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July 2019

Jacob Jensen, Suresh Naidu, Ethan Kaplan, and Laurence Wilse-Samson: Political Polarization and the Dynamics of Political Language: Evidence from 130 Years of Partisan Speech: "We... study the polarization of political discourse and the diffusion of political language since 1873. We statistically identify highly partisan phrases from the Congressional Record and then use these to impute partisanship and political polarization to the Google Books corpus.... We also find that polarization of discourse in books predicts legislative gridlock, but polarization of congressional language does not.... We find that polarized phrases increase in frequency in Google Books before their use increases in congressional speech. Our evidence is consistent with an autonomous effect of elite discourse on congressional speech and legislative gridlock, but this effect is not large enough to drive the recent increase in congressional polarization...

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Somehow I have not yet noted here the existence of Rodney Andrews, who and is now—with Logan Hardy, and Casey—merging the Chetty et al. (In)equality of Opportunity dataset with other information sources in what looks to me like a very promising line of research: Bradley Hardy, Rodney Andrews, Marcus Casey, and Trevon Logan: The Historical Shadow of Segregation On Human Capital And Upward Mobility: "Regional differences in opportunity might be explained not only by contemporary characteristics but also by historical disparities. The researchers will merge the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) with Raj Chetty and others’ Equality of Opportunity dataset, and the Logan-Parman index of inequality...

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What Michel Jordan calls "an engineering discipline with principles of analysis and design" is, I think, more usually called "social science":

Michael Jordan: Artificial Intelligence—The Revolution Hasn’t Happened Yet: "Just as humans built buildings and bridges before there was civil engineering, humans are proceeding with the building of societal-scale, inference-and-decision-making systems that involve machines, humans, and the environment. Just as early buildings and bridges sometimes fell to the ground—in unforeseen ways and with tragic consequences—many of our early societal-scale inference-and-decision-making systems are already exposing serious conceptual flaws. Unfortunately, we are not very good at anticipating what the next emerging serious flaw will be. What we’re missing is an engineering discipline with principles of analysis and design...

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Comment of the Day: Graydon: "I think it's quite possible to look at the Chinese per-city bans on combustion-powered busses and taxis, the quiet 'well, yes, us also' from Volvo about their electric platform coincidentally on the same schedule as the Mercedes-Benz platform (Volvo is owned by a Chinese car maker), the new battery tech Mercedes-Benz says they're adopting as drifting toward the Chinese banning sales of new private combustion-powered automobiles by 2022 or so. They're in pretty good shape to do that; nobody else is, and certainly the US is not. As a 'obvious economic self interest, so unfortunate about that carbon bubble O Oil-Empire Alleged Hegemon' move it's difficult to see why they wouldn't...

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It is conventional to say that American "conservatives" have been composed of four groups that have little or nothing in common: national-security conservatives, social conservatives, economic libertarians, plutocrats, and successful rent-seekers. But it is increasingly clear that that was wrong. Yes, making America more unequal is a goal. Yes, entrenching rent-seekers—especially those whom regulatory rollback allows to externalize costs—is a goal. But the main point really does appear to be convincing oneself that one is part of a strong group that is winning—and that mens making other people outside the group appear to be losing. We have no special insight into this, so we continue to play our position. But it is very disturbing, as it is something our political system does not know how to handle at all:

Ezra Klein: Trump Was Right, and Justin Amash Was Wrong, About Conservatives: "For most conservatives, whether they were prominent pundits or everyday voters... no contradiction between conservatism and Trumpism.... Conservatism isn’t, for most people, an ideology. It’s a group identity.... Michael Barber and Jeremy Pope.... 'There has never been a president (or any party leader) who shifts back and forth so often between liberal and conservative issue positions'.... If conservatism was an ideology... a stronger attachment to that ideology should provide a stronger mooring against the winds of Trump.... Instead, 'we observe exactly the opposite: strong "conservatives" are the most likely to be partisan loyalists—following Trump in a liberal direction when told of his support for a liberal policy.'... Our political language fails us. The terms we use to describe ideologies are often describing social identities. And what matters to an identity group is whether their group is winning or losing. Trump understood this better than most...

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Kaili Joy Gray: Trump Adviser Says Trump 'Doesn't Make Things Up' After India Calls Out Trump Lie: "Monday, Trump... claimed India's prime minister had asked him to help resolve the conflict in Kashmir.... 'No such request has been made by PM @narendramodi to US President', Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted.... Larry Kudlow... was asked whether Trump simply made his story up.... Kudlow... 'The president doesn't make anything up.... That's a very rude question in my opinion'...

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Looking Backwards from This Week at 16, 8, 4, 2, 1, 1/2, and 1/4 Years Ago

stacks and stacks of books

Three Months Ago:

  • Cosma Shalizi (2011): Dives, Lazarus, and Alice: Weekend Reading: "The market clears, Alice is 11 cents better off, Dives enjoys a consumer surplus of $4999.89, and Lazarus starves to death in the street, clutching his dime.Nothing can be changed without making someone worse off, so this is Pareto optimal. And so, in yet another triumph, the market mechanism has allocated a scarce resource, viz., the turkey, to its most efficient use.... What makes this the most efficient use of the scarce resource? Why, simply that it goes to the user who will pay the highest price for it. This is all that economic efficiency amounts to. It is not about meeting demand, but meeting effective demand, demand backed by purchasing power...

  • Writing Bulls--- for the WSJ Op-Ed Page as a Career Strategy: The Nine Unprofessional Republican Economists: The extra quarter's worth of data from the new BEA NIPA release raises this, once again, to the top of the pile: Note the contrast between the path of investment, on the one hand, implicit in the growth forecast of the effects of the Trump-Ryan-McConnell tax cut that Robert J. Barro, Michael J. Boskin, John Cogan, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Glenn Hubbard, Lawrence B. Lindsey, Harvey S. Rosen, George P. Shultz and John. B. Taylor, and, on the other hand, reality. If you are even 10% in the explain-the-world business—if you are even 1% in the explain-the-world business—such a sharp disjunction between what you had predicted and the outcome calls forth curiosity, interest, and explanations of why you think you went wrong and what your future research projects will be to figure it out.... Yet as I listen to each and very one of the Nine Unprofessional Republican Economists, all that I hear is: < crickets > ...

