Category Archives: Paul Krugman

Hot Air

Another Reason To Go On Living

Happy National Red Wine Day! [h/t to Jan Takehara.]

Coppola Rosso

My Personal Fave

BTW: Here’s a list of 10 Red Wines for Life’s Biggest Problems. And you thought there was no hope left.

Dismal

Perhaps the biggest deal in book publishing this year was the release of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century.

Being a study of economics, it normally wouldn’t have been read by any more than, oh, seven or eight people on the planet — that is, until Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman raved about it. Next thing you know, every liberal worth her or his Prius was dashing down to the bookstore to cop a copy.

Me? I haven’t read the thing. It’s economics, right? I’d rather sear the jelly in my eyeballs with a red hot ice pick than read an economics tome. Loyal Pencillista David Paglis once insisted I read a book by the conservative economist Friedrich Hayek. I tried — I swear — I tried. If I say I got through 50 pages I’ll burn in hell for crossing the 9th Commandment. Economics is not known as the Dismal Science for nothing. Besides, Hayek is a darling of Randists and free marketeers who worship elegant theory and formula and rarely, if ever, concern themselves with trivial things like the needs of human beings.

In any case, Piketty argues that the world’s dough is being hoarded by a tiny fraction of its population. Not only that, uber-rich folk are passing their cash down to their kids, thereby insuring that it won’t find its way into the hands of starving kids in west Africa and other unfortunates in the foreseeable future. Piketty also throws in piles of mathematical equations like r > g, which means…, um, hell, I have no goddamned idea what it means.

More important: I don’t care.

Anyway, we could hardly keep Capital… in stock at the Book Corner, so eager were customers to get their hands on it. My educated guess is not five percent of purchasers actually read the book. Like Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, it’s the bestseller that nobody read and now serves only as an interior design accoutrement.

Capital

Obviously A Staged Photo

Of course, that was then. We now are stuck with four big copies of Piketty’s 700-page epic. They are collecting dust some seven months after it was published.

Piketty’s ponderings, natch, generated about as much criticism as love. In fact, richer-than-god Bill Gates penned a review on his blog the other day. He says he agrees with much of P.’s argument. But, acc’d’g to Bill, wealth inequality is not necessarily the worst thing in the world. It’s a nuanced argument and worth a read, even if Gates does make mention of the dreaded r > g equation. Ugh.

Once you’re finished with that, scoot over to Al Jazeera America for a rebuttal. It’s all a rollicking good time.

Fitting brain candy, I might say, for such a gray day. Just hide the razor blades and don’t turn the oven gas on.

Logical Leaps

Speaking of wealth, Jimmy John Liautaud seems to be the poster boy for the evil rich these days on the interwebs. Folks probably are getting bored with hating on the Koch Bros. — even if they are among the most odious life forms in this solar system. Liautaud’s the boss over at Jimmy John’s Franchise LLC system of sandwich joints. His mug has been all over laptop screens of late for his co.’s ridiculous employee non-compete agreement as well as his propensity to blow the brains out of magnificent critters.

Jimmy John Safari

 

Jimmy John

Jimmy John

Jimmy John

 

Jimmy John And Some Formerly Living Creatures

Little known is the fact that Liautaud has been a big contributor to scary Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The Phoenix New Times a few years ago ran a story about a questionably-legal soft money organization that bankrolled a mean-spirited and disingenuous ad campaign against a challenger to the popular-but-lunatic sheriff. Liautaud gave $10,000 to the org.

Funny, isn’t it, how you can make certain assumptions about folks based on just one of their actions? Like it makes tons o’sense that a guy who digs posing proudly with the corpses of elephants, elk, and tigers might be a financial backer of a law enforcement official who makes Charles Bronson in the Death Wish series look milquetoast-y.

Or that he’d try to screw over his own employees (not that non-compete agreements are worth the paper they’re printed on, but still….)

Or even that his products are to submarine sandwiches as Domino’s is to pizza.

 

Hot Air

Capital Letters

I’ve worked at the Book Corner now for about four and a half years. In that time, we’ve sold our share of blockbusters. There’ve been the 50 Shades of Grey series, Go the F●k to Sleep, the Hunger Games trilogy, and, of course R.R. Martin’s Games of Thrones franchise. Add to those immediate splashes the ongoing flow out the door of the Freakonomics pair of books and anything by Malcolm Gladwell.

From our vantage point, the book biz is as healthy as can be. And the hits, apparently, keep on coming. The big deal these days is French economist Thomas Piketty.

