Sure, of course, it’s another hoax

First, as if there was any doubt, this (figure 1) is a hoax[1]:

Found on Facebook, May 31, 2015, fair use.
Fig. 1. Found on Facebook, May 31, 2015, fair use.

The meme attracts my curiosity because it’s interesting that it would gain traction. Over two years ago, Snopes called it “a long-running Internet hoax that has been circulating in one form or another since 1997.”[2] I found it in my Facebook newsfeed just a few minutes before starting to write this post. Read more

  1. [1]Snopes, “Bill Gates $5,000 Giveaway,” February 13, 2013, http://www.snopes.com/inboxer/nothing/microsoft.asp
  2. [2]Snopes, “Bill Gates $5,000 Giveaway,” February 13, 2013, http://www.snopes.com/inboxer/nothing/microsoft.asp

FIFA and idealism

Honestly, I couldn’t care less about athleticism, let alone organized sport. So it’s been hard for me to work up much interest in the recent arrest of a number of senior FIFA officials.[1]

Such is my boredom that I overlooked the opportunity to contrast the discretion accorded wealthy arrestees—their exit from a high-class hotel was shielded by a bedsheet and some didn’t even have to wear handcuffs as undercover police escorted them to an unmarked car (figure 1)—with the treatment of more “common” criminals. I even overlooked the paradox of the New York Times account reporting that “more than a dozen plain-clothed Swiss law enforcement officials arrived unannounced [emphasis added] at the Baur au Lac hotel,” with journalists being on hand, and therefore presumably having been tipped off in advance, to capture a photograph (figure 1) of the occasion.[2] Read more

  1. [1]Matt Apuzzo, Stephanie Clifford, and William K. Rashbaum, “FIFA Officials Arrested on Corruption Charges; Blatter Isn’t Among Them,” New York Times, May 26, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/27/sports/soccer/fifa-officials-face-corruption-charges-in-us.html
  2. [2]Matt Apuzzo, Stephanie Clifford, and William K. Rashbaum, “FIFA Officials Arrested on Corruption Charges; Blatter Isn’t Among Them,” New York Times, May 26, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/27/sports/soccer/fifa-officials-face-corruption-charges-in-us.html

Human beings, robots, and demand for goods and services

Employment to Population Ratio, not seasonally adjusted. Image by author. Data from Bureau of Labor Statistics, public domain.
Fig. 1. Employment to Population Ratio, not seasonally adjusted. Data from Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Note: The graphs in this posting are drawn directly from my research wiki and will be updated automatically as I (somewhat sporadically) update the data in that wiki. My spreadsheet, and information on my data collection and methods are all available here.

Paul Krugman thinks that economic growth since the late 1970s, specifically the time of Douglas Adams’s 1979 novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, fails to support a view that technological improvements will lead to anything more than mediocre expansion in the future. Forecasting the future is a dangerous game, and Krugman acknowledges that.[1] It’s dangerous for me, too: I remember thinking that computer networking would never amount to much because telephone lines would forever remain too expensive and never gain much capacity. Read more

  1. [1]Paul Krugman, “The Big Meh,” New York Times, May 25, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/25/opinion/paul-krugman-the-big-meh.html

Considering revolution

Chris Hedges on Democracy Now! May 17, 2012. Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Fig. 1. Chris Hedges on Democracy Now! May 17, 2012, fair use.

I’m not going to say Chris Hedges is wrong in predicting a revolution or, perhaps, a mass uprising, or some form of “blowback.” In his words, “as long as the state does not respond rationally to the needs and rights of the citizenry, as long as it continues to exploit, there is always blowback.”[1] Read more

  1. [1]Rudyard Griffiths, “Chris Hedges: ‘The system of global capitalism is breaking down’,” Globe and Mail, May 22, 2015, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/munk-debates/chris-hedges-the-system-of-global-capitalism-is-breaking-down/article24566539/

The ‘Oracle of Omaha’ goes on believing

For a man who said, “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning,”[1] I have to say I was hoping for better than Warren Buffett’s (figure 1) denial that the rich are “undeserving.” “Most of them have contributed brilliant innovations or managerial expertise to America’s well-being,” Buffett wrote. “We all live far better because of Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, Sam Walton and the like.”[2] Read more