 

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Yet more on "agrarianism": Mr. McWillie (27 Apr 1850): of Mississippi, on the President's Message Communicating the Constitution of California: "I have heard the objection urged against the institution of slavery at the South, that it entered into competition with the free labor of there North, and therefore must be abolished. This is agrarianism. It is confiscating the estates of one half of the people of this union for he benefit of the other half. And permit me, in this connection to suggest to my friends of the North, that when they advice gotten through with this negro agrarianism, and the agrarianism truth is going on in relations to the public land that the next move may vie real bona fide agrarianism at home. The idea that all men are born free and equal is a very pretty one, and I suppose that equality in proporty is about as desirable as equality in political rights and as much political capital could be made out of this idea, as most of the humbugs of the day; and I suppose it might be made to meet the ideas of the foreign emigrants who are arriving by hundreds of thousands in our northern cities and for whose votes so many political aspirants appear to be most anxious. The idea of every man having his own independent estate, sufficient for every comfort, would be very taking...

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Note to Self: The question is whether our current market values are in fact "Pangloss" values, and are going to come back to earth at some point, with the shock provided by that return to earth providing a nasty expectational shock that will cause a depression—but with that return to earth delayed long enough to plausibly reelect Trump—or whether current values are appropriate given underlying fundamentals, and are in fact about the only thing keeping us out of a depression right now...

My sense is that "we need to raise reserve requirements in a boom" is very good policy; but that "we need to pop this bubble" is almost always very bad policy.

And we do not appear to have any (large) equity bubble. The weirdness is all in bond prices:

S P 500 PE Ratio 90 Year Historical Chart MacroTrends

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Well, at least this is better than anonymously mailing bags of excrement to those one believes are one's enemies: Joe Patrice: Law School Professor Doesn’t Understand Twitter, Basic Legal Concepts: "Brian Leiter... occasionally just makes stuff up about us and then doubles down on his easily debunked claims... it all shakes out. But Leiter reached 'old man yells at cloud' status this week when he took to Twitter to make a curious claim that manages to screw up Twitter, intellectual property law, and basic contracts all at once: 'My lawyer told me that I would have to copyright all my tweets to stop assholes from reposting them, as some are still doing. I have however been purging followers without real names, unless I know them. I will continues to add followers with real identities.' Hmmmmm. Indeed! My advice for Professor Leiter based on this tweet would be to find a new lawyer who is aware that Leiter’s tweets actually ARE copyrighted the instant he commits his thoughts to writing.... Copyright is automatic. But that’s the sort of stuff that doesn’t come up in 'Law and Philosophy' courses, so it’s probably not a legal concept that’s top of mind for the professor. But... Leiter’s still not going to be able to prevent people from reposting them, because Twitter’s terms of service make very clear that users are affording the service—and its other users — a license to use the content anywhere: 'By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed). This license authorizes us to make your Content available to the rest of the world and to let others do the same'...

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Betty Cracker: The Mythical Moderating Influence: "I’m not sure why the media is so invested in propping up the female Trumps as a “moderating influence” on the demagogue in the White House: 'CBS News has learned President Trump took a lot of heat from his family over the racist chants at a campaign rally in North Carolina on Wednesday. He heard from first lady Melania Trump, his daughter Ivanka and Vice President Mike Pence.' I suppose it’s remotely possible that Pence, a professional politician, winked and said 'ix-nay on the acism-ray' because he’s afraid a full-blown “send them back to Africa” campaign will hurt the reelection effort. Pence’s lips are so firmly affixed to Trump’s ass that it’s difficult to imagine such a confrontation, but okay, maybe. But we’re seriously supposed to believe FLOTUS Birther McBirtherface and Princess Complicity give a s--- what the unwashed MAGA hordes in North Carolina chanted? They didn’t say jack-shit about the racist tweet that inspired the chant, but now they’re concerned? Give me a f---ing break. The press really needs to stop falling for this bullshit PR spin. It makes them look like suckers every time. Absolute and complete bullshyt...

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Monday Smackdown: Batshit Insane American Nat-Cs Department: Intellectual Leading Light Samuel P. Huntington

Smackdown

Apropos of our National Conservatives—our Nat-Cs—here in America today. It is worth remembering how batshit insane is right-wing "class of civilizations" urberguru Samuel Hintington. Witness his firm belief that immigrants from Cuba have ruined Miami: "Anglos had three choices... [i] accept their subordinate and outsider position... [ii] assimilate into the Hispanic community—“acculturation in reverse”... [iii] they could leave Miami, and between 1983 and 1993, about 140,000 did just that, their exodus reflected in a popular bumper sticker: 'Will the last American to leave Miami, please bring the flag'...

Samuel P. Huntington: The Hispanic Challenge: "The persistent inflow of Hispanic immigrants threatens to divide the United States into two peoples, two cultures, and two languages. Unlike past immigrant groups, Mexicans and other Latinos have not assimilated into mainstream U.S. culture, forming instead their own political and linguistic enclaves—from Los Angeles to Miami—and rejecting the Anglo-Protestant values that built the American dream. The United States ignores this challenge at its peril.... Miami is the most Hispanic large city in the 50 U.S. states. Over the course of 30 years, Spanish speakers—overwhelmingly Cuban—established their dominance in virtually every aspect of the city’s life, fundamentally changing its ethnic composition, culture, politics, and language. The Hispanization of Miami is without precedent in the history of U.S. cities...

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Scott Aaronson: Why Philosophers Should Care About Computational Complexity: "One might think that, once we know something is computable, how efficiently it can be computed is a practical question with little further philosophical importance. In this essay, I offer a detailed case that one would be wrong. In particular, I argue that computational complexity theory—the field that studies the resources (such as time, space, and randomness) needed to solve computational problems—leads to new perspectives on the nature of mathematical knowledge, the strong AI debate, computationalism, the problem of logical omniscience, Hume’s problem of induction, Goodman’s grue riddle, the foundations of quantum mechanics, economic rationality, closed timelike curves, and several other topics of philosophical interest. I end by discussing aspects of complexity theory itself that could benefit from philosophical analysis...

