"It is easy to confuse what is with what ought to be, especially when what is has worked out in your favor."
- Tyrion Lannister

"Lannister. Baratheon. Stark. Tyrell. They're all just spokes on a wheel. This one's on top, then that's ones on top and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground. I'm not going to stop the wheel. I'm going to break the wheel."

- Daenerys Targaryen

"The Lord of Light wants his enemies burned. The Drowned God wants them drowned. Why are all the gods such vicious cunts? Where's the God of Tits and Wine?"

- Tyrion Lannister

"The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends. It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are."

- Jorah Mormont

"These bad people are what I'm good at. Out talking them. Out thinking them."

- Tyrion Lannister

"What happened? I think fundamentals were trumped by mechanics and, to a lesser extent, by demographics."

- Michael Barone

"If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to."
- Dorothy Parker

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Friday, January 25, 2013

"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

By chance I was thinking about T.S. Eliot's poem recently. Prufrock is paralyzed by his self-awareness. 
Perhaps the most significant dispute lies over the "overwhelming question" that Prufrock is trying to ask. Many believe that Prufrock is trying to tell a woman of his romantic interest in her,[19] pointing to the various images of women's arms and clothing and the final few lines in which Prufrock laments that the mermaids will not sing to him. Others, however, believe that Prufrock is trying to express some deeper philosophical insight or disillusionment with society, but fears rejection, pointing to statements that express a disillusionment with society such as "I have measured out my life with coffee spoons" (line 51). Many believe that the poem is a criticism of Edwardian society and Prufrock's dilemma represents the inability to live a meaningful existence in the modern world.[24] McCoy and Harlan wrote "For many readers in the 1920s, Prufrock seemed to epitomize the frustration and impotence of the modern individual. He seemed to represent thwarted desires and modern disillusionment."*
Coincidently, "30 Rock" - I think - has its finale next Thursday. For many years I wouldn't watch the show, because I had a crush on Fey - who's my age - and one shouldn't encourage that kind of lameass embarrassing thing. Friends at work would want to discuss it and insisted I would like because I have that kind of sense of humor. Eventually I gave in, there isn't much else on TV these days. And yes the show is very funny and right up my alley. Part of what's funny are the very un-selfaware and un-selfconscious characters like Tracy Jordan and Jenna Malone. In last night's show, Liz Lemon adopts 2 children who are kid-versions of the two. Larry David is in some ways un-selfconscious when some rude person transgresses one of his unwritten social rules or guidelines. And Sarah Silverman's character on her show was very un-self-aware. These kinds of people are godsends to the Prufrocks among us.
*maybe the question is about politics and philosophy, the deep issues your average middle class American feels they should stay clear of.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Misinterpreting the history of macroeconomic thought by Simon Wren-Lewis

inequality and growth

I tend to side with Krugman here if I understand the debate correctly.

Inequality and demand by Steve Randy Waldman

Why Don't Rich People Buy More Yachts and Fewer Exotic Financial Products by Yglesias

Guest Post: “The Savings Rate Has Recovered…if You Ignore the Bottom 99%” by Andrew Kaplan, a hedge fund manager ("Naked Capitalism," 8.31.2009)

Why don't we have deflation? Increased debt? Extend and pretend?

(via Mike Sankowski who I confuse with Mark A. Sadowski. It's like with Waldman and Robert Waldmann.)

Optimal Control approach

NGDP level targeting: Yellen it from the rooftops, but nobody heard by Cardiff Garcia

(via Thoma)

Yellen Supports Explicit Guideposts by Tim Duy

I think I'm going to copy Jessica on "New Girl" and set the Pointer Sisters' "I'm So Excited" as my new ringtone.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Bank of Japan Disappoints With Punt On Higher Inflation Target by Yglesias

There were numerous news stories and columns touting the liberal agenda that President Obama put forward in his second inaugural address yesterday (e.g. here and here). While the speech certainly hit on several issues that have historically been important to liberals, the failure to mention full employment was a major omission.

The fact that the economy is still more than 9 million jobs below its trend growth path implies enormous suffering. Not only are millions of people unnecessarily unemployed or underemployed, high levels of unemployment mean that most workers lack bargaining power. As a result they are unable to raise their wages and get their share of productivity growth. This means that income is likely to continue to be redistributed upward.

There are not easy political paths to full employment at this point. Government stimulus (i.e. larger deficits) is the most obvious path, but that seems out of the question in a context where deficit reduction is dominating the policy debate. If the dollar dropped, it would make U.S. goods more competitive, thereby increasing net exports, but Obama has made little committment in this direction and the process would take time in any case.

The best prospect is probably increased use of worksharing. Germany has used worksharing to lower its unemployment rate by more than 2 percentage points below its pre-recession level, even though its growth has been no better than growth in the United States. Worksharing does enjoy bipartisan support in the United States and is an option in the unemployment insurance systems in 25 states, but the takeup rate has been extremely low. It's possible that a major presidential push could substantially increase the use of worksharing.

