Politics, bodysuits, minimum wage, etc…

Evidently, a grade school teacher stripped down to a skin tight “human anatomy” bodysuit to teach a lesson on human anatomy.


In my teen years…I’d be praying that she turn around and face the board. :-)

Here is another view of them:


Minimum wage Right now, there just isn’t much economic mobility. Getting beyond a minimum wage job can be difficult.

Politics The top Republican candidate to replace John Boehner as Speaker of the House has withdrawn. Some have suggested Paul Ryan, who Paul Krugman calls the “flim-flam” man. Might there be a deal in the works for a bipartisan “coalition speaker”? As nice as that sounds, I doubt it.

October 9, 2015 Posted by | economy, politics, politics/social, spandex | , | Leave a comment

Clinton and the TPP…meh..

Hmmm, so today Hillary Clinton said this:

In an interview Wednesday with PBS’s Judy Woodruff in Iowa, Clinton said, “As of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about it.

The former secretary of state and 2016 Democratic presidential front-runner cited the “high bar” she set earlier in the year as the reason she was giving the deal a thumbs down.

“I have said from the very beginning that we had to have a trade agreement that would create good American jobs, raise wages and advance our national security and I still believe that is the high bar we have to meet,” Clinton said.

She added: “I don’t believe it’s going to meet the high bar I have set.”

Emphasis mine. Note how artful this statement is; it has qualifications. However this TPP proposal is a bit different than it was at first, as even “lukewarm critic” Paul Krugman noted:

What I know so far: pharma is mad because the extension of property rights in biologics is much shorter than it wanted, tobacco is mad because it has been carved out of the dispute settlement deal, and Rs in general are mad because the labor protection stuff is stronger than expected. All of these are good things from my point of view. I’ll need to do much more homework once the details are clearer.

But it’s interesting that what we’re seeing so far is a harsh backlash from the right against these improvements. I find myself thinking of Grossman and Helpman’s work on the political economy of free trade agreements, in which they conclude, based on a highly stylized but nonetheless interesting model of special interest politics, that

An FTA is most likely to politically viable exactly when it would be socially harmful.

The TPP looks better than it did, which infuriates much of Congress.

So, I wonder…this woman chooses her words very carefully. Of course, Sanders supporters are declaring victory (“See, she’s feeling THE BURN”) but, well, as far as the deal goes, I am ambivalent. I suppose if I had to choose, I’d trust President Obama here, and yes, I know that means going against the knee jerk anti-trade woo-woos..though this deal really isn’t that much about trade.

So, on this issue, I am at odds with Sec. Clinton. Sort of. It really isn’t THAT important to me, either way.

October 8, 2015 Posted by | Barack Obama, economics, economy, hillary clinton, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Rages, surges, water, clocks and wasps..

Workout notes: swim, then weights.

Swim: 500 easy (Jason sort of raced me), 5 x (50 drill/free (fins for drill, no fins for free), 5 x 100 on the 2:10 (two in 1:50; rest 1:47-1:49), 2 x 100 IM, side/free

1800 (1 mile) total.

Weights: pull ups (did ok), incline press: 10 x 135, 3 x 160, 3 x 150
rotator cuff
military: 3 sets of 10 x 40 dumbbell standing
rows: 3 sets of 10 x 60 dumbbell
bench press: 10 x 70 dumbbell

yoga: 10 minutes worth; did some headstand.

It was ok, given that I was fatigued from yesterday.

The Fed and interest rates: a certain collection of bankers benefit when the rates are raised.

Science: wasps can indirectly alter caterpillar DNA. The interaction is complicated and there are still open questions.

Election 2016: If there is a “Sanders surge”, polls aren’t picking it up. I believe that sometimes people confuse intensity of support for breadth.

Clocks, etc.
In the clock case: no, the kid shouldn’t have been arrested nor suspended. In fact, we should not have ever known about it. But as far as the clock itself: probably not much profound there, other than a kid’s curiosity.

Note: I did similar stuff at that age; I remember disassembling a small radio to try to use its parts in other ways. What I ended up doing is using the earphone jack to power an external speaker…not exactly a huge feat of electrical engineering. :-)

September 21, 2015 Posted by | economics, economy, evolution, political/social, politics, science, social/political, swimming, weight training | | Leave a comment

Perceptions, getting caught in traps and urban renewal

I think it is clear that, on the average, we tend to hang around those who are a bit like us. Hence it is easy for the wealthier (or merely comfortable) among us to get a false sense of what things are like for most people.