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Miriam Bruhn, Dean Karlan, and Antoinette Schoar: The Impact of Consulting Services on Small and Medium Enterprises: Evidence from a Randomized Trial in Mexico: "A randomized control trial with 432 small and medium enterprises in Mexico shows positive impact of access to 1 year of management consulting services on total factor productivity and return on assets. Owners also had an increase in 'entrepreneurial spirit' (an index that measures entrepreneurial confidence and goal setting). Using Mexican social security data, we find a persistent large increase (about 50 percent) in the number of employees and total wage bill even 5 years after the program. We document large heterogeneity in the specific managerial practices that improved as a result of the consulting, with the most prominent being marketing, financial accounting, and long-term business planning...

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Comment of the Day: Ronald Brakels: "Why do they publicly hate trans people? Because they no longer get a thrill/votes from publicly hating gay people. It may be hard to see from the inside, but here in foreignland it is very clear that once people who wear suits stopped automatically nodding their heads in agreement with politicians who relied on casting themselves as being in opposition to a despised out group of people who have homosexual relations or look like they might, they pivoted to hating trans people. It all lookws horrifically artificial from over here. They are setting out to ruin lives and drive people to suicide because they find that preferable to obtaining political success by standing for something other than standing in opposition to some hated other.

[byomtov]: "Why do they publicly hate trans people? Because they no longer get a thrill/votes from publicly hating gay people. It may be hard to see from the inside. Not hard to see at all. The need is to hate someone. Once it becomes unacceptable to hate (at least publicly) some groups-Jews, blacks, homosexuals-it becomes necessary to find a new target...

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James D. Muhly: Sources of Tin and the Beginnings of Bronze Metallurgy: "Although there is still some uncertainty over exact details, it is now generally agreed that arsenical copper was produced by the direct smelting of an arsenical copper ore. The arsenic came down into the molten copper because it was present in the ore body, not because it had been added as a separate alloying element. It was thus impossible to control the amount of arsenic present in the copper. Published analyses of arsenical copper artifacts covering the years 4000-2000 B.C. show that arsenic content varied widely, supporting the theory that arsenical copper is a natural alloy...

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Monday Smackdown/Hoisted from the Archives: Scott Sumner Knew Better than to Do This!

Smackdown

Hoisted from 2011: Sumner really knew better than to do this, and really ought to have restrained himself:

Scott Sumner: A Slightly Off-Center Perspective on Monetary Problems: "They are both basically saying: 'if we hold nominal spending constant, fiscal policy can’t fix it.'... [I]t’s really rather sad when people like Krugman and Brad DeLong keep insisting that these guys don’t understand basic macro principles.... I don’t know for sure that Fama was using the same implicit assumption... [but] I think it quite likely that Fama was also cutting corners.... Lots of brilliant people talking past each other.... Welcome to elite macroeconomics, circa 2011.... If I was going to assign blame I’d single out Krugman/DeLong for rudeness and Fama/Cochrane for poor communication skills...

Me:

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Let Me Smackdown Jared Bernstein on International Trade Here...

Smackdown

I really, really wish Jared Bernstein would not do this. It is simply not the case—as he knows well—that policymakers "quickly forgot about the need to compensate for the losses" from expanded international trade. Democratic policymakers—of whom Jared is one—well-remembered this, but after November 1994 did not have the power. Republican policymakers did not see the need as a need at all: they did not forget it: they ignored it.

Do you want to know what I think? I think a lot of not completely consistent things. Here are three things to read:

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Scott Aaronson: On Two Blog Posts of Jerry Coyne: "David Gelernter... right-wing commentator... argued that recent work has definitively disproved Darwinism as a mechanism for generating new species, and until something better comes along, Intelligent Design is the best available alternative.... Gelernter’s argument falls flat... because it indulges in bad math and computer science.... Gelernter says that (a) a random change to an amino acid sequence will pretty much always make it worse, (b) the probability of finding a useful new such sequence by picking one at random is at most ~1 in 10^77, and (c) there have only been maybe ~10^40 organisms in earth’s history. Since 10^77 >> 10^40, Darwinism is thereby refuted—not in principle, but as an explanation for life on earth. QED. Gelernter can’t personally see how a path could cut through the exponentially large solution space in a polynomial amount of time, so he asserts that it’s impossible. Many of the would-be P≠NP provers who email me every week do the same. But this particular kind of 'argument from incredulity' has an abysmal track record: it would’ve applied equally well, for example, to problems like maximum matching that turned out to have efficient algorithms. This is why, in CS, we demand better evidence of hardness—like completeness results or black-box lower bounds—neither of which seem however to apply to the case at hand. Surely Gelernter understands all this, but had he not, he could’ve learned it from my lecture at the workshop in France!...

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I would say that the George W. Bush administration advanced the U.S.-China superpower handoff by a decade, and that a four year Trump administration in advancing it by another decade. And if Trump wins reelection? The U.S.-China superpower handoff will then be here by the late 2020s: Alan Murray: China Takes Lead in Fortune Global 500: "The new Fortune Global 500 list goes live this morning, and marks an important world power transition. The number of companies on the list based in China, including the 10 in Taiwan, reached a record 129—exceeding for the first time the number of companies based in the U.S. (121). The Fortune  Global 500 ranks companies on size, and of course, size is not everything. Many of the largest Chinese companies are state-owned enterprises which owe their heft to government-supported monopolies in the world’s most populous market, and aren’t necessarily the world’s most dynamic companies. Nevertheless, the list signals a significant global power shift. Ten years ago, there were only 43 Chinese companies on the list. Twenty years ago, there were just eight. And a boatload of fast-growing private Chinese companies are rapidly working their way up the ranks...

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I disagree: at some level, this is a joke; I'm just not sure at what level: Justin Weinberg: Mini-Heap: "Colin McGinn launches consulting firm handling matters 'from workplace ethics to catastrophe avoidance'—I’m assured this is not a joke. Do check out the list of advisors... Philosophical Applications: "We bring the right people together to challenge established thinking and drive transformation.... Advisors: Roger Scruton... Rebecca Goldstein... Simon Blackburn... Thomas Nagel... Stephen Pinker... Michael Shermer... A.C. Grayling... Marie McGinn...

