Sunday Reading

Michael Hudson: Productivity, The Miracle of Compound Interest, and Poverty:

Suppose you were alive back in 1945 and were told about all the new technology that would be invented between then and now: the computers and internet, mobile phones and other consumer electronics, faster and cheaper air travel, super trains and even outer space exploration, higher gas mileage on the ground, plastics, medical breakthroughs and science in general. You would have imagined what nearly all futurists expected: that we would be living in a life of leisure society by this time. Rising productivity would raise wages and living standards, enabling people to work shorter hours under more relaxed and less pressured workplace conditions.

Why hasn’t this occurred in recent years? In light of the enormous productivity gains since the end of World War II – and especially since 1980 – why isn’t everyone rich and enjoying the leisure economy that was promised? If the 99% is not getting the fruits of higher productivity, who is? Where has it gone?

A nice read, once you've bracketed off that "we" he's tossing about.
Dworkin on the Supremes and the Constitutionality of Health Care:

If the Court does declare the act unconstitutional, it would have ruled that Congress lacks the power to adopt what it thought the most effective, efficient, fair, and politically workable remedy—not because that national remedy would violate anyone’s rights, or limit anyone’s liberty in ways a state government could not, or be otherwise unfair, but for the sole reason that in the Court’s opinion our constitution is a strict and arbitrary document that denies our national legislature the power to enact the only politically possible national program. If that opinion were right, we would have to accept that our eighteenth- century constitution is not the enduring marvel of statesmanship we suppose but an anachronistic, crippling burden we cannot escape, a straitjacket that makes it impossible for us to achieve a just national society.

Ann Romney, Working Woman?

[T]he brouhaha over Hilary Rosen’s injudicious remarks is not really about whether what stay-home mothers do is work. Because we know the answer to that: it depends. When performed by married women in their own homes, domestic labor is work—difficult, sacred, noble work. Ann says Mitt called it more important work than his own, which does make you wonder why he didn’t stay home with the boys himself. When performed for pay, however, this supremely important, difficult job becomes low-wage labor that almost anyone can do—teenagers, elderly women, even despised illegal immigrants. But here’s the real magic: when performed by low-income single mothers in their own homes, those same exact tasks—changing diapers, going to the playground and the store, making dinner, washing the dishes, giving a bath—are not only not work; they are idleness itself. Just ask Mitt Romney. In a neat catch that in a sane world would have put the Rosen gaffe to rest forever, Nation editor at large Chris Hayes aired a video clip on his weekend-morning MSNBC show displaying Romney this past January calling for parents on welfare to get jobs: “While I was governor, 85 percent of the people on a form of welfare assistance in my state had no work requirement. And I wanted to increase the work requirement. I said, for instance, that even if you have a child 2 years of age, you need to go to work. And people said, ‘Well that’s heartless,’ and I said, ‘No, no, I’m willing to spend more giving daycare to allow those parents to go back to work. It’ll cost the state more providing that daycare, but I want the individuals to have the dignity of work.’” (Don’t be fooled by the gender-neutral language—he’s talking about mothers.) In 1994 he told the Burlington Business Council that “work is ennobling” and that “we will do everything in our power to make sure that people who are on welfare have an opportunity and an obligation to go to work, not after two years but from day one if we could.” So there it is: the difference between a stay-home mother and a welfare mother is money and a wedding ring. Unlike any other kind of labor I can think of, domestic labor is productive or not, depending on who performs it.

I look forward to having some really strong opinions about this show in a year or so, once it's become netflixable and everyone has lost interest in it.
Why HBO's Girls in Terrible:

The truth is that Girls feels less like portrait of a generation than a napkin doodle of bougie urbane privilege. All consoling cupcakes and winking and parents-who-are-both-of-them-professors, it’s like the origin story for a new breed of Cathy, ack-ing her way through professional and personal malaise and urgently nudging you all, “Yeah, right? You too, right?!” Halfway through the first episode I expected Lena Dunham to use the phrase “go girl” in air quotes and then turn and wink at the camera like she’s Zack fucking Morris. It’s lousy.

Don't Blame Feminism for Your Bad Sex Life

[O]n Louie—the show that non-sexists can see inspired Girls far more than Sex and the City ever could—you also have a main character who, just like Hannah on Girls, keeps having really bad sex for inscrutable reasons and only longs for someone who sends strong signals of disinterest. So far, I have yet to see a single article arguing that the bad sex and broken hearts on Louie suggest that modernity has failed men in their forties. Louie is a male character, and that means he can stand for himself. The audience doesn’t need him to have our exact personalities, sexual choices, and view of relationships to find him entertaining and relatable.

I thought about trying to write something about this whole fiasco -- which I do regard as a fiasco, particularly in light of the artist's strikingly unthoughtful reflections of the whole thing -- but didn't, mainly because it I was happy being a humorless feminist about it all. As Keguro tweeted "I have been fighting sophistication and cleverness as points of access to this cake thing. I'd prefer to be a feminist killjoy."
 That Swedish Race Cake:

Bipartisan Political Elite Implicated in For-Profit Education Fraud

?"you won't read about any of this in The Washington Post because the Post owns a predatory for-profit college outfit known as Kaplan University, nor will you hear much about it in the rest of the corporate press. By not prosecuting a single person related to the mortgage debacle, the Obama administration has now given the green light to for-profit college executives, such as McKernan and Post CEO Donald Graham, to engage with impunity in conduct which should be considered illegal and subject to criminal prosecution."

This is sort of an old gag, but I still like it.
Savage Europeans: 

Africans say they have little hope that Europe will ever become civilized, after a week in which Spain’s King Carlos went on an elephant-killing spree and the Swedish Culture Minister was entertained by a racially offensive cake. “You can take the European out of the jungle, but you can’t take the jungle out of the European,” sighed one resident of Kinshasa.

August Mwanasa, of Libreville in Gabon, said the latest atrocities didn’t surprise him as Europeans were still “savages”. “I don’t want to sound racist, and some of my best friend are white, but let’s be honest: violence is hard-wired into their DNA,” said Mwanasa. “I mean, Europeans killed over 20 million other Europeans in the 1930s and 1940s. That’s barbarism on a scale unprecedented in history."

Dick Clark:

because he was never cool and never sold himself as an arbiter of cool, he could never become uncool. Time never left him clinging to an outmoded frame of reference. Although he held the line against letting women dancers wear pants onBandstand for a long time, because skirts were more visually appealing, he seemed to have no real aesthetic criteria; he seemed to like things that were popular, or seemed like they could be. But that meant that his show was a space in which anything could happen; symbolically, by having someone on the show for kids to frug along to and then exchanging post-performance pleasantries with them, Dick Clark was presenting people with the idea that this was pop music, whatever it was.

Corey Robin's Protocols of Machismo: On the Fetish of National Security, Part I.

As Adam Kotsko notes: "This is the ultimate disproof of the secular liberal contention that religion is the biggest possible cause of violence. Literally nothing could be more rigorously secular than “reasons of state,” and yet this principle has led to millions upon millions of deaths in the 20th Century alone.