  1. [1]Warren Buffett, quoted in Ben Stein, “In Class Warfare, Guess Which Class Is Winning,” New York Times, November 26, 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/26/business/yourmoney/26every.html
  2. [2]Warren Buffett, quoted in Alexander Ward, “Warren Buffett thinks the poor should stop blaming inequality on the rich,” Independent, May 23, 2015, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/warren-buffett-thinks-that-the-poor-need-to-stop-blaming-inequality-on-the-rich-10271780.html

Diploma mills and the neoliberal substitution of the superficial for the substantial

The New York Times published an editorial today condemning Axact of Pakistan for its diploma mill and noting that Pakistan’s “government, which raided Axact’s offices on Tuesday, had little choice but to act.” The editorial adds a little bit of information, including that in Degree Mills: The Billion-Dollar Industry That Has Sold Over a Million Fake Diplomas, authors Allen Ezell and John Bear “assert that there are 3,300 unrecognized universities worldwide, many of them selling degrees at all levels to anyone willing to pay the price, and that more than 50,000 Ph.D.s are purchased from diploma mills every year — slightly more than are legitimately earned.” The editorial board goes on to recommend that “Congress, which has paid only glancing attention to this problem, needs to focus on it in a sustained way.”[1] Slate has published an article backing the original New York Times story, illustrating that many of the supposed professors and students at these “universities” are in fact stock photo models.[2] Read more

  1. [1]New York Times, “A Rising Tide of Bogus Degrees,” May 20, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/20/opinion/a-rising-tide-of-bogus-degrees.html; see also David Benfell, “Education as fakery,” Not Housebroken, May 18, 2015, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=7523; Mateen Haider and Shakeel Qarar, “FIA raids Axact offices, takes records and employees into custody,” Dawn, May 20, 2015, http://www.dawn.com/news/1182928/fia-probe-underway-axact-offices-sealed-in-twin-cities
  2. [2]L. V. Anderson and Mike Pesca, “The busy, busy lives of faculty and students in fake degree programs, as told through stock photos,” Slate, May 19, 2015, http://www.slate.com/articles/life/education/2015/05/axact_fake_universities_and_diploma_programs_a_story_in_stock_photos.html; see also Declan Walsh, “Fake Diplomas, Real Cash: Pakistani Company Axact Reaps Millions,” New York Times, May 17, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/18/world/asia/fake-diplomas-real-cash-pakistani-company-axact-reaps-millions-columbiana-barkley.html

Education as fakery

A fraudulent diploma from an Axact school. New York Times, May 17, 2015, fair use.
Fig. 1. A fraudulent diploma from an Axact school. New York Times, May 17, 2015, fair use.

Having been in school continuously since 2003, working my way through a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree, and being well on my way to a Ph.D., my reaction to a New York Times story about a fraudulent diploma mill in Pakistan[1] is probably pretty predictable. Certainly, as I write my dissertation, this is not a good time to tell me about people who spend $4,000 or more to claim a level of educational attainment that I will have spent—including earlier time spent acquiring an Associate’s degree in the late 1970s and a couple quarters at what was then California State University Hayward in the 1980s—sixteen years in higher education (assuming I finish in Spring 2016) and hundreds of thousands of dollars achieving. Read more

  1. [1]Declan Walsh, “Fake Diplomas, Real Cash: Pakistani Company Axact Reaps Millions,” New York Times, May 17, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/18/world/asia/fake-diplomas-real-cash-pakistani-company-axact-reaps-millions-columbiana-barkley.html

In succumbing to the politics of exclusion, some feminists recreate the very structure that oppresses them

“I, an ethnic minority woman, cannot be racist or sexist towards white men, because racism and sexism describes structures of privilege based on race and gender,” explains Bahar Mustafa, a students’ union diversity officer at Goldsmiths University. “And therefore women of colour and minority genders cannot be racist or sexist because we do not stand to benefit from such a system.”[1]

I’m seeing this argument a lot lately, and I have to say, I’m not impressed. In this case, Mustafa had requested white and male students not attend “students’ union event for black and ethnic minority students in April.”[2] Read more

