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Is public debt — really — a burden on future generations?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 23/04/2019 - 4:41am in

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from Lars Syll The real issue … is not whether it is possible to shift a burden (either in the present or in the future) from some people to other people, but whether it is possible by internal borrowing to shift a real burden from the present generation, in the sense of the present economy […]

A closer look at labor in the U.S. : BLS state-level labor force participation rates

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 22/04/2019 - 11:00pm in

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The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics collects all kinds of data on the labor force, employed persons, unemployed persons, and unemployment rates. FRED now offers the BLS’s labor force participation rates for the individual 50 states and the District of Columbia. With this new addition to FRED, we can easily track a state’s labor force participation rate over time and compare performance across states.

By the way, the labor force participation rate is the number of all employed and unemployed workers as a percentage of the total population. By “unemployed,” we mean those actively seeking employment; and by “total population,” we mean the civilian noninstitutional population 16 years and older.

The first graph shows labor force participation rates for each state of the Eighth District (the region served by the St. Louis Fed) plus the rate for the U.S. overall since January 1976. In February, the national rate was 63.2%, its highest level since September 2013. Three states in the District had higher participation rates in February than the national average: Indiana (65.2%), Illinois (64.6%), and Missouri (63.6%). Mississippi (55.4%), Arkansas (57.9%), Kentucky (59.0%), and Tennessee (61.0%) had rates below the national average. While peer comparisons are important, it’s also valuable to consider performance over time.

The second graph shows District state performance for the past year—that is, the year-over-year change in the labor force participation rate for each month. The year-over-year participation rate for the nation has improved for the past six consecutive months. Indiana shows the strongest and most consistent improvement in labor force participation, with a year-over-year increase in each month. In contrast, Missouri and Mississippi have declining participation rates, with negative changes each month. Arkansas also has had mostly negative changes each month, but in March had its first year-over-year increase since January 2018.

How these graphs were created: For the first graph, search for “Civilian Labor Force Participation Rate” and click “Add to Graph.” From the “Edit Graph” menu, use the “Add Line” tab to find seasonally adjusted state-level labor force participation rates (aka “LBSSA” in FRED). Add the corresponding series for each state: Arkansas (LBSSA05), Illinois (LBSSA17), Indiana (LBSSA18), Kentucky (LBSSA21), Mississippi (LBSSA28), Missouri (LBSSA29), and Tennessee (LBSSA47). For the second graph, take the first and use the “Format” tab to select “Bar” as the “Graph Type.” From the “Edit Line” tab, select “Change from Year Ago, Percent” for “Units.” Select “Copy to All.” Finally, select “1Y” in the options listed just above the graph to adjust the x-axis. The 102 state-level labor force participation rates (seasonally adjusted and non-adjusted series for the 50 states plus D.C.) can all be found in the corresponding release table.

Suggested by Kathryn Bokun and Kevin Kliesen.

Now Up on YouTube Hugh Iglarsh and Charlotte Adelman

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 22/04/2019 - 10:09pm in

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Now Up on YouTube: Hugh Iglarsh and Charlotte Adelman — “Barack Obama’s Great Tower of Nothing: Gentrification on a Presidential Level”

The YouTube video of Saturday, April 20, 2019 is now available for viewing on the YouTube channel of the Open University of the Left.                                                        https://www.youtube.com/user/OpenUnivoftheLeft/

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Hypervigilance and Social Media

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 22/04/2019 - 9:51pm in

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Some of you may know I embarked on a social media fast a few months ago. A big part of my recovery has been writing by hand. I am gradually transcribing those pearls of wisdom gleaned from my notebooks, but it’s taking a while. Jumping ahead of my backlog, here is today’s entry, hopefully to be collected with the rest into a treatise tentatively titled Death on Mount Ladyfeels: Reflections of an Internet Scapegoat.

April 22

I doubled my daily social media allowance to 30 minutes, in order to promote the May 8 Seder-Masochism screening at the Virginia, and already my addiction is more active. I made an event page on fecebook with fliers and links to the GoFundMe. I posted these on my timeline as well. Of course there are comments and “reactions.” Of course I’m vigilant for counter-reactions: denunciations, protest organizing. Those will take a few days, although I already screen-capped my first denunciation on Twitter, calling out the Virginia for promoting a right-wing white supremacist (that’s what they think I am now).

