Monthly Archives: April 2014

Is Thomas Piketty Right About the Causes of Inequality?

The Real News Network has the interview Is Thomas Piketty Right About the Causes of Inequality?

HUDSON: Well, that’s why the neoliberal’s love Piketty. It’s why Krugman loves Picketty(sic) and others. You can’t implement it. So he’s produced a book without any solution, and the free enterprise boys like that. The 1 percent don’t mind being criticized as long as there’s no solution to their problem. And that’s what the critics have come out saying: wait a minute, there are a lot of solutions. For one thing, some kind of wealth is better than others. You don’t want to tax people building factories and improving living standards like the one percent pretend that they do, but what you do want to tax is unearned income, economic rent, capital gains.
It’s the Wall Street bankers who’ve been doing the junk mortgages and engaging in the kind of fraud that we’ve been hearing about on Wall Street. This is not what Piketty discusses. He doesn’t say, throw the clerks in jail; he doesn’t say, have government regulatory agencies to prevent this kind of exploitation; he doesn’t say, reimpose anti-monopoly regulations to prevent monopoly profits from enriching the one percent; he doesn’t say, take all of these public utilities that Margaret Thatcher privatized in England and Ronald Reagan did in America and put them back in the public domain so that they can provide basic services to people at cost. All of this is a different topic from his book.

As with most books that I read that discuss the big problems in society, they are great in laying out the facts of what is wrong. This is usually the majority of the book. At the end they feel obligated to propose some solutions. Very rarely, if ever, have I read that part of the book and found it up to the standards of the first part of the book.

It appears that the Piketty book may be worse than the usual failure. He proposes non-solutions, and ignores the solutions that would work and have been proven to work.

Global Warming Theory Based on Evidence, Not Belief – Alan Robock on Reality Asserts Itself (1/5)

The Real News Network is starting another series with Global Warming Theory Based on Evidence, Not Belief – Alan Robock on Reality Asserts Itself (1/5). This first part is a slow start if you are anxious to get into the nitty-gritty science.

Now, so that’s based on evidence. You asked me if I believe in global warming. It’s not a question of belief. It’s a question of looking at the evidence and weighing the evidence. And I’m really a skeptic. I try to be critical of anything that’s told to me, and want to ask questions, and then I make conclusions based on the evidence. My motivation in my career would be to find a flaw in global warming, not another paper that supports it.

The next part is No CO2 Eureka Moment, Just Years of Statistical Analysis — Alan Robock on Reality Asserts Itself (2/5).

ROBOCK: Well, my dissertation said that random variations, just the natural variability of weather, could have caused the climate change of the last hundred years. It turned out my model was too sensitive to these random variations and it was wrong. So, over time, I published papers on the impact of volcanic eruptions, which is what I specialize in, and other people worked on the carbon dioxide effect and trying to quantify it. And it wasn’t until more recently that it was clear that CO2 was the dominant cause.

But people don’t understand there’s multiple causes of climate change, and they’re all happening at the same time. And so it’s not just one thing; it’s the battle between these different things that ends up in the net climate change.

Paul Jay and other non-scientist always seem to expect a Eureka Moment. No matter how hard Paul tries, he cannot get this scientist to say there is one. At least the headline writer got the point.

As Robock tries to emphasize, there are a large number of competing forces in the climate that pull in different directions. What a scientist tries to do is to figure out what the net effect is and how sensitive the net effect is to changing over time. As time goes on, and we develop better measures, better simulations, and better accounting for more of the competing effects, the chances that we will find a large, heretofore unknown effect diminishes.

There is never a point in time when you can be absolutely certain that nothing can happen to upset the analysis. We could get hit by an asteroid large enough to kill us all off before we drown in the rising oceans. Normally, people get upset when the people who should know don’t take precautions against the obvious risks. They even get upset when the people who should know don’t guard against unimaginable risks. So why should we pay inordinate attention to the deniers who don’t want us to take any action against a likely and imaginable risk?