  1. [1]James Rush, “Goldsmiths Students’ Union diversity officer explains she cannot be racist or sexist because she is an ethnic minority woman,” Independent, May 12, 2015, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/goldsmiths-students-union-diversity-officer-says-she-cannot-be-racist-or-sexist-to-white-men-because-she-is-an-ethnic-minority-woman-10244520.html
  2. [2]James Rush, “Goldsmiths Students’ Union diversity officer explains she cannot be racist or sexist because she is an ethnic minority woman,” Independent, May 12, 2015, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/goldsmiths-students-union-diversity-officer-says-she-cannot-be-racist-or-sexist-to-white-men-because-she-is-an-ethnic-minority-woman-10244520.html

Obama is desperate to screw U.S. workers

Update, May 13, 2015: The drama of Democrats blocking trade promotion authority is over, and for naught. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has agreed to allow votes on two Democratic priorities ahead of the bill for trade promotion authority. “Holding the additional votes would ‘not imperil’ the fast-track bill, McConnell said. . . . Though the agreement locks in votes on worker protections, it stops short of what Democrats were demanding on Tuesday [May 12]: A guarantee they will become law by attaching them to the Trade Promotion Authority legislation.”[1]

Update and possible correction, May 20, 2015: Since this post was published, Michael Wessel has explained in fuller detail the secrecy surrounding the TransPacific Partnership.[2] In what follows, I suggest that Senator Rand Paul is half-right about this. It is possible I should have said he may be more than half-right. The trouble is that Wessel is able to write based on his own experience as a “cleared advisor,” in which he has access to much, but apparently not all, of the text of the proposed agreement. He appears to assume but does not explicitly state that lawmakers have comparable access. So it is possible that lawmakers have more or less access than Wessel describes.

Update, May 22, 2015: The Senate approved Trade Promotion Authority today, sending the bill to the House of Representatives. Both the currency manipulation and Investor-State Dispute Settlement Mechanism amendments failed.[3] In addition, Paul Krugman has come out against the TransPacific Partnership, writing:

Instead of addressing real concerns, however, the Obama administration has been dismissive, trying to portray skeptics as uninformed hacks who don’t understand the virtues of trade. But they’re not: the skeptics have on balance been more right than wrong about issues like dispute settlement, and the only really hackish economics I’ve seen in this debate is coming from supporters of the trade pact.[4]


It has the sound of an obituary, even if, as Manu Raju, writing for Politico, puts it, “The vote does not kill the trade agreement — the Senate could reconsider the bill anytime — but it amounts to an embarrassing setback for the White House at a key time in the delicate, 12-nation TPP talks.” But also, “The failure of the White House to overcome a Democratic filibuster came despite one of the most sustained lobbying efforts the Obama administration has taken since the president assumed office.” Some senators, it seems, objected to how Obama had treated Elizabeth Warren. Others simply stood firm on insisting that trade promotion authority be accompanied by measures “to help displaced workers and a plan to crack down on currency manipulation, child labor and certain trading practices.”[5] Read more

  1. [1]Burgess Everett, “Senate strikes deal to pass fast-track trade bill,” Politico, May 13, 2015, http://www.politico.com/story/2015/05/trade-bill-standoff-senate-117900.html
  2. [2]Michael Wessel, “I’ve Read Obama’s Secret Trade Deal. Elizabeth Warren Is Right to Be Concerned,” Politico, May 19, 2015, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/05/tpp-elizabeth-warren-labor-118068.html
  3. [3]Alexander Bolton, “Senate approves Obama trade bill, sending fast-track to House,” Hill, May 22, 2015, http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/243009-senate-advances-fast-track-for-obama-setting-up-final-vote; Don Lee and Lisa Mascaro, “Senate passes fast-track trade authority for Obama, but House fight looms,” Los Angeles Times, May 22, 2015, http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-senate-fasttrack-tpp-vote-20150522-story.html
  4. [4]Paul Krugman, “Trade and Trust,” New York Times, May 22, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/22/opinion/paul-krugman-trade-and-trust.html
  5. [5]Manu Raju, “Scenes from the Democratic meltdown,” Politico, May 12, 2015, http://www.politico.com/story/2015/05/scenes-from-the-democratic-meltdown-117884.html