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Archive for May, 2015

The US Congressional moves to stop data collection

May 21st, 2015 Comments off
  • Rand Paul launches bid to block NSA surveillance programme – “We do need surveillance — what we do not need is indiscriminate surveillance,” Mr Paul said. “The collection of records that is going on is beyond your imagination.”
  • An NPR Reporter Raced A Machine To Write A News Story. Who Won?
  • Fighting for History – Paul Krugman writes: … in a postmortem on the UK election Simon Wren-Lewis notes one failure of Labour in particular: it made no effort at all to fight the false narrative of Blair-Brown profligacy. Wren-Lewis writes, I suspect within the Labour hierarchy the view was to look forward rather than go over the past, but you cannot abandon the writing of history to your opponents. … But I’m with Wren-Lewis here: progressives are much too willing to cede history to the other side. Legends about the past matter. Really bad economics flourishes in part because Republicans constantly extol the Reagan record, while Democrats rarely mention how shabby that record was compared with the growth in jobs and incomes under Clinton. The combination of lies, incompetence, and corruption that made the Iraq venture the moral and policy disaster it was should not be allowed to slip into the mists.
  • Restoring the Public’s Trust in Economists
  • “Consistent With” – In discussing Paul Romer’s wonderful concept of mathiness, Peter Dorman criticizes economists’ habit of declaring a theory successful merely because it is “consistent with” the evidence. His point deserves emphasis. If a man has no money, this is “consistent with” the theory that he has given it away. But if in fact he has been robbed, that theory is grievously wrong. Mere consistency with the facts is not sufficient. This is a point which some defenders of inequality miss. Of course, you can devise theories which are “consistent with” inequality arising from reasonable differences in choices and marginal products. Such theories, though, beg the question: is that how inequality really emerged? And the answer, to put it mildly, is: only partially. It also arose from luck, inefficient selection, rigged markets, rent-seeking and outright theft.
  • You Just Lived Through The Earth’s Hottest January-April Since We Started Keeping Records – With April, we have once again broken the record for the hottest 12 months on record: May 2014 – April 2015. The previous record was April 2014 – March 2015, set last month. The record before that was March 2014 – February 2015. And the equally short-lived record before that was February 2014 – January 2015.
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Bankers who aren’t cheating aren’t trying

May 21st, 2015 Comments off

Some words of truth remembered by London’s Financial Times this morning in a report on six banks being fined $5.6bn over rigging of foreign exchange markets.

Repeated efforts by traders to manipulate daily fixings of currencies and interest rates as outlined by the regulatory actions announced on Wednesday illustrate the dark underbelly of many of the trading operations run by global banks.

Or in the words of one Barclays trader from 2010, who was quoted in a settlement document: “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.”

The thread that runs through three solid years of benchmark rigging cases is the assured way in which traders pushed around the prices of a whole series of financial products. They all seem to have believed they were immune from being rumbled for abusive behaviour.

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Attempts to debunk political rumors may only reinforce their strength

May 17th, 2015 Comments off
  • Why No One Wants The Rohingyas  – The spectacle of thousands of desperate Rohingya Muslim “boat people” being denied landfall in Southeast Asia has laid bare the region’s religious and ethnic prejudices as well as its fears of being swamped by an influx of migrants. … The Rohingya practice a blend of Sunni and Sufi Islam. At best, the migrants have been received with resignation — at worst with contempt — even by the region’s Muslim nations.
  • Rumors, Truths, and Reality: A Study of Political Misinformation – Bad news, fans of rational political discourse: A study by an MIT researcher shows that attempts to debunk political rumors may only reinforce their strength. “Rumors are sticky,” says Adam Berinsky, a professor of political science at MIT, and author of a paper detailing the study. “Corrections are difficult, and in some cases can even make the problem worse.” More specifically, Berinsky found in an experiment concerning the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that rebuttals of political rumors about the supposed existence of “death panels” sometimes increased belief in the myth among the public.
  • Robert Fisk: Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It amazes me that all these warriors of the air don’t regularly crash into each other. … The sectarian and theological nature of this war seems perfectly clear to all who live in the Middle East – albeit not to our American chums. The Sunni Saudis are bombing the Shia Yemenis and the Shia Iranians are bombing the Sunni Iraqis. The Sunni Egyptians are bombing Sunni Libyans, it’s true, and the Jordanian Sunnis are bombing Iraqi Sunnis. But the Shia-supported Syrian government forces are bombing their Sunni Syrian enemies and the Lebanese Hezbollah – Shia to a man – are fighting the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s Sunni enemies, along with Iranian Revolutionary Guards and an ever-larger number of Afghan Shia men in Syrian uniforms.
  • Beyond Quid Pro Quo: What Counts As Political Corruption?
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Conservatives favoured to win most seats

