Contrary to rumors (and perhaps hopes of some), I’m not dead yet, and I’m not ready to go on the cart. Indeed, I feel happy. I’ve just been fighting (a) a cold, (b) bureaucratic & academic inertia, and (c) my own inability to say no to some interesting work. Blogging to resume later this week, I hope.
I’m trying out a new look. I’ve updated the theme as long-time viewers can tell. The new theme has a few advantages over the old one. First, it’s a “responsive” theme. That means that it should automagically adjust to the width of whatever browser you’re using. If you view it on a smart phone, it should push the side-bar stuff down to the bottom so the main text is more readable. And, as long as I can resist the urge to create a menu of tabs across the top, it should retain the fluid-width aspect of the old one.
Another reason for changing is that WordPress.com (the host for the blog) is really pushing it. The old theme isn’t being updated. We’ll just have to see if I get the spacing on the graphs right.
The new them also makes it easy for me to add short “Aside” posts. I’m going to try to adding some of these usually as links to articles I find interesting but don’t have time to write a full commentary.
Anyway, I’m interested in any comments on either the theme or other ideas to make the blog more readable or useful (short of recommendations that I replace the author!).
Today is Thanksgiving Holiday here in the U.S.
I just want to take a moment to thank all of those who help make my life rich and rewarding. They include:
- my wife and son. I couldn’t do this all without you.
- my extended family
- you, my readers on this blog, it’s been fun and inspiring to see so many people come to the site. Evidently I’m helping you learn things because you keep referring the site to friends. Thanks.
- my students, whose perseverance and curiosity make the teaching fun
- especially all of my colleagues at the college. My fellow professors, whose dedication, constant effort, and support have been an enormous inspiration to me, especially with strategic planning project.
- the college and the people of Michigan and Lansing who provide me the opportunity to teach.
- the people of Ohio and Michigan who supported the schools and universities that nurtured my learning and education.
- the people of Occupy wherever for their inspiration and courage.
To all, thanks.
This is only tangentially related to economics, but I’m pretty excited about some coverage I got for my other project (besides blogging here and teaching at LCC). If you teach in higher education yourself, you might be interested. If so, contact me. The article is from Converge Magazine yesterday:
Economics Professor Starts Designing Tools for Faculty That Meet Their NeedsBy Tanya Roscorlaon November 21, 2011 Policy
While vendors make plenty of technology platforms and services that serve students, most of them don’t meet professors’ needs, according to the experience of Jim Luke, an economics professor from Lansing College.
They require a major time investment and make professors’ jobs harder, he said.
“Just in 10 years the amount of time and work it takes to be a good teacher has just really skyrocketed, and a good bit of it is because of the software and the systems. They are not friendly and easy to use.”
While billions of dollars pour into campus enterprise technology and services for students, few people look at the teacher’s job. And few people create tools for teachers that they need.
For these reasons, Luke decided to start a nonprofit called Malartu Inc. While projects exist in the early stages, he hopes that the tools he envisions will help professors be more productive and effective.
Please read the rest of the article here as it describes our plans for TheProfNet and Curriculum Intelligence.
Normally I try to keep this blog focused on explaining economic issues and concepts. But in the past few days there’s a political issue has arisen that’s literally very close to home for me and I feel the need to speak out.
Last week, Terry Jones and his assistant Warren Sapp of Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida came to Dearborn, Michigan with the announced intent to protest at the Islamic Center of America, a very large mosque in Dearborn. Jones and Sapp are the characters who threatened to hold a bonfire burning hundreds of copies of the Koran last September, igniting worldwide protests. The burning last September was cancelled after the Gainesville, FL fire department refused a burning permit. At the time Jones and Sapp bowed to pressure and said they promised not to publicly burn the Koran. They lied. In March 2011, they held a public “trial” of book and then publicly burned a copy.
Jones and Sapp also announced last month that they would come to Dearborn on April 22, 2011 to protest the “spread of sharia law” in Dearborn. They stated they would come to the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn and burn a Koran. On the day of the scheduled “protest” Jones and Sapp found themselves in court in Dearborn with the prosecutor asking the court for Jones and Sapp to post a “peace bond”. Following a hearing before a jury, the judge ordered a $1 peace bond and ordered Jones and Sapp to stay away from the mosque for 3 years.
