New York mag has a good piece on the “tsunami of slime” that will cover 2012

January 25, 2012

By Joe Hagan. He also reminds us how Citizens United will make all this infinitely worse.

So any wonder that an overwhelming majority of Americans just wish it were over, already?



Welcome to the Year of the Dragon

January 24, 2012

Health, joy, luck, love, and a long and interesting life.


The assault on unions continues

January 22, 2012

About a month ago, I posted on the assault on unions and the decline of America's middle class.

Today, another NYT story, this time on how companies are using lockouts as a weapon.

This follows, by just days, a piece on how American corporations are using the the threat of moving jobs to lower-wage America to batter unions in other countries.

And, of course, there are continued attacks at the state level, like the current fight over right-to-work in Indiana.

Dark days for American workers, indeed. Will the Obama administration come riding over the hill?


NYT’s Joe Nocera has a brilliant meditation on Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess”

January 22, 2012


No comment needed from here.

UPDATE – Joe has a separate blog on "Summertime" that’s also worth a read.


Income inequality and income mobility – they’re linked

January 22, 2012

I’ve written about income inequality and about income mobility, with concern about the growth of the former and the shrinking of the latter.

Justin Wolfers at Freakonomics has an interesting post that, first, argues the two trends are related and that, second, the current meme that things aren’t as bad as all that is not only wrong, but that its premises actually show the counter result.

Wolfers also points to a speech by Princeton economist and Council of Economic Advisors chair Alan Krueger on inequality (he prefers the term “dispersion”) and mobility, the track of which he calls “the Great Gatsby Curve.” Note, early in Dr. Kreuger’s speech, the remark regarding inequality, “The magnitude of these shifts is mindboggling.”


South Carolina

January 22, 2012

Okay, Newt won in South Carolina, and Romney’s march to the nomination has encountered a bump in the road – though temporary, I’m thinking.

But the whole SC primary, and the fact that state, with a large blue-collar population and significant poverty, has voted Republican, often by substantial margins, in all but one presidential race since 1964 (the exception being Jimmy Carter in `76), reminds me of something I turn over in my head occasionally, and that is why people vote the way they do.

Merrill Goozner, a really good economics journalist writing in Fiscal Times (he also has his own blog, Gooznews), has a piece on why SC goes red, when, on the face of it, one would perhaps expect a state with relatively high rates of poverty and unemployment and with a significant portion of its population relying on some form of public support, to at least lean Dem. Cultural values and a populist distrust of Big Government (perhaps the residue of 1960s civil rights legislation, I’m guessing) outweigh economics, which shouldn’t be entirely surprising.

The New York Times had one of its Room for Debate roundtable discussions on this subject this past Friday.

A long time ago, my father, a staunch, quite conservative Republican (as was I until my mid-20s), told me memories of the Depression were what kept Democrats in office. “A guy will do into the polls,” he said, “and he’ll plan to vote Republican, but then he’ll slap his wallet and think, ‘I can’t do that’.”

Compare that to the quote from a local in one of the Washington Post’s primary analysis stories: “I think Mitt Romney is a good man,” said Harold Wade, 85, . . . . “But I think we’ve reached a point where we need someone who’s mean.”

It’s been gospel for decades on the liberal/progressive side that Americans would vote for a party that pledged economic security and protection from the powerful. But voting is not a wholly rational exercise. Those economic considerations were deeply undercut in the 1960s, with the tumult and divisions over civil rights and Vietnam, and we must never forget that perceptions about character and personality often weigh heavily on people’s voting decisions – including mine, I add. Whether the Great Recession makes people think more about economics and less about culture and appearances remains to be seen.


Welcome to your fishbowl

January 22, 2012

It’s pretty much common and disturbing knowledge that, as the internet intertwines itself in our lives – sometimes with our willing participation, often not – our privacy is becoming non-existent.

I was reminded of this listening to Weekend Edition Sunday this morning, which carried a story on how the CIA tracks public information. They followed that segment with a short interview with Brookings Non-Resident Senior Fellow John Villasenor, discussing his recent paper on how inexpensive it is to store data and how local and national governments are setting up more surveillance systems to track our movements, such as those traffic cameras we see sprouting up.

In the name of convenience and coolness, we are buying up more and more “smart” machines that are eating away at our right to be left alone. Websites we use collect personal information and make billions selling it. The U.S Supreme Court, in its decision in Sorrell v. IMS Health, Inc. last June, has opened the door to giving data miners First Amendment protections.

The internet’s a great thing. It makes it possible for me to write on this blog. But we are slowly giving away our privacy to governments and corporations as we make it faster and easier to communicate. This is not good.