My impulse is to check the internet to find out “what’s happening” — who is reacting to me, to my event, to my film; what are they saying, thinking, doing. They say abuse survivors are “hypervigilant”; it’s a symptom of PTSD. Certainly those being actively abused are. Social media supplies abuse and enables hypervigilance, everything a victim needs to trauma bond with technology. It’s perfect for compulsively monitoring your abusers. Every social subtlety is significant, a cue and a clue to your safety, who will come to your aid and who will betray or condemn you, as Robin Dunbar elaborated in Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language. We constantly need to know where we rank in the hierarchy, who our allies and enemies are, and how those alliances shift. We need not only keep track of our friends and enemies, but our friends’ friends and enemies, and our enemies’ enemies and friends. For this, the human brain was designed; language evolved merely to keep better track of ever-shifting ranks, alliances, and enmities, according to Dunbar. No wonder fecebook is so addictive.

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A Fortnight

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 22/04/2019 - 7:42pm in

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This last couple of weeks have seen the build-up to Julian’s arrest, the event itself, and the coordinated campaign of lies and hate that have ensued. Perhaps not coincidentally, it also saw the publication of the breath-taking exercise in state dishonesty that is the Mueller Report. Simultaneously these events brought me into close contact with other good friends, who in different ways are also right now going through very difficult periods indeed, involving state conspiracy and injustice. Despite the heartening interlude of a dash to Rothesay to speak to a full and inspiring hall, I not only found myself working rather too hard on all these matters, I also contracted bronchitis and ended up in bed wheezing and a nasty blue colour. To add to all of which, my family are rightly not exactly chuffed with the abandonment of cherished plans for the Easter holiday and my subsequent disappearance and lack of support to them.

I considered writing today something about Julian’s arrest and Mueller, and starting something on the other issues, but then decided that an auto-biographical piece on my last couple of weeks close to the centre of these events, incorporating the key arguments, may be more powerful in humanising those arguments, and thus reach a larger audience. To write such a piece will necessarily reveal a lot of confidences, and I am going to need to clear it with those involved. It will therefore be a few days before you can see it – and if the key people concerned are not comfortable, it may not see the light of day, and I may have to return to Plan A.

In the meantime I am working up a piece on my reaction to Extinction Rebellion, which I hope to publish today.

In the 13 years of this blog before I accepted subscriptions, one of the main reasons I did not do so was that I feared feeling guilty when I was not producing articles, and feeling obliged to explain myself. That is indeed now happening. Somewhat oddly, I find the process rather liberating, in showing myself as a real and frail person, not some disembodied intellect.

The post A Fortnight appeared first on Craig Murray.

Anthony Thirlwall On Nicholas Kaldor On Joining The European Union

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 22/04/2019 - 6:41am in

There’s a new book, The Elgar Companion To John Maynard Keynes, edited by  Robert W. Dimand, Harald Hagemann. Chapter 76 titled Nicholas Kaldor is written by Anthony Thirlwall.

Thirlwall reminds us of Kaldor’s dislike to enter the common market in the 70s:

The Labour Party lost power in 1970 and Kaldor had more time to campaign on two main public issues which concerned him greatly. The first was the acceptance by economists and policy-makers of the doctrine of monetarism which had spread with the virulence of a plague from the University of Chicago under the influence of Milton Friedman to infect policy thinking at the highest level in the UK. The second concerned the UK’s entry into the Common Market (now the European Union). With regard to monetarism, Kaldor led the intellectual assault worldwide against the monetarist view that inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon in a causal sense caused by excessive government expenditure financed by money creation. On the contrary, argued Kaldor, because money consists largely of credit, and credit only comes into existence if it is demanded, money is endogenous to an economy not causal in the determination of output and prices. The major cause of inflation, at least in mature industrial countries, is rising wages and other costs. Kaldor could find no evidence in the UK. or across countries, of any relationship between the size of countries’ budget deficits and measures of broad money (Kaldor 1980c). Kaldor lost the battle against monetarism in the UK, but won the war because the doctrine of monetarism is now dead.

On the issue of the UK joining the Common Market. Kaldor was highly sceptical of the alleged dynamic benefits stemming from a larger market for the export of goods and services. He argued that because imports are likely to grow faster than exports, as trade barriers come down, the UK would need to deflate the economy to preserve balance of payments equilibrium, and this would slow growth. In addition to this, the budgetary contribution would be huge, the price of food would rise leading to wage increases and Britain would be letting down the Commonwealth countries which had a preferential access to the UK market. The vote in 1975 against joining the Common Market was lost, but Kaldor appears to have been correct in his predictions. The dynamic benefits of having become a member of the European Union are nowhere to be seen. If anything, productivity growth has been slower post-1975 than pre-1975 (although other factors have also been at work).

