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  • how I spent my weekend « Liam McHugh-Russell
    about using the phrase to refer only to retroactive condemnation of criminality yet no washing liquid no matter how caustic could claim to be tough on stains unless it effectively reduced the sign of such stains In saying they are tough on crime the Harper government attempts to cover the field The language they use implies both approbation and activism painting the opposition as indolent and inattentive The Canadian press in turn does a poor job of challenging those using tough on crime language or of critiquing its use by placing it in the context of either criminology research and discussion of criminal justice ethics The result is occlusion of a debate about whether we should value criminal policy which gives victims justice by appropriately punishing perpetrators or social policy likely to reduce the number of victims Shouldn t politicians interested in good policy want to speak with nuance depth and complexity about their proposals their likely outcomes and the values represented in those choices They might but when one faces a press without the time effort or energy to report on those nuances the politician likely to grab the headline is the one who speaks in headlines In part Harper s government speaks in tough on crime language because the press is willing to report it that way My thinking is that we need ways of having the real debates which sidesteps the evasions perpetrated by the political class and facilitated by the press Here s the conclusion from the first draft of the proposal which gives a sense of my intuition the promotion of public knowledge is the most if not the only effective method of intervening in the toxic relationship which currently exists between politicians and the press Without public knowledge and support for it the idea

    Original URL path: http://mchugh-russell.ca/2010/02/15/how-i-spent-my-weekend/ (2016-05-01)
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  • We’re All Capitalists Now « Liam McHugh-Russell
    again Having 60 percent of national income go to labor incomes could reflect perfect equality with 60 percent of the population equally sharing labor incomes and the other 40 percent equally sharing property incomes Or it could mean horrific inequality if the 60 percent going to labor were shared by everyone except one propertied ruling family Of course one doesn t need such extreme hypotheticals to make the point In today s industrialized economies many if not most workers actually rely solely on income from capital for the last 10 25 of their lives i e when they are retired In such societies one way that returns on labour could fall is if workers all decided to to be richer in their retirement than during their working years i e to save more in the early days and spend more on the backend Of course to say we are all capitalists now does not deny the massive inequality in the holding of wealth or that some are for all intents and purposes wholly excluded from any ownership of the commonweal But it does demand that we shift attention away from abstract class categories toward questions of actual distribution and how economic structures impact on its evolution Lindert s first example points to a very different problem In most people s minds what Marx called exploitation the idea that some were able to get an income from the social weal without working was synonymous with the immiseration of the working classes Yet one possible future one that concerns some proponents of a basic income is a world in which there is a reasonable level of income equality but in which only some people have access to or choose to get additional benefits derivable from work It seems unlikely that workers in

    Original URL path: http://mchugh-russell.ca/2014/07/31/were-all-capitalists-now/ (2016-05-01)
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  • Inconceivable! « Liam McHugh-Russell
    democratic potential and to brand new never before seen processes can get pretty tiring Jill Lepore at The New Yorker has done a pretty devestating take down of the disruption discourse attacking head on the idea that economic change proceeds in big leaps rather than incremental steps Peter Frase at Jacobin points out that those most committed to disruption get cold feet when the disruptions aren t derived from a tech enabled business model Evgeny Morozov has made his career skewering those with a growing religious faith that more tech means everything is better for everyone and if he can be accused of throwing out the baby with the bathwater part of the reason is that there is just so so much dirty bathwater There are lots of reasons to be happy about increased access to certain financial services Bringing down the prices of life insurance and small business loans could put them within the reach of people who didn t otherwise have access to them That could make their lives better Al Erian may be right that technological change will reduce the cost of financial intermediation while providing for fairer risk pooling outcomes and better credit underwriting But here s the thing cell phones are now within the reach of almost everyone and it hasn t made society more democratic Buzzfeed may have displaced community newspapers but I can t see how that makes things more democratic The last 40 years of financial innovation brought us near unprecedented levels of wealth inequality and the largest economic crisis since the 1930s Why would anyone believe that the next 40 years of financial innovation are going to automatically create a utopia of equal democratic citizenship How can Al Erian keep using this word empowerment to describe things like kickstarter Kiva and

    Original URL path: http://mchugh-russell.ca/2014/07/31/inconceivable/ (2016-05-01)
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  • Once more the refrain: Inequality is bad for growth « Liam McHugh-Russell