The national media has greatly misreported both the facts and the issues in this case. The case is close to home for me because I live in Dearborn. The media have been reporting that this is a pure free speech case and that the prosecutor was trying to keep Jones from protesting or keep Jones from saying his message. That is simply not the case. Let me repeat some facts that commentators not familiar with Dearborn don’t tell you.
First, to understand the need for the peace bond or restraining order, it’s necessary to know a little about the physical geography of the site. Here’s a link to a satellite view Google map of the location where Jones had planned to protest. Please note, there’s no public property available for assembling a protest at the site. To hold his planned protest, Jones was threatening to trespass on private property, the mosque itself. There is no first amendment right to free speech on other people’s private property!
The only alternative for Jones would have been to block traffic on Altar Road. Altar Road is a dead-end street with only access at one end. There is no free speech right to block traffic on a public street without at least getting a city parade permit first, which Jones did not do. In fact, if Jones had implemented his planned protest on the public roadway of Altar Road, he would have blocked access to not only the mosque, but to the five other churches (all Christian) that are located on Altar Road next to the mosque. For all those who claim Jones has a first amendment right to protest and block Altar Road, I ask how does Jones’ first amendment rights trump the first amendment rights of the members of the other churches to worship? Keep in mind that Jones was threatening to either trespass the mosque or block traffic on Good Friday when those other churches were holding services. To claim that Jones should have been allowed to hold his protest is to claim that Jones has the right to prevent hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Dearborn residents, both Christian and Muslim, the right to worship as they see fit.
So it’s not a clear-cut case of freedom of speech as the media would have us believe. There’s also issues of private property and freedom of worship (another first amendment right). But the city also had legitimate concerns for public safety.
The city’s concerns for public safety aren’t with the prospect of some crazed Dearborn Muslims rioting in the street over Jones’s presence or the burning of a Koran. Our community is too peaceful for that. Indeed, the Mosque was planning alternative peaceful activities to take attention away from Jones. No, the threat comes from Jones himself and from the crazed outsiders he would attract. It was only 3 months ago that we in Dearborn were fortunate to narrowly escape a plot to bomb this very same mosque. A crazed man from California attempted to take a car loaded with explosives and blow up the mosque. The attempt was only stopped by a quick police response to a tip from an alert Dearborn bartender. We have recent experience with hate-crazed people coming from out-of-town and trying to blow up the mosque! Forgive us if we have concerns about another dangerous hate-crazed man from out-of-town bringing guns and/or explosives.
Make no mistake, Jones is a direct threat to public safety. On the night before the planned protest, Jones recklessly discharged a firearm in public. After attending a new interview at TV station on Thursday evening, Jones got in his car and discharged his .40 caliber pistol. Jones has a concealed carry weapon permit from Florida. Under reciprocity rules, Michigan recognizes such a permit. But a concealed carry weapon permit is not a license to discharge the firearm at any time or to not keep the weapon under control. When approached by police, Jones claimed it was an “accident”. Either Jones intended to do something else with the gun and lied when confronted by police, or Jones is an idiot who doesn’t keep the safety on his gun and doesn’t have control of it. This guy was further threatening to trespass at a church (the mosque) the next day. In Michigan, possession of guns is illegal on church property, even with a concealed carry permit.
Contrary to what Jones and his apologists in the media claim, Jones has not been stopped from protesting in Dearborn. In fact, the Mayor actually welcomed him and asked him to do his protest on public property in front of city hall. What Jones has encountered is a peace bond. It’s like a restraining order. The essence of the order is that Jones not trespass on the mosque property for three years. That’s it. He’s free to return and protest to his heart’s delight. But he has to do it on public property. He is not entitled to trespass on private property to spew hatred at the owners of the property. He is not free to keep others from worshiping at the church of their choice. He is not free to threaten the safety of others by violating our gun laws.
