Error message

Deprecated function: The each() function is deprecated. This message will be suppressed on further calls in _menu_load_objects() (line 579 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/

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."

Sunday, 2 August 2015 - 9:17pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 02/08/2015 - 9:17pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • Blame Society, Not the Screen Time - danah boyd in the New York Times: "[Children] aren’t addicted to the computer; they’re addicted to interaction, and being around their friends. Children, and especially teenagers, don’t want to only socialize with parents and siblings; they want to play with their peers. That’s how they make sense of the world. And we’ve robbed them of that opportunity because we’re afraid of boogeymen."
  • Meet the Master of the Old-School Clicky-Clacky Keyboard - Matt Jancer at Wired: "Mechanical (or clicky) keyboards improve typing speed and help eliminate carpal tunnel syndrome—but the real draw is the tactile feel of typing on a real keyboard; it’s the reaction of feeling the physical switches under the keys. That “feeling” is exemplified by the Model M, and has helped create a surprisingly large market for a 30-year-old piece of equipment that weighs five pounds." At one stage I had loads of these. Why did I ever let them go?
  • MIT Media Lab Knotty Objects: Phone: "This video is one of a series of videos in collaboration between m ss ng p eces and MIT Media Lab for the Knotty Objects Summit, the first MIT Media Lab Summit devoted to design."
  • What is "derp"? The answer is technical. : "English has no word for "the constant, repetitive reiteration of strong priors". Yet it is a well-known phenomenon in the world of punditry, debate, and public affairs. On Twitter, we call it "derp"."
  • Why a Meaningful Boost for Those at the Bottom Requires Help From the Top - Noam Scheiber, NYT: "'We should not see this as hitting the top so that the bottom looks good in comparison,' Mr. Saez said in an email. Rather, he said, it’s about preventing the rich from vacuuming up the gains that might otherwise go to the rest of the population."
  • Welfare economics and the Greek crisis - Branko Milanovic: The usually spot-on Milanovic is way off here. GDP per capita is not a valid measure of general welfare if you are, like Greece, a country rich in oligarchs (not to mention unemployment).
  • The Hidden Nasties In Australia's New Free Trade Deal - Ben Eltham, New Matilda: We call it free trade, you call it union busting. Let's not quibble over terms.
  • Of clowns and treasurers - Richard Denniss in The Monthly: Really good long read, basically debunking VSPs, the Confidence Fairy, and the economist on the telly who's a banker, not an economist.
  • EU Infrastructure Undermines Sovereignty - Michael Hudson: "A genuine market economy would recognize financial reality and write down debts in keeping with the ability to be paid, but inter-government debt overrides markets and refuses to acknowledge the need for a Clean Slate. Today’s guiding theory – backed by monetarist junk economics – is that debts of any size can be paid, simply by reducing labor’s wages and living standards plus selling off a nation’s public domain – its land, oil and gas reserves, minerals and water distribution, roads and transport systems, power plants and sewage systems, and public infrastructure of all forms. […] No wonder Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis called the Troika’s negotiating position 'financial terrorism.' Their idea of 'negotiation' is surrender. They are unyielding. Official creditor institutions threaten to isolate, sanction and destroy entire economies, including their industry as well as labor. It transforms the 19th-century class war into a purely destructive meltdown."
  • Austerity Has Failed: An Open Letter From Thomas Piketty to Angela Merkel -  Thomas Piketty, Jeffrey Sachs, Heiner Flassbeck, Dani Rodrik and Simon Wren-Lewis - The Nation: "Now is the time for a humane rethink of the punitive and failed program of austerity of recent years and to agree to a major reduction of Greece’s debts in conjunction with much needed reforms in Greece."
  • Yanis Varoufakis, James Dean of the European left - Philippe Marlière, openDemocracy: "He became the most hated of Syriza’s ministers in the other European capitals, and rightly so. Pragmatic, sure of himself but never arrogant, competent, funny, learned, an elegant speaker of English, Varoufakis is an atypical character in the desolate landscape of the European radical left. For all these reasons, his capitalist enemies of all creeds sniffed out the threat: Varoufakis had become the man to topple."