May 5, 2014.

The subsequent post Answering Counter Climate Claims – Alan Robock on Reality Asserts Itself (3/5) gets to the meat of the topic.

Scathing Report Finds Rocketship, School Privatization Hurt Poor Kids

Truth-out has the article Scathing Report Finds Rocketship, School Privatization Hurt Poor Kids.

Finally, in his report, Lafer outlines how the corporate lobbyists and their allies pushing school privatization are manufacturing failure for poor communities in a broad, coordinated way, including “the dominant role of corporate lobbies in promotion of online learning and privately run charter schools; the corporate lobbies’ support for dramatic cuts in funding for public services, including education; and these same lobbies’ advocacy for an economic agenda that makes it harder for many families to work their way out of poverty.”

If you want to know what is the antithesis of what Elizabeth Warren is fighting for, then the above article will tell you what it is.

Elizabeth Warren is stressing how important it has been to this country to invest in the education of its citizens, especially its children.  Our whole success clearly depends on an educated populace.  The people who would prefer to make money in the short term by siphoning it out of the education system and putting the money into their own pockets are setting us all up for disaster.

Maybe we should call this the Vampire theory of society. A few get to suck out the life blood from the majority.  They are  nourished by what they suck out of the living, but leave only dried up bodies in their wake.

Elizabeth Warren’s book tour: ‘Run, Liz, run!’

Politico of all places has a fairly positive article Elizabeth Warren’s book tour: ‘Run, Liz, run!’

Interviews with more than a dozen Warren supporters in both cities showed that her message — the system is rigged against the little guy to the benefit of Wall Street and corporate America — is resonating, and any Democratic presidential hopeful will have to convince the Warren wing of the party that they get it. The conversations also revealed that enthusiasm for Warren often goes hand in hand with wariness of a President Hillary Clinton.

I am waiting for that convincing from Hillary Clinton.  The problem is that Clinton will cede the progressive wing of the electorate to Warren who will not be running.  Therefore the tone of the debate will not even address income inequality, the abandonment of all levels of government in investing in the country’s future, the guilt of Wall Street bankers, and the war mongering of the oil people hankering after Ukraine’s oil shale. Clinton will court the middle and the right.  This will alienate a large number of potential enthusiastic campaign volunteers and voters.  Clinton’s campaign will not bring out the votes that the Democrats have and that are needed to defeat the Republicans.

The Republicans could run John Ellis Bush (aka JEB) and maybe beat Clinton.

By the way, I have not been able to verify Warren’s attitude on the Ukraine issue, so what I said above about the Ukraine may only be my issue.  I could understand that, but I would be disappointed.

Weekly Address: Congress Needs to Act on Minimum Wage

President Obama’s weekly address to the nation is very good this week.

A speech like this makes me feel that President Obama does really still care. It makes me wonder if this is the same President who refuses to hold Wall Street accountable for the damage they have done? Is this the same President Obama who will tell CIA lies to get a war started in the Ukraine to satisfy the demands of wealthy capitalists? Is this the same President who listens to the self-interest of Wall Street to learn his economics? Is this the same President who caved to the health insurance industry and to big pharma to give them a health “reform” act that shovels more money their way? Is this the same President who sees that support for public universities has dropped from 3/4 to 1/4 of college costs, but says nothing about it?

All the while that students have accumulated $1.2 trillion of debt to make up for what government has stopped doing, Obama is still concerned about cutting the deficit. The observation of this debt build up seems to be one more piece of evidence that Modern Monetary Theory is right. When the government cuts its spending, it comes out of the hides of the people in the private sector of the economy.

I wonder who else beside Elizabeth Warren understands that putting this kind of debt load on the young (and not so young parents of these students) prevents them from buying homes, setting up households, and the other things that keep the economy humming. Does Hillary Clinton get this? Is she shouting about this from the rooftops? All I hear from Hillary these days is that she wants more sanctions on Russia because they refuse to knuckle under to our aggression against them.