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Roger Zelazny: For a Breath I Tarry...: Weekend Reading

Cover jpg 807×1 210 pixels

They called him Frost. Of all things created of Solcom, Frost was the finest, the mightiest, the most difficult to understand.

This is why he bore a name, and why he was given dominion over half the Earth.

On the day of Frost's creation, Solcom had suffered a discontinuity of complementary functions, best described as madness. This was brought on by an unprecedented solar flareup which lasted for a little over thirty-six hours. It occurred during a vital phase of circuit-structuring, and when it was finished so was Frost.

Solcom was then in the unique position of having created a unique being during a period of temporary amnesia.

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Mistermix: Only Play with Money, Careful: "Atrios, on why Democratic Senators in purple states don’t support popular things....'Polls say it’s popular but a candidate can’t win if they support it? Does not compute does not compute beep beep beep. The reason it does compute is that... the calculation is not 'boy if I support a higher minimum wage then the voters will get mad'. The calculation is 'boy if I support a higher minimum wage then the voters will like that, BUT the Chamber of Commerce types will dump a bunch of money into the race to oppose me and run ads calling me a child molester (or highlighting something else that might be unpopular about me)'. Supporting the popular thing is a problem not because the popular thing is unpopular (by definition!), but because it’s tough to win as a Democrat generally and extra hard if the big money comes after you.' I think this describes the mindset correctly, but I don’t know if it reflects the current reality.  Whether or not you support something popular, if you’re a Democrat in a state that’s anything but completely blue, there is so much third-party money in these races that you’re going to be awash in negative ads for months prior to the election. So you might as well shout out loud and proud about popular things like a minimum wage hike, because the millions in third party spending will be there anyways...

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Anne is wrong: the turning point came long, long ago: Anne Applebaum: Conservative Intellectuals Are at a Turning Point: Normalize Trump or Resist Him?: "We have consistently spoken about civic patriotism and not nationalism in the United States.... We are not... held together by ethnic blood ties.... Our imagined community is based on... a more complex, more cerebral national ideal... democracy and justice as opposed to blood and soil.... Those who promote a... nativist definition of America... weaken and divide us, as the president [does].... I have some sympathy [for] the conservative movement[. It] is at a real turning point... decide whether they will continue to normalize Trump, providing him with the intellectual framework to indulge the dangerous impulses on display in Greenville, or whether they will try to create something that gives the Republican Party, at least, some viable alternative once Trumpism fails. If they can bring themselves to abandon the word “nationalism,” that will be a good sign...

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Let us remember that the recent wave of anti-immigrations ethnicism in America was, in its origins, more anti-Cuban than anyting else:

Samuel P. Huntington: The Hispanic Challenge: "Unlike past immigrant groups, Mexicans and other Latinos have not assimilated into mainstream U.S. culture, forming instead their own political and linguistic enclaves—from Los Angeles to Miami—and rejecting the Anglo-Protestant values that built the American dream.... The Hispanization of Miami is without precedent.... The Cuban takeover had major consequences... a Cuban-led, Hispanic city... in which assimilation and Americanization were unnecessary and in some measure undesired..... By 1999, the heads of Miami’s largest bank, largest real estate development company, and largest law firm were all Cuban-born or of Cuban descent... the mayor of Miami and the mayor, police chief, and state attorney of Miami-Dade County, plus two-thirds of Miami’s U.S. Congressional delegation and nearly one half of its state legislators.... Anglos (as well as blacks)... outside minorities that could often be ignored. Unable to communicate with government bureaucrats and discriminated against by store clerks, the Anglos... could accept their subordinat[ion]... assimilate into the Hispanic community... or... leave... their exodus reflected in a popular bumper sticker: 'Will the last American to leave Miami, please bring the flag'...

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Right-wing U. Penn professor Amy Wax brings the racism pure: Joe Patrice: Professor Amy Wax Declares Black Students ‘Rarely’ Graduate In The Top Half Of Law School Class: "And have never graduated in the top quarter as far as she can remember: Comedian Cristela Alonzo has this bit about walking through a racist locale and facing shouts of 'Mexicans are lazy' and that 'Mexicans are taking all our jobs', forcing her to wonder 'well, which one is it?' Professor Amy Wax of Penn Law would do well to remember this little life lesson in racist contradiction.... Right after she’s finished explaining how black people would be better off if they understood that they’re better at menial tasks... Wax claims that a black student has never finished in the top quarter of a graduating class Penn Law as far as she can remember and that they 'rarely, rarely' finish in the top half. That prompts.... [Glenn] Loury: 'Do you have a racial diversity mandate for law review appointments at Penn?' [Amy] Wax: 'Yes. Yes.' Loury: 'So you’re telling me that students of color who have served on law review are pretty much in the bottom half of their law classes at Penn?' Wax: '…' Silence. The audience is just treated to long beats of dead air as she rolls her eyes back into her head to access whatever part of the reptilian brain controls explicit bias and scrambles to put together something to justify her wildly unsupported claim...

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Dwight D. Eisenhower (1954): Letter to Edgar Newton Eisenhower: Weekend Reading

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1954): Letter to Edgar Newton Eisenhower: "Dear Ed: I think that such answer as I can give to your letter of November first will be arranged in reverse order–at least I shall comment first on your final paragraph. You keep harping on the Constitution; I should like to point out that the meaning of the Constitution is what the Supreme Court says it is. Consequently no powers are exercised by the Federal government except where such exercise is approved by the Supreme Court (lawyers) of the land. I admit that the Supreme Court has in the past made certain decisions in this general field that have been astonishing to me. A recent case in point was the decision in the Phillips case. Others, and older ones, involved 'interstate commerce.' But until some future Supreme Court decision denies the right and responsibility of the Federal government to do certain things, you cannot possibly remove them from the political activities of the Federal government...

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Francis Wilkinson: Gun Safety Takes a Back Seat to Gun Culture and Children Die: Weekend Reading

Millie Drew Kelly Girl Fatally Shot by 4 Year Old Brother Heavy com

Francis Wilkinson: Gun Safety Takes a Back Seat to Gun Culture and Children Die: "A mother stored a gun in her car to protect her children. It killed her daughter instead.: On Monday, April 8, Courtney Kelly’s Hyundai Elantra failed. Kelly had just gotten all three kids packed into their car seats in the back. Millie, 6, was on the passenger side. Maddox, 4, was on the driver’s side. Lucas, 2, was strapped in the middle. It was about 5:45 p.m. They were on their way to Maddox’s baseball practice. With the children settled, Kelly was poised to pull out of her driveway on Laurelcrest Lane in Dallas, Georgia. The car wouldn’t start...

