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Month November 2010

Battling trolls …

Good advice in the New York Times from Julie Zhuo, a product design manager at Facebook … design comment systems that discourage trolls:

Instead of waiting around for human nature to change, let’s start to rein in bad behavior by promoting accountability. Content providers, stop allowing anonymous comments. Moderate your comments and forums. Look into using comment services to improve the quality of engagement on your site. Ask your users to report trolls and call them out for polluting the conversation.

via Online, Anonymity Breeds Contempt – NYTimes.com.

A better blueprint …

Conservatives don’t have the sole blueprint for reducing the long-term deficit.  This one shows that it can be done with shared sacrifice, not just on the backs of those with less means:

The following report puts forth a blueprint that invests in America and creates jobs now, while putting the federal budget on a long-term sustainable path. We document the hard choices that need to be made and suggest specific policies that will yield lower deficits and a sustainable debt while preserving essential initiatives and investments.

via Our Fiscal Security – Fiscal Blueprint.

Wide divide …

Frank Rich continues the theme in his Op-Ed published in today’s New York Times:  income disparity combined with excessive money in politics is THE problem of our time:

But both rallies, for all the commotion they generated, have already faded to the status of quirky historical footnotes. The reason is that neither addressed the elephant in the room — or the donkey. That would be big money — the big money that dominates our political system, regardless of who’s in power. Two years after the economic meltdown, most Americans now recognize that that money has inexorably institutionalized a caste system where everyone remains (at best) mired in economic stasis except the very wealthiest sliver.

He continues:

The story of recent corporate political donations — which we may never learn in its entirety — is just beginning to be told. Bloomberg News reported after Election Day that the United States Chamber of Commerce’s anti-Democratic war chest included a mind-boggling $86 million contribution from the insurance lobby to fight the health care bill. The Times has identified other big chamber donors as Prudential Financial, Goldman Sachs and Chevron. These are hardly the small businesses that the chamber’s G.O.P. allies claim to be championing.

via Still the Best Congress Money Can Buy – NYTimes.com.

Feeling beaten …

Brad DeLong shares a long essay he wrote trying to explain how we reached this state in our economy.  He is of the view that the economic crises could have been contained relatively easily with both fiscal and monetary intervention, and that a sustained 10% unemployment rate should have been unthinkable.  This is further to what Paul Krugman wrote about and I shared a few posts ago.

While my own thoughts are not as original as either DeLong or Krugman, might I offer this as a possible explanation:  economic theory is based on an assumption of rational behavior that doesn’t exist on the macro level anymore than it exists on the micro level.  It is irrational for folks to want others to join them in their economic pain, and yet they do.  It is irrational for folks to condemn actions that will lift them up from their troubles, and yet they do.  And it is irrational for folks to ignore expertise in favor of engineered political sloganeering, and yet they do.

Take a giant leap …

From the New Zealand files comes this photo, which I took (using my Canon PowerShot) from the top of the Skyline Gondola, with the remarkable “Remarkable Mountains” in the distance and Queenstown just below.

“Security” is an adjective …

Time’s Joe Klein concedes that privatizing Social Security is a really bad idea — eight years after he supported it:

And so, belatedly, I’ve realized that there are two types of social programs: those that are designed to raise people out of poverty … and those, like Social Security, that provide, yes, a safety net when the bottom falls out. The programs that seek to raise the poor often work better when people are given a choice; those that provide a net need to be as simple and reliable as possible. In this case, the name said it all: Social … Security. It was an essential lesson in the continuing education of a political columnist.

via My Continuing Education – TimeFrames – TIME.

Beyond our grasp …

From Brad DeLong, asking the question that Paul Krugman tries to tackle in the preceding post:

Still, here we are. The working classes can vote, economists understand and publicly discuss nominal income determination, and no influential group stands to benefit from a deeper and more prolonged depression. But the monetarist-Keynesian post-WWII near-consensus, which played such a huge part in making the 60 years from 1945-2005 the most successful period for the global economy ever, may unravel nonetheless.

via Grasping Reality with Both Hands.