Nice piece in Vanity Fair by Joseph Stiglitz on what’s so wrong about concentrating so much of our nation’s wealth in so few hands:

It’s no use pretending that what has obviously happened has not in fact happened. The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent. Their lot in life has improved considerably. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent. One response might be to celebrate the ingenuity and drive that brought good fortune to these people, and to contend that a rising tide lifts all boats. That response would be misguided. While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall. For men with only high-school degrees, the decline has been precipitous—12 percent in the last quarter-century alone. All the growth in recent decades—and more—has gone to those at the top. In terms of income equality, America lags behind any country in the old, ossified Europe that President George W. Bush used to deride. Among our closest counterparts are Russia with its oligarchs and Iran. While many of the old centers of inequality in Latin America, such as Brazil, have been striving in recent years, rather successfully, to improve the plight of the poor and reduce gaps in income, America has allowed inequality to grow.

It’s pretty short– read the whole thing.

Quote of the day

Chait takes his snark to the NY Times Op-Ed.  Here is on Mitch Daniels:

Daniels’s drawbacks begin — but by no means end — with his lack of height, hair and charisma.

Shallow– yes, but also very important in an electoral sense:

His informal draft committee has apparently convinced itself that, in some freakish inversion of the rules of politics, this counts as an advantage. “He seems to have sunk into a black hole of personal magnetism and come out the other side, where the very lack of charisma becomes charismatic,” wrote The Weekly Standard. “He is the un-Obama.” Expect to hear a lot more talk like this. Rather than fight an appealing communicator like Obama with a somewhat less appealing Republican communicator, the plan here is to make a lack of appeal a selling point in itself. Which explains why Gov.Chris Christie of New Jersey reportedly tarred Obama as a “poser and a preener” at a big G.O.P. fund-raising event last month.

Problem is, electoral politics is a highly superficial field. A series of experiments has shown that subjects, even young children, can reliably pick the winners of races based solely on candidate photos. Now, most voters tend to support one party or the other no matter what. But swing voters tend to have the greatest susceptibility to the influence of superficialities. It’s therefore hard to imagine why party operatives might be pining to nominate a man who looks less like the popular conception of a president and more like the president’s accountant.

Republican elite’s lament?  Oh for John Thune

The shutdown in two easy graphs

Via Ezra:

Pretty clear why House Republicans have no interest in compromise– their base doesn’t want them to.  Just another stark reminder that there are some very serious asymmetries in politics in this country and it only leads to confusion and ignorance to pretend otherwise.


The racial divide and Lebron

When Tom Jensen came to my class last week, he mentioned this polling about Lebon, which I found really interesting.  Basically, it’s only white people in Ohio who feel resentful and betrayed by Lebron.  The Black people like him plenty.  I previously had not idea that this is/was a racial issue.  PPP:

LeBron James’ favorability in Ohio is 19% with 34% of voters viewing him negatively. Those numbers actually aren’t that much worse than what we found for him nationally in July at 19/29. There’s a very large racial divide when it comes to his numbers- African Americans see him favorably 58/16, while whites have a negative opinion 15/37.

Not that I followed the story that closely, but I suspect that the news downplayed this because they really wanted to give attention to those against Lebron and this did not actually fit in with that narrative.

Higgs Boson found?

So, the very fact that I have some vague clue about what the Higgs Boson is makes me feel smart and scientifically literate when the science headlines say things like “Higgs Boson possibly found.”  I know enough to know that would be really cool.  Of course, actually understanding what the Higgs Boson is, is another matter.  Turns out there was a competition to see who could explain it best in a single page.  I’m partial to this one.  My really short version: it’s a particle that’s never been discovered, but must theoretically exist to make the rest of our theories about sub-atomic particle physics work.

I did my best to explain this to David today, as well as neutrinos.  Amazingly cool neutrino fact via wikipedia:

Most neutrinos passing through the Earth emanate from the Sun. Every second, in the region of the Earth, about 65 billion (6.5×10-to the tenth) solar neutrinos pass through every square centimeter perpendicular to the direction of the sun.

David was quite disappointed when I explained he wouldn’t get to learn about this stuff in school until High School physics.  And, assuming things haven’t changed much, I suspect even then they hardly touch on such matters.  It also reminded me of one of the coolest websites ever– the scale of the universe.  If you’ve never seen it, you must click through.  Seriously.

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