And here is an example of that: a person becomes disabled in a crash..and the only way to qualify for Medicare treatment and facilities is…for the family to remain poor. This is one problem with means-tested programs; if your income level is in the “wrong” area and you don’t have the right types of insurance, it can be devastating to a family.

I’ve also seen cases in which a couple in which one person was more elderly than the other have to get divorced; nursing home care can be outrageously expensive and if one person’s assets get exhausted, they go after the other person’s assets (house, everything).

Urban renewal: politically, this puts a lot of liberals in a concentrated area. Hence, urban congressional districts are often won by massive margins; the rural ones are won by Republicans with lesser margins. Gerrymandering makes this effect worse.

Bottom line: we can have situations in which the Democrats in Congress get many more votes than the Republicans, and yet the Republicans come away with a large majority. But the numbers hold up in Presidential elections.

July 30, 2015 Posted by | economy, politics, politics/social, social/political | | 2 Comments

More Krugman…

Workout notes On my own: I did the Cornstalk 8.1 in 1:28:44 (44:34/44:10); slow and it was chilly ….just perfect running weather. It was basically a “no effort expended” run, at least until my last mile.


I saw the university women’s track team headed toward me; they said “hi” as usual and I just wanted to disappear. The contrast between them and me was stark. :-)

That is another sign of age: 32-33 years ago I WANTED people to see me run. Now I want to be invisible. :-)

But it was very enjoyable…probably due to the chilly conditions.

Later: I walked just over 2 miles with Barbara and Olivia (about 20 minutes per mile).


I like these articles mostly because of the reasoning that they display.

First, the main factor in the decline of US manufacturing is NOT trade imbalance.

Yes, cutting spending during a recession stalls growth. Here, Paul Krugman gets exasperated by some being unable to understand the difference between the economy’s level and its growth rate; that is, being unable to distinguish between a function and its derivative.

Now he attacks those who are supporting the TPP “fast track” by using bad reasoning:

And the selling of TPP just keeps getting worse.

William Daley’s pro-TPP op-ed in today’s Times is just awful, on multiple levels. No acknowledgment that the real arguments are not about trade but about intellectual property and dispute settlement; on top of that a crude mercantilist claim that trade liberalization is good because it means more exports; some Dean Baker bait with numbers — $31 billion in trade surplus! All of 0.2 percent of GDP!

But what really annoyed me, even if it’s not necessarily the worst bit, was this:

But today, of the 40 largest economies, the United States ranks 39th in the share of our gross domestic product that comes from exports. This is because our products face very high barriers to entry overseas in the form of tariffs, quotas and outright discrimination.

Actually, no. We have a low export share because we’re a big country. Here’s population versus exports as a percentage of GDP for OECD countries:


May 19, 2015 Posted by | economics, economy, family, mathematics, running | , | Leave a comment

Poverty, Baltimore, disagreement, TPP, etc.

Baltimore protests and riots (which are different things)

The American Renaissance has a reputation as being a white supremacist site/publication. But some of what they say might appear to be merely “uncomfortable truth” that others are too polite or cowardly to say:

Discovers why blacks riot.
An article from yesterday’s New York Times about the relative calm in Baltimore stumbled by accident onto something like the real reason why blacks were rioting. Near the famous burned-out CVS–the city had begged the company to “invest” in a dodgy neighborhood–the Times reporter found someone it identified as “Robert Wilson, a college student who went to high school in Baltimore.” The article concludes with Mr. Wilson’s explanation of why blacks rioted. He said nothing about Freddie Gray or police brutality. Instead, he said this:

We’re just angry at the surroundings–like this is all that is given to us?–and we’re tired of this, like nobody wants to wake up and see broken-down buildings. They take away the community centers, they take away our fathers, and now we have traffic lights that don’t work, we have houses that are crumbling, falling down.

After the riots in Baltimore in 1968, whites panicked and sold their property at desperation prices. Now, these houses are “broken down” because blacks didn’t maintain them. This pattern of white flight and “broken down” houses was repeated in Detroit, Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, Washington, St. Louis, Memphis, Atlanta, Birmingham, Jacksonville, and countless other American cities. Some of the best city housing in the world was handed over to blacks who wrecked it. Neighborhoods filled with irreplaceable architecture are now wastelands.

Mr. Wilson complains that “we have houses that are crumbling, falling down.” The remedy for crumbling houses is for the people who live in them to fix them, but instead, Mr. Wilson asks, “Is this all that is given to us?”

This quote almost perfectly captures the black mentality that leads to rioting. Blacks live in neighborhoods that they, themselves, have wrecked, and then ask, “This is all that is given to us?”

Hard-working white people built the “broken-down” buildings Mr. Wilson is complaining about. Many had parquet floors, high ceilings, and fine moldings found today only in the most expensive new construction.

