Archive for January 2011
Excellent column by Dean Baker:
That is pretty much what former Obama adviser Steven Rattner had to say in the Washington Post today. In his piece, Rattner told President Obama:
"don’t blame the talented economists who were advising you …. Creating jobs is a slow and frustrating process in the wake of a tough recession."
Calling the president’s economic advisers "talented" is good for their self-esteem (we know how important that is), but in the real world, their talent as economists must be judged by their performance. Missing the biggest asset bubble in the history of the world (a credential shared by all of the president’s economic advisers) doesn’t speak well for them.
However even more important is their failure to generate jobs for the country’s workers following the bubble’s collapse, which has to be the top priority for economic policy. While job creation might be "hard" other countries have managed to do it. For example, Germany has managed to bring down its unemployment rate from 7.1 percent at the start of the downturn to 6.7 percent today. This was accomplished in spite of the fact that Germany actually had a steeper downturn than the United States.
Mr. Rattner’s piece suggests one of the key causes of the administration’s failure to generate jobs. Rattner highlights the more rapid productivity growth in the United States over the last decade than in other countries, in particular singling out Germany as country with slower growth.
While faster productivity growth is generally better than slower growth, this is not the case when . . .
I did not realize that Sing Sing Sing was written by Louis Prima. I saw the clip below in context: it’s from Hollywood Hotel, and is one of the reasons to watch the movie. Another is the Goodman Small Group session that started practically in the next frame: good shots of Teddy Wilson really swinging at the piano, Lionel Hampton, and others.
However, the U.S. actually has much greater inequality than in any of those countries.
Specifically, the "Gini Coefficient" – the figure economists use to measure inequality – is higher in the U.S.
[Click for graph showing the inequality rate of various nations.]
Gini Coefficients are like golf – the lower the score, the better (i.e. the more equality).
According to the CIA World Fact Book, the U.S. is ranked as the 42nd most unequal country in the world, with a Gini Coefficient of 45.
- Tunisia is ranked the 62nd most unequal country, with a Gini Coefficient of 40.
- Yemen is ranked 76th most unequal, with a Gini Coefficient of 37.7.
- And Egypt is ranked as the 90th most unequal country, with a Gini Coefficient of around 34.4.
And inequality in the U.S. has soared in the last couple of years, since the Gini Coefficient was last calculated, so it is undoubtedly currently much higher.
So why are Egyptians rioting, while the Americans are complacent?
Well, Americans – until recently – have been some of the wealthiest people in the world, with most having plenty of comforts (and/or entertainment) and more than enough to eat.
But another reason is that – as Dan Ariely of Duke University and Michael I. Norton of Harvard Business School demonstrate – Americans consistently underestimate the amount of inequality in our nation.
As William Alden wrote last September: . . .
I was picking up some things for GOPM, and I noticed that prepared foods are starting to show up where previously one saw only raw foods. Thus raw foods have less space. I suppose, given that prepared foods, regardless of the health drawbacks, make more money for the company, so eventually we’ll see the raw foods eliminated, with the usual comment, "Oh, nobody asks for that any more," usually said to someone who is in fact asking for it.
In this case, a quarter of the bin that once for used for prepackaged meats (raw bison, raw beef, and the like) has now been given over to things like boxed lamb stew, already prepared. It looked awful, but…
I’m not exactly nervous, but I did spent some hours yesterday working through the on-line practice sessions that go with our text/workbook, ¡Adelante!. Today it occurred to me that a good lunch option will be boiled eggs (the class meets 11:30am – 2:00pm), so I’m getting some eggs to boil.
Weight still stuck above 195. But with the semester starting, my spending a couple of days a week on campus may be enough additional activity to get this show going again.
I was prompted to bring out my dish of Durance L’òme shaving soap on reading this post at BruceOnShaving. As you can see, he did not like the soap at all, and yet I have quite positive memories of the soap (which I’ve not used lately). I dug it out just to try, and it is still a really excellent and enjoyable shaving soap.
Given the enormous differences in our experience with the soap, and the fact that Bruce’s soap is quite new, I suspect that the soap has been reformulated sometime in the years since I bought my bowl. And we have certainly recently seen other shaving soap vendors ruin their products by reformulation—someone just recently wrote to say that Penhaligon’s Blenheim Bouquet shaving soap is now no longer the good product it once was.
I decided to take photos along the way. Here’s the brush just after I loaded it, before working up the lather on my face:
I set up a blue background so you can see the lather. I returned to the bathroom (photos are done in the hall) and worked up lather for the first pass. This is the brush after that:
Yes: at that point the batteries in the camera went out. I was not interested in finding new batteries and doing a battery exchange in the middle of a shave, so I’ll try the exercise some other time. Suffice it for now to say that I enjoyed bountiful, luxurious, lubricating lather for all three passes, with lots left at the end, from the initial loading. It has to be a change in formulation.
