below the poverty line," significantly higher than the overall poverty rate nationwide. But the hyperinflated price tag of college has funneled toward another aspect of the higher education system: driving funds into administrative offices - a pattern "reflected in increases in the numbers of administrative positions, increases in those salaries, and increases in the percentage of college budgets going to these functions.""
  • NIB: good economics, bad politics - Chris DIllow: "Even the best private equity investors back a lot of duds: Marc Andreesen has estimated that 15 of 200 tech startups a year generate around 95% of the total returns. […] And here's my problem. Our biased press will focus upon the latter. "Corbyn's bank costs taxpayers" millions would be a regular story. […] For this reason, I welcome Corbyn's refusal to kowtow to the media. It is only by refusing to play their silly games that we have any hope of a rational economic policy."
  • Imagining the BBC as new - John Sheil, openDemocracy: "We find ourselves in the same position as many of those who protested and campaigned against austerity in defence of higher education: what are we in fact defending? A top-down structure, supporting a super-white curricula, with privilege-generation written in its mechanic code, run by disillusioned professors of geography whose job – it sometimes feels – is to campaign for students to pay more tuition fees for much redacted and reduced resources. What would it be to imagine a free university? What would it be to imagine a BBC free to engage confidently in rigorous debate of ideas and values?"
  • So Much in Common - Ted Rall
  • Piggate: the behavioural economics - Chris Dillow: "Initiation rites thus act as a bonding device […] This is very similar to the endowment effect - our tendency to value something merely because we have sacrificed effort or money to get it. Dan Ariely calls this the Ikea effect: having suffered the eighth circle of hell in going to Ikea and then the pain of assembling their furniture, you will value it all the more." Personally, assembling flat pack furniture just makes me want to drag it out onto the front lawn and disassemble it with a sledgehammer.
  • People love Bernie Sanders policies even when they've never heard of him - VL Baker at Daily Kos
  • The path from deficit concern to deficit deceit - Simon Wren-Lewis: "What a strange world we are now in. The government goes for rapid deficit reduction as a smokescreen for reducing the size of the state. No less than a former cabinet secretary accuses the Chancellor of this deceit. Yet when a Labour leadership contender adopts an anti-austerity policy he is told it is extreme and committing electoral suicide."
  • Corbyn public ownership push reflects what is happening all round the world - Andrew Cumbers, the Conversation: "Cash-strapped cities and regions are rediscovering that public utilities can provide profitable and sustainable revenue streams to cross-subsidise other services in times of austerity and budget cutbacks by national governments. In Frankfurt, as in many other German cities, the local stadtwerke finances local swimming pools, parks, libraries and other public services."
  • Pope Decries “Shameful and Culpable Silence” on Arms Sales “Drenched in Innocent Blood” - Dan Froomkin, the Intercept: "Thursday’s speech was not the first time the Pope has spoken out about the arms trade. He referred to it as “the industry of death” in a talk with Italian schoolchildren in May. “Why do so many powerful people not want peace? Because they live off war,” he said."
  • EPA opposed DMCA exemptions that could have revealed Volkswagen fraud - Donald Robertson at the Free Software Foundation: "As Eben Moglen, founder of the Software Freedom Law Center noted "If Volkswagen knew that every customer who buys a vehicle would have a right to read the source code of all the software in the vehicle, they would never even consider the cheat, because the certainty of getting caught would terrify them.”"
  • Does the deficit matter? - Richard Murphy: "So, why the obsession with the deficit? This is short term politics: Goerge Osborne has spun a line that denies both the above facts and he has (undeniably) sold it well. The UK public believe, almost alone in the world now, that deficits are in some way a threat to well being. Actually they are not. As I have already noted today, government deficits are both the foundation of private wealth and money itself. To suggest otherwise is factually incorrect."
  • It's The Economists, Stupid - Ideas, CBC Radio: Good mediamacro-debunking interviews with Julie Nelson and Richard Denniss
  • Of clowns and treasurers - Richard Denniss in the Monthly, a long read (from a few months ago) worth every minute: "It was a choice to throw a trillion dollars at the bankers. And it is a choice not to throw a trillion at tackling climate change. Our politicians pretend that it is a choice made by “the markets”. It’s not. It’s a choice made by our politicians."
  • The unspun Jeremy Corbyn - Alex Nunns, Le Monde diplomatique: "That this movement took the form of a Jeremy Corbyn leadership campaign is doubly surprising because the man himself is the antithesis of the stereotypical leftwing firebrand. Without the rousing oratorical skills of his mentor, the late Tony Benn, and with none of the raw charisma of Alexis Tsipras, Corbyn was not perceived as a threat by his fellow MPs. Remarkably, Corbyn’s straightforward, unspun style became an asset, marking him out as a total contrast from the media-trained salesmen of the British political class."
  • Samsung TVs appear less energy efficient in real life than in tests - Arthur Neslen, The Guardian: The Defective by Design floodgates open.
  • Not exactly SF, but pretty fucking Orwellian just the same - Peter Watts: "[W]hat about the poor assholes with three kids, up to their eyeballs in debt, who’ve just watched their retirement saving evaporate because [Toronto Dominion Bank's] American buddies played fast and loose with the global game of AD&D we call “the economy”? What about those people who simply can’t afford to walk away, no matter how badly they’re treated? […] These are the people the bank knows it can shit all over, because they have a high Vulnerability Index."
  • The Truth About Chávez: Bernie Sanders is wrong — Hugo Chávez was no dictator - Gabriel Hetland in Jacobin
  • 'Cashless’ Welfare Card Slammed - Xavier Smerdon, Pro Bono Australia: Quite apart from the inconvenience and indignity of this, the plan ignores the important role of welfare payments as "automatic stabilisers", boosting local demand when unemployment is high, which in principle should create more jobs. One can't imagine every corner shop, greengrocer, butcher, etc. in the country being whitelisted under this scheme, so it's mainly a gift to the supermarket duopoly.
  • I suppose I brought it all upon myself - Matthew Yglesias: "This is why thoughtful opponents of the welfare state have generally avoided making the argument that capitalism is good because it promotes human well-being. Since capitalism does promote human well-being, "capitalism promotes human well-being" sounds like a good argument in its favor. But it turns out that capitalism plus a large welfare state promotes human well-being even more. So you either need to embrace the welfare state (the correct answer) or come up with another justification of capitalism."
  • Exciting New Waterfront Development Planned For Mars - The Shovel: "Mars’s waterfront will be transformed into a world-class lifestyle, cultural, retail and commercial precinct. Announcing the new development today, the Mars City Council said the 25-hectare space would include a vibrant cultural hub, exciting mixed-use public spaces, and 45,000 apartments."
  • Seven everyday things poor people worry about that rich people never do - Carmen Rios, Everyday Feminism (who excel at clickbait titles): "Being poor means that every worry is secondary to money. It means that every experience is centered around money. It makes money, which is ironically something you possess little of in contrast to other people, more central to your everyday life than theirs."
  • Bombs Kill Shock - Craig Murray: "The spluttering fury by the establishment […] is revealing the existence of the moral dilemma to people from whom it has been effectively hidden as a topic of legitimate and serious debate. People will start to think. That is why Corbyn is so dangerous to the establishment. He has opened a Pandora’s box of ideas."
  • Corbyn's victory is the new political reality - beautifully written piece by Geoffrey Heptonstall at openDemocracy: "This century has proved to be a nightmare. Public discourse is trivialized. Culture is vulgarized. Social welfare is marketized. Education is reduced to training schemes. There is popular resistance, but in England [and I do mean England] it has only now come close to serious political realization."
  • Some post-school education bodies we could do without - John Quiggin: "But the real problem is the one I identified in the deregulation debacle. The VC groups claim to speak for universities, but exclude all but 40-odd of the people who work and study in them. In the present case, wouldn’t the perspectives of research students and the academics who supervise them be more useful than those of VCs and administrators? To repeat, we need to replace UA with a body that represents students and staff as well as top management."
  • Q&A: Can Corbyn revolutionise the financial sector and the Bank of England? - Anastasia Nesvetailova, openDemocracy: "During the crisis of 2007-09, the central banks on both sides of the Atlantic stepped in and played a role that they were not meant to. We are lucky that they did so. Against many economic dogmas, they were not simply lenders of last resort, they made the markets, as my colleague Perry Mehrling argues in his book New Lombard Street. They made the markets when liquidity vanished and when private participants, buyers and sellers, simply would not pick up the phone." TL;DR: Central bank independence has always been a fantasy, and banks that are too big to fail are too big to be privately-owned.
  • U.S. Bombs Somehow Keep Falling in the Places Where Obama “Ended Two Wars” - Glenn Greenwald at the Intercept: "How do you know when you’re an out-of-control empire? When you keep bombing and deploying soldiers in places where you boast that you’ve ended wars. How do you know you have a hackish propagandist for a president? When you celebrate him for “ending two wars” in the very same places that he keeps bombing." I wonder if "hackish" is a typo for "hawkish". Valid either way, though.