So this is how Net Neutrality dies, under a Democratic President

The Daily Kos has the post So this is how Net Neutrality dies, under a Democratic President.

3:57 PM PT: Another argument I am often seeing is the whole “Well Netflix and Youtube use so much bandwidth, it is only fair they pay more!” This is the exact argument the ISPs fall back on when people challenge them on wanting to destroy Net Neutrality.

Don’t buy that for a second. Yes, Netflix and other streaming services use loads of ISP bandwidth. They also have customers who PAY THESE ISPs for cable access in large part to use their services.

Also compare to other countries:

Average internet speeds in South Korea and Japan are many times faster than ours, and cost far less, and also use plenty of streaming services. In Tokyo for example, you can get 2 gigabit internet speeds (TWICE google Fiber) for $50 a month. The only reason we can’t have that here is because ISPs are greedy and don’t want to establish faster networks if they can charge you more per month and give you 1% what someone in Tokyo can get. World’s fastest Internet arrives in Tokyo: 2Gbps for $50/mo.

There is a White House Petition to sign.

Maintain true net neutrality to protect the freedom of information in the United States.

True net neutrality means the free exchange of information between people and organizations. Information is key to a society’s well being. One of the most effective tactics of an invading military is to inhibit the flow of information in a population; this includes which information is shared and by who. Today we see this war being waged on American citizens. Recently the FCC has moved to redefine “net neutrality” to mean that corporations and organizations can pay to have their information heard, or worse, the message of their competitors silenced. We as a nation must settle for nothing less than complete neutrality in our communication channels. This is not a request, but a demand by the citizens of this nation. No bandwidth modifications of information based on content or its source.

You have to wonder if President Obama gives a damn anymore.

Kerry Lies, Repeats Debunked State Department Claim

Moon of Alabama has the article Kerry Lies, Repeats Debunked State Department Claim.

Yesterday the New York Times Public Editor criticized the paper’s handling of the story:

It all feels rather familiar – the rushed publication of something exciting, often based on an executive branch leak. And then, afterward, with a kind of “morning after” feeling, here comes a more sober, less prominently displayed followup story, to deal with objections while not clarifying much of anything.

The pictures from the coup government in Ukraine distributed through the U.S. State Department are obviously fakery and purely anti-Russian propaganda. The story of Russian “special operations personnel” in east-Ukraine is a lie. It has been debunked as such in several U.S. publications. Despite that Kerry yesterday repeated it proving himself to be exactly what Putin had claimed, a liar.

I have read and viewed many of the sources mentioned in this blog post by Moon of Alabama. Moon of Alabama has assembled these pieces in a well constructed way that is worth featuring on my blog.

For those who think they know what Russia is up to because they have bought into the lies that the US is telling, I refer back to my Mark Twain quote, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

I also find it gratifying that The New York Times Public Editor is as skeptical as I am about the (mis)information that the newspaper so often publishes.

New Quantum Theory Could Explain the Flow of Time

Wired has the article New Quantum Theory Could Explain the Flow of Time.

Now, physicists are unmasking a more fundamental source for the arrow of time: Energy disperses and objects equilibrate, they say, because of the way elementary particles become intertwined when they interact — a strange effect called “quantum entanglement.”
“What’s really going on is things are becoming more correlated with each other,” Lloyd recalls realizing. “The arrow of time is an arrow of increasing correlations.”

The idea, presented in his 1988 doctoral thesis, fell on deaf ears. When he submitted it to a journal, he was told that there was “no physics in this paper.” Quantum information theory “was profoundly unpopular” at the time, Lloyd said, and questions about time’s arrow “were for crackpots and Nobel laureates who have gone soft in the head.” he remembers one physicist telling him.

“I was darn close to driving a taxicab,” Lloyd said.

I have read books about quantum entanglement, and I still struggle with some aspects of the idea. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that I did drive a taxicab for a week while I was suffering from Sophomore slump during my MIT career.