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Barry Eichengreen does not appear pleased with Facebook's non-blockchain blockchain called Libra. As I have said, it looks like a second-order grift. There might be real value there—competing with visa and the others is a worthwhile task. But calling it "blockchain"? And calling it "blockchain" when it isn't? There do appear to be several levels here at which Facebook is not on the level. And that makes one wonder about the value to society of the project:

Barry Eichengreen: Questions on Facebook's Libra: "In light of my Washington Post op-ed on Libra, I thought I might pose some questions about this new blogpost from Facebook’s David Marcus https://www.facebook.com/notes/david-marcus/libra-2-weeks-in/10158616513819148/ on the same subject: Still no details on what will ensure that Libra continuously trades at par vis-à-vis the underlying basket? Is the idea that Libra will function like an ETF (which won’t work) or like a currency board (which will be incredibly expensive)? Will the members of the Libra Association have the power to decide later to hypothecate the underlying assets? If this is against the rules, what prevents them from changing the rules?... Would Osama Bin Landen have been able to operate a wallet on his own? Would his wallet have had to first be approved by the members of the Libra Association? On what basis can regulators be confident that those members have the information to make a reliable determination? You write that you will have 'proper know-your-customer practices'. What information will you collect from your customers to make this determination? How will you collect it? Ensure its confidentiality?...

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July 19, 2019: Weekly Forecasting Update

Cursor and FRED Graph FRED St Louis Fed

The right response to almost all economic data releases is: Next to nothing has changed. We are where we were a year ago: Stable growth at 2% per year with no signs of rising inflation or a rising labor share.

The only significant difference that the Fed has recognized that its hope of normalizing the Fed Funds rate in the foreseeable future is vain, and has now recognized that its confidence over the past six years that we were close to full employment was simply wrong:

Federal Reserve Bank of New York: Nowcasting Report: Jul 19, 2019: "1.4% for 2019:Q2 and 1.9% for 2019:Q3.News from this week's data releases decreased the nowcast for 2019:Q2 by 0.1 percentage point and increased the nowcast for 2019:Q3 by 0.1 percentage point. Negative surprises from housing data accounted for most of the decline for 2019:Q2, while positive surprises from survey data accounted for most of the increase in 2019:Q3...

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Steve M.: 2020 Strategy: Everyone Should Scorch Earth The Way Trump Does: "I didn't see this coming, though I probably should have: 'Kellyanne Conway Snaps Back at Reporter: "What’s Your Ethnicity?": When White House reporter Andrew Feinberg posed a question to Kellyanne Conway on Tuesday about the president’s racist tweets against the four congresswomenknown as the “Squad,” he found himself taken aback by her response.... Instead of answering that question, Conway asked him, “What’s your ethnicity?”... Conway still would not answer Feinberg’s question, instead insisting that [the] question was relevant because Trump said “originally” from—he didn’t—and going on a rant about how “a lot of us are sick and tired in this country of America coming last”...'It's not news that Conway would rather kneecap reporters than inform them of the truth. But she hasn't been in the habit of tossing ethnicity into the mix. That's been the president's specialty. That, however, seems to be the Trump team's strategy for 2020: Everyone should become even more like Trump...

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Kevin Drum: Trump Hits a New Low... Again: "A very non-exhaustive list of things that have been called new lows for Trump over the past few years. Enjoy:

2015

July 20: Attacks John McCain for being a POW.
November 13: Compares Ben Carson to child molester.
November 21: Proposes Muslim registry.
November 23: Retweets claim that 81 percent of white people are killed by blacks.
November 26: Mocks a reporter’s disability.
December 8: Calls for ban on Muslim entry.

2016....

March 23: Attacks Ted Cruz’s wife.
March 30: Says that women who get abortions should be punished.
May 3: Suggests that Ted Cruz’s father killed JFK.
June 3: Attacks federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel.
July 27: Asks Russia to please find and release Hillary Clinton’s 30,000 emails.
August 1: After Khizr Khan accuses Trump of never sacrificing anything for his country, Trump attacks Khan and says that he has too made a lot of sacrifices, such as “building great structures.”
August 10: Suggests his supporters might want to shoot Hillary Clinton.
October 8: “Grab ’em by the pussy” tape.
October 12: More women accuse Trump of sexual assault....

2017

February 22: Attacks transgender children.
March 4: Accuses Obama of tapping his wires.
June 29: Accuses Mika Brzezinski of “bleeding badly from a face-lift” during a New Year’s party.
July 2: Retweets video of CNN being attacked.
August 15: Suggests that there were “very fine people on both sides” at Charlottesville.
September 30: Attacks mayor of San Juan after Hurricane Maria hits Puerto Rico.
October 13: Ends Obamacare cost-sharing program.
November 29: Retweets three anti-Muslim videos from the leader of an extremist British group.

2018

January 12: Shithole countries.
June 8: Begins separating children from their parents at the border.
July 5: Insists on meeting with Vladimir Putin with no one else present.
September 13: Says the 3,000 dead from Hurricane Maria is “fake news” invented by Democrats.
October 18: After murder of Jamal Khashoggi, reminds everyone that Saudi Arabia is a good customer.
October 19: Calls Stormy Daniels “horseface.”
October 19: Applauds Rep. Greg Gianforte’s body slam of a reporter.
November 1: Runs racist ad just before midterm elections.
November 7: Suspends CNN reporter Jim Acosta.
November 12: As wildfires are raging, threatens to cut off federal aid to California unless they change their “forest management” practices.
December 29: Says any deaths of children along the border are strictly the fault of the Democrats.

2019

February 9: Mocks native American genocide.
March 8: Accuses Democrats of being the “anti-Jewish party.”
March 20: Attacks John McCain yet again.
May 24: Retweets doctored video of Nancy Pelosi.
July 11: Attacks British prime minister Theresa May.
July 14: Tells Democratic congresswomen to go back where they came from...