Sunday, 4 October 2015 - 8:08pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 04/10/2015 - 8:08pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • Well-Prepared in Their Own Eyes - Scott Jaschik at Inside Higher Ed: "It turns out that college students are being well-prepared for their future careers -- at least in their own minds. Ask employers, and it's a very different picture." Is that the sound of a bubble bursting?
  • Don't believe the Corbyn bashers - the economic case against public ownership is mostly fantasy - Joe Guinan and Thomas M. Hanna, openDemocracy: "Corbyn is very much in line with recent trends around the world in which the fightback against neoliberal privatisation of public services has been accompanied by the adoption of innovative new approaches to collective ownership. In this view, worker ownership, consumer cooperatives, municipal enterprise and a host of kindred institutional forms all represent ways in which capital can be held in common by small and large publics, including through hybrid models that draw upon two or more institutional forms."
  • How Europe Crushed Greece - Yanis Varoufakis in the NYT: "Across the Continent, people are fed up with a monetary union that is inefficient because it is so profoundly undemocratic. This is why the battle for rescuing Greece has now turned into a battle for Europe’s integrity, soul, rationality and democracy. I plan to concentrate on helping set up a Pan-European political movement, inspired by the Athens Spring, that will work toward Europe’s democratization."
  • Dynamic Voodoo - Paul Krugman, NYT: Your graph porn for the week.
  • Real crisis in psychology isn’t that studies don’t replicate, but that we usually don’t even try - Huw Green of CUNY Graduate Center at the Conversation: And that nobody is willing to fund replication.
  • Doing the housing supply maths - Cameron K Murray: "If we want cheaper housing we need to reform legal structures to shift bargaining power to tenants from landlords, curb speculation through financial controls (and keep stamp duties!), and stop rewarding political parties who promise housing supply as any sort of solution to current prices. Unfortunately, very few people actually want housing to become more cheaper. Around 70% of households are homeowners, around 30% are property investors who come from the wealthier part of society, while most politicians also have a huge share of their wealth tied up in residential property. It suits all of these interests to point the finger at supply because they know it sounds attractive in a naive economy way, but won’t actually reduce the value of their housing portfolios."
  • Is it really Corbyn offering a "one party state"? - Oliver Huitson at openDemocracy: "The case for renationalisation is overwhelming. And it matters. It matters because it shows clearly what sort of country you are - one where the public can be routinely screwed for the profits of the few, or one where the public own key elements of infrastructure and operate it for their own benefit. Britain is the former. New Labour are champions of the former. The public want the latter. In simple terms, that is why Corbyn is winning."
  • Economists vs. Economics - Dani Rodrik, Project Syndicate: "Let us cherish economics in all its diversity – rational and behavioral, Keynesian and Classical, first-best and second-best, orthodox and heterodox – and devote our energy to becoming wiser at picking which framework to apply when." More generally, beware of theories of everything. There is no sensible explanation of the work of George Formby in the terms of thermodynamics, though the reverse is possibly valid, providing it had indeed "turned out nice again".
  • Japan’s Economy, Crippled by Caution - Paul Krugman, NYT: "After all, printing money to pay for stuff sounds irresponsible, because in normal times it is. And no matter how many times some of us try to explain that these are not normal times, that in a depressed, deflationary economy conventional fiscal prudence is dangerous folly, very few policy makers are willing to stick their necks out and break with convention."
  • FBI Director Claims Tor and the “Dark Web” Won’t Let Criminals Hide From His Agents - Dan Froomkin at the Intercept: "Cryptography expert Bruce Schneier said Comey’s statement should not be taken at face value. Given previous false public statements by intelligence officials, “the truth value is irrelevant,” he said. “We certainly know that Tor has been broken in the past” using specific exploits, he said. “Do they have a blanket attack? Or is it posturing? Who knows?” He added, “It’s certainly good posturing.”"
  • Tony Abbott, Peter Dutton Joke About Flooding Of Small Island Nations - Chris Graham, New Matilda: "DUTTON: Time doesn’t mean anything when you’re about to be, you know, have water lapping at your door. ABBOTT: (laughs) Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. MORRISON: There’s a boom (microphone) up there."
  • Congratulations to Jeremy Corbyn - Craig Murray: "The first few weeks are key. Most Blairites are above all careerists. If they think Corbyn can carry through his personal dominance into control of policy and party mechanisms, then many of the Blairites will look at their constituency members and suddenly discover they had left-wing principles after all." Plus Billy Bragg can finally stop looking so shamefaced for the first time in twenty years.
  • An “Enormous Opportunity”: A Short, Awful 9/11 Quiz - Jon Schwarz at the Intercept: "For normal people, terrorism and wars are purely and only tragedies. [… And yet] before the bodies are cold, before the mothers and fathers have stopped shrieking, our leaders are thinking: This is really a fantastic opportunity."
  • What Candidates Talk About When They Talk About Inequality - Eric Alterman at the Nation: "The New York Times Magazine published an interview with the candidate in which Ana Marie Cox asked, “Do you think it’s fair that Hillary’s hair gets a lot more scrutiny than yours does?” Sanders had to repeat the question to make sure he wasn’t hearing things, then felt it necessary to explain: “Ana, I don’t mean to be rude here. I am running for president of the United States on serious issues, OK? Do you have serious questions?” "
  • On German Moral Leadership - Yanis Varoufakis: "In [Kant's] mindset, the rational and the moral merge when we develop a capacity to act on the so-called categorical imperative: of acting in a universalisable manner independently of the consequences. For the hell of it, in plainer language. Taking refugees in is such a universalisable act. You do not take them in because of what you expect to gain. The fact that you may end up with great gains is irrelevant. The warm inner glow of having done the ‘right’ thing, the boost to aggregate demand, the effect on productivity – all these are great repercussions of one’s Kantian rationality. They are not, however, the motivation."
  • It's The Ideology, Stupid. And The Economy. - Ian McAuley at New Matilda: "Successive governments, particularly the Howard Government, have not dealt with emerging structural weaknesses – our trade dependence on too few commodities in too few markets, our unstable exchange rate, our growing regional disparities, our widening inequalities in wealth and income, our accumulating levels of foreign debt, our ramshackle transport and communication infrastructure, our distorted tax incentives favouring short-term speculation and rent-seeking over productive investment, our declining education standards, and, of course, our failure to deal with climate change."
  • 17 Biblical Rules for Marriage Kim Davis Should Really Take a Look At - Valerie Tarico, Alternet: Has the clickbait cycle come full circle again already? Yes, it's time to to dust off and repost that Biblical literalist listicle. Not that it will change anybody's mind; a true believer knows the Bible through faith and divine revelation, not careful study. A Bible's fer wavin', or fer swearin' awn, nawt fer readin'. "Leviticus is clear. Two men having sex is an abomination, just like eating shellfish, getting tattoos, shaving your beard, or wearing blend fabrics. (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13, 11:9-12, 19:28, 19:27)" Mind you, there's …
  • The Same Hymn Sheet - George Monbiot: "Evangelical groups unite around a set of core convictions, overt, codified and non-negotiable. It would surely not be difficult to create a similar set, common to all progressive movements, built around empathy, kindness, forgiveness and self-worth. A set of immutable convictions might make our movements less capricious, while reinforcing the commonality between the left’s many causes."
  • Journalism in the age of Corbyn - Joe Sandler Clarke, openDemocracy: Good news, everyone. The people who said Corbyn couldn't win leadership are now saying he can't win a general election. "We should change what we see as the political beat. Journalists should be encouraged to escape Westminster. New ways must be found for funding local journalism, so reporters can cover the council meetings, small-scale protests and community events that shape the world most people live in."
  • The "Sharing Economy" Is Dead, And We Killed It - Sarah Kessler, Fast Company via Tom Slee: ""There are 80 million power drills in America that are used an average of 13 minutes," Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky told the New York Times in a 2013 column about the sharing economy. "Does everyone really need their own drill?" There was just one problem. As Adam Berk, the founder of Neighborrow, puts it: "Everything made sense except that nobody gives a shit. They go buy [a drill]. Or they just bang a screwdriver through the wall.""
  • Corbyn can afford to sidestep the media but not their power - Des Freedman, openDemocracy: "Of course, Corbyn has actually been far from silent. He has taken his anti-austerity message up and down the country, hoping that his presence in front of tens of thousands of people at public meetings will generate the kind of buzz – online and offline – that is worth more than an interview with John Humphreys or Andrew Marr in which he is painted as the ‘extremist’ while they ask ‘probing’ questions about the ‘divisiveness’ of his ‘radical’ programme."
  • How Jeremy Corbyn Can Win - Richard Seymour at Jacobin: "Corbyn has said that his campaign is about turning the Labour Party into a social movement. That’s the only chance he and his supporters have."
  • Bernie Sanders Wants to Spend $18 Trillion: So What? - James Kwak: "At the end of the day, what matters isn’t the amount of money that the federal government spends for health care. What matters is the amount of money that the American people spend for health care. The government is just a device that we use to provide certain services that are better handled collectively than individually. If the government can provide equivalent service at lower prices, then the gross dollar amount involved doesn’t matter." And Joshua Holland at the Nation: "In other words, Sanders’s Medicare expansion would cost $15 trillion, but without it American businesses and taxpayers would spend $20 trillion over the same period, while still leaving millions uninsured."
  • Basic Income A No-Brainer For Remote Indigenous Australia - Jon Altman in New Matilda: "The time has come, as employment gaps for Indigenous Australians grow, to trial basic income as an alternative and objectively evaluate the outcomes – if such evidence-based policy making remains possible in today’s hyper-politicised policy environment where ideology seems to be the key factor in any assessment."
  • The Facebook of the Future Has Privacy Implications Today - Farai Chideya at the Intercept: A well-written summary of the state of play.
  • TSA Doesn’t Care That Its Luggage Locks Have Been Hacked - Jenna McLaughlin, the Intercept: "Although the actual impact remains unclear, the hacking of the master keys is a powerful example of the problem with creating government backdoors to bypass security, physically or digitally. Most security experts and computer scientists believe backdoors for law enforcement inevitably make systems less secure, and easier for bad actors to break into."