Anyhow, it is striking that a speech that touched on many liberal themes did not make a commitment to full employment. This should have been noted in the coverage.

Monday, January 21, 2013

26 & 23 years old

How M.I.T. Ensnared a Hacker, Bucking a Freewheeling Culture
There may have been a reason for the university’s response. According to the timeline, the tech team detected brief activity from China on the netbook — something that occurs all the time but still represents potential trouble.
Michael Sussmann, a Washington lawyer and a former federal prosecutor of computer crime, said that M.I.T. was the victim and that, without more information, it had to assume any hackers were “the Chinese, even though it’s a 16-year-old with acne.” Once the police were called in, the university could not back away from the investigation. “After there’s a referral, victims don’t have the opportunity to change their mind.” 
China, oh noes!

A Young Publisher Takes Marx Into the Mainstream
In writing Mr. Sunkara can come on like a one-man insult-comedy squad, whether the target is regular whipping boys like the Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein (“a young liberal with a lust for properly punctuated policy memos”) or the capitalist vampire squid itself. 
But in person he’s more straightforwardly earnest and quick to emphasize that the magazine he founded in his dorm room has evolved into a collective endeavor. Jacobin’s success, he said, springs from the highly cohesive politics of the four co-editors he has recruited and their shared commitment to advancing a critique of liberalism that is free of obscurantist academic theory or “cheap hooks.” 
“Seth had a title with nine words and a semicolon,” he recalled. “I crossed it out and wrote ‘Burn the Constitution.’ ” 
That article, along with “Zombie Marx,” a critique of chapter-and-verse Marxist economics by Mike Beggs, a young lecturer in political economy at the University of Sydney who Mr. Sunkara met (like Mr. Ackerman) through the e-mail list of Doug Henwood’s Left Business Observer, got some pickup on blogs. But it was a packed Jacobin-organized panel on the Occupy movement, held in a downtown Manhattan bookstore three weeks after the protests began in Zuccotti Park in September 2011, that really put the magazine on the map, drawing attention from Politico and Glenn Beck.
From Beggs's "Zombie Marx":
Inflation was simply not seen as an independent phenomenon worthy of analysis, as it would become in the 20th century when the gold anchor loosened and dropped away. It was enough to know that the anchor would assert itself eventually. The problem for the state or central bank was not the value of money per se, but the convertibility of particular monies. But in our world of chronic, if low-level, inflation and floating exchange rates, we need different things from our monetary theory. We have no choice but to engage with new questions Marx could not have imagined – and here the reference point should be Keynes and the post-Keynesians.
I think there is a big point in here somewhere. The Left and Marxists have been very dismissive of monetary policy. German Marxists running their government in the 1920s were into the Gold Standard. But if there was no Fed in the 19th century, there were in fact periods of inflation and deflation. William Jennings Bryan's "Cross of Gold" speech was given in 1896.

Inequality and Growth

Inequality Is Holding Back the Recovery by Joseph Stiglitz

Inequality and Recovery by Krugman

Krugman versus Stiglitz on Inequality and Economic Growth by Dean Baker

How Inequality Holds Back Recovery by Yglesias

Sunday, January 20, 2013

"Ben Affleck's intervention not even required."*

In Reversal, House G.O.P. Agrees to Lift Debt Limit
Those conversations led into Thursday morning, when Mr. Boehner and Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the No. 2 House Republican, opened the retreat by going through the timeline for the coming budget fights, according to aides who were there. 
They turned the floor over to Representative Dave Camp of Michigan, the House Ways and Means chairman, who delivered a blow-by-blow description of the economic disaster that could be wrought by a government default. Mr. Camp also talked through the notion held by some Republicans that the Treasury Department could manage a debt ceiling breach by channeling the daily in-flow of tax dollars to the most pressing needs, paying government creditors, sending out Social Security checks and financing the military. His message was that it would not work, the aides said.
Jonathan Chait - along with Krugman and Jonathan Cohn - admit they were wrong.
The whole key to making Obama’s extortion-squelching plan, and saving American government from endless cycles of hostage drama that would eventually end in a default, was to credibly insist that he would not trade anything for a debt ceiling hike. After he moved his red line on tax cuts, I doubted that Obama could really make this stick. But he has. 
Now, Republicans are only voting on a three-month extension. But this is a face-saving gesture, too. Once they’ve recognized that the debt ceiling isn’t leverage, they have no reason to keep taking painful votes that expose their members to attack ads. 
Letting Republicans weaponize the debt ceiling in the first place in 2011 was one of the crucial errors of Obama’s presidency. He appears to have corrected it.
*The Coin of Freedom was sort of a complicated ploy like Affleck's fake movie production in Argo.