BRIEFLY NOTED: For 2021-02-15 Mo
In which I praise Ta-Nehisi Coates's beautiful writing, & then survey things that whizzed by...
First, what you should definitely read for Presidents’ Day:
Ta-Nehisi Coates: Thomas Jefferson Was More Than a Man of His Times: ‘Beautiful writing reflecting a clarity of thought and understanding that I have rarely encountered in Jefferson's contemporaries, or beyond, writing about the problem of slavery…. When people say Jefferson was merely a 'man of his times' they sell him short. I don't mean this as some sort of rhetorical jiu-jitsu. I find myself quoting [Jefferson's] words when trying to explain slavery's problems. What Jefferson, the man, did doesn't make these words any less meaningful.
At some point we are going to have to develop something beyond an infantile desire to know whether Daddy was a 'good guy' or a 'bad guy'. In fact, Daddy was an avowed white supremacist, whose words help inspire the black freedom movement. Daddy was an American slave-holder to the end, who brilliantly elucidated the moral and practical problem of American slavery. Daddy railed against miscegenation, while practicing it"…
Please also note that Ta-Nehisi Coates’s beautiful writing reflects a clarity of thought and understanding that I have rarely encountered in anyone. I find myself quoting TNC over and over again to explain things to all kinds of people.
Very Briefly Noted:
Dan Froomkin: Washington Post Editor Marty Baron Grudgingly Admits Failure to Be ‘Forthright About Trump’s Mendacity’ <https://presswatchers.org/2021/02/washington-post-editor-marty-baron-grudgingly-admits-failure-to-be-forthright-about-trumps-mendacity/>
Ryan Teague Beckwith: New DNC Chair Jaime Harrison Set to Revive 50-State Strategy: ‘Harrison to meet with rural and Black Democrats first. Chair will not cede any states or regions to Republicans… LINK: <https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-02-11/new-democratic-committee-chair-set-to-revive-50-state-strategy>
Dave Weigel: ‘I get the [WSJ’s] schadenfreude_, but anything that discredits the Republican operatives who joined the Biden coalition is good for the coalition’s left…. The left’s fear that the Lincoln Project was positioned (with more money than any left campaign group) to drive Biden right was snuffed out last week, they’re having an awesome time!… LINK: <https://twitter.com/daveweigel/status/1361379306203729926>
Charlotte Dunn: Demetrius I Poliorcetes <https://hellenisticagepodcast.wordpress.com/2021/02/14/interview-on-demetrius-i-poliorcetes-w-dr-charlotte-dunn/>
Gabriel R.: The Rich Fool and the Race Scientist: ‘A Great American Story of Money, Guns, Sex, Racism, Divorce, and Horse Breeding… LINK: <https://bearistotle.substack.com/p/the-rich-fool-and-the-race-scientist>
Ellen Huet: Substack Newsletters Are Unbundling the News Industry: ‘Substack has provided a tempting platform for writers with newsletter subscribers willing to support them, a development that echoes other tech-fueled trends in media… LINK: <https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-02-08/substack-newsletters-are-unbundling-the-news-industry>
Gary Weiss: Cade Metz Pulls a ‘Deep Capture’ on Slate Star Codex: ‘I expect that the Times will circle the wagons around [Cade] Metz, as it tends to do when reporters are caught with their pants down… LINK: <https://medium.com/@garyweiss_86200/cade-metz-pulls-a-deep-capture-on-slate-star-codex-da649e8efe7>
Gary Weiss: ‘Slate Star Codex has no recourse for the errors and distortions in Cade Metz’s hit piece. None. That’s why @nytimes dumped its Public Editor a few years ago—to shield reporters and their editors from in-house criticism in precisely this kind of situation: Robby Soave: “Not even a quarter of the way through… we’re already being warned that SSC was some sort of freewheeling haven for white supremacists… an accusation that Metz does not even begin to prove… LINK: <https://twitter.com/gary_weiss/status/1361317300520030213>
de Pony Sum: Of Guilt by Association: ‘[Cade Metz] dishonestly insinuates that Scott agrees with [Charles] Murray’s views on race and IQ and pushes hard on the idea of a guilt by association…. There are dozens of statements… which are… untrue. Don’t take my silence on those as acceptance by omission… LINK: <https://deponysum.com/2021/02/14/of-guilt-by-association/>
Matt Yglesias: _‘[Cade] Metz does not seem interested in… exploring… ideas or… the scope of their influence…. The article is structured as a kind of syllogism: (1) Scott Alexander’s blog is popular with some influential Silicon Valley people. (2) Scott Alexander has done posts that espouse views on race or gender that progressives disapprove of. (3) Therefore, Silicon Valley is a hotbed of racism and sexism… LINK: <https://www.slowboring.com/p/slate-star-codex>
Next: A Video Well Worth Your Watching:
Terry Nguyen: What Is Clubhouse, the Invite-Only App that Celebrities & Entrepreneurs Are Talking About?: ‘Speaking events on the app are set in rooms... a sort of virtual stage. The host and moderators... control the flow of conversation, who gets to speak, and when. As a listener, you can use the “raise your hand” function, but the moderator is in charge of handing over the digital microphone.... Whereas these chatrooms are temporary one-offs, users can also join public and private clubs.... Vulture’s Craig Jenkins likened the app to “a never-ending trade convention… where the best time is had when you sneak off elsewhere with friends.”... Clubhouse is what you make of it and, ultimately, who you know.... There is a veneer of professionalism from the get-go, even for general users.... The burden of discovery typically falls on the user. Unlike a platform like TikTok, which heavily relies on algorithmic prodding.... The app also encourages the use of full names, rather than usernames, thereby relying on existing threads of recognition to draw in listeners… LINK: <https://www.vox.com/the-goods/22276715/clubhouse-invite-only-audio-app-explained>
Neil Fligstein & Steven Vogel: Network for a New Political Economy: ‘The Network for a New Political Economy (N2PE) aims to rethink political economy and develop an alternative intellectual paradigm to neoliberalism. N2PE was launched by an interdisciplinary group of faculty and students at the University of California, Berkeley with support from the Hewlett Foundation. The roots of the new paradigm reside in ongoing research in social science departments such as Economics, Political Science, Sociology, and History, as well as professional schools such as Business, Law, and Public Policy. The Network fosters an intellectual conversation among faculty and students across these units and encourages them to frame their insights for public engagement and policy relevance. It facilitates collective deliberation on how political economy should be studied and taught as well as how new perspectives on political economy can be applied to broad public debates and pressing policy problems. Please see the statement by our co-chairs in Boston Review on “Political Economy after Neoliberalism”… LINK: https://newpoliticaleconomy.berkeley.edu/
Edward Conard: Economics of Inequality in High-Wage Economies: ‘The advent of information technology opened a window of investment opportunities that has exceeded the supply of properly trained talent while trade with low-wage economies, low-skilled immigration, trade deficits, and aging demographics have relieved constraints to low-skilled labor and risk-averse savings. As the economy devotes more resources to raising the productivity of talent, low-skilled productivity and wage growth have slowed. With a constrained supply of risk-reducing talent allocated to more productive endeavors, an unconstrained supply of risk-averse savings has lowered interest rates. With improbable innovation needed to capitalize on the value of information, high returns to success have fortunately motivated increased risk-taking, despite the declining productivity of innovators. Proponents of income redistribution have concluded that high returns to success and slowing productivity growth, despite low interest rates, are evidence of rising cronyism, notwithstanding extensive evidence to the contrary. This chapter provides an alternative explanation… LINK: https://oxford.universitypressscholarship.com/view/10.1093/oso/9780197518199.001.0001/oso-9780197518199-chapter-11
Dan Hon: ’People who’ve grown up with games their entire life… are entirely happy navigating information-rich 3D environments…. The raw video, images and text posts of the Capitol seditionists include location data. Pretty fine-grained location data. Home computers have enough processing power, never mind on-demand cloud computing power to, I don’t know run offline photogrammetry, stabilization and 3D scene reconstruction of all of those image and videos, placing them in a collective space navigable not just in three dimensions but time, too. Part of me wanting this is not just because there was a lot going on, but there’s a lot of data, too! And I don’t think at this point you even need to call this sort of thing data journalism at least not on the outside because it’s just making sense of what happened, and yes I get it, that actually includes doing a lot of data engineering and analysis and so on… LINK: https://danhon.substack.com/p/s09e01-no-such-thing-as-a-blank-slate