Sunday, 27 September 2015 - 1:06pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 27/09/2015 - 1:06pm in

This week, I have been mostly sleeping, and reading:

  • What Bernie Sanders Has Already Won - Dave Johnson at Campaign for America's Future: "Nobody expected to be actually talking about him being the nominee and all that. But whether he is or not, the discussion Sanders wanted HAS been triggered, and an amazing list of supporters now exists. Now there is the hope that he and we can build a movement out of it that lasts past this election."
  • Fuck Nuance - Keiran Healy: See also the interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education. I freely admit that I'm struggling with identifying any consistent body of practices that distinguishes sociology from, say, social psychology, or history. I'm also not entirely sure it needs one. But there's certainly a rich and inexhaustible seam of discourse on the theme of UR DOIN' IT WRONG!
  • NYT Claims U.S. Abides by Cluster Bomb Treaty: The Exact Opposite of Reality - Glenn Greenwald at the Intercept: "For the NYT to tell its readers that the U.S. — one of the leading cluster bomb states on the planet — is actually one of the countries that “have not yet joined the treaty but have abided by its provisions” is nationalistic propaganda of the most extreme kind."
  • The Great Wealth Transfer to the London Elite - Craig Murray: "Now the brilliance of the trick is that, as it is labeled a benefit, the left fight to keep housing benefit as though it benefited poor people. In fact this is a great illusion. It does nothing of the sort. What would truly benefit poor people is lower rent or affordable homes. Housing benefit goes straight into the pockets of the landlord class." Welfare recipients aren't. Austudy, Newstart, whatever: all but a handful of change ends up with landlords.
  • Other People’s Dollars, and Their Place in Global Economics - Paul Krugman, NYT: "The Aussie dollar plays no special role in the world monetary system, yet Australia has consistently attracted bigger inflows of capital relative to the size of its economy — and run proportionately bigger trade deficits — than the United States. What’s important for both capital and trade, it turns out, is whether your economy offers good investment opportunities under an umbrella of legal and political stability. Whether you control an international currency is a trivial concern by comparison."
  • Some Rules for Teachers - Anne Boyer at The New Enquiry: Rule 12 applies to any public speaking, in my experience. "12. thoroughly prepare class, including making preparations to abandon your preparations entirely"
  • Quantitative Easing for People: The UK Labour Frontrunner’s Controversial Proposal - Ellen Brown: New rule. Nobody is allowed to cry "ZOMG! Zimbabwe!" while there is a single unemployed person, or a scintilla of unmet demand.
  • Why franchises care more about their coffee than their people - Ashlea Kellner et al. from Griffith University, in the Conversation: As Humphrey McQueen points out, the whole point of franchising is to finance expansion using other people's money. Just as the franchisor outsources cost and risk to the franchisee, so the franchisee offloads this burden on to their workers.
  • Joe Hockey’s unscripted moments of truth reveal what the Government really thinks - Warwick Smith for The Age: "When Hockey tells Sydneysiders to get a good, well-paying and secure job if they want to enter the property market, he is telling us what this government really thinks. If you don’t have a job that pays much better than the average wage then you don’t deserve to own your own home. If the best you can do with your life is be a teacher in a public school or a nurse or a waiter then you’re not worthy of his concern or interest. Get a better job, then come talk about your problems."
  • The Art of Capital Flight - Ken Rogoff at Project Syndicate: "Just five months ago, Larry Fink, Chairman and CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, told an audience in Singapore that contemporary art has become one of the two most important stores of wealth internationally, along with apartments in major cities such as New York, London, and Vancouver. Forget gold as an inflation hedge; buy paintings." I used to know a Coffs-old-money scumbag who would boast about his Norman Lindsay prints. The money value of them, that is; not any intrinsic virtues. The sad empty lives some people lead…
  • 99 percent Utopia and money - Branko Milanovic and insomnia give us an interesting thought experiment: "So, there is, I think, already now a limited, but growing, number of goods and services whose marginal cost of production is so low that they are practically free. (The average cost of production is not zero, but to an individual consumer these goods appear as free.) Consider now the behavior of people. Do they go to Starbucks stores and fill their pockets with free paper napkins or grab free ice cubes? No. Do they go to free open-air concerts day after day and fight for the spots? No. Once you know that such goods will be plentiful and free, you do not keep an unreasonable stock of them, nor do you fight to get them. You know they will be around when you need them."
  • Range of reactions to realism about the social world - Daniel Little: "And what about the concept of a market itself? Can we understand this concept realistically? Do markets really exist? Maybe the most we can say is something like this: there are many social settings where stuff is produced and exchanged. When exchange is solely or primarily governed by the individual self-interest of the buyers and sellers, we can say that a market exists. But we must also be careful to add that there are many different institutional and social settings where this condition is satisfied, so there is great variation across the particular "market settings" of different societies and communities. As a result, we need to be careful not to reify the concept of a market across all settings."
  • Why Bernie Sanders Should Add a Job Guarantee to His Policy Agenda - Pavlina Tchernerva at NEP: I can't remember if I saw this a month ago when it first came out. It deserves multiple mentions anyway, as it's a terrific summary of the arguments for government as employer of last resort. "The private sector is simply not in the business of satisfying unmet basic needs or providing employment for everyone. But once most basic needs are met, will there be enough work for the JG participants to do? I’m convinced, yes. As Warren Mosler says, “There is no limit to the ways we can serve one another”. My worry is that even if we mobilized everyone who wanted to work in a private and public initiative, there would still not be enough manpower to do all the things that we sorely need—especially concerning the environment."
  • And the Winner is (should be)…. Fiscal Policy! - Francesco Saraceno: "In a liquidity trap the propensity to hoard of the private sector becomes virtually unlimited, so that monetary policy (be it conventional or unconventional) loses traction. It is true that the age of great moderation, and three decades of almighty central bankers had made the concept fade into oblivion. But, since 2008 we were forced to reconsider the effectiveness of monetary policy at the so-called zero lower bound.Or at least we should have…"
  • Economics in Two Lessons: Income Distribution - John Quiggin: "For a very poor person, an additional hundred dollars could mean the difference between eating and not eating. For someone slightly better off, it may mean the difference between paying the rent and being evicted. For a middle class family, it might allow an unexpected luxury purchase. For someone on a million dollars a year, it would barely be noticed." And Rawlsian fiscal policy has an unlikely champion:
  • Trump Is Right on Economics - Paul Krugman: "Mr. Bush has chosen to attack Mr. Trump as a false conservative, a proposition that is supposedly demonstrated by his deviations from current Republican economic orthodoxy: his willingness to raise taxes on the rich, his positive words about universal health care. And that tells you a lot about the dire state of the G.O.P. For the issues the Bush campaign is using to attack its unexpected nemesis are precisely the issues on which Mr. Trump happens to be right, and the Republican establishment has been proved utterly wrong."
  • The Usual Warmongers - Craig Murray: "Bombs are entirely agnostic over who they kill, and have not made life notably better for the population. Yet the news media are now insistently beating the drum for British bombing in Syria. Who should be bombed exactly – ISIL or Assad – appears unimportant, so long as there is bombing. Indeed, the Murdoch Sky News, the Mail and the Blairites are contriving to build a narrative that Jeremy Corbyn, the SNP and bleeding hearts like myself are responsible for the death of little Aylan and hundreds like him, by unreasonable and inhuman opposition to a bit more bombing."
  • Fed Up with the Fed - Joe Stiglitz at Project Syndicate: "The “jobs gap” – the difference between today’s employment and what it should be – is some three million. With so many people out of work, downward pressure on wages is showing up in official statistics as well. So far this year, real wages for non-supervisory workers fell by nearly 0.5%. This is part of a long-term trend that explains why household incomes in the middle of the distribution are lower than they were a quarter-century ago. "
  • Taking Corbynomics Seriously - Robert Skidelsky at Project Syndicate: "Under conventional quantitative easing (QE), the central bank buys government securities from banks or corporations and relies on the extra cash that it “prints” to stimulate private spending. But studies suggest that much of this money goes into speculative activity, risking asset bubbles, rather than being channeled into productive investment. An alternative would be to distribute the central bank’s newly issued money directly to housing associations, local councils, or national or regional investment banks – any organization that could carry out infrastructure projects. This is what Corbyn proposes. "
  • The Syrian Refugee Crisis and the ‘Do Something’ Lie - Adam Johnson at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting: "While there’s no doubt many of the refugees are escaping Assad’s bombing of cities, the boy in question, Aylan Kurdi, wasn’t: He was escaping ISIS and the US bombing of his hometown of Kobani, far from anything the Assad government is doing. A no-fly zone would not have saved his hometown. An absence of fueling jihadists by the United States and the subsequent bombing of said jihadists by the United States? Perhaps."
  • Kickstarter Focuses Its Mission on Altruism Over Profit - Mike Isaac and David Gelles, NYT: "Public benefit corporations are a relatively new designation that has been signed into law by a number of states. Delaware, where Kickstarter is reincorporating, began allowing public benefit corporations in 2013. Under the designation, companies must aim to do something that would aid the public (such as Kickstarter’s mission to “help bring creative projects to life”) and include that goal in their corporate charter. Board members must also take that public benefit into account when making decisions, and the company has to report on its social impact."
  • School questioned Muslim pupil about Isis after discussion on eco-activism - Vikram Dodd in the Guardian: "In a response to the legal action, Central Foundation school said it should be dismissed. According to legal documents related to the case it added: “It is unarguable that at the relevant time (May 2015) the school was required as part of its safeguarding responsibilities to be aware of the dangers of radicalisation. […] The school added: “This safeguarding step can not be criticised, as the school had due regard to its overarching duty to safeguard pupils and the need to prevent them being drawn into terrorism.”"
  • Volkswagen’s Diesel Fraud Makes Critic of Secret Code a Prophet - Jim Dwyer, NYT: "“Proprietary software is an unsafe building material,” Mr. Moglen had said. “You can’t inspect it.” That was five years ago. On Tuesday, Volkswagen admitted it had rigged the proprietary software on 11 million of its diesel cars around the world so that they would pass emissions tests when they were actually spreading smog."
  • How Much of Your Audience is Fake? Marketers thought the Web would allow perfectly targeted ads. Hasn’t worked out that way. - Ben Elgin, Michael Riley, David Kocieniewski, and Joshua Brustein at Bloomberg: Nothing we didn't already know, and to be honest I didn't even read more than half of it, but a useful link to send the next entrepreneur you meet who talks about "clicks", "landing pages", and "conversion rates".