  • Yanis Varoufakis is being pilloried for doing what had to be done - Philippe Legrain, The Guardian: "Greece’s outspoken former finance minister has long been loathed by his erstwhile eurozone counterparts, on whom he counterproductively impressed their mediocrity." The truth hurts.
  • Debt Deflation in Greece - Paul Krugman, NYT: "However things play out from here — I find it hard to see a path other than Grexit — the troika’s program for Greece represents one of history’s epic policy failures. Even if you ignore the economic and human toll, it was an utter failure in terms of restoring solvency. In 2009, before the program, Greek debt was 126 percent of GDP. After five years, debt was … 177 percent of GDP."
  • Hacking Team Emails Expose Proposed Death Squad Deal, Secret U.K. Sales Push and Much More - Ryan Gallagher, The Intercept: "A presentation prepared by Hacking Team for a surveillance conference in South Africa later this month shows the company complaining about the “chilling effect” that it claims regulation of surveillance technology is having on the ability to fight crime. The presentation singles out the organizations Hacking Team views as its main adversaries, noting that it is a “target” of groups such as Human Rights Watch and Privacy International and warning that “democracy advocates” are putting pressure on governments."
  • A Pain in the Athens: Why Greece Isn't to Blame for the Crisis - Mark Blyth in Foreign Affairs: "Think about it this way. If 230 billion euro had been given to Greece, it would have amounted to just under 21,000 euros per person. Given such largess, it would have been impossible to generate a 25 percent unemployment rate among adults, over 50 percent unemployment among youth, a sharp increase in elderly poverty, and a near collapse of the banking system—even with the troika’s austerity package in place."
  • A Day in the Life of a Prisoner - "Trevor" in The Society Pages, from prison: "In a discussion group with college students not long ago, after describing some of the opportunities available here in the penitentiary in which I reside, one student asked me if we as prisoners deserved such opportunities. I paused before answering that society deserves us to have such opportunities, because if we do not come out of prison with more skills and a more productive mindset then we came in with, we are destined to once again fail society."
  • Why Greek debt is a problem - Henry Farrell at Crooked Timber: "The story of the eurozone’s relationship with Greece post-crisis is a story of external powers trying to restructure an entire political system from outside, using the crude tools of control that are available to them. The situation is somewhere between the kinds of Washington Consensus restructuring and conditionality that the IMF used to impose as a quid-pro-quo for emergency loans to countries in crisis, and the massive efforts to restructure the political systems of Afghanistan and Iraq post invasion."
  • Direct aid, subsidies, tax breaks – the hidden welfare budget we don’t debate and The £93bn handshake: businesses pocket huge subsidies and tax breaks Aditya Chakrabortty at The Guardian: "Researchers and civil servants know a lot about the individuals who claim hundreds in, say, employment support allowance: every last cough, spit and missed appointment at the jobcentre. Yet of the big companies that rake off millions in direct grants, taxpayers often hear very little. The result is that the public do not know where billions of their own taxes are going."
  • Germany won’t spare Greek pain – it has an interest in breaking us - Yanis Varoufakis in the Guardian: "Five months of negotiations ensued under conditions of monetary asphyxiation and an induced bank-run supervised and administered by the European Central Bank. The writing was on the wall: unless we capitulated, we would soon be facing capital controls, quasi-functioning cash machines, a prolonged bank holiday and, ultimately, Grexit."
  • Feedbags - Rob Horning at the New Inquiry: "You don’t control an algorithm by feeding more information to it; you teach it to control you better. Facebook has always deferred to users because that deference allows it to gain more information that can be presumed more accurate than what it can merely infer. And it has never wanted to tell us what to find meaningful; it wants only to inscribe Facebook as the best place in which to discover our sense of meaning. "

