Worth Noting From Last Summer: James Fallows, Musing About Inequality, Sends Us to Jim Webb on the 47%: Wednesday Focus (January 8, 2014
Noted for Your Morning Procrastination for January 8, 2014

Things to Read on the Morning of January 8, 2014


  1. Sam Arbesman: Is our tech making the world too complex?: "It’s one thing to recognise that technology continues to grow more complex, making the task of the experts who build and maintain our systems more complicated still, but it’s quite another to recognise that many of these systems are actually no longer completely understandable.  We now live in a world filled with incomprehensible glitches and bugs.... We have moved steadily toward the ‘Entanglement’, a term coined by the American computer scientist Danny Hillis. The Entanglement is the trend towards more interconnected and less comprehensible technological surroundings.... Whether it’s the entirety of the internet or other large pieces of our infrastructure, understanding the whole--keeping it in your head--is no longer even close to possible."

  2. Ann Marie Marciarille: PrawfsBlawg: Primed for Hope: "Prime, an investor-owned Ontario, California-based chain of 25 hospitals... buys genuinely distressed hospitals. No, I don't mean merely struggling hospitals, but distressed hospitals... so financially troubled its board of directors or governing authority has determined it must either be closed or sold.... Hospitals rarely fold quietly. Whether it is wise in all circumstances to prolong the life of an acute care hospital is seldom considered at the community level. The overwhelming presumption is that all hospitals are health-promoting, job-creating, community welfare-enhancing institutions. And Prime acknowledges this with its corporate tag-line: 'Saving Hospitals, Saving Jobs, and Saving Lives'. Prime's multi-state acquisition strategy has finally brought it to southern New England.... Is it better to let the facility close or better to embrace Rhode Island's first for-profit hospital operated by a chain dodged by  billing practices investigations?... The deal was finally approved with a remarkable set of conditions attached  including capital investment requirements, service expansion requirements, a committment to three years guaranteed continued operation and more."

  3. Mark Kleiman: Global Warming Reality Check: "I’d like to hear the climate-change deniers explain why Monsanto wanted to pay almost $1 billion for a company whose business model is protecting farmers against increasing volatility in the weather, and whose models predict that Kansas will become inhospitable to corn and Alaska a good place to grow wheat."

Should Reads:

  1. Ta-Nehisi Coates: Melissa Harris-Perry: The Smartest Nerd in the Room: "But there is no one more worthy, and more capable, of holding that conversation than America's most foremost public intellectual—Melissa Harris-Perry. There may well be intellectuals with more insight. And there are surely public figures with a greater audience. But there is no one who communicates the work of thinking to more people with more rigor and effect than Harris-Perry. Her show brings a broad audience into a classroom without using dead academic language and tortured abstractions. And she does this while awarding humanity on a national stage to a group unaccustomed to such luxury—black women."

  2. James Surowiecki: It seems that con artists, for all their vices "...represent many of the virtues that Americans aspire to... independent... self-made... don’t have to kowtow to a boss... succeed or fail based on their wits. They exemplify, in short, the complicated nature of American capitalism.... The American economy wasn’t built just on good ideas and hard work. It was also built on hope and hype. […] Of course, the fundamental difference between entrepreneurs and con artists is that con artists ultimately know that the fantasies they’re selling are lies. Steve Jobs, often enough, could make those fantasies come true. Still, that unquantifiable mélange of risk, hope, and hype provides both the capitalist’s formula for transforming the world and the con artist’s stratagem for turning your money into his money."

  3. Tim Harford: Casinos’ worrying knack for consumer manipulation: "What if the future of capitalism is... to be found in... the Nevada desert? Natasha Dow Schüll... a disturbing book, Addiction by Design. We are used to thinking of Vegas as a city of gaudy spectacle and the green baize of poker, blackjack and roulette tables. It is now a city of slot machines, which have grown like weeds because they are fantastically profitable. And the spread of machine gambling offers a worrisome portent of developments elsewhere in the economy..."


  • Should Be Aware of:

  • Tim Carney: Bill de Blasio's 'march' to end inequality tramples little guy: "The potential victims of de Blasio... are the small businesses and voluntary associations that make up civil society... government's rivals... and a growing government doesn't tolerate rivals... charter schools... crisis pregnancy centers... small businesses... [currently] exempt from the city’s requirement that employers provide paid sick leave... nonprofit conservancies... [that] bankroll... Central Park.... De Blasio’s inauguration set a tone of intolerance for dissent. One speaker painted de Blasio’s win as victory in the Civil War and promised 'a new Reconstruction era'. A century and a half ago, Reconstruction involved disenfranchising the losers and subjecting them to military rule. What would de Blasio’s Reconstruction entail?... de Blasio’s... 'march toward a fairer, more just, more progressive place'... will be a forced march..."

  • Megan McArdle: Is Graduate School a Racket?: "Last week, I wrote that collectively, faculty need to deal with the terrible market for professorships by producing fewer potential professors: admitting a lot fewer students to graduate school.... There are two criticisms I’ve received that seem worth responding to.... I myself work in a profession that looks a lot like a tournament.... Why not unions? Why not unionize the adjuncts and get them paid on par with the tenure-track professors? Better yet, why not convert all those positions to tenure-track lines?... I have my issues with tenure, which I’ve written about elsewhere. But I don’t see this as a realistic solution.... Unions in Hollywood and the theater have... certainly... not prevented the problem... [of] hopeful young people who burn a decade or more of their lives trying to get one of a handful of the stable, well-paid slots.... Push the competition back to the graduate school application phase, rather than making them compete for a shrinking number of tenure-track jobs."

  • Joe Weisenthal: Introducing: Stalwartbucks: I'm Launching My Own Digital Currency: "Along with my friend Guan Yang, today I'm proud to announce a brand new digital currency that everyone can mine or trade.... We're launching Stalwartbucks (SBX) for two reasons. One is that it's an experiment in learning about crypto-currencies.... But also this is an attempt to create something of real value that serves an economic purpose. Once every month, Guan and I will go out to get Korean barbecue — our favorite food to eat together — and invite a third person along who wants to talk about economics and technology (two of our favorite subjects). Of course, to buy your way into this dinner, you'll have to pay using Stalwartbucks. Thus, unlike Bitcoin, we're instantly creating a floor in the value of the coins by dint of the fact that they'll be redeemable for something of real value. Furthermore, I plan to auction off one post a month, where I will write on the topic of your choice: Again, you'll have to pay in Stalwartbucks. And hopefully it's not just me. Other Twitterers, writers, pundits, and so forth will be encouraged to help create a thriving ecosystem whereby people can redeem their Stalwartbucks. So go check out the website, download the wallet (only for Mac right now), start mining, and start trading them."


Mark Thoma: How to Tell If Fiscal Policy Works | John Aziz: On Risk | The Hamilton Project: The Importance of Unemployment Insurance for American Families & the Economy |