"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 10, 2015

wages and inflation

Economists Should Not Have Been Surprised by the December Drop In Wages by Dean Baker

Golden Globes

Best Drama: Imitation Game, Selma, Boyhood

Actress Drama: Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)

Actor Drama: Cumberbatch (Imitation Game), Oyelowo (Selma)

Best Comedy: Grand Budapest Hotel

Actress Comedy: Amy Adams (Big Eyes), Emily Blunt (Into the Woods)

Actor Comedy: Michael Keaton (Birdman), Joaquin Phoenix (Inherent Vice)

Director: David Fincher (Gone Girl), Richard Linklater (Boyhood), Ava DuVernay (Selma)

Screenplay: Anderson (Grand Budapest Hotel), Flynn (Gone Girl), Linklater (Boyhood), Moore (Imitation Game)

TV Drama: Game of Thrones

Drama Actress: Viola Davis

Drama Actor: Clive Owen

TV Comedy: Silicon Valley

TV Comedy Actress: Juliet Lous-Dreyfus

Mini-series: The Normal Heart

Mini series actor: Mark Ruffalo

Mini series supporting: Matt Boemer

Mini series actress; Maggie Gyllenhal (An Honorable Woman), Frances McDormand (Olive Kitteridge)

Friday, January 09, 2015

Fed Fail: labor force participation rate edition

America’s Workforce: The Mystery of the “Missing Millions” Deepens by John Cassdiy
The Labor Department’s participation-rate figures tell the story, but they don’t really convey what it means in human terms. For that, it’s useful to do a bit of back-of-the-envelope arithmetic and convert them into an estimate of the number of workers who have gone “missing” from the labor force, for whatever reason. Early last year, based on a report from the Congressional Budget Office, I did that exercise and came up with a figure of roughly six million, which isn’t much short of the entire population of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area. 
Based on the latest job figures, six million might even be an underestimate of the number of missing workers. In December, 2007, the participation rate was sixty-six per cent, more than three percentage points above the current figure of 62.7 per cent. If the rate had rebounded to its pre-recession level, there would now be roughly eight million more people in the labor force.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

The Wire

HBO just ran all 5 seasons of The Wire over 5 days.

In the Life of ‘The Wire’ by Lorrie Moore

Realism and Utopia in The Wire by Fredric Jameson
But it is the genius of Lester Freamon (Clarke Peters) not only to solve these problems in ingenious ways, but also to displace some of the purely mystery and detective interest onto a fascination with construction and physical or engineering problem solving—that is to say,something much closer to handicraft than to abstract deduction. In fact, when first discovered and invited to join the special investigative unit, Freamon is a virtually unemployed officer who spends his spare time making miniature copies of antique furniture (which he sells): it is a parable of the waste of human and intelligence productivity and its displacement—fortunate in this case—onto more trivial activities that nonetheless absorb his energy and creative powers more productively than crossword puzzles, say. But Lester is also the type of the archivist-scholar capable of spending long hours on minutiae and in dusty files, which ultimately cracks open financial conspiracies all over the city; and he has deep, unostentatious, yet invaluable, roots in the community, as when he first uncovers an old photo of the youthful Barksdale in an old boxing hangout not many of his fellow officers would be likely to have any knowledge of: and to many of them he is also an inestimable mentor. This is then the sense in which The Wire not only offers a representation of collective dynamics (on both sides) but also one of work and productivity, of praxis. In both instances, then, there is at work a virtual Utopianism, a Utopian impulse, even though that somewhat different thing, the Utopian project or program, has yet to declare itself.  
But Lester’s creativity may also be said to have a counterpart on the other side. We have not yet mentioned Barksdale’s sidekick, Stringer Bell (Idris Elba), who is something like his executive officer or prime minister in the classic political situation: the police themselves also have a degraded version of this dual structure, where the second in command is however by no means as disinterested or as efficient as Bell...
...This episode then adds something to The Wire that cannot be found in most other mass-cultural narratives: a plot in which Utopian elements are introduced, without fantasy or wish fulfillment, into the construction of the fictive, yet utterly realistic, events.

Yet Sobotka’s Utopianism would remain a mere fluke or idiosyncrasy if it did not have its equivalents in later seasons of The Wire. (We could write it off, for example, by observing that the creators of the show, in their local patriotism, had taken this occasion to add in some more purely local statement.) But in fact it does, and at this point I can only enumerate the later incidence of a Utopian dimension in succeeding seasons. In season 3, Utopianism is certainly present in Major Colvin’s “legalization” of drugs; that is, his creation of an enclave of drug use closed to police intervention. In season 4, on education, it is to be found in Pryzbylewski’s classroom experiments with computers and his repudiation of the exam evaluation system imposed by state and federal political entities. Finally, in season 5, the most problematical, it is to be located in Jimmy’s invention of a secret source for funding real and serious police operations outside the bureaucracy and its budget—and this, despite the artificial crime panic he deliberately fosters, and also somewhat on the margins of what was to have been a series dominated by the newspaper and the media (for each season of The Wire, like Zola’s great series, or like Sara Paretsky’s Chicago crime novels, is also organized around a specific industry).

The future and future history have broken open both high- and masscultural narratives in the form of dystopian Science Fiction and future catastrophe narratives. But in The Wire, exceptionally, it is the Utopian future that here and there breaks through, before reality and the present again close it down.

Inherent Vice

Based on the Thomas Pynchon novel. Scored by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood.

I like the commercial with Neil Young's "Harvest." Can't find it though.

Milanovic on Stiglitz and the "Piketty puzzle"

Stiglitz: Theories of just deserts and of exploitation by Branko Milanovic
2) Stiglitz proposed an interesting view of drivers of inequality in today’s US. The principal role belongs to finance (where he agrees with Galbraith) which made credits more easily available which in turn led to over-investment in housing, and to the increase in the wealth/GDP ratio, discussed by Piketty. But that increase while real was not conducive to greater productivity because what increased was value of land, not the physical quantity of productive capital. Banks, instead of lending to companies to invest in new capital, lent to the public which spent the money on housing and unproductive assets. Stiglitz here rejoins, with some twists, Kumhoff and Rancière, and Rajan, and even (if I may say so) myself who wrote about that in March 2009. But Stiglitz presents it as a solution to the “Piketty puzzle”: how come that the wealth/income ratio went up but the marginal product of capital did not godown and, most importantly, wages did not increase.

irony: red states blues states

Can't generalize though.

Is Life Better in America’s Red States?
To the surprise of many, voters in four red states — Alaska, Nebraska, South Dakota and Arkansas — supported referendums in November to raise their state minimum wage. And not just by a little. Controlling for the cost of living, they will have wage floors that are higher than those of many blue states. Once Obamacare is factored in, voters in these states ironically benefit from a somewhat strengthened social safety net, even though it is one that their elected politicians mainly oppose and that is heavily subsidized by blue state tax dollars.