    there is the usual normative broadside of why do we care about growth but I also have a methodological concern I ve alluded to elsewhere As two of the authors Berg and Ostry make clear in a summary of the equality dimensions of this research t he immediate role for policy however is less clear More inequality may shorten the duration of growth but poorly designed efforts to reduce inequality could be counterproductive Such ambiguity fits perfectly with their actual data so often a repository of key information missed by linear regression high inequality countries may not be able to sustain growth but having relatively low inequality only makes sustained growth possible not assured What should be obvious is that the ability of more or less income equality to translate into growth has to do not only with national trade law or the frequency of elections or the independence of the central bank It also has to do with institutions Strictly speaking Berg and Ostry s study like much of the related literature from recent years do not ignore institutions or not exactly Somewhere in the background Berg and Ostry know that institutional structures are at play Their discussion of distorted incentives in Chinese farming policy makes this clear they totally ignore the qualitative structure of institutions But by referencing the quality of economic and political institutions they seem to suggest that the role of institutions can be reduced to a single numerical dimension Good institutions give people incentives to work or to save or to create jobs or to invest in human capital or in new technology bad incentives keep people lazy and greedy Anyone who has had to wrestle with actual on the ground policy making though knows that those incentives don t always line up and understanding

    Original URL path: http://mchugh-russell.ca/2012/10/25/once-more-the-refrain-inequality-is-bad-for-growth/ (2016-05-01)
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  • Taxing the Poor, Gambling on the Rich « Liam McHugh-Russell
    the money you put in That was interesting in itself and also seemed to be connected to other things that were going on in Britain at the time Given what we know about incentives beliefs identities risks and rationality in modern society it is hard to argue that the lotteries are anything other than a tax on the poor God knows the 1 aren t buying tickets Of course it doesn t feel like a tax to the participants but rather feels like gambling But marginal expected loss the proportion of every dollar paid that the government keeps averaged out over all participants including the winners of the lottery is so high that calling it gambling pushes against the fair definitions of the word Your chances are better betting on black at Vegas It s interesting to wonder how people characterized their purchase of Premium Bonds under the old system There is a good argument that people felt at least in part that they were investing in the country and in the good of society It s that along with the clearly much lower withholding rate of the bond which make the scheme seem less egregious in light of marginal tax rates on the rich But these ruminations lead to a thought not about how to tax the poor less but how to tax the rich more The last thirty years of relative political influence of the world s well to do indicate that in aggregate they are not particularly prepared to pay higher taxes even when it is clearly intended for the overall benefit of the population So the question is is there some way that paying taxes to the government can be made to feel like gambling or like investing on their own account for society s wealthiest

    Original URL path: http://Mchugh-Russell.ca/2012/01/13/taxing-the-poor-gambling-on-the-rich/ (2016-05-01)
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  • The Rub « Liam McHugh-Russell
    if politics will go back to process to back and forth to the channeling of imagination through a frame that no matter how real the consequences can t help from being weighed down by its similarity to American idol I don t think that the Scots need to leave to feed this more expansive imaginative open idea of what democracy can be But being given the opportunity to think more openly about how to organize society aye there s the rub September 18th 2014 Category politics Leave a Reply Cancel reply Name required Email will not be published required Website You can use these HTML tags a href title abbr title acronym title b blockquote cite cite code del datetime em i q cite s strike strong Find Read This apophenia Epicurean Dealmaker Freddie de Boer interfluidity JW Mason Lazenby n 1 Three Toed Sloth Recent Posts Brats Neoliberalism in One Image Rule Thyself What we think they should want Annihilation Tags academia Alan Johnson America andrew schank anthropology art authoritarianmism Benjamin Wild Pugsley blogs boston review Bruce Bartlett business Canada Cathy Davidson CBC cities collective bargaining communications conference corporations democracy digital literacy economics education finance inequality knowledge labour law

    Original URL path: http://mchugh-russell.ca/2014/09/18/the-rub/ (2016-05-01)
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  • politics « Liam McHugh-Russell