Elizabeth Warren: Fighting Chance Book Tour

Elizabeth Warren’s new book is A Fighting Chance. She made a book tour stop at Worcester State University today.

The room was overflowing even after accounting for the standing room only crowd.

The crowd gave her a beginning and ending standing ovation. There was quite a bit of applause at many of the things she had to say.

She didn’t have the time to answer all the questions, so it was no surprise that she didn’t get to either of my two questions.  The questions she did answer were great questions as were her answers.  Sorry I didn’t take notes for this blog.

Contrary to  what The Boston Globe wrote today, I think that when she is finished with this tour, her national reputation will be greatly enhanced.  I don’t know what she may be running for, but I would vote for her in a heartbeat.

At the very least, she is calling us to action to turn this country around.  She showed us what this country used to be and how it has deteriorated from that singular  time after WWII and up to 1980.  We made this country prosper for most of its citizens before, and we can do it again.

Oh, by the way, why are public colleges so expensive?  The state used to pay 3/4 of the cost, but now it pays 1/4 of the cost.  Conversely, tuition used to cover 1/4 of the cost, but now must cover 3/4 of the cost.  This last factoid I derived from her first one, so it may not be exact.  However, it does explain why the cost has risen so fast.  It is not from high salaries for professors.  It is from tax cuts for the wealthy which depleted state resources for supporting our public colleges.  In fact, the increased use of adjunct professors at very low pay has kept the costs from rising even faster.  Everyone is taking it in the shorts but the wealthy.

And, as a final “oh by the way”, if you had been reading this blog you could have been among the few people to raise their hands when Elizabeth Warren asked the audience who had read the Piketty book. See my previous posts Corrupting Piketty in the 21st Century and Philip Pilkington: Misdirection – Galbraith on Thomas Piketty’s New Book on Capital. It gives me added confidence in Elizabeth Warren to know that she knows the book so soon after it has been published. If she had taken on one of my questions, she could have given further proof that she really understands some important economic principles.

The Stealthy, Ugly Growth of Corporatized Medicine

Naked Capitalism has the article The Stealthy, Ugly Growth of Corporatized Medicine.

Yves here. We’ve written a great deal about Obamacare, since it epitomizes so much about what is wrong with contemporary America: the use of complexity to mask looting, the creation of two-tier systems, the crapification of the underlying service, which in this case is vitally important to society as a whole.

But Obamacare also needs to be recognized as a big step forward …

As I started to read this, I thought that at last this progressive web site would finally admit that the ACA wasn’t as bad as they had been complaining.  Then I finished reading the paragraph.

in a process that was already well underway, which is to convert the practice of medicine from a patient-oriented to a profit-driven exercise. This is perverse because medicine is so highly valued that medical practitioners almost always enjoy high status and at least decent incomes in most societies. And in societies undergoing breakdown, being a doctor is about the safest place to be, provided you can manage to avoid becoming aligned with the wrong warring faction.

The article does go on to describe many of the ills of the current system in some detail that I had not been completely aware of.  I commented on the article as follows:

I am glad to see this article.  Until reading this, I could not understand why a progressive set of contributors had such dim view of the ACA.  I still think it is a case of somewhat displaced anger.  The issues that so anger you, existed before ACA.  I am not sure that blocking ACA and remaining with the old situation would have addressed any of the issues that you rightfully complain about.

It does not hurt to cover the aspects of what is wrong with the system so that we don’t get lulled into a sense of complacency.

After a while, though, I’d like the conversation to move on to the topic of fixing the broken system.  I know that this is entangled in the larger problem of wealth, income, and power inequality.  We all know that we aren’t going to fix this overnight.  Can anybody even think of small steps that we could take to start to turn the tide?

Maybe with the understanding this article provides about how badly the system has deteriorated, the voice of Don Berwick, candidate for Massachusetts Governor would resonate with the voters more. Although, from the tone of this article, I am not sure that “Medicare for All” is exactly what the author is looking for.