May 7th, 2015 Comments off

The opinion polls pretty much have it 50:50. The Owl Indicator has the Conservatives favourite to win most seats and to provide the Prime Minister.

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The doubts about Abbott remaining Liberal leader continue

May 4th, 2015 Comments off

Federal parliament has not been sitting for a few weeks so the parliamentary press gallery has laid off on its obsession about Liberal leadership challenges, But out in the world where people are prepared to put their money where their opinion is the belief remains that Prime Minister Tony Abbott will not be Prime Minister when the next election comes.

The Owl’s leadership indicator, based on the betting markets, puts Abbott’s chances of remaining in charge at only just over 33%. That’s an improvement from earlier this year hardly encouraging as the House of Representatives returns for the budget session.
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Nina Simone sings Randy Newman’s Baltimore

May 2nd, 2015 Comments off

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  • Baltimore – For this week’s Plus One Podcast we take a closer look at a song that seems to be on a lot of people’s minds this week: Nina Simone’s cover of Randy Newman’s “Baltimore.”
  • Black Culture Is Not the Problem – It is policy and politics, the very things that bind together the history of Ferguson and Baltimore and, for that matter, the rest of America. Specifically, the problem rests on the continued profitability of racism. Freddie Gray’s exposure to lead paint as a child, his suspected participation in the drug trade, and the relative confinement of black unrest to black communities during this week’s riot are all features of a city and a country that still segregate people along racial lines, to the financial enrichment of landlords, corner store merchants and other vendors selling second-rate goods. The problem originates in a political culture that has long bound black bodies to questions of property. Yes, I’m referring to slavery.jo brand labour ad
  • Jo Brand stars in new Labour Party Election Broadcast – Comedian Jo Brand stars in the Labour Party’s latest election broadcast which puts the spotlight on the Conservative Party’s record on the NHS. This is exactly what a party election broadcast should be.1. It’s single-minded.2. The language used by the talent feels vaguely authentic.3. The delivery isn’t forced.
  • An Unending Refugee Tragedy: Europe’s Path to Deadly Partition – Germany and its European Union partners want to prevent further refugee dramas in the Mediterranean Sea. But a look back at the policies adopted after the 2013 tragedy in Lampedusa shows they have made a terrible situation even deadlier.
  • Pope Francis Calls Gender Pay Gap A ‘Pure Scandal’
  • The Trans-Pacific Partnership is great for elites. Is it good for anyone else?
  • The joke was that Obama wasn’t joking
  • Norway’s sovereign oil fund earns more than government spends – The Government Pension Fund Global, which invests Norway’s oil wealth, made more money in the first three months of the year than the government spent in the same period — and then some.
  • A Better Way to Rein In Lobbying – It’s easy to get depressed about the state of American democracy. But we don’t need to be. The solutions are not overly complicated: Give government the resources it needs to think for itself and to develop policy without having to depend almost entirely on outside lobbyists. Make sure all sides have the resources to make their best case. The politics of checks and balances can do the rest.
  • Gay Marriage: Unthinkable or Inevitable? – Twenty-five years ago, same-sex marriage was for all practical purposes unthinkable. Today, it seems close to inevitable. This remarkable shift highlights the particular difficulty of the marriage equality case that came before the Supreme Court on Tuesday—but also points to the right result. On the one hand, the petitioners are asking the Court to recognize a constitutional right to something that until recently few Americans even deemed conceivable, and the Court is not the usual forum for radical change. On the other hand, once the question began to be asked, it turned out states had no good reason to deny recognition to gay and lesbian couples who seek to marry, as has become ever more clear over the past two decades. At this point, the Court has only two choices: to vindicate the demands of equality and liberty, or to validate discrimination. There is no third way.
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