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dkf

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Member since: 2003 before July 6th
Number of posts: 37,305

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Social security is designed to provide a minimum degree of security upon which a worker builds.

http://www.ssa.gov/history/briefhistory3.html

"It is impossible under any social insurance system to provide ideal security for every individual. The practical objective is to pay benefits that provide a minimum degree of social security—as a basis upon which the worker, through his own efforts, will have a better chance to provide adequately for his individual security." -- From the Report of the Social Security Board recommending the changes which were embodied in the 1939 Amendments.

Krugman: Policy Implications of Capital-Biased Technology

I’ll be writing more about this in weeks to come, but I guess I’d better say something right away about the implications of a declining labor share in GDP. Again, the data so far look like this:

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/28/policy-implications-of-capital-biased-technology-opening-remarks/

Consider for a moment a sort of fantasy technology scenario, in which we could produce intelligent robots able to do everything a person can do. Clearly, such a technology would remove all limits on per capita GDP, as long as you don’t count robots among the capitas. All you need to do is keep raising the ratio of robots to humans, and you get whatever GDP you want.

Now, that’s not happening — and in fact, as I understand it, not that much progress has been made in producing machines that think the way we do. But it turns out that there are other ways of producing very smart machines. In particular, Big Data — the use of huge databases of things like spoken conversations — apparently makes it possible for machines to perform tasks that even a few years ago were really only possible for people. Speech recognition is still imperfect, but vastly better than it was and improving rapidly, not because we’ve managed to emulate human understanding but because we’ve found data-intensive ways of interpreting speech in a very non-human way.

And this means that in a sense we are moving toward something like my intelligent-robots world; many, many tasks are becoming machine-friendly. This in turn means that Gordon is probably wrong about diminishing returns to technology.

Ah, you ask, but what about the people? Very good question. Smart machines may make higher GDP possible, but also reduce the demand for people — including smart people. So we could be looking at a society that grows ever richer, but in which all the gains in wealth accrue to whoever owns the robots.

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/26/is-growth-over/

Krugman: Rise of the Robots

The most valuable part of each computer, a motherboard loaded with microprocessors and memory, is already largely made with robots, according to my colleague Quentin Hardy. People do things like fitting in batteries and snapping on screens.

As more robots are built, largely by other robots, “assembly can be done here as well as anywhere else,” said Rob Enderle, an analyst based in San Jose, Calif., who has been following the computer electronics industry for a quarter-century. “That will replace most of the workers, though you will need a few people to manage the robots.”

Robots mean that labor costs don’t matter much, so you might as well locate in advanced countries with large markets and good infrastructure (which may soon not include us, but that’s another issue). On the other hand, it’s not good news for workers!


Twenty years ago, when I was writing about globalization and inequality, capital bias didn’t look like a big issue; the major changes in income distribution had been among workers (when you include hedge fund managers and CEOs among the workers), rather than between labor and capital. So the academic literature focused almost exclusively on “skill bias”, supposedly explaining the rising college premium.

But the college premium hasn’t risen for a while. What has happened, on the other hand, is a notable shift in income away from labor:


http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/08/rise-of-the-robots/

Microbes maketh man People are not just people. They are an awful lot of microbes, too

It might sound perverse to claim bacterial cells and genes as part of the body, but the revolutionary case is a good one. For the bugs are neither parasites nor passengers. They are, rather, fully paid-up members of a community of which the human “host” is but a single (if dominating) member. This view is increasingly popular: the world’s leading scientific journals, Nature and Science, have both reviewed it extensively in recent months. It is also important: it will help the science and practice of medicine (see article).


The microbiome does many jobs in exchange for the raw materials and shelter its host provides. One is to feed people more than 10% of their daily calories. These are derived from plant carbohydrates that human enzymes are unable to break down. And not just plant carbohydrates. Mother’s milk contains carbohydrates called glycans which human enzymes cannot digest, but bacterial ones can.

This alone shows how closely host and microbiome have co-evolved over the years. But digestion is not the only nutritional service provided. The microbiome also makes vitamins, notably B2, B12 and folic acid. It is, moreover, capable of adjusting its output to its host’s needs and diet. The microbiomes of babies make more folic acid than do those of adults. And microbiomes in vitamin-hungry places like Malawi and rural Venezuela turn out more of these chemicals than do those in the guts of North Americans.

The microbiome also maintains the host’s health by keeping hostile interlopers at bay. An alien bug that causes diarrhoea, for instance, is as much an enemy of the microbiome as of the host. Both have an interest in zapping it. And both contribute to the task. Host and microbiome, then, are allies. But there is more to it than that. For the latest research shows their physiologies are linked in ways which make the idea of a human superorganism more than just a rhetorical flourish.

These links are most visible when they go wrong. A disrupted microbiome has been associated with a lengthening list of problems: obesity and its opposite, malnutrition; diabetes (both type-1 and type-2); atherosclerosis and heart disease; multiple sclerosis; asthma and eczema; liver disease; numerous diseases of the intestines, including bowel cancer; and autism. The details are often obscure, but in some cases it looks as if bugs are making molecules that help regulate the activities of human cells. If these signals go wrong, disease is the consequence. This matters because it suggests doctors have been looking in the wrong place for explanations of these diseases. It also suggests a whole new avenue for treatment. If an upset microbiome causes illness, settling it down might effect a cure.

http://www.economist.com/node/21560559

More

American Kennel Club Says Dognapping Cases Are Up By Almost 70 Percent

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Dogs are being stolen out of cars, yards, off sidewalks and even out of shelters at an alarming rate, according to the American Kennel Club.

“It only takes a minute for a theft to occur,” American Kennel Club spokeswoman Lisa Peterson told CBS 2′s Dave Carlin on Friday.