Sunday, 20 September 2015 - 9:29am

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 20/09/2015 - 9:29am in

This week, I have been mostly half-heartedly finishing another academic term, while reading:

  • Joseph Stiglitz: “Deep-seatedly wrong” economic thinking is killing Greece - Lynn Parramore, Institute for New Economic Thinking: The common observation that the problem with Europe is economic union without political union is not strictly true. It's that economic union has been used to impose a kind of political union that would never have been accepted through a democratic process.
  • The ‘flipped classroom’ is professional suicide - The never less than brilliant Jonathan Rees at the Daily Dot: "As Leslie Madsen-Brooks of Boise State University concluded after her school began capturing classroom lectures and posting them to iTunes: “In an age where people seem to think that education is just a matter of ‘delivering content’ that translates into mad workplace skillz, I’m uneasy about providing the university with any multimedia content that could be aggregated into a enormous-enrollment course taught by a grossly underpaid and underinsured Ph.D.”"
  • The MOOC revolution that wasn’t - The Daily Dot have also snaffled the always-brilliant Audrey Watters: "Rather than education for all, MOOCs now merely promise education for employability. This new narrative, according to George Siemens, one of the originators of the MOOC concept, casts education as simply skills training—a far cry from President Lyndon Johnson’s description, 40 years ago, of higher education as “a way to deeper personal fulfillment, greater personal productivity, and increased personal reward.”"
  • Two real-life accounts of the effect of benefits sanctions - Peter Dwyer at the Conversation: Irritable Duncan Syndrome is caught out making up qualitative evidence in favour of punitive anti-welfare. Meanwhile non-fictional people suffer.
  • Email from a Married, Female Ashley Madison User - Glenn Greenwald at the Intercept points out that it's complicated: "The private lives and sexual choices of fully formed adults are usually very complicated and thus impossible to understand — and certainly impossible to judge — without wallowing around in the most intimate details, none of which are any of your business. That’s a very good reason not to try to sit in judgment and condemn from afar."
  • DIY Tractor Repair Runs Afoul Of Copyright Law - Laura Sydell, NPR's All Things Considered: "[…] the little computer screen lets him know when something is wrong. Unfortunately, Alford isn't allowed to fix it. John Deere has a digital lock on the software that runs his tractor. And it won't give him the key. If something goes wrong with one of his tractors Alford has to take it to an authorized John Deere dealer — the closest one is about 40 miles away — or a John Deere rep has to come visit him."
  • Data is not an asset, it’s a liability - Marko Karppinen at something called Richie that makes "app components": "If you work in software development, sooner or later you learn that code is a liability — all things being equal, the less code you have, the better off you are." Yup. "You can’t expect the value of data to just appear out of thin air. Data isn’t fissile material. It doesn’t spontaneously reach critical mass and start producing insights." But it produces graphs. Stupid people love graphs. Stupid people in positions of authority really love graphs. I don't think you fully understand the app maker's job. It's not your business to produce the emperor's new clothes; it's your job to praise them.
  • Writing, Typing, and Economics - JK Galbraith the Elder, writing in 1978 for the Atlantic: "[…] because the real world is so funny, there is almost nothing you can do, short of labeling a joke a joke, to keep people from taking it seriously. A few years ago in Harper's I invented the theory that socialism in our time was the result of our dangerous addiction to team sports. The ethic of the team is all wrong for free enterprise. The code words are cooperation; team spirit; accept leadership; the coach is always right. Authoritarianism is sanctified; the individualist is a poor team player, a menace. All this our vulnerable adolescents learn. I announced the formation of an Organization to combat this deadly trend and to promote boxing and track instead. I called it the C.I.A. — Congress for Individualist Athletics. Hundreds wrote in to Harper's asking to join."
  • The UK Hits Moral Rock Bottom - Craig Murray: "On the day that it is revealed that 2,380 people in three years died within 14 days of being declared fit to work by an ATOS assessment and having benefit stopped, we also have 45 of the most appalling members of the political class elevated to trough it for life in the House of Lords, at a possible cost to the taxpayer of 67,500 pounds per week in attendance allowances alone."
  • The Way GCHQ Obliterated The Guardian’s Laptops May Have Revealed More Than It Intended - Jenna McLaughlin at the Intercept: "The track pad controller, they said, can hold up to 2 megabits of memory. All the different “chips” in your computer — from the part that controls the device’s power to the chips in the keyboard — also have the capacity to store information, like passwords and keys to other data, which can be uploaded through firmware updates. According to the public documents from other members of Five Eyes, it is incredibly difficult to completely sanitize a device of all its content."
  • Tortured in Guantánamo, Uncharged Prisoner Details a US-Created Hell - excerpt from Guantanamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould Slahi: '"What terrorist organizations are you part of?" "None!" I replied. He put back the bag on my head and started a long discourse of humiliation, cursing, lies, and threats. I don't really remember it all, nor am I ready to sift in my memory for such bullshit. I was so tired and hurt, and tried to sit but he forced me back. I cried from the pain. Yes, a man my age cried silently. I just couldn't bear the agony.'
  • I don’t teach critical thinking, I teach the material - Fabio Rojas at "Obtaining truth is hard and there is no magical form of thinking called “critical thinking” that can be separated from specific domains. Aside from a very simple general rules of thumb, such as “don’t be emotional in arguing” or “show my your evidence,” the best way to be improve your thinking is to learn from those who have spent a lifetime actually trying to figure out specific problems." An ontological excision long overdue.
  • Homes for the homeless - Suzie Cagle in Aeon: "The Housing First philosophy was first piloted in Los Angeles in 1988 by the social worker Tanya Tull, and later tested and codified by the psychiatrist Sam Tsemberis of New York University. It is predicated on a radical and deeply un-American notion that housing is a right. Instead of first demanding that they get jobs and enroll in treatment programmes, or that they live in a shelter before they can apply for their own apartments, government and aid groups simply give the homeless homes."
  • All our needs are social - Branko Milanovic: " We are social beings. It was stated by Adam Smith very nicely that our needs vary in function of what we consider to be socially acceptable. In a much quoted passage, Smith contrasts a man living in a relatively poor society who is content with a roughly-hewn shirt and another one, living in a richer society, who would be ashamed to be seen in public without a linen shirt. Smith was drawing on his own experience, having observed how what is socially acceptable, i.e., what are our “needs”, has changed in his own lifetime as England and Scotland had become richer. "
  • The case for realism in the social realm - Daniel Little: "In short, the social sciences do not possess the remarkable coherence and predictive accuracy of physics, so confidence in realism is not grounded in the high level of success of the enterprise. Sociology is not like physics. But equally, the concepts of the social sciences are not "hypothetical constructs" that depend upon their role in a developed theoretical system for application. It is therefore possible to be piecemeal realists. Again, sociology is not like physics." But: …
  • Live from Yellowstone Lake Lodge: WTF!? - Brad DeLong: "But if you ask physicists whether the entities of Einstein's theory are really there, they will say: "Of course not: Those entities do not satisfy the quantum principle.[…]" There is something there. But just because your theory is good does not mean that the entities in your theory are "really there", whatever that might mean..." Which gets back to Chomsky's point that no scientist since Aristotle has tried to "explain" anything. We've been modeling things, with varying degrees of fidelity.