REFERENCES

Kaldor, N (1980c), Memorandum of Evidence on Monetary Policy submitted to the House of Commons Select Committee on the Treasury and the Civil Service, 17 July, London: HMSO.


Nicholas Kaldor, picture from Cambridge Journal Of Economics

Veblen’s insights come back to haunt us.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 22/04/2019 - 2:09am in

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from Ken Zimmerman Veblen’s “The Theory of the Leisure Class” is even more relevant for events over the last 100 years. But this and most other Veblen research and writing have been systematically buried. Thorstein Veblen’s working life — from 1890 to 1923 — overlapped with America’s first Gilded Age, so named by Mark Twain, whose […]

Reviewing the ‘I’s’ Review of Ian McEwan’s ‘Machines Like Me’

George Barr’s cover illo for Lloyd Biggle’s The Metallic Muse. From David Kyle, the Illustrated Book of Science Fiction Ideas & Dreams (London: Hamlyn 1977).

The book’s pages of last Friday’s I , for 19th April 2019, carried a review by Jude Cook of Ian McEwan’s latest literary offering, a tale of a love triangle between a man, the male robot he has purchased, and his wife, a plot summed up in the review’s title, ‘Boy meets robot, robot falls for girl’. I’d already written a piece in anticipation of its publication on Thursday, based on a little snippet in Private Eye’s literary column that McEwan, Jeanette Winterson and Kazuo Ishiguro were all now turning to robots and AI for their subject matter, and the Eye expected other literary authors, like Martin Amis and Salman Rushdie, to follow. My objection to this is that it appeared to be another instance of the literary elite taking their ideas from Science Fiction, while looking down on the genre and its writers. The literary establishment has moved on considerably, but I can still remember the late, and very talented Terry Pratchett complaining at the Cheltenham Literary Festival that the organisers had looked at him as if he was about to talk to all his waiting fans crammed into the room about motorcycle maintenance.

Cook’s review gave an outline of the plot and some of the philosophical issues discussed in the novel. Like the Eye’s piece, it also noted the plot’s similarity to that of the Channel 4 series, Humans. The book is set in an alternative 1982 in which the Beatles are still around and recording, Tony Benn is Prime Minister, but Britain has lost the Falklands War. It’s a world where Alan Turing is still alive, and has perfected machine consciousness. The book’s hero, Charlie, purchases one of the only 25 androids that have been manufactured, Adam. This is not a sex robot, but described as ‘capable of sex’, and which has an affair with the hero’s wife, Miranda. Adam is an increasing threat to Charlie, refusing to all his master to power him down. There’s also a subplot about a criminal coming forward to avenge the rape Miranda has suffered in the past, and a four year old boy about to be placed in the care system.

Cook states that McEwan discusses the philosophical issue of the Cartesian duality between mind and brain when Charlie makes contact with Turing, and that Charlie has to decide whether Adam is too dangerous to be allowed to continue among his flesh and blood counterparts, because

A Manichean machine-mind that can’t distinguish between a white lie and a harmful lie, or understand that revenge can sometimes be justified, is potentially lethal.

Cook declares that while this passage threatens to turn the book into a dry cerebral exercise, its engagement with the big questions is its strength, concluding

The novel’s presiding Prospero is Turing himself, who observes that AI is fatally flawed because life is “an open system… full of tricks and feints and ambiguities”. His great hope is that by its existence “we might be shocked in doing something about ourselves.”

