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New net neutrality piece!

Behold my take on net neutrality, illustrated by the awesome Ian Akin!

(I have Dan Burr working on a piece on Obamacare, but that will take a while.)

Quote of the day

FDR, who could have been talking about QE, in his first inaugural:

“Faced by failure of credit they [bankers] have proposed only the lending of more money.”

Awesome video summing up the mess we’re in

I come across very few things that make me jealous in an “I should totally have done that” way. This is one of them: a video from someone who goes under the nom de guerre of Haiku Charlatan that nails what’s wrong with our economy. Like, why did I bother writing an entire book, dammit?

It’s here. You should watch it. http://youtu.be/6zsXUDQXKuQ 

There are even Keynes quotes I hadn’t come across before. Seriously, my eyes are little hearts right now.

I’ve started looking at the creator’s other stuff; my favorite line so far:

“What about our job creators”?

“You mean the misunderstood superheroes of capitalism that are just ten million dollars away from sleeping under the nearest bridge unless they get further tax cuts?  Or those on Wall Street, who haven’t had a hit of cocaine in weeks, because Big Bird still teaches children to read?”

China Has Been the World’s Biggest Economy For a While

The Financial Times has a piece on how the Chinese economy is poised to take over the mantle of “world’s biggest economy” this year, which is earlier than previous estimates.

But China has been the world’s biggest economy since 2010. You can read about it in a post of mine from a couple of years ago, here.

That doesn’t mean that the news is meaningless; the fact that the relative economic positions of China and America are changing faster than expected means that the (nearly inevitable) political rebalancing will also happen faster than expected. As I said in my previous post: we’ll have to make room for others at the top, if we’re smart we’ll do it willingly and with good grace, but either way we’ll do it.

Wink books is doing God’s work

My incessant Googling of my own name recently turned up a review of Economix at Wink Books. It’s been a while since I mentioned a review (although I keep this page updated), and I’m not writing about the review itself now. Point being, I wound up reading their other reviews; it turned out that Wink an interesting site. It’s devoted to print books that should be print books–ones that don’t work as well as ebooks. I think they were being kind to include Economix (which, I’ve heard, works okay as an ebook ), but their other reviews include a lot of innovative and interesting stuff that I hadn’t known about.

Highlights so far include Denis Wood’s Everything Sings (a series of maps of an ordinary California neighborhood), Anthony Grafton and Daniel Rosenberg’s Cartographies of Time (a history of the timeline), and Joe Sacco’s The Great War (a giant pull-out frieze that stretches the definition of “book”).

So (as weird as it may be for me to review a review site) if you think there’s still a place for printed books, or if you’re open to being convinced that there is, check it out!

Neil DeGrasse Tyson on gender and race in science, transcribed

There’s a video making the rounds where Neil DeGrasse Tyson talks about the gender and racial disparity in race and science. It’s a great talk and I thought I’d transcribe it for the video-impaired.

It’s worth pointing out that this was a response to a question that in turn was prompted by Larry Summers talking about something he doesn’t understand (in this case the gender disparity in science). Summers was somewhat misquoted, but honestly there’s no subject Summers doesn’t get wrong; the man just has to shut his big stupid yap already.

Anyway, here, by contrast, is Tyson:

I have never been female. But I have been black my whole life. And so, let me perhaps offer some insight from that perspective. Because there are many similar social issues related to access to equal opportunity that we find in the black community, as well as the community of women, in a male-dominated—a white-male-dominated—society. . . .

“When I look at, throughout my life—I’ve known that I wanted to do astrophysics since I was nine years old, my first visit to the Hayden planetarium. . . . So I got to see how the world around me reacted to my expression of these ambitions. And all I can say is, the fact that I wanted to be a scientist and astrophysicist was, hands down, the path of most resistance through the forces of society.

“Any time I expressed this interest teachers would say, “Don’t you want to be an athlete?” I looked to become something that was outside the paradigms of expectation of the people in power. Fortunately, my depth of interest was so deep, and so fuel-enriched, that every one of these curveballs I was thrown, and fences built in front of me, and hills that I had to climb, I just reached for more fuel and I kept going.

“Now here I am, one—I think—one of the most visible scientists in the land, and I look behind me and say, “where are the others who might have been this?” And they’re not there. And I wonder how— who— what is the blood on the tracks that I happened to survive that others did not? Simply because of the forces of society that prevented, at every turn, at every turn, to the point that I have security guards following me as I go through department stores, presuming that I am a thief. I walked out of a store one time and the alarm went off, so they came running to me. I walked through the gate at the same time a white male walked through the gate. And that guy just walked off with the stolen goods, knowing that they would stop me and not him. That’s an interesting sort of exploitation of this; what a scam that was. I think people should do that more often. [Laughter]

So, my life experience tells me that when you don’t find blacks in the sciences, when you don’t find women in the sciences, I know that these forces are real, and I had to survive them in order to get where I am today.

So before we start talking about genetic differences, you gotta come up with a system where there’s equal opportunity. Then we can have that conversation.

On a panel in (or near) Boston!

Boston folk:

I’m on a panel on Monday, 12:30 to 2, at North Shore Community College in Danvers (Room 105 in the HPSS building).

Come and hear me pontificate! The campus map is here: http://www.northshore.edu/safety/pdf/Danvers_Map.pdf.

A comic about Obamacare

I’ve already talked about my (overwhelmingly positive) experience with Obamacare in two blog posts here and here. But one Jen Sorensen, a freelance cartoonist in Texas, did the same thing in comics! It’s available here.

A sample:

Quote of the day

“Each man has his own individual right to do as he pleases, but businessmen have no influence over voting. If they did it would be the downfall of the nation.”
—R.K. Mellon, businessman, quoted in Burton Hersh, The Mellon Family, p368.

He was exaggerating, of course, but it wasn’t completely implausible when he said it (the mid-20th century).

Joseph Stiglitz comes out against the TPP

So, a week or so ago one of my favorite living economists, Paul Krugman, posted a piece on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He wasn’t for it, exactly, but he thought it just wasn’t that important. I disagreed, to put it mildly.

But yesterday, one of my other favorite living economists, Joseph Stiglitz, came out swinging against the TPP in a New York Times opinion piece.

Some of his points:

  • Based on the leaks we’ve seen, the TPP doesn’t look good; it’s a symptom of our political dysfunction that it’s even being considered.
  • Tariffs are already low; agreements like the TPP focus on reducing non-tariff barriers to trade, which are hard-won labor, environmental, or consumer protections. In his words, “‘Trade agreements’ new boosters euphemistically claim that they are simply after regulatory harmonization, a clean-sounding phrase that implies an innocent plan to promote efficiency. One could, of course, get regulatory harmonization by strengthening regulations to the highest standards everywhere. But when corporations call for harmonization, what they really mean is a race to the bottom.”
  • One of the worst aspects is that it allows corporations to sue governments in international tribunals.
  • There’s not even good evidence that developing countries benefit.
  • The economists who support it are working from wrong assumptions.

Which are much the same points I made in my comic on the subject. It’s kind of nice when someone of Stiglitz’s stature agrees with you.