FM newswire for May 2 – an especially good day for news

Today’s links to interesting news and analysis. If you find this useful, please pass it to a friend or colleague.

  1. Propaganda works.  Calling it “advertising” does not conceal that sad fact.  “Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond?“, Edward Jay Epstein, The Atlantic, February 1982
  2. Important advice for governments in the 21st century:  “How to default: a primer“, Norman Strong (a nom de plume), Left Business Observer, February 2002
  3. Is al Qaeda at a tipping point?  A debate at Experts Blog of National Security, 26 April 2010 — Most of these guys are heavily invested in the war, displaying little interest in actual metrics of its effectivenss (or even existence).  The last al Qaeda “member” could be dead for years and they’ll still be writing this malarkey.
  4. Obama the Centrist“, J. Bradford DeLong (Prof Economics), Project Syndicate, 28 April 2010
  5. Our new wars require expensive new weapons:  “Afghan War Demands Flexible Weaponry“, Aviation Week, 29 April 2010
  6. A look at Time magazine’s coverage of Sarah Palin:  “Think Again: Scammed by the Right“, Eric Alterman (Prof Journalism, CUNY), Center for American Progress, 29 April 2010
  7. Food and water drive Africa land grab“, UPI, 29 April 2010 — See the May Atlantic article below.

Feature articles

(1)  Most interesting new development on the Internet:  the Wolfram|Alpha Computable Knowledge Engine.

“Today’s Wolfram|Alpha is the first step in an ambitious, long-term project to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable by anyone. Enter your question or calculation and Wolfram|Alpha uses its built-in algorithms and a growing collection of data to compute the answer. Based on a new kind of knowledge-based computing.”

(2)  Today’s factoid:  about Social Security

  • Net cash flow of Social security in March 2009:  plus $2.5 billion.
  • In March 2010:  minus $6.8 billion.
  • That’s a swing of $9.4 billion into the red; $112B annualized.
  • You can see the numbers here.
  • Medicare also has swung from a source of cash to a drain of cash.
  • Together their swing to deficits mark a generational inflection point for our government

(3)  “The Next Empire“, Howard W. French, The Atlantic, May 2008 — Intro:

“All across Africa, new tracks are being laid, highways built, ports deepened, commercial contracts signed — all on an unprecedented scale, and led by China, whose appetite for commodities seems insatiable. Do China’s grand designs promise the transformation,at last, of a star-crossed continent? Or merely its exploitation? The author travels deep into the heart of Africa, searching for answers.”

(4)  “The euro: love it or leave it?“, Barry Eichengreen (Prof Economics, Berkeley), Vox, 19 November 2007 — Summary:

“Adopting the euro is effectively irreversible. Leaving would require lengthy preparations, which, given the anticipated devaluation, would trigger the mother of all financial crises. National households and firms would shift deposits to other euro-area banks producing a system-wide bank run. Investors, trying to escape, would create a bond-market crisis. Here is what the train wreck would look like.”

(5)  “Something’s not working“, The Economist, 29 April 2010 — “The recession probably ended months ago but employment has not yet started to recover. Is America’s jobs machine broken?”

Good analysis, but ignores the important lesson:  government jobs are by far superior (due to greater job security and superior benefits).  When Americans realize this, America will become a different society — the Republican Party will be toast.   Most people have not realized it yet; I guess we’re slow learners. 

Update, a note for the unusually slow:  This does not imply that America will become a better or stronger nation.  Almost certainly this recognition will weaken us.  But the fault lies in the fact (the operation of our labor markets) not our awareness of the fact.

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