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I want my country back! I want my country back now!!: Great^10-Grandfather William Bradford: The Project Gutenberg eBook of Bradford's History of 'Plimoth Plantation', by William Bradford: "So being ready to departe, they had a day of solleme humiliation, their pastor taking his texte from Ezra 8:21: And ther at þe river, by Ahava, I proclaimed a fast, that we might humble ourselves before our God, and seeke of him a right way for us, and for our children, and for all our substance. Upon which he spente a good parte of þe day very profitably, and suitable to their presente occasion. The rest of the time was spente in powering out prairs to þe Lord with great fervencie, mixed with abundance of tears. And þe time being come that they must departe, they were accompanied with most of their brethren out of þe citie, unto a towne sundrie miles of called Delfes-Haven, wher the ship lay ready to receive them. So they lefte þt goodly & pleasante citie, which had been ther resting place near 12. years; but they knew they were pilgrimes, & looked not much on those things, but lift up their eyes to þe heavens, their dearest cuntrie, and quieted their spirits...

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I did not pay enough attention to the racist animus underlying Tea Party Republicans in the early 2010s. Vanessa Williamson, Theda Skocpol, and John Coggin tried to warn me. I ignored them. Shame on me: Vanessa Williamson, Theda Skocpol, and John Coggin: The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism: "In the aftermath of a potentially demoralizing 2008 electoral defeat, when the Republican Party seemed widely discredited, the emergence of the Tea Party provided conservative activists with a new identity funded by Republican business elites and reinforced by a network of conservative media sources. Untethered from recent GOP baggage and policy specifics, the Tea Party energized disgruntled white middle-class conservatives and garnered widespread attention, despite stagnant or declining favorability ratings among the general public. As participant observation and interviews with Massachusetts activists reveal, Tea Partiers are not monolithically hostile toward government; they distinguish between programs perceived as going to hard-working contributors to US society like themselves and “handouts” perceived as going to unworthy or freeloading people. During 2010, Tea Party activism reshaped many GOP primaries and enhanced voter turnout, but achieved a mixed record in the November general election. Activism may well continue to influence dynamics in Congress and GOP presidential primaries. Even if the Tea Party eventually subsides, it has undercut Obama’s presidency, revitalized conservatism, and pulled the national Republican Party toward the far right...

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A sensible model conveying useful and understandable information about the state of American productivity growth. Why we have speedups and slowdowns, and why it seems to be a matter of regimes rather than a randomly walking parameter, remain mysteries on which this approach sheds no light But other else has shed light here either: James A. Kahn and Robert W. Rich: Trend Productivity Growth: "Through 2019Q1... with probability 0.93 productivity remains in a low-growth (1.33% annual rate) regime.... Productivity growth in 2019Q1 in the nonfarm business sector was 3.6% (annual rate), the highest rate in more than four years. The four-quarter change was 2.4%, the highest year-over-year reading since 2015Q1. The near-term forecast profile, however, is little changed, with... a predicted 5-year trend of 1.9%... | James A.Kahn and Robert W.Rich (2007): Tracking the New Economy: Using Growth Theory to Detect Changes in Trend Productivity...

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A healthy macroeconomy continues to be the best of all labor-side policies. The past decade of bitter experience has taught us that monetary policy cannot do the entire job on its own: a healthy macroeconomy requires planning, and some of that planning must be on the fiscal-policy side. And the evidence that expansionary fiscal policy is a very effective tool to cure a depressed economy, and cure it with minimal blowback costs of any kind, continues to mount:

Jérémie Cohen-Setton, Egor Gornostay, and Colombe Ladreit de Lacharrière: Aggregate Effects of Budget Stimulus: Evidence from the Large Fiscal Expansions Database: "This paper estimates the effects of fiscal stimulus on economic activity using a novel database on large fiscal expansions for 17 OECD countries for the period 1960–2006. The database is constructed by combining the statistical approach to identifying large shifts in fiscal policy with narrative evidence from contemporaneous policy documents. When correctly identified, large fiscal stimulus packages are found to have strong and persistent expansionary effects on economic activity, with a multiplier of 1 or above. The effects of stimulus are largest in slumps and smallest in booms https://delong.typepad.com/lfe_database.zip...

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Geoffrey Parker: Emperor: A New Life of Charles V: "In 1504, Charles’s father paid £15 to a bookbinder for ‘making wooden covers for five large books, and for repairing and re-gilding several other works’; and £36 to ‘Jeronymus van Aeken, called Bosch’ for ‘a very large painting measuring nine feet high and eleven feet wide which will show the Last Judgement, that is to say Heaven and Hell, which My Lord has ordered him to paint’. The following year, Philip paid £23 to ‘a man who played a strange Spanish instrument, and to a young girl from Lombardy’ who ‘played several songs and performed acrobatics for him while he dined’, as well as £25 to a painter who presented him with ‘a picture of a naked woman’ (payments that put the gift of £10 to Brother Erasmus of Rotterdam in perspective)...

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Why have the more polite modern-day neo-Nazis picked transgender people as those seek to demonize—as tree equivalent of what the Jews were for the original Nazis?:

Zack Beauchamp: Trump and the Dead End Of Conservative Nationalism: "Their vision of social conservatism... is not focused on classic issues like abortion and same-sex marriage—two issues little mentioned at the conference (although there were multiple cruel attacks on trans people in major speeches)... [but on] bucking libertarians to use the power of the state at home to address problems like the opioid crisis, the use of pornography by teenagers, and the overweening influence of Silicon Valley... going against neoconservatives in limiting the United States’ role abroad....

"It’s... arguing that liberalism (in the political philosophy sense, not the partisan one) is too focused on the 'atomized' individual and not focused enough on building social ties.... chipping away at the separation of church and state and the philosophical framework underpinning liberal rights... end[s] up justifying excluding groups of individuals from those rights—transgender people, for example. This new 'national conservatism' is no exception. And nowhere is this clearer than its discussion of immigration and race....

"Wax, the Penn professor, made this subtext the text during her address—even positively citing Trump’s 'shithole [countries]' comments. She argued for what she called a 'cultural distance' approach to immigration... that... 'preserves the United States as a Western and First World nation'.... She favorably quoted John Derbyshire, a writer who once penned a piece telling his white children to avoid going places where black people hang out in groups and was fired from his job at National Review as a result... VDARE... Taki... an outright argument for white supremacy—exactly the sort of thing that Brog claimed to abhor and reject....