Picketty & Book

Kids, Piketty’s huge take on that dismal science, Capital in the Twenty-first Century, is flying off the shelves. It’s big in sheer heft, coming in at 685 pages. It’s big in price —$39.95. And it’s big in sales, natch, moving out its entire first printing less than a week after it hit the streets. Piketty’s publisher, Belknap Press (an imprint of Harvard U. Press), is hustling out a second printing, due May 12.

Literary experts are scratching their heads over the Capital phenomenon. Economics books are about as sexy Donald Trump in a Speedo®. Piketty, though, earned the imprimatur of the liberals’ darling and this holy land’s No. 1 haranguer against the 1%, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman. New York magazine has called Piketty the “rock star economist.” Slate and The Nation are fawning over Piketty. Hell, next thing you know, Vanity Fair‘ll be doing a two-page, Annie Leibovitz spread of him in a Speedo®.

The Nation‘s reviewer quotes from Piketty’s Capital: an “…apparently small gap between the return on capital and the rate of growth can in the long run have powerful and destabilizing effects on the structure and dynamics of social inequality.” I consider myself a fairly smart potato but I have no goddamned idea in holy hell what that sentence means. Then again, I’m afflicted by a sort of economics retardation. On the third hand, how many people do you know actually understand the byzantine utterances of economists?

Much of the reason Piketty is breathing the same rarified air as Suzanne Collins and E.L. James is he actually offers strategies to ward off the oncoming crushing global oligarchy that’ll keep the rich ever richer and the poor ever poorer — and an ever-growing swath of the world population. Piketty, among other things, calls for taxing the bejesus out of obscene inherited wealth.

My guess is that millions of copies of Piketty’s Capital will be conspicuously left on coffee tables, the last 4-500 pages of which never being read. Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time was purchased for precisely the same reason some 25 years ago. People heard how exciting Hawking’s scribblings were and they dashed out out en masse get the book.

Problem was they found they had to actually read the damned thing which turned out to be a tad daunting.

I have no doubt most purchasers of Capital will come to the same conclusion.

Not that I’m getting all superior here: I probably wouldn’t get past page 63 of Piketty’s epic. The only diff. is I’m not going to buy the book in the first place. Economics, remember, is the dismal science.

Filthy Lucre

Speaking of wealth, if you’ve made your wad in the porn rackets, Chase Bank doesn’t want your dough.

Honest. One of the too-big-too-fail financial mobsters of the world has sent letters to depositors who work in porn advising them to take their bank accounts elsewhere.

AVN Awards

Porn Star Michelle Bombshell & Date At AVN Awards — Her Money’s No Good At Chase (photo by Nate “Igor Smith)

Imagine that! Chase’s parent co., JP Morgan Chase, made billions — shoot, hundreds of billions — defrauding customers by selling them bundles of mortgages that the bank knew were losers. Chase not long ago paid a record $13 billion fine for such activity, which largely caused the near global collapse of 2007-08.

Now, arts organizations, social service agencies, schools, libraries, and other cultural outfits are starving for cash and millions are still out of work. For that, JP Morgan Chase, rewarded its CEO, Jamie Dimon, to the tune of $20 million in 2013. Who sez crime doesn’t pay?

Anyway, if you take your clothes off for dough before rolling cameras, your deposits are dirty, as Chase sees it. The Chase gang, obviously, has an idiosyncratic sense of morality.

Piling On

Okay, let’s stick like glue to the arch-criminally wealthy. The Koch Boys fund the supposed grass-roots org. called Americans for Prosperity.

A for P stood on its head to stop Nashville, Tennessee’s proposed mass transit plan. Known as AMP, the $175 million project would improve movement into and around Nashville, cut down on auto traffic in the center city, and even clean up the air a bit. Natch, the Koch Monsters saw it as a commie plot to rob them of all their billions. Why? Who knows?

Koch Bros.

Aspiring Archcriminals

The Kochs, though, through their dummy assoc., leaned on the Tennessee state legislature to crush the Amp project — and any others like it.

These are the fellows, I remind you, on whose behalf the Reagan/Bush/Bush Supreme Court has turned American elections over to the plutocracy. Corporations are now people. Money is now speech. And the rich now run this holy land brazenly and without apology.

And if you need to take a bus to get anywhere in Nashville, well, fuck you. Go buy yourself a limousine like the Koch Boys did.

[Bonus anger-button issue: The Kochs of late have been standing on their heads again, this time to stop a tax levy to support the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo. Because, as you well know, animals are takers.]

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