  • - Clay Bennett in Truthdig
  • Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece - Michael Hudson in CounterPunch: "The tragic Greek experience should stand as a warning of the need to withdraw from the rules that have turned the eurozone into an economic dead zone, and the IMF and Troika into brutal debt collectors for European, U.S. and British banks and bondholders. This is not a story that the mainstream press is happy to popularize."
  • SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF THE BODY: The nipple - Todd Beer: "The social construction of the body may be hard for some students to understand because so much of the body seems to be tied to biology. How we treat nipples depending on who’s body they are attached to demonstrates the power of society." Listen to Beer. Free the nipple; it rhymes with tipple.

Sunday, 13 September 2015 - 9:06pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 13/09/2015 - 9:06pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • Why The Ted Rall LA Times Scandal Matters [legal analysis] - Tom Ewing at aNewDomain: "In the absence of any real evidence whatsoever and by the Times own description of what happened, here’s one possible conclusion: The LAPD simply asked the Times to fire Ted."
    On July 27, 2015, the Los Angeles Times fired me as its long-time editorial cartoonist. The reason given was their belief, based on a secret LAPD audiotape of my 2001 arrest for jaywalking, that I lied about my treatment by the police officer in a May 11, 2015 blog for the Times. However, when I had the tape enhanced and cleaned up, it proved I'd told the truth. So why won't the Times comment or admit they were wrong?
  • Curator of the Future - George Monbiot: "The middle ground is a magic mountain that retreats as you approach. The more you chase it from the left, the further to the right it moves. […] Nothing was more politically inept than Labour’s attempt before the election to win back UKIP supporters by hardening its stance on immigration. Why vote for the echo when you can vote for the shout?"
  • Nanny state submission - Cameron K Murray: "[…] it is not clear that “sin taxes” on alcohol are an effective way to change the binge drinking culture, and in fact might have the opposite effect. Those who choose to drink alcohol may change their patterns of consumption to only drink to get drunk. Why pay so much for alcohol unless you are going to get drunk?"
  • Whistleblower Says Asylum Seekers Waterboarded And Zip Tied By "Thug-Like" Guards On Nauru - Max Chalmers, New Matilda: "I’ve seen members of the [Wilson] Emergency Response Team exit tents and later I’ve seen asylum seekers come out of these tents, come out of them covered in water, coughing."
  • The great Labour purge is underway - Michael Chessum, openDemocracy: "One post currently doing the rounds on Facebook states: “If you know that someone who has recently signed up as a member, supporter or affiliate, who is not in fact a supporter of the Labour party, you should email their name to with proof.” The post concludes: “Please do report anyone you suspect should be ineligible – and you too could be called a star by the Compliance Unit”."
  • Neoliberal epidemics: the spread of austerity, obesity, stress and inequality - Ted Schrecker and Clare Bambra of Durham University, in The Conversation: "Focusing on the social determinants of health – the conditions of life and work that make it relatively easy for some people to lead long and healthy lives, while it is all but impossible for others – we show that there are four interconnected neoliberal epidemics: austerity, obesity, stress, and inequality. They are neoliberal because they are associated with or worsened by neoliberal policies. They are epidemics because they are observable on such an international scale and have been transmitted so quickly across time and space that if they were biological contagions they would be seen as of epidemic proportions."
  • But What’s It Really For? - Robert DiNapoli in Arena: "The very thought of tax revenues being lavished on education as a species of social investment long ago lost all credibility, and as a result universities have faced a perfect storm of budgetary axes falling faster and harder than those that split the skulls of the monks of Lindisfarne when the Vikings came knocking in the eighth century. The managers and education ministers who wrought this have possessed about as much feel for the real dynamics of teaching and learning as those Vikings did for the texts they ripped from the gospel books whose gem- and gold-encrusted covers they coveted. The pages that carried those texts’ real, living purpose they chucked into a convenient bog on their way back to their ships. Efficiency rules, for plunderer and executive alike."
  • Greece is for sale – and everything must go, Nick Deardon, openDemocracy: "The beneficiaries are corporations from around the world, though eyebrows are particularly being raised at the number of European companies – from German airport operators and phone companies to French railways – who are getting their hands on Greece’s economy. Not to mention the European investment banks and legal firms who are making a fast buck along the way. The self-interest of European governments in forcing these policies on Greece leaves a particularly unpleasant flavour."
  • Three-word slogans have left Abbott with an economic quandary - John Quiggin for the Drum: "Let's start with "debt and deficits". The Gillard government handed this issue to Abbott on a plate, with Treasurer Wayne Swan's obsessive pursuit of an essentially meaningless return to budget surplus. The rhetoric surrounding this goal made it impossible for Labor to defend its successful use of deficits to stimulate the economy at the time of the Global Financial Crisis. The result was that a government that had outperformed the entire developed world in terms of economic management was presented, and presented itself, as a set of wasteful spendthrifts."
  • War and technological progress - John Quiggin again: "Opportunity cost reasoning leads us to ask what was foregone to release the [scientific and technological] resources [for war work]. In large part, the answer is ‘research of the kind that made these developments possible’. War gives great urgency to the “D” part of R&D, at the expense of R."
  • Fairy Tales - Krugman at The Paper of Record: "As Mike Konczal, channeling Kalecki, pointed out some time ago, arguments rejecting Keynes and declaring that only business confidence can achieve full employment serve a very useful political purpose: they empower plutocrats and big business, while rendering populists impotent."
  • Techno-optimism & low investment - Chris Dillow: "If you spend £10m installing robots in a factory today you might be able to undercut your non-robotized rivals. But if a new company later installs better robots for £5m, it will undercut you and destroy your profits. […] This is true not just of process innovation but product innovation too. For example, Nokia benefited hugely from the first wave of innovation in mobile phones, but suffered hugely from the later wave which gave us the smartphone. "
  • Did socialism keep capitalism equal? - Branko Milanovic: "The implication is of course rather unpleasant: left to itself, without any countervailing powers, capitalism will keep on generating high inequality and so the US may soon look like South Africa."
  • "Don't Owe. Won't Pay." Everything You've Been Told About Debt Is Wrong - Charles Eisenstein at Truthout: "Positive money refers to money created directly without debt by the government, which can be given directly to debtors for debt repayment or used to purchase debts from creditors and then cancel them. Negative-interest currency (which I describe in depth in Sacred Economics) entails a liquidity fee on bank reserves, essentially taxing wealth at its source. It enables zero-interest lending, reduces wealth concentration, and allows a financial system to function in the absence of growth."
  • The Upsurge in Uncertain Work - Robert Reich on the precariat: "On demand and on call – in the “share” economy, the “gig” economy, or, more prosaically, the “irregular” economy – the result is the same: no predictable earnings or hours. […] It’s estimated that in five years over 40 percent of the American labor force will have uncertain work; in a decade, most of us."