Like so many blacks, Mr. Wilson doesn’t realize how perverse it is even to think in terms of pleasant houses and neighborhoods being “given” to anyone. Does he imagine the white authorities “giving” nice neighborhoods to whites and cruelly handing out slums to blacks? They didn’t start out as slums. Whites saved and worked hard to build those neighborhoods. They maintained them, repaired them, and loved them.

But in today’s world of welfare, food stamps, government housing, and white guilt, Mr. Wilson doesn’t know any better than to ask for handouts.

Ok. Yes, it is true: those houses were once nice houses and now they aren’t; they weren’t kept up and yes, blacks were living in them when they went downhill.

But that is, at best, incomplete information.

For one: if these houses were rented (as they surely were), who is responsible for the major upkeep? Yes..the landlord. Who actually OWNED those houses?
And as far as the poor blacks that moved in: what we really had was well paying blue collar jobs leaving. Remember that higher education was less accessible to the poor, especially the black poor. They weren’t in a position to follow the paths of the well paying jobs.

Now as far as social pathology: yes, it is there. But the best evidence is that the dearth of employment opportunities and poverty come first; the social pathology follows. It is time to act economically. And yes, our poverty reduction measures have worked better than some claim.

TPP: Yes, much of this is about intellectual property and though this is not likely to be a disaster, Paul Krugman wonders why President Obama is spending political capital on this.

Robert Reich is a more passionate critic.

Me: sort of on the fence; I tend to give President Obama the benefit of the doubt based on how his other programs have worked out or are working out.

May 5, 2015 Posted by | economics, economy, political/social, politics, politics/social, poverty, racism, Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

TPP and other topics

Workout notes: end of the semester blues, so I had to force myself into swimming. But swim I did. 1000 straight, then 5 x 200 on the 4: 3:43, 3:43, 3:45, 3:38, 3:31 (more effort) then 200 fin cool down (back and fly)

TPP: Paul Krugman notes that this doesn’t really enhance free trade all that much but is more about intellectual property rights. He counts himself as a “lukewarm opponent” in that he doesn’t think that it will be all that harmful, but it won’t help and he thinks that President Obama has better ways to spend political capital.

I think that I give President Obama some benefit of the doubt here, at least on political grounds.

Speaking of economics water is tight in California. That means: those who can pay astronomical water fees still…use it for their lawns. Let’s face it: this is NOT a “we are all in this together” situation; it never is.

Religion: I think that bad ideas are not worthy of respect. No, I won’t go onto someone’s property (internet or otherwise) and attack their religion, but I’ll speak my mind openly and, some ideas are just plain dumb.

April 28, 2015 Posted by | climate change, economics, economy, politics, politics/social, swimming | , | 1 Comment

Hillary Clinton’s “I’m running for President” announcement ad

Now I admit that this makes me shake my head; then again, this ad isn’t aimed at me.

One thing for sure: I am sure as heck not going to vote for Jeb Bush.

April 12, 2015 Posted by | 2016, economy, hillary clinton | , | 1 Comment

Social and economic divisions in the US

I know that is would be a politically unwise move. But there are some who want to celebrate the Union’s victory over the Treasonous States (aka Confederate States)(by Brian Beutler) :

In a speech one month ago, the first black president of the United States challenged millions of white Americans to resist the convenient allure of overlooking the country’s blemished moral record. It was a dual challenge, actually—first to the classical understanding of American exceptionalism, but also to America’s persistent critics, who abjure the concept of exceptionalism altogether.

“What greater expression of faith in the American experiment than this?” President Barack Obama said. “What greater form of patriotism is there than the belief that America is not yet finished, that we are strong enough to be self-critical, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals?”

This was both a rejection of the fairytale America perpetuated by American conservatives, in which national virtue overwhelms sin, and a statement of faith in the country’s robust capacity for self-improvement. And he delivered it in Selma, Alabama—a Southern city whose folksy name evokes state-sanctioned, state-administered violence against black citizens—on the fiftieth anniversary of Bloody Sunday. Selma would be a perverse venue for celebrating the Jingo’s exceptional America, but it was the perfect backdrop for Obama’s more nuanced rendering: the convening point of the march to Montgomery, on a bridge named after Edmund Pettus—a vicious white supremacist, who committed treason against the United States as a Confederate general, and later terrorized former slaves as an Alabama Klansman and Democratic Senator.

And so

This week provides an occasion for the U.S. government to get real about history, as April 9 is the 150th anniversary of the Union’s victory in the Civil War. The generous terms of Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House foreshadowed a multitude of real and symbolic compromises that the winners of the war would make with secessionists, slavery supporters, and each other to piece the country back together.