The shave, BTW, was great. I am liking the Progress, as you can tell.
Made it this evening. Layers, from bottom to top, in a 2-qt cast-iron Dutch oven:
6 scallions, white and green parts, sliced
1/2 c. converted rice
2 Tbsp chicken stock or water
8 oz boneless pork loin chop, trimmed of fat and cut into bite-size pieces
salt and pepper
Chinese 5-spice powder
crushed red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 large domestic white mushrooms, sliced
1 green bell pepper, cut into 1″ squares
1 yellow crookneck squash, coarsely chopped
the thick part of fresh fennel fronds, sliced
3/4 c chopped Italian parsley
2 baby bok choy, sliced
Whisk together and pour over the top:
2 Tbsp Bragg’s vinaigrette
1 Tbsp soy sauce
good dash of fish sauce
juice of 1 lime
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Cover, roast at 450ºF for 45 minutes, and serve.
I particularly liked the different textures and mouth feels: soft from the mushrooms and green peppers, a little crunch from the squash and fennel fronds.
Just made up of what was on hand. The layering technique works well with the “oh, that looks good—I’ll add some of that” approach to cooking.
I bet the same recipe would work well with tempeh in lieu of pork.
From the Real News Network. You can read a transcript here (scroll down).
Kevin Drum has another very interesting post, concerning a long-term study on the effects of good vs. bad self-control:
This isn’t too surprising, but a new study that tracked over a thousand children from the age of 3 to the age of 32 has found that the long-term effects of poor self-control are at least as important as intelligence and social class origin:
Childhood self-control predicted adult health problems….elevated risk for substance dependence….less ﬁnancially planful….less likely to save and had acquired fewer ﬁnancial building blocks for the future….struggling ﬁnancially in adulthood….more money-management difﬁculties….more credit problems….more likely to be convicted of a criminal offense.
The following chart appears in the paper at the link (click to enlarge to readable size):
The authors suggest two different paths by which poor self-control creates problems later in life:
Adolescents with low self-control made mistakes, such as starting smoking, leaving high school, and having an unplanned baby, that could ensnare them in lifestyles with lasting ill effects….Thus, interventions in adolescence that prevent or ameliorate the consequences of teenagers’ mistakes might go far to improve the health, wealth, and public safety of the population. On the other hand, that childhood self-control predicts adolescents’ mistakes implies that early childhood intervention could prevent them….Early childhood intervention that enhances self-control is likely to bring a greater return on investment than harm reduction programs targeting adolescents alone.
The policy implications here remain to be worked out, but it’s yet another indication that the benefits of intensive early childhood interventions go far beyond academic achievement. Even if early childhood programs have no lasting effect on school test scores at all, they might still be immensely valuable if they improve levels of self-control. The question is, what’s the best way to do that?
Kevin Drum makes a very good point:
I think that’s correct, but that “full employment” is doing almost all the work here even while Konczal’s emotional emphasis seems to be on bargaining power. After all, if you have strong labor unions and a government that doesn’t fight for full employment, then what happens is the unions use their bargaining power to cut insider/outsider deals at the expense of the unemployed. One of the great virtues of American unions in their heyday is that they used their political muscle to push the government to fight for full employment, which was excellent and it’s a political voice we’re desperately missing today. But that’s not to say that the unions themselves are a viable substitute for full employment. A market economy is either going to operate near full employment, or else people will only share in its benefits thanks to handouts. That’s true for any given set of labor market institutions.
Sure, full employment is doing most of the work here. But that’s the point of a strong labor movement: it forces the government to fight for full employment. It fights for lots of other stuff too, and that’s the whole virtue of organized labor. It’s true that they also produce a modest wage premium for their own members, but if that’s all they did then I wouldn’t care much about them and neither would most other liberals.
Unions have lots of pathologies: they can get entranced by implementing insane work rules, they can get co-opted by other political actors, and they can end up fighting progress on social issues, just to name a few. But they fight for economic egalitarianism, and they’re the only institution in history that’s ever done that successfully on a sustained basis. That’s what makes them so indispensable to liberalism and that’s what makes them the sworn enemies of conservatism.
You just can’t pull labor and full employment apart. It’s not a matter of emphasis. A country without a strong labor movement is almost inevitably one in which economic and political power is overwhelmingly on the side of business interests and rich people, and that means you’re not going to have sustained full employment because that’s not what business interests and rich people want. It’s all about power, baby, power.