Sunday, 19 July 2015 - 10:13am

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 19/07/2015 - 10:13am in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

Sunday, 12 July 2015 - 4:49pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 12/07/2015 - 4:49pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

Sunday, 5 July 2015 - 6:14pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 05/07/2015 - 6:14pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • Greece: The Unpicking Of Democracy, One Debt Repayment At A Time - David Tuckwell, New Matilda: "In an interview with the Financial Times [president of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi] said that Greece “should understand they have lost sovereignty a long time ago over their economic policies” - lost it, that is, to the market. In another interview with the Wall St Journal he said that Europe’s social contract had become obsolete and was being dismantled."
  • Profit and public health - John Quiggin: "[…] selling medicine in the same shop as alcohol is unthinkable, but it’s entirely OK for a health professional to promote and sell water as a treatment for serious illness."
  • Tourists and refugees: two worlds that aren’t supposed to collide - Roger Tyers in The Society Pages: "Offshoring poor people back to poor countries by bribing cash-strapped governments is an innovative, if highly morally-dubious strategy to keep the two worlds apart. But as we see with increased regularity, the global poor keep coming, driven by poverty and war. We don’t want to see them, we don’t want them to ruin our holidays, and we don’t want to be reminded of the underlying threat they pose to our privileged way of life. But can we stop them forever? Should we?"
  • Thinking about open borders - Antoine Pécoud, openDemocracy: "Employers and companies benefit from the liberalisation of trade in a globalising economy; but workers do not enjoy the same mobility: is this merely a way to favor capital to the detriment of labor and, if so, should this be left uncontested? If all human beings were fortunate enough to live in reasonably wealthy countries, with acceptable living and working conditions, these questions would perhaps be irrelevant. But this is not the case, and the ugly realities of our world are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore." Also:
  • The case for open borders - Joseph H. Carens, openDemocracy: "In many ways, citizenship in Western democracies is the modern equivalent of feudal class privilege—an inherited status that greatly enhances one’s life chances. To be born a citizen of a rich state in Europe or North America is like being born into the nobility (even though many of us belong to the lesser nobility)."
  • American Exceptionalism - cartoon by Ted Rall
  • Economic arguments as stalking horses - Noah Smith, and Paul Krugman responds in Why Am I A Keynesian?: i confess I don't understand the big government versus small government debate in the context of a country that spends more on their military than the rest of the world combined. How much bigger could you want the government to get? The fact that this rarely (if ever) rates a mention in this debate shows that in fact both sides agree that size doesn't matter—it's what you do with it. The debate can really only be about whether the government should help people who need it, or let them suffer unnecessarily.
  • A Practical Vision of a More Equal Society - Thomas Piketty reviews Tony Atkinson's latest book: "With Atkinson, the dividing lines between history, economics, and politics have never been strict: he has always tried to reconcile the scholar with the citizen, often discreetly, occasionally in a more forthright manner. All the same, Inequality: What Can Be Done? goes much further in that direction than any of his earlier books. Atkinson takes risks and sets forth a genuine plan of action."
  • Order effects in reading and citing academic papers - Daniel Feenberg, Ina Ganguli, Patrick Gaulé, Jonathan Gruber: "[…] our findings confirm that presentation order can be a powerful determinant of choice in a list-based environment – and that this can have strong downstream effects, such as through paper citations in our sample." I think you'll find that a very widely-cited article by Professor Aardvark of Algiers University disputes this.
  • Open Access: A Collective Ecology for AAA Publishing in the Digital Age - Alberto Corsin Jimenez, Dominic Boyer, John Hartigan and Marisol de la Cadena mark one year of open access for the journal Cultural Anthropology: "“In 2011, the journal-publishing divisions of Elsevier, Springer, and Wiley reported profits equal to 36%, 33.9%, and 42%, respectively, of their sales revenue.” Exxon Mobil, comparatively, has a net profit margin of 7.31%, Rio Tinto’s is 13.69%, even JPMorgan Chase can only claim 24.57%. Volunteered academic labor, it turns out, is a far more lucrative platform for profit accumulation than fossil fuels, mineral resources, and international finance."
  • I was a liberal adjunct professor. My liberal students didn’t scare me at all - Amanda Taub at Vox: "[…] if university faculty are feeling disempowered in their classrooms, that's because they do, in fact, have less power at work: the shrinking pool of tenure-track jobs and the corresponding rise in the numbers of poorly paid adjuncts means many university teachers are in a precarious position right now. […] The problem isn't the substance of student complaints — the problem is that university lecturers are so terrified of the effect student complaints could have. That's a problem to be solved by universities having faculty members' backs, not by somehow silencing the debate over identity politics."
  • Inequality, Technology and Public Policy - Tony Atkinson speaking at the RSA (video): The most interesting point for me came out of the last question from the floor. When he left school in the early 1960s, Tony was hired as a systems analyst for IBM, with no training whatsoever, and trained on the job alng with others from all sorts of backgrounds, at great expense to IBM. He muses that perhaps high employment at the time created investment in training, rather than vice versa.

