Janet Yellen Points Out That the Federal Reserve Has Had No Help in Stemming the Depression
From an Economist's Perspective, "Lower Cost" and "Higher Quality" Are Both Simply "Better": It Doesn't Make Sense to Distinguish One from the Other

Noted for February 13, 2013

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  • John Scalzi: No, Wait, I Do Have Another Thought Re: Used eBooks: "In the event that Amazon (or anyone else) gets into the business of selling used eBooks without compensating me (the author) for them, and you decide that you don’t want to buy the book new (i.e., I’m not going to get paid anyway), you know what? I would rather you pirate the eBook than buy it used. Because if you’re not going to pay me, the guy who wrote the book (or also the folks who edited it, did the cover art, marketed it and put it out there in the first place), why the hell should Jeff Bezos get paid?… I would like for you to do is pay for the eBook new… when you buy the book, I get to eat and keep a roof over my head and pay for my daughter’s (hopefully) eventual and no doubt ridiculously expensive college education. There’s a direct correlation between me getting paid to write novels, and me writing them. Just so that’s out there. But if you’ve determined you won’t, please don’t give Amazon (or whomever) money you won’t give me. That’s just mean."

  • Charles Stross: Political failure modes and the beige dictatorship: "[W]e've somehow slid into a developed-world global-scale quasi-police state, with drone strikes and extraordinary rendition and unquestioned but insane austerity policies being rammed down our throats… police spying on political dissidents becoming normal, and so on. What's happenin? Here's a hypothesis: Representative democracy is what's happening. Unfortunately, democracy is broken. There's a hidden failure mode, we've landed in it, and we probably won't be able to vote ourselves out of it…. Overall, the nature of the problem seems to be that our representative democratic institutions have been captured by meta-institutions that implement the iron law of oligarchy by systematically reducing the risk of change… converging on a common set of policies that do not serve the public interest, but minimize the risk of the parties losing the corporate funding they require in order to achieve re-election. And in so doing, they have broken the 'peaceful succession when enough people get pissed off' mechanism that prevents revolutions. If we're lucky, emergent radical parties will break the gridlock…. So the future isn't a boot stamping on a human face, forever. It's a person in a beige business outfit advocating beige policies that nobody wants (but nobody can quite articulate a coherent alternative to) with a false mandate obtained by performing rituals of representative democracy…"

  • Henry Farrell: Round Table on Rick Perlstein's Nixonland

  • Alyssa Rosenberg: As George Tiller's Wichita Clinic Reopens, 'After Tiller' Reframes The Abortion Debate

  • Zack Beauchamp: VIEWPOINT: How A Very Smart Senator {Ted Cruz) Showed Us Everything Wrong With The Modern GOP In One Week

  • Paul Krugman: The Right's Stuff: "Many conservatives… were outraged by… [my belief] that extreme movement conservatives took over the GOP a long time ago, were able to win elections by exploiting white resentment, but were on the verge of losing their grip thanks to demographic change. But that’s pretty much exactly what Sam Tanenhaus, the Times book review editor and a long-time conservative, is now saying…. I sometimes get people declaring that I don’t know anything about politics; I’m willing to agree, with the proviso that you also admit that nobody knows anything about politics. But I don’t think that I’m doing all that badly here…"

  • Sam Tanenhaus: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/112365/why-republicans-are-party-white-people "[Kevin] Phillips's Sunbelt strategy was built for a different time, and a different America…. It won't do to blame it all on Romney… the best the party could muster…. The true problem… originates in the ideology of modern conservatism… borrowing explicitly from the great apologists for slavery… John C. Calhoun…. [T]he Calhoun revival… became the justification for conservative politicians to resist, ignore, or even overturn the will of the electoral majority. This is the politics of nullification…. In his most notorious editorial, 'Why the South Must Prevail,' Buckley drew on Calhoun… "the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically"…. Romney's disparagements of the '47 percent' and his postmortem assessment that Obama won because of the 'gifts' he had lavished on blacks, young people, and women also repeat the dogma of an earlier time…. [T]he nullifying spirit has been revived as a form of governance—or, more accurately, anti-governance… not… a practical attempt to find a better answer, but as a "Constitutional" demand for restoration…. It is not a coincidence that the resurgence of nullification is happening while our first African American president is in office…. A politics of frustration and rage… struggling not only against the facts of demography, but also with the country's developing ideas of democracy and governance…. [T]he party of Lincoln… has become the party of Calhoun."

  • Ed Luce: Obama must face the rise of the robots

  • James Kwak: The Importance of Excel: "I write periodically about the perils of bad software in the business world in general and the financial industry in particular, by which I usually mean back-end enterprise software that is poorly designed, insufficiently tested, and dangerously error-prone. But this is something different. Microsoft Excel is one of the greatest, most powerful, most important software applications of all time.** Many in the industry will no doubt object. But it provides enormous capacity to do quantitative analysis, letting you do anything from statistical analyses of databases with hundreds of thousands of records to complex estimation tools with user-friendly front ends. And unlike traditional statistical programs, it provides an intuitive interface that lets you see what happens to the data as you manipulate them. As a consequence, Excel is everywhere you look in the business world—especially in areas where people are adding up numbers a lot, like marketing, business development, sales, and, yes, finance. For all the talk about end-to-end financial suites like SAP, Oracle, and Peoplesoft, at the end of the day people do financial analysis by extracting data from those back-end systems and shoving it around in Excel spreadsheets. I have seen internal accountants calculate revenue from deals in Excel. I have a probably untestable hypothesis that, were you to come up with some measure of units of software output, Excel would be the most-used program in the business world. But while Excel the program is reasonably robust, the spreadsheets that people create with Excel are incredibly fragile. There is no way to trace where your data come from, there’s no audit trail (so you can overtype numbers and not know it), and there’s no easy way to test spreadsheets."

  • Richard Green: Should college be subsidized?: "I have always struggled with how much college should be subsidized.  People who go to college almost certainly create positive externalities, and so Pigou would say there should be some subsidy.  But people who go to college also earn substantially more over their lifetimes than those who don't…. Hence the idea that people graduate with debt seems reasonable to me…. On the other hand, if high prices keep 18 year olds from going to college, one of the most important routes to social mobility is blocked. In any event, a government economist friend of mine has the obvious solution to the problem of the regressive nature of subsidizing college: progressive taxes."

  • Steve M.: No More Mister Nice Blog: "Chris Kyle, a former Navy SEAL who became known as the deadliest U.S. sniper, was one of two men murdered on Saturday afternoon at a gun range in Erath County…. 'Routh, a former Marine and expert marksman who is said to suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome, is believed to have turned his weapon on Kyle and the second victim, killing them both at point-blank range about 3:30 p.m….' This was in Texas. This was on a gun range. Chris Kyle died even though he had 160 confirmed kills as a sniper in Iraq. To state the obvious, why wasn't a bad man with a gun -- or, more precisely, a profoundly troubled man with a gun -- stopped by a good man with a gun? And is it really a good idea for a veteran with war-related PTSD to be shooting, even as recreation, and possibly as therapy? In Texas, and all over the country in Gun World, I'm sure everyone would answer that question with a resounding yes. Guns are like therapy dogs. Guns carry God's grace. Guns are good for whatever ails you. Past efforts to tighten access to guns by people with mental and emotional problems have been unalterably opposed by the Gun Owners of America, precisely because they targeted PTSD."

  • Alyssa Rosenberg: David Haglund and Daniel Engber have no idea what real women look like http://t.co/TuqzzuUU

On February 12, 2013: