Hillary Clinton, Big Money, and Corruption

The trail of money around Hillary and Bill Clinton and their foundation continues to attract lots of comment and not a few efforts to prove that money changed hands in return for specific acts by Hilary as Secretary of State. Peter Schweizer’s book Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich (NY: Harper 2015) is just one example of a tsunami of comment, pro and con, of course.1

borrowed from http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/08/why-hillary-doesnt-really-have-a-romney-problem.html

borrowed from http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/08/why-hillary-doesnt-really-have-a-romney-problem.html

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  1. read a review in the New York Review of Books by Michael Tomasky http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/jun/25/hillary-our-future/ []

Online Education Leaps Forward

Coursera online coursesOnline education has been around for over a decade. Questions abound about the efficacy of e-learning. Here are two TED talks about the move by our flagship higher ed institutions into this space. The first talk by Daphne Koller:  “What we’re learning from online education”  is just plain thrilling.

“Since we opened the website in February, we now have 640,000 students from 190 countries. We have 1.5 million enrollments, 6 million quizzes in the 15 classes that have launched so far have been submitted, and 14 million videos have been viewed.” 

We appear to be rapidly approaching a point where we can say that the Web is delivering on its potential to expand access to education on a global scale. An interesting insight is that all of these courses are offered on a schedule, with homework assignments, quizes, exams, all of the scheduling features that drive people to actually get to the end of their course work. Deadlines do work, even in the virtual world.

Then for a closer look at just one of these online courses watch the 6 minute TED talk by Peter Norvig,  “The 100,000-student classroom

Now, the class ran 10 weeks, and in the end, about half of the 160,000 students watched at least one video each week, and over 20,000 finished all the homework, putting in 50 to 100 hours. They got this statement of accomplishment.”

You can go to Coursera.org to view the schedule of classes and maybe even enroll. What are we doing in the evening? TV?

The Job Creators – Who Are They? The Rich, Really?

In recent years a standard bit of political rhetoric in the US has included references to “the job creators”. This most usually  flows along the lines of higher taxes on the wealthy will injure the job creators. Or, government regulation is crushing the job creators. The presumption of course is that the wealthy, the 1% in the current rhetoric, create jobs (and those not created by the wealthy are created by small business – this being another, long term part of our political discourse). Thus, government must do nothing that will upset the wealthy.

It must be noted that we have already had a large experiment with the obverse of this “don’t disturb the wealthy” policy. What if we made the wealthy even richer by lowering their tax rates? By simple logical deduction, this would incent them to invest more and create more jobs. Well, the Bush II years proved that this does not happen. Despite the largest tax reductions  on the wealthy in US history, job creation under Bush II was worse than in any presidency back to Hoover.

At some level believing the wealthy to be the job creators seems natural enough. They have lots of money to invest and in their desire for more they will be out investing in new projects that per force must create jobs. Without the aid of real analysis, I have always been a bit suspicious of this idea. Wealthy people have their money managed for them by large financial institutions and financial specialists. Very few of them are directly involved in any business other than the business of worrying about whether their financial advisors are ripping them off or doing stupid things. Why do real work when you can have your advisors leverage the vast scale of your wealth to get special deals on bundled high return financial instruments.

Nick Hanauer TED TalkAlong comes a wealthy guy, Nick Hanauer,1 with a five minute TED Talk debunking this job creator mythology that is more soundly thought out than my ramblings.

BTW – Hanauer’s analysis is straight forward Keynesian economics. We have a demand problem. US corporations have record sums of cash on the balance sheets. Yet they are not investing it. The answer is lack of demand, increased sales to generate the virtuous cycle of profits  followed by jobs. Though both the US and Europe are busy proving again that our economic problems are not going to be solved by austerity, debt reduction policies, other countries, like South Korea,  have proved anew the merits of Keynesian remedies. Unfortunately, we have no one in the elites who have the political will to do what has worked before very reliably. They used to call it “pump priming”. Now our pump is dry, unemployment and underemployment  is perniciously eating away at our society. 

  1. he was an early investor in Amazon []

Economic Inequality – Does It Matter?

It is fairly widely known that income and wealth inequality in the US is as high or higher than at any time except perhaps the Robber Baron period at the end of the 19th century. Lots of articles and books explain how this has come about over the last 30 years. In a recent NYTimes Magazine article, “The Purpose of Spectacular Wealth, According to a Spectacularly Wealthy Guy” by Adam Davidson, we are even offered an affirmative defense of this by a buddy of Mitt Romney from Bain Capital Edward Conrad.

Conrad… “aggressively argues that the enormous and growing income inequality in the United States is not a sign that the system is rigged. On the contrary, Conrad writes, it is a sign that our economy is working. And if we had a little more of it, then everyone, particularly the 99 percent, would be better off.”

But, leaving aside the obvious disconnect between any rational measure of value add by the wealthy and their incomes and holdings, does economic inequality really matter? Is it just that those of us in the not wealthy class, now branded The 99%, are jealous of all the toys of the wealthy? Their four or five houses, countless cars, airplanes, and all the rest?

Are their some measurable consequences to economic inequality? Continue reading

Education – Miseducation – Human Creativity – TED Talk by Ken Robinson

We all have had, some now enduring, experiences in the educational system. Excepting the academic super stars for whom the educational system was designed, most have at best mixed feelings about it. Here is a TED Talk given in 2006 by Ken Robinson:

“Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity”

It is a compelling critique and most humorous. You will not get through these nineteen minutes without a lot of laughs.