"[Brog] is trying to do something impossible.... That is most obvious on immigration, where politicians and intellectuals can speak openly about banning certain types of people from entering the country entirely. But it inevitably rebounds on citizens as well. Just ask Ilhan Omar....

"It was striking to be at this conference as Trump’s assault on the Squad unfolded. The self-identified nationalist president was telling nonwhite citizens that they do not belong on the basis of their skin color. If there was ever a golden opportunity to distance national conservatism from racism, this was it. And yet no one took it... not... a single attempt to tackle Trump’s comments or to distance the conference organizers from the president’s racist assault. When Hazony mentioned Trump’s racist tweets, in the very last speech of the conference, it was only to mock reporters who kept asking him about them....

"There is no non-racist explanation for telling four American congresswomen of color to 'go back' to their countries, as if the United States does not truly belong to them. There is no non-racist explanation for making up claims that a black Muslim congresswoman, Omar, is an al-Qaeda sympathizer. Yet it is this rhetoric that attracts people to Trump’s brand of nationalism....

"'National conservative' conference attendees may dream of a better conservatism, but they already have what they’re trying to create. And it’s much uglier than they can admit...

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Jamie Powell: The best of Morgan Stanley's Adam Jonas: "Morgan Stanley's Adam Jonas is a renowned Tesla bull... until yesterday.... [He] proceeded to lay into the future prospects of Elon Musk's company, holding nothing back.... To pick one, of many possible, quotes from the call is hard. But this is a standout: '[Tesla's]... seen more as a distressed credit story and a restructuring story. So from a growth story to a distressed credit and restructuring story [in a quarter]. At the heart of this though, is demand'. Jonas' change of heart comes as a surprise to Alphaville, as for many years he's been a vocal bull.... So to commemorate the mood swing, here are five of our favourite Adam Jonas quotes from Tesla's various quarterly conference calls over the years...

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Fairly Recently: Must- and Should-Reads, and Writings... (July 17, 2019)

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  • Weekly Forecasting Update: July 12, 2019: "the Fed has recognized that its hope of normalizing the Fed Funds rate in the foreseeable future is vain, and has now recognized that its confidence over the past six years that we were close to full employment was simply wrong...

  • For the Weekend: Paul Celan: Todesfugue: "Death is a master from German his eye it is blue/he shoots you with shot made of lead shoots you level and true/a man lives in the house your golden hair Margarete/he looses his hounds on us grants us a grave in the air /he plays with his vipers and daydreams/Death is a master from Germany/your golden hair Margarete/your ashen hair Shulamith...

  • Weekend Reading: Thomas Wyatt the Younger: "Great12-grandfather...

  • Weekend Reading: Titus Livius: The Latin War: The History of Rome: "An order was issued that the treaty should be renewed with the Laurentians; and it is renewed every year since, on the tenth day after the Latin festival. The rights of citizenship were granted to the Campanian horsemen; and that it might serve as a memorial, they hung up a brazen tablet in the temple of Castor at Rome. The Campanian state was also enjoined to pay them a yearly stipend of four hundred and fifty denarii each; their number amounted to one thousand six hundred...

  • Weekend Reading: Jo Walton: The Spearpoint Theory: The Dyer of Lorbanery: "It’s very small and sharp but because it’s backed by the length and weight of a whole spear and a whole strong person pushing it, it’s a point that goes in a long way. Spearpoints need all that behind them, or they don’t pack their punch in the same way. Examples are difficult to give because spear-points by their nature require their context, and spoilers. They tend to be moments of poignancy and realization. When Duncan picks the branches when passing through trees, he’s just getting a disguise, but we the audience suddenly understand how Birnam Wood shall come to Dunsinane...

  • A Year Ago on Equitable Growth: Twenty Worthy Reads from the Past Week or so: July 19, 2018: TOP MUST REMEMBER: Here is the website for Zucman, Wier, and Torslavon's work on missing profits from tax avoidance and tax evasion...

  • A Year Ago on Equitable Growth: Fifteen Worthy Reads from the Past Week or so: July 12, 2018: TOP MUST REMEMBER: Cory Doctorow: I Was Naive: "I've been thinking of all those 'progressive' Senators who said that... Jeff Sessions was a gentleman, honorable, decent—just someone whose ideas they disagreed with. They approved Sessions for AG on that basis, and he architected this kids-in-cages moment...

  • Liveblogging: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: Laurentius and St. Peter: "Then Laurentius, who was archbishop in Kent, meant to depart southward over sea, and abandon everything. But there came to him in the night the apostle Peter, and severely chastised him, because he would so desert the flock of God. And he charged him to go to the king, and teach him the right belief. And he did so; and the king returned to the right belief...

  • Liveblogging: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: The Prophecy of Augustine: "So was fulfilled the prophecy of Augustine, wherein he saith 'If the Welsh will not have peace with us, they shall perish at the hands of the Saxons'...


  1. Bruce Springsteen: YouTube Channel

  2. Paul Campos: ITMFA?: "Wilentz’s case for impeachment is plausible... but... Pelosi’s go-slow approach is also plausible.... Wilentz takes what seems like a somewhat cavalier attitude toward the massive differences in the political ecosystems of America in 1974 and 2019.... All the options look very fraught at best and potentially disastrous at worst, because our political system is in the midst of a long not-so-slow decline. The extraordinary difficulty of trying to figure out the best path toward removing a completely unfit proto-fascist cult leader from the office of the presidency is Exhibit A of that decline...

  3. Nora Eckert: Tennessee Governor Criticized for Honoring Nathan Bedford Forrest : NPR: "Tennessee's Republican governor, Bill Lee, is facing public backlash after he declared Saturday 'Nathan Bedford Forrest Day', continuing a decades-old tradition honoring the Confederate general, slave trader and onetime leader of the Ku Klux Klan.... Some of the outcry came from members of Lee's own party. On Friday, GOP Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas took to Twitter to condemn the governor's move, calling Forrest 'a slave trader & the 1st Grand Wizard of the KKK'...