Sunday, 6 September 2015 - 4:07pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 06/09/2015 - 4:07pm in

This week, I have been alternately scrambling about in a mad panic and hiding under a rock in a state of denial. While there, I was mostly reading:

Sunday, 30 August 2015 - 9:25am

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 30/08/2015 - 9:25am in

This week , I have been mostly reading:

Sunday, 23 August 2015 - 6:11pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 23/08/2015 - 6:11pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • Open the Music Industry’s Black Box - (That) David Byrne, in the New York Times: I'm a dirty hippie who believes that paywalling art is, all else being equal, a bad idea. Byrne doesn't seem to agree with me on that, but is rightly perturbed that the kind of people who used to justify their income by the production and movement of plastic discs, still appear to be making way more money than the artists who no longer need the plastic discs.
  • Say goodbye to the weirdest border dispute in the world - Sam Taylor at WaPo: I still maintain that "border protection" is a meaningless occupation—you can neither protect nor damage an imaginary line—but this example verges on the justifiable. Which only adds to the argument that if your borders happen also to be oceans, you should STFU.
  • This Hacker’s Tiny Device Unlocks Cars And Opens Garages - Andy Greenberg, Wired: "'My own car is fully susceptible to this attack. I don’t think that’s right when we know this is solvable.'"
  • Oracle security chief to customers: Stop checking our code for vulnerabilities - Sean Gallagher at Ars Technica: And we'd have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for you meddling hackers!
  • That’s Not Funny! Today’s college students can’t seem to take a joke - Caitlin Flanagan in the Atlantic: "I saw ample evidence of the repressive atmosphere that Rock and Seinfeld described, as well as another, not unrelated factor: the infantilization of the American undergraduate, and this character’s evolving status in the world of higher learning—less a student than a consumer, someone whose whims and affectations (political, sexual, pseudo-intellectual) must be constantly supported and championed. To understand this change, it helps to think of college not as an institution of scholarly pursuit but as the all-inclusive resort that it has in recent years become—and then to think of the undergraduate who drops out or transfers as an early checkout. Keeping hold of that kid for all four years has become a central obsession of the higher-ed-industrial complex."
  • Supervenience, isomers, and social isomers - Daniel Little: "Significantly, this example appears to have direct implications for the relation between social facts and individual actors. If we consider the possibility of "social isomers" -- social structures consisting of exactly similar actors but different histories and different configurations and causal properties in the present -- then we also have a refutation of the idea that social facts supervene upon the actors of which they are constituted."
  • Why Economists Have Trouble With Bubbles - Noah Smith at Bloomberg View: "But there has always been one big problem with rational expectations -- it might just not be right. People really might make systematic mistakes in the way they predict the workings of the economy. If economists insist on using an incorrect assumption as the core of their models, it will force them into ever more Byzantine theoretical contortions, as the models repeatedly fail to fit the facts."
  • In the Age of Trump, Will Democrats Sell Out More, Or Less? - Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone: "[…] framing every single decision solely in terms of its utility in beating the Republicans leads to absurdities. Not every situation is a ballot with Ralph Nader on it. The Democrats insisted they had to support the Iraq War in order to compete with Bush, but they ended up not competing with Bush anyway and supporting a crappy war that no sane person believed in. All it won Democratic voters in the end was a faster trip into Iraq, and the honor of having supported the war at the ballot box."
  • Third Bailout and the Third Punic War - John Weeks, guestblogging at TripleCrisis: "In pursuit of setting “the EU’s political agenda,” [president of the European Council, Donald] Tusk cemented his right-wing credentials by stating publicly that “I am really afraid of this ideological or political contagion, not financial contagion, of this Greek crisis.” Lest anyone miss his point, the former Polish prime minister went on to say that his concern was caused by the “radical leftist illusion that you can build some alternative” to the EU’s neoliberal economic model."
  • The Down Under book and film remind us our copyright law’s still unfair for artists - Nicolas Suzor and Rachel Choi from QUT in The Conversation: "Greg Ham’s flute riff is exactly the kind of tribute that imposes no costs on the original creator. Both the documentary and the book point out that, in fact, this is not just harmless copying of copyright expression – it’s exactly the kind of creativity that Australian copyright law should encourage."
  • The Politics of Economics and ‘Very Serious People’ - Mark Thoma in the Fiscal Times: Mark reflects on Henry's article. I find his conclusion that "when the economics and politics are at odds, as they often are on issues such as free trade and immigration, the economics must prevail" unsatisfyingly utilitarian. Moral, and consequently political, considerations must precede any determination of desirable economic outcomes.
  • 12 Good and Bad Parts of Online Education - Mark Thoma again: I agree that internal v. online education is an apples and oranges comparison. Which is why the latter shouldn't be used as a blanket cut-price alternative to the former. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with online education, provided the delivery mode suits the subject matter.
  • Neoliberal realpolitik: choking others in our name - Markha Valenta, openDemocracy: "In this way, the deaths of the 20,000 migrants who have perished on Europe’s iron doorstep in the face of ever more stringent surveillance, policing, and legislation – barbed wire fences slicing feet, hands, grazing any bit of brown skin, border guards beating those they catch; whole seas and generations of fish fed on their drowned bodies; roads stained by their truck-crushed carcasses – all these dead are said to have only themselves to blame."
  • New Labour is 'unelectable' - Amit Singh at openDemocracy: "It is Jeremy Corbyn, not the other candidates, who is targeting the majority of voters who shunned the Tories (and also shunned Labour). This is why he is becoming so popular, because an anti-austerity, social justice message does have scope. […] Just look at the shadow cabinet who all look so quintessentially Blair, and so similar to their Tory opponents. They went to the same sort of schools, the same sort of universities and worked the same sort of corporate jobs before becoming politicians. People don't want New Labour, that's abundantly clear. The only people who want New Labour are Labour."
  • Yanis Varoufakis is being pilloried for doing what had to be done - Philippe Legrain at the Guardian: I have two observations: a) In what way was Varoufakis "outspoken" during his tenure as finance minister? This is a man who presumably had to pack his tongue in ice every evening after a long day biting it. And b) Tax(/council rate) credits also seem to be a jolly sensible solution to less extreme forms of fiscal imbalance, such as that suffered by municipal councils, as well as encouraging local economic development.
  • We took a tour of the abandoned college campuses of Second Life - Patrick Hogan in some sort of clickbaity thing called Fusion: I daresay I could find you a clutch of administrators (yes, that is the collective noun) at Aussie Swazi University still prepared to put money (not their own, of course) on our inevitable Second Life future. Some of them have even caught on to this up and coming thing called MOOCs. What if you could do a MOOC in Second Life? Just imagine yourself in this compellingly immersive virtual environment that's almost exactly like sitting alone at home in front of the computer, in your underpants, doing an online multiple choice quiz!
  • Dentists and Skin in the Game - Paul Krugman, NYT: "As it turns out, many fewer people have dental insurance than have general medical insurance; even where there is insurance, it typically leaves a lot of skin in the game. But dental costs have risen just as fast as overall health spending, and it may be that the reduced role of insurers actually raises those costs."
  • A Most Peculiar Friendship - Yanis Varoufakis: "Tories like Lord Lamont and lefties of my sort may disagree strongly on society’s ends. But we agree that rules and markets are means to social ends that can only be determined by a sovereign people through a Parliament in which that sovereignty is vested."
  • The Defeat of Europe – my piece in Le Monde Diplomatique - Yanis Varoufakis: "No European people should ever again be put in a position of negotiating in fear. For that to happen, Europeans must not fear to negotiate a European New Deal that restores the dream of shared prosperity within a democratic polity. If we fail, barbarism will rise up from within. For a continent that has generated the best and the worst humans are capable of, this ought to be a sobering thought."
  • The socialist objective - John Quiggin: "So, it’s pretty clear that removing the socialist objective is not a matter of moving away from a dogmatic commitment to public ownership. Rather, it means abandoning any notion that Labor aspires to change society for the better, or that it has any fundamental disagreement with market liberals."
  • Bailout Money Goes to Greece, Only to Flow Out Again - Jack Ewing and Liz Alderman: "Since 2010, Greece has received €227 billion from other eurozone countries and the I.M.F. Of that, €48.2 billion went to replenish the capital of Greek banks, according to MacroPolis, an analytics firm based in Athens. More than €120 billion went to pay debt and interest, and around €35 billion went to commercial banks that had taken losses on Greek debt."
  • Every club should be like Labour – you can’t join as a new member unless you’re already a member - Mark Steel at the Independent (via Simon Wren-Lewis): "Because the most important job for any political leader, as we’re told every day, is to 'stay in the centre ground'. You could argue a true leader tries to change the centre ground, but that’s romantic nonsense. So a sensible Labour leader in the year 1500 would have said: 'It’s all very well Jeremy Corbyn promising to stop burning witches, but that will lose us the election by abandoning the centre ground.'"
  • In conversation with El Pais (Claudi Pérez), the complete (long) transcript - Yanis Varoufakis: Q: "I think that is a uncontroversial: your ideas about austerity and debt relief, everybody says you are right." A: "If you were talking to me in January it would not have been so. The only reason why now this is not controversial anymore is because we struggled for six months. For those who say to me we failed, these six months were in vain, I say “No we did not fail”. Now we have a debate in Europe which it’s not just about Greece, it’s about the continent. A debate we would have not had otherwise."