    just kind of chokes through sobbing breaths while his parents stare at him somewhat dumbfounded because maybe you remember that Schindler at the end says I could have done more and I this 14 year old can t even talk to them and then my sobbing turns to weeping and I look up at them It s awful because I have a hard time even believing it myself and it s not that I love who I am now but I do love who I was then because the whole world was open to him and he could have done anything he could have ridden a mule across the Andes become a champion kick boxer sailed to China and he I just never thought seriously about anything other than this at the time says through the tears I should be doing something I should be doing something and I just don t know what to do What if I don t do enough As if there was some measure Here is Howard Zinn reminding us that the world is backward because the wrong people are in jail and the wrong people are out of it The United States has almost 3 million people under incarceration had in 2008 almost 1 5 million adults in prison and 100 000 youth in prison and here s the other thing they execute children who ve probably done terrible things and in many ways they re not children anymore by the time they get sentenced but the government puts them under sedation and then they give them painkillers and then they put poison into their blood streams and they never wake up And people say they should have known better but that s just it they didn t know better If they had known better they wouldn t have done it And the government poisons these young men and they are broken and we have failed them even if it s not your country or mine exactly They execute men who grew up sexually abused and burned and ignored and mistreated who have grown up crazy and twisted and dissociated and they do terrible things But if they are monsters did we make them that way and what s our duty to them now and if they aren t monsters then how can we kill them when they are defenceless And now 62 of Canadians say that they think we should have the death penalty for murder and people think there should be the death penalty for rapists just for good measure So in this old video Michael Ignatieff says in this clinical and detached way that we shouldn t have the death penalty in Canada because it s irrevocable like we might make a mistake and how can he be so cold What makes it so that he can have talked to these people in Iraq and in Kosovo and in Croatia and all he can say is with like surgical precision as you would say to someone who suggests that maybe the engine needs replacing that well that seems a pretty rash measure Why can t he just say with his head tilted that we can t take it upon ourselves to kill people to purposefully snuff out their life when they want to live we can t do it because it s wrong because it s wrong because it s wrong And I know that the answer is the same as the answer to why there are now almost 1 in 100 Americans incarcerated and yet none of them are George Bush or Dick Cheney Because those of us who engage ourselves in politics just have to accept the political expediency of if you kill 600 000 people in an unnecessary war and hold people without trial and then empower people to torture them then you get paid 400 a ticket to speak but in California if you shoplift three times you go to jail for life Thousands and thousands of people are in prison for minor drug related offences and yes drugs are horrible for a lot of people but then how is Tony Blair is a free man And you struggle every day with the question what am I supposed to do and then you read too much and you watch too many movies and you listen to too much music and you find that you can talk about anything and you can talk at length about the qualities of any of this litany of things You learn from Bourdieu that taste is a product of class and privilege and yet you believe that the art the literature the music matters that it is right that you haven t just soaked up the preferences of your parents And yet There are these moments in books where Gatsby s boat beats on against the current ceaselessly into the past and now here in Helen DeWitt we have this just incredible tour de force a book that starts strong and almost every page is better and better and reading it makes you want to be better Because her candidates are not better at they are simply one after the other better The hero is the hero by becoming not by being already And next I visit Rod who s is really no slouch himself when it comes to just being impressive and prolific and thoughtful and I am only 90 of the way through her DeWitt s book and take a breath it s called The Last Samurai and I ask Rod what should I read I want to know about the law I want to understand what it is I am supposed to do and what it has to do with the law and how we can be good and how we can make this place we live better I am complicit in its shortcomings and we are all complicit in them and we could do so much better than all of this suffering I am breathless and I am weak I want to try again Fail again Fail better My question to him is about the law and it is not about the law It is about practice what we do the terrible things that we can do to each other and that we do to each other and the small kindnesses and insights and braveries that can overcome it I tell him that I have decided to spend some time thinking and I tell him some of the things that I have been thinking about and some of the things that I have been reading He puts his hands behind his head for a moment and then he chuckles and then he screws up his forehead He says Hmm and he says this is like a desert island book and he says I say it s not like a desert island book because I have time and he says before I finish Beethoven s sonatas And I say I don t read music and he says the full collection of Walker Evans and I say I don t know who that is and he tells me about Walker Evans who narrated by photograph the death of the American farm And he says you want something with words And I say well and he says Paradise Lost and well I guess I was hoping he would say Kelsen who could tell me how they pretend the law is supposed to work Or Bourdieu who would tell me where the law sits inside everything else Or some political theorist or legal theorist I hadn t heard of or some other one that I know about but don t really know about And now I am downloading 33 sonatas on 9 cds and I am looking at Walker Evans and then I finished the Last Samurai and now instead of writing a book about Burma which is a story that someone else is telling already I have to write about Job and how we can t know God s will and so we can t presume to know whether anyone deserves what they get and I have to write about