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Showing posts from April 5, 2015

The Rent Hypothesis

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[I just ran across Soltas' blog a few days ago. Here's a good and thoughtful piece on economic rents, i.e., "payment for a resource in excess of its opportunity cost, one that instead reflects market power." Important concepts for social and economic policy, even if it make take a while to make them usefully measurable. *RON*]
Evan Soltas, economics & thought, 18 March 2015


"Rent" is three things: an idea in economic theory, a payment for housing, and a musical. This post is, maybe unfortunately, about the first of those things.

Rent, as an economic idea, refers to some gain that, loosely, you can think of as unearned. It is,more rigorously, a payment for a resource in excess of its opportunity cost, one that instead reflects market power.

For instance, profits that a monopolist earns in excess of the profit that would exist in a competitive market are rents. So are excess profits from the production of a patented inv…

Following Canada's Bad Example, Now UK Wants To Muzzle Scientists And Their Inconvenient Truths

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[O Canada! Now we are a guiding light for corporatist governments the world over. Neoliberals trump your reality and replace it with their own. *RON*]
By Glyn Moody, Tech Dirt, 1 April 2015
Techdirt has been following for a while Canada's moves to stop scientists from speaking out about areas where the facts of the situation don't sit well with the Canadian government's dogma-based policies. Sadly, it looks like the UK is taking the same route. It concerns a new code for the country's civil servants, which will also apply to thousands of publicly-funded scientists. As the Guardian reports:
Under the new code, scientists and engineers employed at government expense must get ministerial approval before they can talk to the media about any of their research, whether it involves GM crops, flu vaccines, the impact of pesticides on bees, or the famously obscure Higgs boson. The fear -- quite naturally -- is that ministers could take days…

Wiccans say Indiana religious freedom law opens the door to polygamy, nude rituals at the Capitol

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[A somewhat humorous spin on otherwise abysmal events in the Indiana legislature. But on the other hand, see Anti-Gay Pizzeria Says God 'Has Blessed Us' With Over $800,000 For 'Standing Up.' *RON*]
Scott Kaufman, Raw Story, 02 April 2015

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed into law by Indiana Governor Mike Pence last week has found support from a most unusual source — practicing Wiccans.

The Daily Beast‘s David Freedlander spoke to Dusty Dionne, a High Priest and High Summoner of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church, who confessed that while he believes “these bills are horrible,” they do provide a unique opportunity for practitioners of his faith.

“If they are going to up this can of worms,” he said, “we are going to shove it right in their face.” For example, he explained, many Wiccans believe “that love is the law,” so while polygamous marriages are not a tenet of Wiccan theology, “whatever we want to do with marriage we can d…

The 10 men who could be the Republican nominee in 2016

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[Just FYI. Pretty well the same old rogue's gallery with a 'see ya later, alligator' for Mike Pence and a bit of a blip for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who likely won't figure in the end game. *RON*]
By Chris Cillizza & Aaron Blake, Washington Post, 3 April 2015 
Goodbye Mike Pence!

It continues to amaze us -- no matter how long we cover this stuff -- how quickly fortunes can change in national politics. A week ago, the Indiana governor was seen as a possible dark-horse presidential candidate in 2016 -- the sort of guy who could appeal to social and fiscal conservatives, had ties to Washington and/but was now a governor.

Today Pence is radioactive, after botching the signing of Indiana's religious freedom law. Rather than spending the next few months -- or years -- stoking talk about his future national prospects, Pence and his team now have to spend all of their energy rehabbing his image in the state so he can win reelection in…

US companies cut back sharply on hiring

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[You see, government austerity is necessary so we can afford to cut corporate taxes, which in turn frees companies to create more jobs. Right? See also US growth slows despite robust spending. As well as: Unemployment Report Shows Labor Force Drop Outs At Record HighJobs Data: Winter of Discontent, Summer of Discomfort, and Still Missing: At Least 3 Million Jobs. *RON*]

Sam Fleming & Robin Wigglesworth, Financial Times, 3 April 2015


US companies scaled back hiring sharply last month, adding to evidence that the economy has lost momentum since the start of the year and triggering a decline in the dollar.

Payrolls increased by 126,000 in March, well below Wall Street’s 245,000 consensus forecast and snapping a 12-month spell of gains above 200,000, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said.

The previous two months’ readings were also revised down by a net 69,000 jobs, while the unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.5 per cent, according to the repo…

Wall Street Executives from the Financial Crisis of 2008: Where Are They Now?

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[Good article. Short answer: not in jail. *RON*]

By William D. Cohan, illustrations by Sean McCabe, Vanity Fair, April 2015

It’s been nearly seven years since a financial meltdown almost destroyed the global economy. Some of Wall Street’s major players reflect on riding out the maelstrom.

Once upon a time, Jimmy Cayne, now 81, had a lot to say about the sad fate that befell Bear Stearns, the Wall Street investment bank he ran for nearly 15 years before its shocking collapse, in March 2008. In more than 20 hours of interviews with me that summer, portions of which later appeared in my bookHouse of Cards, he blamed Wall Street competitors and an amorphous group of hedge funds for conspiring to take down the 85-year-old firm. He was especially angry about then New York Federal Reserve Bank president Tim Geithner’s decision to allow Bear’s competitors access to crucial Federal Reserve funding, permitting them to fight another day, while his firm was …

Here's what it's like being a paid internet troll for the Russian government

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[This story has actually been around for a few days, it was just picked up by Business Insider. I've been ignoring it, but thought I would put it here today after all. It's an interesting story in itself, but what I like the blithe assumption in the media that the United States never stoops to engaging in propaganda. *RON*]

Marina Koreneva, AFP / Business Insider, 5 April 2015

Saint Petersburg (AFP) - Lyudmila Savchuk says it was money that wooed her into the ranks of the Kremlin's online army, where she bombarded website comment pages with eulogies of President Vladimir Putin, while mocking his adversaries.

"Putin is great," "Ukrainians are Fascists," "Europe is decadent": Savchuk, 34, listed the main messages she was told to put out on Internet forums after responding to a job advertisement online.

"Our job was to write in a pro-government way, to interpret all events in a way that glorifies the gove…

Is Canada's fight against ISIS a moral war?

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[Good debate. There's something to be said for the arguments on both sides, but I lean toward Gwynn Dyer. *RON*]

Brent Bambury, CBC, 3 April 2015

Listen 11:15

On Monday, MPs in the House of Commons voted to extend Canada's fight against ISIS, giving the military a green light to bomb targets in Syria and Iraq until March 2016.

Conservative MPs such as Defence Minister Jason Kenney have said Canada has a moral obligation to fight ISIS. But what exactly is that obligation? And does Canada have a moral imperative to intervene? Independent journalist Gwynne Dyer and Kyle Matthews of the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies debate those questions.

Brent Bambury: I'm going to ask you specifically about ISIS in a moment but first I want to ask each of you the most basic question that I can hear. When does Canada have a moral obligation to act militarily? Gwynne Dyer, when should Canadians enter a fight?

Gwynne Dyer: Canadians …