Sunday, 28 June 2015 - 2:05pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 28/06/2015 - 2:05pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

Sunday, 21 June 2015 - 6:14pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 21/06/2015 - 6:14pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • PPE for the people - Joel Lazarus and Neil Howard at openDemocracy: "Our alternative is called – wait for it – PPE, or “People’s Political Economy.” In the summer of 2012 we and two other Oxford-based academics/activists came together to set up their own response to this situation. We agreed to establish a political economy education project to enable Oxford communities to learn about and respond to the crisis. At its heart, our PPE is based on a simple but powerful democratic premise: that all people have the right and the ability to understand the world for themselves, individually and collectively."
  • Resilience and ‘counter-resilience’ - Kevin Harris at the Neighbourhoods Blog: "if we use the term, there’s a risk of doing so in collusion with forces and ideologies that seek to embed ‘resilience’ within the status quo. This in turn […] effectively undermines other forms of resilience."
  • Publisher pushback puts open access in peril - Virginia Barbour in the Conversation: "Elsevier’s new policy is a substantial tightening of its rules around Green OA. It states that, if no APC is paid, the author’s accepted version of the article cannot be made publicly available via their institution’s repository until after an embargo period, which ranges from six months to four years. In addition, the license required is the most restrictive possible, in that it prohibits commercial reuse, or use of excerpts of the work."
  • Myth of the Garbage Patch - Maya Weeks, the New Enquiry: "According to Jeffrey Meikle, author of American Plastic: A Cultural History, after World War II resin makers “mounted a major educational effort to accommodate the consumer to new, previously unknown plastics. People neither naturally gravitated to the stuff, nor did they instinctively throw it away, so the industry also had to insulate consumers to plastic’s disposability.” It’s no coincidence that the escalation of the abovementioned effects–the rise in hungry whales, shark attacks, dying coral, anoxic zones and so on and so forth–have coincided with quadrupled plastics production since the massive neoliberal deregulation of the 1980s."
  • Income Inequalities in Perspective - Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Vladimir Popov for the ILO: All the graphs you'll need for the rest of this year's arguments over Piketty.
  • Trade and Trust - Paul Krugman, NYT: "Instead of addressing real concerns, however, the Obama administration has been dismissive, trying to portray skeptics as uninformed hacks who don’t understand the virtues of trade. But they’re not: the skeptics have on balance been more right than wrong about issues like dispute settlement, and the only really hackish economics I’ve seen in this debate is coming from supporters of the trade pact."
  • Sharing information on student protests - Ingrid Robeyns at Crooked Timber: "Students and staff who are occupying and protesting: share information!"
  • A Fascinating Minimum-Wage Experiment Is About to Unfold - John Cassidy at the New Yorker: "An important question, from a policy-analysis perspective, is how the new wage laws will affect employment levels in the cities that have introduced them. It is now almost twenty-five years since the labor economists David Card and Alan B. Krueger, who were then both at Princeton, published a famous study challenging the prevailing orthodoxy that raises in the minimum wage inevitably lead to declines in hiring, particularly among teen-agers."
  • The University of the Spectacle - James Compton, The Public Intellectuals Project: "The University of the Spectacle inverts the academy’s core values. Students and researchers of social work, English literature or visual arts will not find themselves in these images. No sociology will be committed. Indeed, all traces of scholarship have been removed. The utilitarian managerialism at the heart of the University of the Spectacle has no time for such activities. After all, where is the value-added proposition?"