humanitarian intervention because if we are going to demand the impossible then we should demand an impossible that doesn t require us to drop bombs on people s heads and I am going to have to write an essay in which I ask and try to answer what makes Dan Deacon work and then I am going to have to spend 33 hours or so trying to listen to Beethoven and I am going to have to read Paradise Lost and I am going to have to try to tie it all together because that s what being honest about the question what am I supposed to do means It means that I can t presuppose that any of this stuff doesn t matter to that question I tell Rod about Wallenberg or that I plan to use Wallenberg in something and he says or who they say he was And I say but I don t want to use Wallenberg I just want to use what they say about Wallenberg And he says well but we should celebrate the story and not the person and I say yes exactly because for me it is the story that matters it s a good story and he says well yes but what if so was Mein Kampf And I think for a tiny second that maybe we need to be sure that I need to be more sure than just it s a good story But then I can t think of any way to be more sure than that so I say but my story is better and he says yes and then he says that s the right answer So I try and commit to writing better stories but I know they ll never be good enough and it s almost as if you could die But you can t because well then why bother with all that blue and gold February 11th 2010 Tags academia art doubt ethics Holocaust Hungary law literature politics Sweden Category politics war Leave a comment Yes He Can Adapted almost completely from my piece in the Faculty of Law student paper the Ultra Vires I know it s a bit late considering the last two weeks of primaries but I stand by my analysis Plus some of the links are worth reading It s down to Hillary and Obama and a plurality of students at the U of T s law school like most Canadians has thrown its support behind Obama for President We re in good company the popular video riffing on the recent Obama Yes We Can speech features Scarlett Johanssen the woman who plays McDreamy s ex wife from Grey s Anatomy some familiar looking white guy pretending to play guitar and of course the video s producer will i am The Grateful Dead have thrown their lot behind Obama though we ll have to take their word that Jerry sends his best to the campaign from his great tail gate party in the sky The support of Joan Baez means an end to self imposed exile from party politics I m backing Obama too though on the basis of his strong anti corpocracy message I was a supporter of Edwards until his exit from the race two weeks ago But I m doing more than supporting Obama s candidacy I m going to make the call he ll get the nomination I m currently batting 1000 in such predictions I could have been two bits richer if someone had put money up against my call for Dion in the recent Liberal leadership race As I suggested the combination of anti Rae and anti Ignatieff sentiment combined to put Dion no matter his failings in the hot seat The result was more complicated without Gerrard Kennedy s endorsement in the closing minutes of the Convention I might have lost that bet In that way Obama has something in common with Dion the strength of a key Kennedy endorsement or more exactly the support of a handful of them Though the clan is divided with the noted environmental activist Robert K Jr backing Hillary the endorsement of Ted Kennedy JFK s daughter Caroline and Maria Shreiver will certainly give a boost to the Illinois senator not least because of skewed media coverage of the matter Despite the split in the Kennedy support there is no doubt that the shine of Camelot has been lent to Obama not Hillary The candidates aren t that far apart on policy Since the beginning the choice between the two has seemed like a choice between hope and experience Ezra Klein puts a finer point on it colouring the choice as one between Clinton as manager and Obama as visionary There are good reasons to support a manager for President America has painted itself into a corner in Iraq flushed its economy down the toilet while running its debt up to unfathomable numbers and tarnished its international reputation through divisive unilateralism de facto endorsement of torture and spying on its own citizens Supporters of Hillary point to her experience as proof that she will be a steady hand at the tiller while America tries to sail out of these shallows She is for Democrats the safe candidate Obama on the other hand is so full of enthusiasm that no exaggeration he brings tears to the eyes of many Canadians with hope about what the United States can be Writing two weeks ago one day before the Democratic race was shown to have not one but two horses Michael Chabon suggested that arguments against Obama were pragmatic not substantial Sure his friends said Obama might be charming intelligent and sincere but he is too good to be true Someone so nice can t cut it in the snakepit of politics they said and Democrats need someone who can win His speeches may have inspired famous Californians to march to the beat of a new drummer but in American politics Hollywood support is often a burden not a blessing Up until last Tuesday arguments against Obama were founded not on his character or on his potential as President but on his ultimate chances as Democratic nominee Here s the catch Americans are ready for a Democratic president Polls say that they re ready for change independents are voting in record numbers in democratic primaries polls have the democrats in the lead and election markets have a democrat taking the prize by a 50 margin More importantly Hillary may be slightly ahead of Obama in polls among Democrats but American voters buoyed by McCain support over Hillary among independents are much more likely to elect Obama as President with McCain as the Republican nominee Until now Democrats have supported Clinton because they thought that Americans