Sunday, March 16, 2014

Krugman on the Retirement Age

From Paul Krugman's blog:

I was pleased to see this article by Annie Lowrey documenting the growing disparity in life expectancy between the haves and the have-nots. It’s kind of frustrating, however, that this is apparently coming as news not just to many readers but to many policymakers and pundits. Many of us have been trying for years to get this point across — to point out that when people call for raising the Social Security and Medicare ages, they’re basically saying that janitors must keep working because corporate lawyers are living longer. Yet it never seems to sink in.
Maybe this article will change that. But my guess is that in a week or two we will once again hear a supposed wise man saying that we need to raise the retirement age to 67 because of higher life expectancy, unaware that (a) life expectancy hasn’t risen much for half of workers (b) we’ve already raised the retirement age to 67.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Taking PSA's in a New Direction

When I heard the usual suspects squealing about President Obama's appearance on the mock interview show, Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis, I had to see it.

Turns out it's a Public Service Announcement for the Affordable Care Act, aimed at 20-somethings.

Let's see, we had Nixon doing "Sock it to me" on Laugh-in, and Dubya looking for WMD's under his Oval Office desk ....  I'd say it's quite a few steps above both.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

A History of Slavery

The NY Times tells a fascinating story in today's edition about the history of slavery in Brazil. As Rio de Janeiro prepares for the World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, remnants of the city's slave port are being unearthed. This is leading to a reexamination of the role of slavery in that country's history.

Things that raised my eyebrows:
  • It is estimated that 4.9 million slaves were imported by Brazil, which did not abolish slavery until 1888. 
  • This compares to about 389,000 received in North America.
  • Brazilian slaves came largely from the area of modern Angola. North American slaves came from further north (which makes sense – it's closer).
The article links to a worthy project at Emory University, the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database.  (The database can be confusing unless you download the 40-page guide.)

Monday, March 03, 2014

Jacqueline du Pré

Just now discovering cellist Jacqueline du Pré. Born in 1945; developed multiple sclerosis in 1971; retired from performing in 1973 (aged 28); died in 1987.

She was married to Daniel Barenboim.

According to Wikipedia, "She is particularly associated with Elgar's Cello Concerto in E Minor, her interpretation of which has been described as 'definitive' and 'legendary.'"

Here's a taste:

Why has it taken me this long?

Saturday, March 01, 2014


Kevin Drum lets us know what's going to happen with Ukraine, and he gets it just right:
  1. Vladimir Putin will do something belligerent. (Already done.)
  2. Republicans will demand that we show strength in the face of Putin's provocation. Whatever it is that we're doing, we should do more.
  3. President Obama will denounce whatever it is that Putin does. But regardless of how unequivocal his condemnation is, Bill Kristol will insist that he's failing to support the democratic aspirations of the Ukrainian people.
  4. Journalists will write a variety of thumbsuckers pointing out that our options are extremely limited, what with Ukraine being 5,000 miles away and all.
  5. John McCain will appear on a bunch of Sunday chat shows to bemoan the fact that Obama is weak and no one fears America anymore.
  6. Having written all the "options are limited" thumbsuckers, journalists and columnists will follow McCain's lead and start declaring that the crisis in Ukraine is the greatest foreign policy test of Obama's presidency. It will thus supplant Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iran, and North Korea for this honor.
  7. In spite of all the trees felled and words spoken about this, nobody will have any good ideas about what kind of action might actually make a difference. There will be scattered calls to impose a few sanctions here and there, introduce a ban on Russian vodka imports, convene NATO, demand a UN Security Council vote, etc. None of this will have any material effect.
  8. Obama will continue to denounce Putin. Perhaps he will convene NATO. For their part, Republicans will continue to insist that he's showing weakness and needs to get serious.
  9. This will all continue for a while.
  10. In the end, it will all settle down into a stalemate, with Russia having thrown its weight around in its near abroad—just like it always has—and the West not having the leverage to do much about it.