Will Wilkinson: On the Defensive Prickliness of Anti-Woke Patriotism: ‘the truly baffling Calvinball of conservative national assessment. America is the greatest country in the history of the world! It is also “not great,” “crippled,” and the victim of “carnage”…. A meaty majority of the American population dwells in large metro areas… run by Democrats… unmitigated disasters. You might think… mixed judgment of America’s merits would be logically inescapable once you’ve committed yourself to the idea that half the country lives in one or another crumbling, corrupt, crowded, crime-infested hellhole…. But this isn’t logic; this is a coping mechanism. That’s why the problems that beset America’s cities, whether real or imagined, don’t… count… because they count… against Democrats and Democrats aren’t really American. Or maybe it’s that multicultural Democratic-majority cities don’t count as part of “real” America, so the horrendous problems they are imagined to have can’t drag down America’s greatness score. Either way…. Anti-wokeness is so defensively patriotic because “wokeness”… is the source of the internal treason that leads people to steal the historical spotlight from Betsy Ross and turn it on the sickening experience of enslaved people and hunted natives. Nobody who truly loves America would do that…. So that must be what the woke want in their relentless push to make us look. They hate America, hate our pride in it, and want us to hate it, too… LINK: https://modelcitizen.substack.com/p/on-the-defensive-prickliness-of-anti
I am sorry: This is just bonkers. The question Wall Street was considering—Ryan Cohen vs. Gabriel Plotkin—was this: GameStop now is a sustainable enterprise: it pays its bills. Suppose GameStop wants to raise an extra $300 million on the equity markets to spend on reorienting itself as it tries to find a path forward. Should those willing to invest that $300 million get, in return, a half-ownership of the firm? Or should they get a 20% ownership of the firm? Gabriel Plotkin believes and bets on the first, and Ryan Cohen believes and bets on the second. The investor community, ultimately, decides. Its judgments tell everyone hwo high a priority for society the expansion of the entity called GameStop should be. Then along comes WallStreetBets, saying: IT SHOULDN'T BE 50%! IT SHOULD BE 2%!! AND YOU GAMESTOP SHAREHOLDERS—YOU OWN A GOLD MINE!!! OOODLES AND OOODLES OF FREE CASH FLOW WILL PROBABLY COME OUT OF GAMESTOP—$20 BILLION WORTH!!!! And yet David Atkins, in some way, and for some reason, approves:
David Atkins: Hedge Funds Shouldn’t Get To Decide Who Has Fundamental Value: ‘[Financial firms,] most of them, would have been bankrupt multiple times over without assistance from the Federal Reserve.... They have become... guaranteed against failure. Within a modern capitalist system that is probably good macroeconomic policy.... But crucially, that leeway has not been given to brick-and-mortar firms. Your local chain store–to say nothing of your local mom-and-pop corner store–has not been provided the same assurances against failure or the same easy money…. Keynesian liquidity... gives predatory hedge funds enormous leeway to stake out short positions on struggling firms, devaluing them and then selling off the remains for pieces... obliterating companies that might have survived for a long time otherwise, such as Toys R Us... LINK: <https://washingtonmonthly.com/2021/01/30/hedge-funds-shouldnt-get-to-decide-who-has-fundamental-value/>
Hoisted from the Archives
2013: More Jobs and Higher Middle Class Incomes as Economic Policy Job #1: Housing Policy Edition: The Obama Administration and its Treasury's failure to move on the FHFA and on housing finance over 2009-2012 is up there as one of the leading contenders for the largest Obama Administration unforced errors....
Someday I want Tim Geithner to explain to me why it was that in 2009 he was so certain that there were going to be "green shoots" and "recovery summers" that he did not select, nominate, and get confirmed an FHFA chair willing to use the GSEs as tools of macroeconomic stabilization by triggering a housing-sector recovery. I do know that as early as the summer of 2008 Democratic economists and policymakers—and Republican ones—were having conversations about what the housing bust would do to the housing-sector credit channel and whether such use of the GSEs would be called for…