Of course this would infuriate the South, but at this point I really don’t care. They still go on about “The War of Northern Aggression” so perhaps they need to be reminded as to who won?

To be blunt: I wish that we hadn’t have fought that war…we would be a stronger nation today had we just let them go.

But this idea isn’t going anywhere.

Punishing the slackers I think that there is a time and place for “tough love” and to challenge people to do better. And yes, if one is on public aid, should one be spending money on stuff that harms one’s life (e. g. cigarettes)?
But when it comes to public aid programs, it is unwise to lard programs with extensive restrictions which can be costly, ineffective and demoralizing. The drug testing program was one of these; what passed in the Kansas legislature is another. No, I don’t think that strip clubs and porn stores are an appropriate use of taxpayer money. But pools? Isn’t swimming healthy and uplifting?

Never mind that: why lard up a program with expensive, difficult to enforce restrictions that attack a problem which hasn’t been shown to be statistically large?

Conservatives see things differently. Forget “libertarians”; they are tiny in number and not significant, as Paul Krugman points out:

Well, the best story I have is Corey Robin’s: It’s fundamentally about challenging or sustaining traditional hierarchy. The actual lineup of positions on social and economic issues doesn’t make sense if you assume that conservatives are, as they claim, defenders of personal liberty on all fronts. But it makes perfect sense if you suppose that conservatism is instead about preserving traditional forms of authority: employers over workers, patriarchs over families. A strong social safety net undermines the first, because it empowers workers to demand more or quit; permissive social policy undermines the second in obvious ways.

And I suppose that you have to say that modern liberalism is in some sense the obverse — it is about creating a society that is more fluid as well as fairer. We all like to laugh at the war-on-Christmas types, right-wing blowhards who fulminate about the liberal plot to destroy family values. We like to point out that a country like France, with maternity leave, aid to new mothers, and more, is a lot more family-friendly than rat-race America. But if “family values” actually means traditional structures of authority, then there’s a grain of truth in the accusation. Both social insurance and civil rights are solvents that dissolve some of the restraints that hold people in place, be they unhappy workers or unhappy spouses. And that’s part of why people like me support them.

In any case, bear this in mind whenever you read some pontificating about a libertarian moment, or whatever. There are almost no genuine libertarians in America — and the people who like to use that name for themselves do not, in reality, love liberty.

Krugman has a bit more snark, especially for those who call his macroeconomic ideas “radical”:

The message instead is for those people — you know who you are — who imagine that the macroeconomics in this blog and in my column is somehow way out there on the left. In reality, I’m almost depressingly mainstream. It’s the other side in these debates that is showing lots of creativity, coming up with novel and innovative arguments about why we should do stupid things.

And as far as facts: well, conservatives desperately try to discredit any bit of good news:

Two impossible things happened to the U.S. economy over the course of the past year — or at least they were supposed to be impossible, according to the ideology that dominates half our political spectrum. First, remember how Obamacare was supposed to be a gigantic job killer? Well, in the first year of the Affordable Care Act’s full implementation, the U.S. economy as a whole added 3.3 million jobs — the biggest gain since the 1990s. Second, half a million of those jobs were added in California, which has taken the lead in job creation away from Texas.

Were President Obama’s policies the cause of national job growth? Did Jerry Brown — the tax-raising, Obamacare-embracing governor of California — engineer his state’s boom? No, and few liberals would claim otherwise. What we’ve been seeing at both the national and the state level is mainly a natural process of recovery as the economy finally starts to heal from the housing and debt bubbles of the Bush years.

But recent job growth, nonetheless, has big political implications — implications so disturbing to many on the right that they are in frantic denial, claiming that the recovery is somehow bogus. Why can’t they handle the good news? The answer actually comes on three levels: Obama Derangement Syndrome, or O.D.S.; Reaganolatry; and the confidence con.


Which brings us to the last point: the confidence con.

One enduring puzzle of political economy is why business interests so often oppose policies to fight unemployment. After all, boosting the economy with expansionary monetary and fiscal policy is good for profits as well as wages, yet many wealthy individuals and business leaders demand tight money and austerity instead.

As a number of observers have pointed out, however, for big businesses to admit that government policies can create jobs would be to devalue one of their favorite political arguments — the claim that to achieve prosperity politicians must preserve business confidence, among other things, by refraining from any criticism of what businesspeople do.