  4. Lenny Mendonca: Business and Public Policy Perspectives on US Inequality: "Inequality in the United States–Definition and Facts.... Housing and Transportation . Place-Based Policies. Race and Inequality. Opportunity and Early Education. Higher Education. Immigration (and Effects on Other American Workers). Low-wage Workers. Tax Policy–The 1%. Work in the Future and Universal Basic Income...

  5. Suresh Naidu et al.: Political Polarization and the Dynamics of Political Language: Evidence from 130 Years of Partisan Speech

  6. Vanessa Williamson, Theda Skocpol, and John Coggin: The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism

  7. Types of "General Gluts": Fisher, Wicksell, Bagehot

  8. How Does the Economy Choose Which Equilibrium to Settle at?: Praying for the Confidence Fairy to Rescue Italy Edition

  9. Musings on Thomas Malthus, the Hellenistic Age, the Loyal-Spirit Great Kings of Iran 550-330 BCE, and Other Topics: The Honest Broker for the Week of August 17, 2015

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You gotta wonder about any definition of "cognitive elite" that proposes to include Stephen Pinker: When Alan Dershowitz comes up to you and says, "I'm defending a rich pedophile. Hey me for free!" why would anyone not-insane ever say yes? "Even pedophiles deserve to be represented in court" is a thing—but only for lawyers. "I joined the pedophile defense team because the money was good" is a thing. It's not something to be proud of, but at least the money can partially assuage the humiliation. But Pinker got no money, and incurred the repetitional hit as a cheerleader for a sleezebag: Colleen Flaherty: Steven Pinker's Aid in Jeffrey Epstein's Legal Defense Renews Criticism of the increasingly Divisive Public Intellectual: "In 2007, Epstein’s attorneys—including Harvard legal scholar Alan Dershowitz—submitted a letter to federal prosecutors arguing that their client hadn’t violated a law against using the internet to lure minors across state lines for sexual abuse. 'To confirm our view of the "plain meaning" of the words, we asked' Pinker, 'a noted linguist, to analyze the statute to determine the natural and linguistically logical reading or readings of the section', the letter said. 'We asked whether the statute contemplates necessarily that the means of communication must be the vehicle through which the persuading or enticing directly occurs. According to Dr. Pinker, that is the sole rational reading.'...

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A healthy macroeconomy continues to be the best of all labor-side policies. Two centuries of bitter experience have taught us that the macroeconomy can only stay healthy if it is planned—and properly planned. Not least among the necessary planning institutions for the macroeconomy is the central bank. And two centuries of bitter experience have taught us that the central bank has a very delicate task, one that can only be successfully accomplished if it is staffed by highly competent and good-hearted people. Here we have the American Enterprise Institute raising the alarm with respect to the chaos-monkey nature of President Trump's Federal Reserve nominations: Desmond Lachlan: Trump's Bizarre Federal Reserve Nomination: "Among President Trump’s more bizarre nominations for office has to be his nomination of Judy Shelton to fill one of the Federal Reserve Board governor vacancies.... Shelton manages to hold two contradictory views of monetary policy at the same time... strident advocacy of the return to the gold standard is totally inconsistent with the Trump administration’s economic policy approach.... Normally a person would be in favor of either an easy monetary policy to stimulate the economy or a hard monetary policy to exert discipline on the government. Either way, one would not expect her to hold both views at the same time. Yet Ms. Shelton does exactly that...

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Olivier Blanchard and Jeromin Zettelmeyer believe that Italy right now is one of those rare cases in which fiscal expansion is likely to be contractionary: Olivier Blanchard and Jeromin Zettelmeyer: The Italian Budget: A Case of Contractionary Fiscal Expansion?: "Putting fiscal multiplier effects and contractionary interest rate effects together—and being generous about the size of the multiplier and conservative about the effect of the interest rate increase—arithmetic suggests that the total effect on growth will be 0.8 * 1.5 – 0.8 * 1.6 ≈ –0.1... [with] risks are skewed to the downside. This means that the planned fiscal expansion will probably fail to increase growth—and may even reduce it. The deficit will come in larger than predicted. Supporters of the government will be disappointed. The government may double down, and investors may flee, leading to a serious crisis. It is possible that Italy will suffer a debt run before it even gets a chance to implement its expansionary budget...

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Economist: Britain’s Brexit Debate Regresses to 2016: The Tory Time Warp: "Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson make much of their Trump-like dealmaking ability.... Red lines of leaving the single market, customs union and European Court of Justice... threatening to walk away with no deal is the best way to extract further concessions from Brussels... adamant that they can get Brexit done by October 31st.... The list of implausible Tory claims is long, including old assertions that Britain holds all the cards in the negotiation, that what is needed is simply more determination, that the EU is desperate for Britain’s money and that a new prime minister can bypass Brussels and deal directly with Berlin and Paris. Equally unbelievable arguments are made about trade. German carmakers and Italian vintners need the British market, it is claimed. Because Britain runs a trade deficit in goods, no-deal would do more damage to the eu. A fall in the pound would offset any tariffs. Most of the world trades on WTO terms, so Britain would be fine doing the same. As for Ireland, the two governments can agree bilaterally not to impose a hard border with customs controls.... The truth about power and red lines is less forgiving.... A shift of Brexit talk towards the extreme, epitomised by the two candidates’ embrace of no-deal. The linguistic changes are telling. Mrs May’s deal used to be termed a 'hard' Brexit, as it would take Britain out of the single market and customs union. Now it is widely derided as 'Brexit in name only'.... Although most Tory party members like the sound of a no-deal Brexit, a majority of mps and voters are firmly against it. Manoeuvring round all these obstacles would test any prime minister, never mind one who still believes old myths from 2016.

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Kim England and Kate Boyer: Women's Work: The Feminization and Shifting Meanings of Clerical Work: "Up to about the 1940s clerical work illustrated a story of women's expansion into the wage-labor market, and the coding of office work as a good respectable job for (certain kinds of) women: notably young, white, educated women prior to marriage. By the middle third of the twentieth century clerical work became an increasingly important source of income for married women. By this time clerical work was emblematic of women's waged work, and provided a primary source of income for women who were single as well married, including a small but growing number of women of color...

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