I take a back set to no one in my support for free speech and Constitution’s bill of rights. But this isn’t a case of government trying to restrain political speech of crazy hate-filled man (see also here). It’s a case of government trying to protect the rights of thousands of citizens to worship as they see fit and to be safe and secure on their own private property. I know that doesn’t fit the media’s preferred drama, but that’s the facts.
It’s been said often that the “first casualty when war comes is truth”. If so, then surely the second casualty of war is the English language. The Pentagon, White House and State Dept have long butchered plain language and favored the use of euphemisms. We long ago learned that it’s not really civilians that get killed, it’s “collateral damage is incurred”.
Now with President Obama’s and NATO’s attempts to spend money blowing things up in Libya so that we can’t spend the money at home where it might create jobs, the same people are falling over themselves to invent new terms to describe what’s happening. We must, it seems, at all costs avoid using the words “war” or “attack”. The terms they’ve used though are about as muddy and unclear as our objectives in Libya.
For the full effect, I recommend watching the March 29, 2011 episode of the Daily Show With Jon Stewart. The segment is the first one and it’s long but worth it. You can find it at the link – warning, link plays audio and commercials automatically.
Two good ones are Sarah Palin referring to the Libyan operations as a “squirmish”. This is bettered by an official assertion by an Admiral that it’s really a “kinetic military action” *
The best, though, is Stewart’s suggestion that instead of a “turd sandwich” as one analyst called it, we refer to it as “Bread-Based Feces Containment Operation”. Yes, a BBFCO. We are too civilized to attack and go to war. We do BBFCO’s.
* I’m astounded the Admiral could say it repeatedly with a straight face. What’s Kinetic Military Action mean? Have we ever fought a war that wasn’t “kinetic”, where we just stood still? Is it possible to have a Kinetic Military Inaction?
Brad Delong quotes Mike Boskin on comparing talking to Principles of Economics students vs. being Chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors:
I think that one of Christie Romer’s predecessors as CEA Chair, Stanford economist and Republican Mike Boskin, says it best. Being Chair of the CEA and advising all the political appointees in the White House is, he says, a lot like teaching Econ 1 at Stanford. Only at Stanford your students do their reading, pay attention, and ask deeper and more thoughtful questions.
I think it would be a lot like explaining economics to my students, too. Except most of the students might learn more than the pols.
m giving gave an open lecture/presentation at the college today Oct 20 on the future viability of Social Security and the crisis rhetoric surrounding it. It’s available to view or download here: Powerpoint file Download (no sound).
I had plans to make a video out of it, but time has gotten the best of me. So, I’ve posted the audio-only from the presentation. Listen to it while you watch the slides. Sorry, it’s not edited so it starts slow but it’s all there. Download the MP3 audio file:
All materials are Creative Commons Copyright, Non-Commercial and Share-Alike license, so feel free to re-use.
Also another very useful (and re-usable) presentation on the same subject comes from National Academy for Social Insurance. It’s available here: Powerpoint of “Financing_Social_Security.ppt” or here: Financing Social Security (in PowerPoint)
Noun. Def: the practice of making economic arguments and describing economic effects in one or two sentences. For the statements to be true or even highly probable, there are usually numerous, gross, and often un-realistic assumptions necessary. Such assumptions are always unstated since they are so unrealistic. When dealing with macroeconomics, one-liner economics is very often likely to be wrong because it commits the fallacy of composition. The practice of one-liner economics is widespread among politicians, radio and TV talk show hosts, Cable TV talking head programs, and anywhere else that special interests want to push a particular policy that often is not in people’s real interests.
The Angry Bear Blog series on Social Security, courtesy of Bruce Webb: http://bruceweb.blogspot.com/2008/08/angry-bear-social-security-series.html
Andrew Biggs’ Blog called Notes on Social Security: http://andrewgbiggs.blogspot.com/
The myth of the Social Security system’s financial shortfall an article in the LA Times.
The Washington Post: Making Social Security less generous isn’t the answer
Links to all the actual Social Security Trustee’s annual reports, 1941-2010: http://bruceweb.blogspot.com/2008/08/social-security-reports-1942-2008.html
Social Security: The Phony Crisis by Dean Baker and Mark Weisbrot