When the GOP offers programs and ideas based on falsehoods, one has to conclude that the GOP is not interested in helping the country out of the mess into which it has fallen. In the NY Times Paul Krugman points out some serious problems in the GOP’s understanding of recent events:
President Obama’s State of the Union address was a ho-hum affair. But the official Republican response, from Representative Paul Ryan, was really interesting. And I don’t mean that in a good way.
Mr. Ryan made highly dubious assertions about employment, health care and more. But what caught my eye, when I read the transcript, was what he said about other countries: “Just take a look at what’s happening to Greece, Ireland, the United Kingdom and other nations in Europe. They didn’t act soon enough; and now their governments have been forced to impose painful austerity measures: large benefit cuts to seniors and huge tax increases on everybody.”
It’s a good story: Europeans dithered on deficits, and that led to crisis. Unfortunately, while that’s more or less true for Greece, it isn’t at all what happened either in Ireland or in Britain, whose experience actually refutes the current Republican narrative.
But then, American conservatives have long had their own private Europe of the imagination — a place of economic stagnation and terrible health care, a collapsing society groaning under the weight of Big Government. The fact that Europe isn’t actually like that — did you know that adults in their prime working years are more likely to be employed in Europe than they are in the United States? — hasn’t deterred them. So we shouldn’t be surprised by similar tall tales about European debt problems.
Let’s talk about what really happened in Ireland and Britain.
The country continues its descent. Justin Elliott in Salon:
An adjunct political science professor was fired Wednesday by Brooklyn College following complaints by a student and a local politician about his pro-Palestinian political views.
The college maintains the instructor, graduate student Kristofer Petersen-Overton, was let go because he did not have proper credentials to teach a master’s level course on Middle East politics. But there’s evidence that other graduate students with the same level of experience as Petersen-Overton have had no trouble teaching advanced courses in the department both in the past and the present.
And now a group of Brooklyn College professors are blasting the administration for undermining academic freedom.
Here is what happened:
Petersen-Overton, a political science student at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York, was looking for a course to teach in the spring, and he heard about an opening at Brooklyn College, which is part of the CUNY [City University of New York] system. Petersen-Overton had a B.A. in political science from San Diego State and a masters in development from a university in Denmark. He has published several articles about Israel and the Palestinians in academic journals and books. He also previously worked at the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, a Gaza NGO, in 2007-08. He started his studies at CUNY in 2009.
He got the part-time adjunct professor’s job at Brooklyn College to teach Middle East politics, a master’s level course that is regularly offered in the political science department. That was in late December. The acting chair of the department, who had hired him, asked Petersen-Overton to send him a syllabus to circulate to prospective students.
That’s when the trouble began.
One student, whose identity is not known, did not like the books in the syllabus. The student complained to the department and also contacted a blogger and Brooklyn College alum, Bruce Kesler. He attacked Petersen-Overton in a Jan. 19. post titled "Gaza Defender Hired To Teach Middle East At Brooklyn College." Kesler criticized Petersen-Overton for being "preoccupied with the Palestinian narrative," for describing Zionism as a "philosophy of separation," and for having published articles on the website Electronic Intifada.
Around that same time, a student (likely the same student) contacted the provost and complained about Petersen-Overton. . .
Continue reading. I hope the guy gets his job back. Or is it the job of the college to ensure that only one point of view is represented?
At Whole Foods today I saw red Fresno peppers, and that means pepper sauce. It’s simmering now on the stove: about a quart of red Fresno peppers, stems cut off, 5 large cloves garlic, 1/4 large onion, 4 habaneros (stems removed), 1 jalapeño (stem cut off), and 1/3 cup sea salt: all that in my blender jar, then fill the container with a mix of white vinegar and golden balsamic vinegar. Blend, bring to boil, cover, and simmer 20 minutes.
Then let it sit for 20 minutes, blend again, and bottle. This is in support of the Canadian Vines.
And, of course, for me.
Kathy Truesdell points out a promotion at Classic Shaving:
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“Anybody can grab some flowers and candy at the market; we appeal to the true romantic, those who shave like they mean it,” commented William Lubrano, Owner/Director, Classic Brand, Inc. “We have a treasure trove of products for men and women, from modest to extravagant, and an experienced staff of experts who love to help. For a truly personal gift, we can engrave initials, names, dates or a brief sentiment on many items, including shaving mugs and gift sets.”
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Classic Shaving’s been around a long time. I got my first shaving equipment there when I resumed traditional wetshaving.
Loads of lather from the Figaro by using the G.B. Kent BK4. Then my trusty Progress went to work: three very smooth passes resulted in a very smooth face. I need to use the Progress more frequently. A splash of Pashana and I was off for a busy morning (including a visit to The Healthy Way and a rigorous Pilates class).