Saturday, November 11, 2017

A bunch of economics stories


Here's some fun general reading:

Marginal Revolution - finding archaeological sites using economics. Although, as the post's comments note, (a) they're using economic geography, not economics; (b) uh, they've been doing this for decades.

Medium - could Rome have had an industrial revolution? Interesting bit of speculative fiction, but I think part of the requirement for an industrial revolution is the weakening of the plutocratic rentier class. You can't have industrial revolution when the landed gentry rule the country. I think that's even an Acemoglu theory, which makes me feel dirty now.

New Deal Demoncrat - predicting US elections with net strong disapproval. Interesting theory, but some of the other graphs (which are VERY interesting) gave me an idea for an undergrad thesis.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The pope just keeps getting better and better


You tell 'em, Your Holiness!

BBC - Pope Francis: mass is for prayers, not mobile phones. Do what he says or go to hell:

Pope Francis has chided the Catholic faithful for using their mobile phones during Mass.

He said it made him sad when many phones were held up, and even priests and bishops were taking photos.

The pontiff is not known to have used a mobile phone in public since his election and once asked young people to carry Bibles instead of phones.

However, he is an avid user of social media and regularly allows himself to be snapped with pilgrims for selfies.

He has millions of followers on Twitter.

OK, that last bit needs some context.

Ellen DeGeneres has 5 times as many followers as the Pope. Which, actually, says something about the world today when a lesbian comedienne can beat the apostolic successor to St. Paul by 5 to 1.

I've got nothing wrong with that personally, I just find it interesting.

Speaking at his weekly audience in St Peter's Square in Rome, Pope Francis said that Mass was a time for prayer and not a show.

"At a certain point the priest leading the ceremony says 'lift up our hearts'. He doesn't say 'lift up our mobile phones to take photographs' - it's a very ugly thing," he said.

"It's so sad when I'm celebrating mass here or inside the basilica and I see lots of phones held up - not just by the faithful, but also by priests and bishops! Please!"

Y'know, Your Holiness, you do have the authority to excommunicate these people for offending God.


Monday, November 6, 2017

Trump indictment news


The Guardian - there's a lot more there. It's getting juicy:

For a moment in court, the mask slipped. Paul Manafort glanced at his lawyer and smirked, like a TV mafia boss with reasons to be confident. It was the look of a man who, after decades of work as a lobbyist for murderous dictators in Africa and Asia, was not about to be rattled by the prospect of house arrest.

But less than a mile away, another man displayed rather less equanimity. Donald Trump woke before dawn on Monday and, instead of heading to the Oval Office, lingered in the White House residence. “Trump clicked on the television and spent the morning playing fuming media critic, legal analyst and crisis communications strategist, according to several people close to him,” the Washington Post reported.

Until that moment, the justice department investigation into his election campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia had seemed somewhat theoretical, dismissable by Trump as a “hoax” and “witch-hunt”. But here was the concrete of the courthouse, the accused escorted in by marshals, standing before a robed judge, swearing on oath and pleading for liberty. Suddenly Trump understood the five-month investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller – probing whether the American president has been compromised by a foreign power – had entered a new and dangerous phase.

“Overall this week what we learned is that Bob Mueller knows a lot more about what happened during the presidential campaign than anyone on the outside thought he did,” said Matthew Miller, a partner at strategic advisory firm Vianovo and former director of public affairs at the justice department. “We have an incomplete picture and we don’t know what the final picture might look like.”

Manafort, who served as Trump’s campaign chairman for five months, and his business associate Rick Gates, who also played a role in the campaign, were indicted on 12 counts including conspiracy against the US, conspiracy to launder money, acting as an unregistered foreign agent, making false statements and failing to report foreign bank and financial accounts.

There was a silver lining for the president: the indictment did not reference the Trump campaign or coordination with Russia. But it did allege a criminal conspiracy was continuing into February this year, after Trump had taken office, and that the pair funneled payments through foreign companies and bank accounts as part of their work for Ukraine’s pro-Russia former president Viktor Yanukovych.

Frank Figliuzzi, former assistant director for counterintelligence at the FBI, told MSNBC: “If you look at this through a counterintelligence lens, you see the fingerprints of the Russian government here … He [Manafort] got a primer on how the Russians can influence a campaign when he represented the Ukrainian candidate [Yanukovych] and he saw what Russia could do to influence a campaign. And he liked it.”

Appearing in a tense courtroom on Monday before a packed public gallery, Manafort and Gates pleaded not guilty and were released on multimillion-dollar bonds but confined to their homes. Lawyers for Manafort – also among the participants of a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Kremlin-linked lawyer after Donald Trump Jr was promised “dirt” on rival Hillary Clinton – defended him in a court filing on Thursday as a “successful, international political consultant” who was necessarily involved in foreign financial transactions. US district judge Amy Berman Jackson has set a possible date of 7 May for the trial.

And so on, as we know it will.

I'd personally like to see a few dozen Republicunt senators and congressmen rounded up, but I guess we'll have to depend on the Paradise Papers for that....