prefer safety over promise security over potential sound mind over the possibility of something greater Polls show the opposite that Americans as a whole not just Hollywood much prefer the visionary to the manager In short with McCain as challenger Democrats can choose the safe candidate who is more likely to lose or take a risk on someone their fellow Americans like and who in their hearts they already like more too Even the persistently self defeating Democrats can t screw this one up February 18th 2008 Category politics US One comment The Cat in the Hat and tests in the bag Who are these people It is eminently logical that the reading comprehension tests scores of children and adults alike increase according to the time they spend reading for pleasure More it is not surprising that children with more than 100 books in their home score markedly better on standardized tests including math tests than children whose parents own fewer than 10 books And especially for those who us have attended college there is nothing breathtaking with this final conclusion which along with the first two bits of trivia comes from a study by the United States National Endowment on the Arts discussed here in the New York Times students who lived in homes with more than 100 books but whose parents only completed high school scored higher on math tests than those students whose parents held college degrees but who lived in homes with fewer than 10 books Thus my opening who are these people The correlation is remarkable only in the plainest notable sense of the word What is breathtaking is not the conclusion but the fact that there is a significant cohort of college graduate parents who own less than 10 books I can think of only two even vaguely believable explanations for the existence of these people Completing college is no guarantee of economic success Perhaps facing the slouching lurching beast which is poverty in the United States and specifically caught between its twin jaws of a pitiless labour market and an increasingly toothless welfare system some college graduates may be included in a sizable cohort priced out of books as if they were only a disposable luxury More likely in response to a rising tide of unnecessary credentialism these parents participated in four years of post secondary schooling so mind numbing that instead of feeding a flickering flame of passion for learning the experience so finally smothered whatever academic spark they left high school carrying that they respond to books in their home not with an inflamed literary temperament but a more literally pyromaniacal urge Critics of the study suggest that the authors under measure internet reading though if my writing is any example of what is available then we can be sure that writing on the internet is no substitute Books are the critics argue a thing of the past However the conclusion about such correlations show that

    Original URL path: http://Mchugh-Russell.ca/category/politics/page/3/ (2016-05-01)
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  • Like it means something « Liam McHugh-Russell
    rambling thoughts on the subject I wrestle a lot with a similar set of transformations that occurred in the birth of finance as a discrete field I just took a three day seminar on the history of financial crises and no one but seemed to think it much mattered that finance didn t exist as a coherent object of reference until the 20th century and lacked much of its current valence until the 1970s Finance was a word that meant the means or capacity to pay one s debts and by the late 19th century also came to refer to careful thinking about income and expenses There was banking and banking failures money and currency crises public finance and power and territory reordered in the service of paying off royal debts But when the word gets used today it can t be disentangled from images of the Wolves of Wall Street can t help but act as mediator between the interest rates set by the Fed and the dividends paid out by Apple on which see JW Mason s solid analysis can t escape from a seemingly natural home in the markets For those in the know the constitution of finance inevitably depends in some inchoate way on the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision for those who don t the Basel Committee is just one part of an arcane object or one location in a country lying beyond the economic frontier necessary but dangerous complicated and obscure wild but tamable for those who have the right kind of knowledge But that obscurity results partially from a gradual expansion of referents over the last 200 years from a term with a narrow meaning little differentiable from bookkeeping to a bloated pastiche that includes practices which used to be derided as immoral speculation sold as insurance offered as opportunities for investment or understood as depositing money in a bank But it occurred to me today that the transformation of the world hand in hand with the transformation of the word is not always a process that s driven by the search for ordered scientific clarity Consider for example that for the generation born after 1998 there will never be a world without a like button In the interaction with facebook like as verb takes on an active social sense slightly askew from its prior usages When I was 15 years old liking Radiohead meant I possessed a preference that was stationary inert and internal ready to be dragooned into action only once I was forced to choose between alternatives a thing I might take out to to show a potential friend or choose to keep to myself a feeling that related me as much to myself as to a network of my teenage classmates To like something in the facebook era by contrast not only to have something but is in the stronger sense to act It is is to make a mark in the world To like becomes not only to

    Original URL path: http://mchugh-russell.ca/2015/03/06/like-it-means-something/ (2016-05-01)
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