Robots and the Edisonade

It’s an interesting review, but what it does not do is mention the vast amount of genre Science Fiction that has used robots to explore the human condition, the limits or otherwise of machine intelligence and the relationship between such machines and their creators, since Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. There clearly seems to be a nod to Shelley with the name of this android, as the monster in her work, I think, is also called Adam. But Eando Binder – the nom de plume of the brothers Earl and Otto Binder, also wrote a series of stories in the 1930s and ’40s about a robot, Adam Link, one of which was entitled I, Robot, which was later used as the title of one of Asimov’s stories. And although the term ‘robot’ was first used of such machines by the Czech writer Karel Capek in his 1920s play, RUR, or Rossum’s Universal Robots, they first appeared in the 19th century. One of these was Villier de l’Isle-Adam, L’Eve Futur of 1884. This was about a robot woman invented by Thomas Edison. As one of the 19th centuries foremost inventors, Edison was the subject of a series of proto-SF novels, the Edisonades, in which his genius allowed him to create all manner of advanced machines. In another such tale, Edison invents a spaceship and weapons that allow humanity to travel to the planets and conquer Mars. McEwan’s book with its inclusion of Alan Turing is basically a modern Edisonade, but with the great computer pioneer rather than the 19th century electrician as its presiding scientific genius. Possibly later generations will have novels set in an alternative late 20th century where Stephen Hawking has invented warp drive, time travel or a device to take us into alternative realities via artificial Black Holes.

Robot Romances

As I said in my original article, there are any number of SF books about humans having affairs with robots, like Tanith Lee’s The Silver Metal Lover, Lester del Rey’s Helen O’Loy and Asimov’s Satisfaction Guaranteed. The genre literature has also explored the moral and philosophical issues raised by the creation of intelligent machines. In much of this literature, robots are a threat, eventually turning on their masters, from Capek’s R.U.R. through to The Terminator and beyond. But some writers, like Asimov, have had a more optimistic view. In his 1950 I, Robot, a robot psychologist, Dr. Susan Calvin, describes them in a news interview as ‘a cleaner, better breed than we are’.

Lem’s Robots and Descartes

As for the philosophical issues, the Polish SF writer, Stanislaw Lem, explored them in some of his novels and short stories. One of these deals with the old problem, also dating back to Descartes, about whether we can truly know that there is an external world. The story’s hero, the space pilot Pirx, visits a leading cybernetician in his laboratory. This scientist has developed a series of computer minds. These exist, however, without robot bodies, but the minds themselves are being fed programmes which make them believe that they are real, embodied people living in the real world. One of these minds is of a beautiful woman with a scar on her shoulder from a previous love affair. Sometimes the recorded programmes jump a groove, creating instances of precognition or deja vu. But ultimately, all these minds are, no matter how human or how how real they believe themselves to be, are brains in vats. Just like Descartes speculated that a demon could stop people from believing in a real world by casting the illusion of a completely false one on the person they’ve possessed.

Morality and Tragedy in The ABC Warriors 

Some of these complex moral and personal issues have also been explored by comics, until recently viewed as one of the lowest forms of literature. In a 1980s ‘ABC Warriors’ story in 2000AD, Hammerstein, the leader of a band of heroic robot soldiers, remembers his earliest days. He was the third prototype of a series of robot soldiers. The first was an efficient killer, patriotically killing Communists, but exceeded its function. It couldn’t tell civilians from combatants, and so committed war crimes. The next was programmed with a set of morals, which causes it to become a pacifist. It is killed trying to persuade the enemy – the Volgans – to lay down their arms. Hammerstein is its successor. He has been given morals, but not to the depth that they impinge on his ability to kill. For example, enemy soldiers are ‘terrorists’. But those on our side are ‘freedom fighters’. When the enemy murders civilians, it’s an atrocity. When we kill civilians, it’s unavoidable casualties. As you can see, the writer and creator of the strip, Pat Mills, has very strong left-wing opinions.

Hammerstein’s programming is in conflict, so his female programmer takes him to a male robot psychiatrist, a man who definitely has romantic intentions towards her. They try to get Hammerstein to come out of his catatonic reverie by trying to provoke a genuine emotional reaction. So he’s exposed to all manner of stimuli, including great works of classical music, a documentary about Belsen, and the novels of Barbara Cartland. But the breakthrough finally comes when the psychiatrist tries to kiss his programmer. This provokes Hammerstein into a frenzied attack, in which he accidentally kills both. Trying to repair the damage he’s done, Hammerstein says plaintively ‘I tried to replace his head, but it wouldn’t screw back on.’

It’s a genuinely adult tale within the overall, action-oriented story in which the robots are sent to prevent a demon from Earth’s far future from destroying the Galaxy by destabilising the artificial Black and White Holes at the centre of Earth’s underground civilisation, which have been constructed as express routes to the stars. It’s an example of how the comics culture of the time was becoming more adult, and tackling rather more sophisticated themes.