Sunday, 16 August 2015 - 8:58pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 16/08/2015 - 8:58pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • What Is Detected? - Carl Straumsheim, InsideHigherEd: "'We say that we’re using [Turnitin] in order to teach students about academic dishonesty, but we’re using software we know doesn’t work,' Schorn said. 'In effect, we’re trying to teach them about academic dishonesty by lying to them.'"
  • The Nauru Inquiry Proves We Can't Outsource Our Ethical Obligations To Asylum Seekers - Max Chalmers, New Matilda: "Nauru cannot do the job. […] It does not have the resources, the independent judiciary and police, let alone the political will to attend to the allegations arising from the detention centre. They will not be resolved. But offshore processing has never been about resolving problems. It’s about outsourcing them."
  • Who Will Nudge the Nudgers? - Timothy Taylor: "Insights from behavioral economics applied to consumers, workers, savers, investors, and firms often suggest some basis for government actions to "nudge" behavior in other directions. But it seems plausible to me that behavioral economics as applied to government will suggest that a number of existing government actions are misdirected or misconceived. And when that happens, it's not clear who will "nudge" government in appropriate directions."
  • Authoritarian capitalism in modern times: when economic discipline really means political disciplining - Peter Bloom st openDemocracy: "Authoritarian policies once reserved for the “developing” world have now come home to the west. Greece is just the latest example of a capitalism that respects democracy only so long as it profits elite stakeholders."
  • Donald Trump Has the GOP Establishment’s Number - E.J. Dionne Jr. at Truthdig: "Trump struck again on Wednesday, tweeting a picture with another of his Donald-come-lately critics, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, 'in my office last cycle playing nice and begging for my support and money. Hypocrite!'" Hey, you guys can't touch me. I'm my own PAC!
  • Depression’s Advocates - Brad DeLong at Project Syndicate: "Not only have policymakers in the eurozone insisted on repeating the blunders of the 1930s; they are poised to repeat them in a more brutal, more exaggerated, and more extended fashion. I did not see that coming."
  • Speech to Labor National Conference - Julian Burnside: "Labor today looks like a weak centre-right party which does not believe in itself. A party that believes in nothing except power will end up with nothing at all."
  • Europe in its Labyrinth, Greece on its Knees - Matías Vernengo, the Wire: "Krugman adds that the destruction of the European project is not Greece’s fault. However, this view seems to assume that the European project is still the old social-democratic project of the Treaty of Rome, the one that was designed with the failures of the inter-war period and the European Civil War, as Keynes referred to the Great War, in mind, and that was acceptable to the United States in the context of the Soviet menace. The actual project being defended by the European Commission today is the other one – the neoliberal project – and it is doing just fine."
  • Varoufakis – a new kind of politics? - Paul Tyson, openDemocracy: "A politician who is ‘realistic’ must simple comply with the extra-state non-democratic dictates of high power if their own position within the tree of power is to be preserved. Here even big players, such as Chancellor Merkel, are pawns."
  • How Labor Right sneaked turnbacks through National Conference - Independent Austrralia: "Bill Shorten and the Right leadership team, the source said: "... are petrified of the mainstream/Murdoch media responding to a Left win on the floor of the conference with a headline that says 'Socialist Left controls Labor Party' or 'Radical Left controls Bill Shorten'. That's why Labor's conference is furiously agreeing on almost all amendments.""
  • Going Mainstream - Craig Murray: "The sheer panic gripping the London elite now is hilarious to behold. Those on the favoured side of Britain’s enormous wealth gap are terrified by the idea that there may be a genuine electoral challenge to neo-liberalism, embodied in one of the main party structures. This is especially terrifying to those who became wealthy by hijacking the representation of the working class to the neo-liberal cause."
  • The last thing Labour needs is a leader like Jeremy Corbyn who people want to vote for - Mark Steel at the Independent: "If you look at Corbyn’s record it’s clear he just can’t win elections. In his constituency of Islington North he inherited a majority of 4,456, which is now 21,194. He’s one of the few Labour MPs whose vote increased between 2005 and 2010, when he added 5,685 to his majority. This is typical of the man, defying the official Labour policy of losing votes and getting more of them instead, just to be a rebel."
  • Why I Support the BDS Movement Against Israel - Chris Hedges at Truthdig: "Israel is not an anomaly. It is a window into the dystopian, militarized world that is being prepared for all of us, a world with vast disparities of income and draconian systems of internal security. There will be no freedom for Palestine, or for those locked in our own internal colonies and terrorized by indiscriminate police violence, until we destroy corporate capitalism and the neoliberal ideology that sustains it."
  • The Web We Have to Save - Hossein Derakhshan, Medium: "The web was not envisioned as a form of television when it was invented. But, like it or not, it is rapidly resembling TV: linear, passive, programmed and inward-looking. When I log on to Facebook, my personal television starts. All I need to do is to scroll: New profile pictures by friends, short bits of opinion on current affairs, links to new stories with short captions, advertising, and of course self-playing videos. I occasionally click on like or share button, read peoples’ comments or leave one, or open an article. But I remain inside Facebook, and it continues to broadcast what I might like. This is not the web I knew when I went to jail. This is not the future of the web. This future is television."
  • So this company Cyagen is paying authors for citations in academic papers - Ben Goldacre: "The business model is very specific: if you cite them in an academic paper then you get $100, multiplied by the Impact Factor of the journal (a widely used measure of the journal’s influence). So if you cite them in the New England Journal of Medicine, which has an impact factor of 56, then you will receive $5600 from Cyagen. If you cite them in the British Medical Journal, you get $1700. And so on."