In the case of the Obama economy, this kind of thinking led to what I like to call the “Ma! He’s looking at me funny!” theory of sluggish recovery. By this I mean the insistence that recovery wasn’t being held back by objective factors like spending cuts and debt overhang, but rather by the corporate elite’s hurt feelings after Mr. Obama suggested that some bankers behaved badly and some executives might be overpaid. Who knew that moguls and tycoons were such sensitive souls? In any case, however, that theory is unsustainable in the face of a recovery that has finally started to deliver big job gains, even if it should have happened sooner.

I think it is best to view conservatives who hold beliefs similar to the theological beliefs held by religiously conservative people; trying to convince one with data is like trying to convince a Biblical literalist that it is logically impossible for the Bible to be literally true.

So what is an example of a liberal vision? Here is an example. Yes, no conservative would ever agree with it.

Economics and politics So how does the economy affect an upcoming election? There is evidence that what helps the incumbent isn’t overall performance but rather the change in the few months preceding the election.

April 8, 2015 Posted by | economics, economy, political/social, politics, republicans, social/political | , , | Leave a comment

Has Government cut higher eduction funding?

I found this Paul Campos article interesting :

The conventional wisdom was reflected in a recent National Public Radio series on the cost of college. “So it’s not that colleges are spending more money to educate students,” Sandy Baum of the Urban Institute told NPR. “It’s that they have to get that money from someplace to replace their lost state funding — and that’s from tuition and fees from students and families.”

In fact, public investment in higher education in America is vastly larger today, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than it was during the supposed golden age of public funding in the 1960s. Such spending has increased at a much faster rate than government spending in general. For example, the military’s budget is about 1.8 times higher today than it was in 1960, while legislative appropriations to higher education are more than 10 times higher.

In other words, far from being caused by funding cuts, the astonishing rise in college tuition correlates closely with a huge increase in public subsidies for higher education. If over the past three decades car prices had gone up as fast as tuition, the average new car would cost more than $80,000.

Some of this increased spending in education has been driven by a sharp rise in the percentage of Americans who go to college. While the college-age population has not increased since the tail end of the baby boom, the percentage of the population enrolled in college has risen significantly, especially in the last 20 years. Enrollment in undergraduate, graduate and professional programs has increased by almost 50 percent since 1995. As a consequence, while state legislative appropriations for higher education have risen much faster than inflation, total state appropriations per student are somewhat lower than they were at their peak in 1990. (Appropriations per student are much higher now than they were in the 1960s and 1970s, when tuition was a small fraction of what it is today.)

As the baby boomers reached college age, state appropriations to higher education skyrocketed, increasing more than fourfold in today’s dollars, from $11.1 billion in 1960 to $48.2 billion in 1975. By 1980, state funding for higher education had increased a mind-boggling 390 percent in real terms over the previous 20 years. This tsunami of public money did not reduce tuition: quite the contrary.

Campos goes on to point out that colleges are spending a LOT more on administrative overhead. Now there are many reasons for this; some include technology (someone needs to administrate the computer systems), mandates (all of the “learning disabled” students who are entitled to “accommodation”), helicopter parents and, yes, competing for students to stay in business. Obviously, this is an incomplete list.

But Jordan Weissmann published a counterpoint:

To his credit, Campos is at least gesturing towards an important point. Even in years when states increased their per-student education spending, public colleges still raised their prices faster than inflation. And while schools tend to up tuition when legislators cut their budgets, they don’t usually lower it when the subsidies get restored (see the graph below1). Instead, they lock in the extra revenue so that they can spend more per undergrad. Where has that money gone? Here, Campos is more on point. As he writes, universities are spending an increasing share of their budgets on administration. In other words, the bloat really has grown in higher ed, and it’s costing students.

But that doesn’t change the fact that government cutbacks have contributed to the problem. There have been moments when university profligacy has been the major driver of tuition increases. At others, contracting state support has played a critical role. This has especially been the case in these days of post-recession budget austerity. Depending on who’s calculating, states are giving schools somewhere around 25 to 30 percent fewer dollars per student than they were 15 years ago. And someone has had to make up the difference. Namely, college kids.

Now this gets to the crux of the disagreement. When you say “spending on higher education is up” or “spending is down”, what exactly do you mean?

Now of course, we have to adjust for inflation. But do you mean: “amount spent” in terms of dollars? (Campos does) Do you mean “percentage of GDP” or “percentage of budget”? Do you mean “per capita” in terms of a state’s population or in terms of “per student”? And if you mean “per student” do you mean “dollars per student” or “percentage of expected expenses per student”? Which measure are you using and why are you using that one?

To give the Devil His Due: Mitt Romney explained this principle very well in his book when he discussed “defense spending”.

April 8, 2015 Posted by | economics, economy, education, social/political | , | Leave a comment


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