Conclusion: Give Genre Authors Their Place at Literary Fiction Awards

It might seem a bit mean-spirited to compare McEwan’s latest book to its genre predecessors. After all, in most reviews of fiction all that is required is a brief description of the plot and the reviewer’s own feelings about the work, whether it’s done well or badly. But there is a point to this. As I’ve said, McEwan, Winterson, Ishiguro and the others, who may well follow their lead, are literary authors, whose work regularly wins the big literary prizes. They’re not genre authors, and the type of novels they write are arguably seen by the literary establishment as superior to that of genre Science Fiction. But here they’re taking over proper Science Fiction subjects – robots and parallel worlds – whose authors have extensively explored their moral and philosophical implications. This is a literature that can’t and shouldn’t be dismissed as trash, as Stanislaw Lem has done, and which the judges and critics of mainstream literary fiction still seem to do. McEwan’s work deserves to be put into the context of genre Science Fiction. The literary community may feel that it’s somehow superior, but it is very much of the same type as its genre predecessors, who did the themes first and, in my opinion, better.

There is absolutely no reason, given the quality of much SF literature, why this tale by McEwan should be entered for a literary award or reviewed by the kind of literary journals that wouldn’t touch genre science fiction with a barge pole, while genre SF writers are excluded. It’s high time that highbrow literary culture recognised and accepted works and writers of genre SF as equally worthy of respect and inclusion.

Chag Sameach!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 21/04/2019 - 6:00am in

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Blacklisting is familiar to many American Jews. Both Robert Naiman and I are “red diaper grandbabies”: his Jewish grandfather was blacklisted, as was my Jewish great-uncle, and my Jewish grandparents were terrified former Communist Party members in rural Indiana. When I was a child, my mother sternly warned me never to say her parents were Communists out loud – she had grown up in a climate of terror and silence.

Many American Jews have been Communists. Many more have been deeply committed to Civil Rights, particularly Free Speech. I understood better why on a recent trip to Poland, where I met not a single Pole who had ever attended a Passover seder. This included Poles descended from Jews, who are legion. In Seder-Masochism, I wonder aloud why my father, an atheist, raised us observing Passover. In Poland, I got my answer: Because he could. Because in America we were free to do Passover — to not only be ethnically Jewish, but to say out loud what Jews were forbidden to say in Poland. This meant an annual Passover seder without fear.

While today’s ACLU is a disgrace, in its better days its membership was disproportionately Jewish. American Jews understood the importance of Speech, including – especially – speech you disagree with. Although the ACLU no longer understands this, some of us American Jews still do.

We wanted to screen Seder-Masochism during the week of Passover. Robert signed a contract with the Art Theater and made a deposit, but when the Art’s Executive Director realized the film was by local witch/scapegoat Nina Paley, she cancelled the contract. I’ve been blacklisted in Champaign-Urbana for saying the forbidden: that women don’t have penises. For this, my screenings have been cancelled, my voice silenced, and my life threatened. Those responsible may think this has nothing to do with Jews, but they are re-enacting patterns very familiar to Jews indeed. Patterns that never end well, for anyone. Patterns that resulted in most Poles having no idea what Passover is.

Blacklisted by the Art, Robert turned to the only centrally-located theater left, the 1,463-seat Virginia, a beautifully restored movie palace owned and operated by the Champaign Park District. As a government enterprise, the Virginia must respect the First Amendment. (It also helps that, unlike the Art, the Virginia is not run by repressive ideologues.)

The theater is truly gorgeous, and huge. It will be a struggle to fill all 1,463 seats. Can you help? Admission is FREE, you need only get to Champaign, IL. If you donate $250 or more to the event’s GoFundMe, you get to have dinner with me and Robert in downtown Champaign (restaurant to be determined) before the screening.  A donation of $1,463 gets you this beautiful Goddess quilt. For us, the greatest gift would be to see hundreds of you at the Virginia Theater on May 8, because Free Speech is priceless.

Help us fill seats by printing and posting flyers!

Seder-Masochism at the Virginia flyer PDFDownload

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The Great Transformation: poverty on a large scale

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 21/04/2019 - 2:23am in

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from Maria Alejandra Madi In the analysis of the economic and social transformations of the nineteenth century, Polanyi noted that the emergence of a market economy pushed to the side the old economic and social systems based on reciprocity and redistribution.  Since then, the market economy has been characterized as an economic system controlled by […]

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