Making any pet owner think twice is surveillance video from last week that showed “Marley” the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel being menaced by a stranger, who picked up the frightened dog and walked off with him, leaving 7-year-old Mia Bendrat heartbroken the day before Christmas.

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/12/28/american-kennel-club-says-dognapping-cases-are-up-by-almost-70-percent/

3 bills take aim at milk prices

With just days left, House Republicans continued to struggle Saturday night over how to untangle themselves from a New Year’s imbroglio over dairy policy and their refusal to allow floor debate on a more comprehensive five-year alternative in this session of Congress.

Absent some action, an outdated 1949 farm law kicks back in on Tuesday Jan 1 requiring the Agriculture Department to begin buying up dairy products at a rate of $38.54 per hundredweight or more than double the prevailing price today.

No one truly knows the full impact at the grocery store, but the threat of $6-a-gallon milk prices brought President Barack Obama off the sidelines Friday and accelerated efforts to find some fix to be voted on possibly as early as Monday.

Toward this end, not one but three different bills were posted Saturday night on the House Clerk’s website, each a candidate for action but also adding to the confusion as to what direction the House will take.


Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2012/12/3-bills-take-aim-at-milk-prices-85583.html#ixzz2GXZE5uZu

Reinharts, Rogoff See Huge Output Losses From High Debt

The U.S. and other developed economies with high public debt potentially face “massive” losses of output lasting more than a decade, even if their interest rates remain low, according to new research by economists Carmen and Vincent Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff.

In a paper published today on the National Bureau of Economic Research’s website, they found that countries with debts exceeding 90 percent of the economy historically have experienced subpar economic growth for more than 20 years. That has left output at the end of the period a quarter below where it would have been otherwise.

“The long-term risks of high debt are real,” they wrote. “Growth effects are significant” even when debtor nations are able to borrow “at relatively low real interest rates.”

In spite of those dangers, the economists said they are not advocating rapid reductions in government debt at times of “extremely weak growth and high unemployment.”

http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-04-30/reinharts-rogoff-see-huge-output-losses-from-high-debt

DNA of Sandy Hook killer Adam Lanza to be examined for 'evil' gene

Scientists have been asked to study the DNA of Newtown school killer Adam Lanza to see if has an 'evil' gene that led him to carry out the massacre.

The study, which will look at any abnormalities or mutations in his individual DNA, is believed to be the first of its kind ever carried out on a mass murderer.

The study of the killer's DNA has been ordered by Connecticut Medical Examiner H. Wayne Carver who carried out the post mortems on all the victims.

He has contacted geneticists at University of Connecticut's to conduct the study.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2253797/DNA-Sandy-Hook-killer-Adam-Lanza-examined-evil-gene-study-kind-conducted-mass-murderer.html#ixzz2GJEJIL25

Feinstein: Stopping the spread of deadly assault weapons

In January, Senator Feinstein will introduce a bill to stop the sale, transfer, importation and manufacturing of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition feeding devises.

Summary of 2013 legislation


Following is a summary of the 2013 legislation:

Bans the sale, transfer, importation, or manufacturing of:
120 specifically-named firearms
Certain other semiautomatic rifles, handguns, shotguns that can accept a detachable magazine and have one military characteristic
Semiautomatic rifles and handguns with a fixed magazine that can accept more than 10 rounds
Strengthens the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban and various state bans by:
Moving from a 2-characteristic test to a 1-characteristic test
Eliminating the easy-to-remove bayonet mounts and flash suppressors from the characteristics test
Banning firearms with “thumbhole stocks” and “bullet buttons” to address attempts to “work around” prior bans
Bans large-capacity ammunition feeding devices capable of accepting more than 10 rounds.
Protects legitimate hunters and the rights of existing gun owners by:
Grandfathering weapons legally possessed on the date of enactment
Exempting over 900 specifically-named weapons used for hunting or sporting purposes and
Exempting antique, manually-operated, and permanently disabled weapons
Requires that grandfathered weapons be registered under the National Firearms Act, to include:
Background check of owner and any transferee;
Type and serial number of the firearm;
Positive identification, including photograph and fingerprint;
Certification from local law enforcement of identity and that possession would not violate State or local law; and
Dedicated funding for ATF to implement registration

http://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/assault-weapons

Heirs of Mao’s Comrades Rise as New Capitalist Nobility

Lying in a Beijing military hospital in 1990, General Wang Zhen told a visitor he felt betrayed. Decades after he risked his life fighting for an egalitarian utopia, the ideals he held as one of Communist China’s founding fathers were being undermined by the capitalist ways of his children -- business leaders in finance, aviation and computers.



The family’s wealth traces back to a gamble taken by General Wang and a group of battle-hardened revolutionaries, who are revered in China as the “Eight Immortals.” Backing Deng Xiaoping two years after Mao’s death in 1976, they wagered that opening China to the outside world would raise living standards, while avoiding social upheaval that would threaten the Communist Party’s grip on power.


In three decades, they and their successors lifted more than 600 million people out of poverty and created a home-owning middle class as China rose to become the world’s second-biggest economy. Chinese on average now eat six times more meat than they did in 1976, and 100 million people have traded in their bicycles for automobiles.

The Immortals also sowed the seeds of one of the biggest challenges to the Party’s authority. They entrusted some of the key assets of the state to their children, many of whom became wealthy. It was the beginning of a new elite class, now known as princelings. This is fueling public anger over unequal accumulation of wealth, unfair access to opportunity and exploitation of privilege -- all at odds with the original aims of the communist revolution.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-26/immortals-beget-china-capitalism-from-citic-to-godfather-of-golf.html

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