Sunday, 9 August 2015 - 9:42pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 09/08/2015 - 9:42pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • Euro MOA+MOE plus Drachma MOE - Nick Rowe, Worthwhile Canadian Initiative: "Suppose your country (call it 'Greece') is in recession, because there is an excess demand for money (call it 'Euros'). And suppose that the Euro is both Medium of Account (prices are quoted in Euros) and Medium of Exchange (all other goods are bought and sold for Euros). Now suppose your government introduces a new currency (call it 'Drachmas'). […]"
  • Growth in the ‘Gig Economy’ Fuels Work Force Anxieties Noam Scheiber: "'In the past, firms overstaffed and offered workers stable hours,' said Susan N. Houseman, a labor economist at the W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. 'All of these new staffing models mean shifting risk onto workers, making work less secure.'"
  • IMF: Most misleading sentence ever? - Mean Squared Errors: "In summary, when the IMF writes about the the failure to implement the program as assumed, this is the sort of thing is has in mind: the "failure" of the Greek government to find anyone willing to pay €11.5 billion for a stake in banks that require daily injections of liquidity from the ECB simply to keep the cash machines full. "
  • Killing the European Project - Paul Krugman, NYT: "In a way, the economics have almost become secondary. But still, let’s be clear: what we’ve learned these past couple of weeks is that being a member of the eurozone means that the creditors can destroy your economy if you step out of line."
  • The problem of Greece is not only a tragedy. It is a lie. - John Pilger: "Like the Labour Party in Britain and its equivalents among former social democratic parties such as the Labor Party in Australia, still describing themselves as "liberal" or even "left", Syriza is the product of an affluent, highly privileged, educated middle class, "schooled in postmodernism", as Alex Lantier wrote."
  • The 9 charts that show the 'left-wing' policies of Jeremy Corbyn the public actually agrees with - Matt Dathan and Jon Stone at the Independent: "Tony Blair has described some of Mr Corbyn's policies as “old-fashioned" but it turns out the public agree with a lot of them."
  • Tomgram: Tim Weiner, The Nixon Legacy - Tom Englehardt introduces an excerpt from Weiner's One Man Against the World: The Tragedy of Richard Nixon: "[…] Richard Nixon was never at peace. A darker spirit animated him -- malevolent and violent, driven by anger and an insatiable appetite for revenge. At his worst he stood on the brink of madness. He thought the world was against him. He saw enemies everywhere. His greatness became an arrogant grandeur."
  • On the Euro Summit’s Statement on Greece: First thoughts - Yanis Varoufakis: "The recent Euro Summit is indeed nothing short of the culmination of a coup. In 1967 it was the tanks that foreign powers used to end Greek democracy. In my interview with Philip Adams, on ABC Radio National’s LNL, I claimed that in 2015 another coup was staged by foreign powers using, instead of tanks, Greece’s banks. Perhaps the main economic difference is that, whereas in 1967 Greece’s public property was not targeted, in 2015 the powers behind the coup demanded the handing over of all remaining public assets, so that they would be put into the servicing of our un-payble, unsustainable debt."
  • Exclusive: Yanis Varoufakis opens up about his five month battle to save Greece - Harry Lambert - New Statesman: "By resigning and not signing a deal he abhorred, he has kept both his conscience free and his reputation intact. His country remains locked in a trap he spent years opposing and months fighting, but he has escaped."
  • Roach Motel Economics - Paul Krugman at the New York Times: "So we have learned that the euro is a Roach Motel — once you go in, you can never get out. And once inside you are at the mercy of those who can pull your financing and crash your banking system unless you toe the line."
  • [Australian Federal Police] using hacking software from group aiding human rights abusing nations - Murray Hunter at IA: Because it's there.
  • Yanis Varoufakis Hits Australian Radio To Denounce Greek Bailout Deal As 'New Versailles' - Max Chalmers, New Matilda: "It’s got nothing to do with putting Greece back on the rails towards recovery. This is a new Versailles treaty which is haunting Europe again – and the Prime Minister knows it. The Prime Minister knows he’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t."
  • In defence of welfare - Chris Dillow: "For one thing, welfare acts as a form of automatic stabilizer; higher welfare spending in bad times helps to support aggregate demand and so moderates recessions. […] And it protects us all. Benefits aren't so much a payment to claimants as a payment through claimants. They are spent at Primark and Lidl, and so support employment there. The distinction between welfare and work is therefore a false one; welfare helps to create jobs."
  • Greece and Trust - Simon Wren-Lewis: "The narrative about failing to deliver is just an attempt to disguise the fact that the Troika has largely run the Greek economy for the last five years and is therefore responsible for the results."
  • Perpetual war creates endless consequences - Norman Solomon at Al Jazeera America: "While the automation of Uncle Sam’s killing-at-a-distance has sharply reduced American casualties, it has increasingly rendered the U.S. war path as the main avenue for pursuing its goals. And the nation’s top leaders, as well as the military contractors that profit from this tendency, appear to like it that way."
  • Kid Stuff - Molly Knefel, the New Inquiry: "The very important end-of-year test featured in the little girl’s play is used to hold other kids back, fire their teachers, and close their schools. The test is written not for them to succeed, but for them to fail."
  • On Paleo and Faith in Government - Mike Konczal at the Roosevelt Institute: "What strikes me about this argument is that the Republicans have no less faith [than Democrats] in the power of government. They have faith that the government can privatize social insurance in a way that won’t involve weaker security and higher costs. They have faith that if the government gives employers wage subsidies for poorer workers, employers won’t simply pocket them in wage bargaining. They have faith, against evidence, that the government having no taxes on capital will cause a boom in private investment. They have faith that the government cutting taxes will more than make up the lost revenue. Their faith leads them to conflate building a robust civil society and economic security with laissez-faire economics."
  • Neoliberal moralism and the fiction of Europe: a postcolonial perspective - Sadia Abbas, openDemocracy: "Sometimes the virulence of the German response seems to suggest that the Germans cannot forgive actually existing Greeks for being inconveniently and insistently who they are, given the importance of ancient Greece to the German intellectual imagination. At the risk of being florid, it's inconvenient for that imagination that Greeks are not just broken statues, stripped of paint, in the world's museums. "
  • The true Greek tragedy - James Meadway at the NEF blog: "The euro’s flaws have been known from the start. In a stunningly prescient essay, written in 1992 as the Maastricht Treaty that paved the way for the single currency neared ratification, economist Wynn Godley predicted the outlines of the present crisis for Greece: “If a country or region has no power to devalue, and if it is not the beneficiary of a system of fiscal equalisation, then there is nothing to stop it suffering a process of cumulative and terminal decline leading, in the end, to emigration as the only alternative to poverty or starvation.” Without exit, this now looks like the future."
  • Dr Schäuble’s Plan for Europe: Do Europeans approve? – English version of my article in Die Zeit: "The euro crisis has expanded this lacuna at the centre of Europe hideously. An informal body, the Eurogroup, that keeps no minutes, abides by no written rules, and is answerable to precisely no one, is running the world’s largest macro-economy, with a Central Bank struggling to stay within vague rules that it creates as it goes along, and no body politic to provide the necessary bedrock of political legitimacy on which fiscal and monetary decisions may rest."
  • Are We Seeing the End of Homeopathy? - Steven Novella: "There is even a possibility that the FDA will decide to do their actual job – require testing of homeopathic products to demonstrate efficacy before allowing them on the market. If they do this simple and obvious thing, the homeopathic industry in the US will vanish over night, because there is no evidence to support any homeopathic product for any indication. They will have to endure the outrage of quacks, charlatans, and the deluded, but hey, that’s their job. Suck it up."
  • Oprah Winfrey: one of the world's best neoliberal capitalist thinkers: "Nothing captures this ensemble of ideological practices better than O Magazine, whose aim is to 'help women see every experience and challenge as an opportunity to grow and discover their best self. To convince women that the real goal is becoming more of who they really are. To embrace their life.' O Magazine implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, identifies a range of problems in neoliberal capitalism and suggests ways for readers to adapt themselves to mitigate or overcome these problems. […] We are the perfect, depoliticized, complacent neoliberal subjects."
  • Greece, Europe, and the United States - Jamie Galbraith in Harpers: "SYRIZA was not some Greek fluke; it was a direct consequence of European policy failure. A coalition of ex-Communists, unionists, Greens, and college professors does not rise to power anywhere except in desperate times. That SYRIZA did rise, overshadowing the Greek Nazis in the Golden Dawn party, was, in its way, a democratic miracle. SYRIZA’s destruction will now lead to a reassessment, everywhere on the continent, of the 'European project.'"
  • The Beer IneQuality Index - Frances Wooley: Producers operating in high-regulation, high-unionisation environments must compete on quality rather than price. So laissez-faire means crappy beer.
  • Dominique Strauss Kahn, addressing “German friends” - via Yanis Varoufakis: "We are expending all our energies on infighting and running the risk of triggering a break-up. This is where we are. A eurozone, in which you, my German friends, would lay down your law with a few Baltic and Nordic states in tow, is unacceptable for all the the rest."
  • Between Free Speech and Bureaucracy: Anarchist Political Theory and a Way Forward for Reddit - David Banks at the Society Pages: "At the very least come up with some sort of aspirational progressive vision of what kind of community you want to have and persuade others that they should work to achieve it. This sort of move is the biggest departure that anarchist political theory takes from mainstream liberalism: that communities can agree on the features of a future utopia and govern in the present as if you are already free to live that future utopia. Organizing humans with blanket laws forces you to explain the obvious, namely that hateful people suck and should be persuaded to act otherwise if they wish to remain part of a community that is meaningful to them."