  • Ten Ideas to Save the Economy #5. Reinvent Education: I like Robert Reich. He means well. But count the ocurrences of phrases like "a more competitive workforce" versus "better-informed and engaged citizens". It isn't the job of public education to save the economy.
  • Austerity Bites: Fiscal Lessons from the British General Election - and : "The economic crisis that hastened New Labour’s demise had nothing to do with overspending and everything to do with its uncritical acceptance of twenty-first-century financial innovation and its excesses. Before analysts conclude that Labour has no choice but to shift to the right, we need to remember the lessons of the global financial crisis: a balanced budget will not save a government from the failures of a banking sector that is too big to bail out, and mere economic facts seldom defeat ideologies."
  • The Corporate Archipelago - Paul Krugman, NYT: "[…] I just participated in a panel on the future of capitalism. I know, why such a small topic? But what I found myself thinking and talking about is actually the present of capitalism — and in particular about the peculiar delusion that we live in a world of individual competition in freewheeling markets."
  • Grexit and the Morning After - Yes, Krugman again; he's on top form: "[…] the bigger question is what happens a year or two after Grexit, where the real risk to the euro is not that Greece will fail but that it will succeed. Suppose that a greatly devalued new drachma brings a flood of British beer-drinkers to the Ionian Sea, and Greece starts to recover. This would greatly encourage challengers to austerity and internal devaluation elsewhere."
  • The bad intelligence - This Modern World by Tom Tomorrow in Daily Kos: Now that we know what we know… y'know…?
  • Our Mania for Hope Is a Curse - Chris Hedges plays Cassandra rather well at Truthdig: "The Dark Ages were marked by arbitrary rule, incessant wars, insecurity, anarchy and terror. And I see nothing to prevent the rise of a new Dark Age if we do not abolish the corporate state. Indeed, the longer the corporate state holds power the more likely a new Dark Age becomes. To trust in some mythical force called progress to save us is to become passive before corporate power. The people alone can defy these forces. And fate and history do not ensure our victory. "
  • The Big Meh - Krugman keeps hitting them out of the park: "[…] writing and talking breathlessly about how technology changes everything might seem harmless, but, in practice, it acts as a distraction from more mundane issues — and an excuse for handling those issues badly. If you go back to the 1930s, you find many influential people saying the same kinds of things such people say nowadays […] And then, thanks to World War II, we finally got the demand boost we needed, and all those supposedly unqualified workers — not to mention Rosie the Riveter — turned out to be quite useful in the modern economy, if given a chance."
  • Nash equilibrium - Tony Curzon Price at openDemocracy: "There is nothing intrinsic to game theory that says that preferences should be self-regarding or that players should not care about the pay-offs to others. That is a layer of psychology and sociology on top of Nash's mathematics and utterly separable from it. Nash's result will apply as much (or, perhaps, as little) in a den of thieves as in a paradise of saints."
  • SourceForge commits reputational suicide - Simon Phipps, Infoworld: "Once the darling of open source, SourceForge has been eclipsed by GitHub and package managers, leaving it with a long, thin tail of (mostly consumer) software. It has used increasingly desperate measures to monetize the service through questionable advertising, SEO, and adware injectors."
  • Reporter Who Wrote Sunday Times 'Snowden' Propaganda Admits That He's Just Writing What UK Gov't Told Him - Mike Masnick at Techdirt: "In short: one government official told them this, and they asked other government officials, who all had a personal interest in having the answer be "yes" and after enough government officials all agreed on the same talking point, good boy Tom Harper wrote it all down and presented it as fact."

Sunday, 14 June 2015 - 5:38pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 14/06/2015 - 5:38pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading, and what I have been mostly reading is: