Category Archives: Housekeeping

New (Free) Book About U.S. Government Debt

By James Kwak

I contributed a chapter to Is U.S. Government Debt Different?a book published by the Financial Institutions Center of Wharton. It includes chapters by many people more distinguished than I, such as William Bratton, Peter Fisher, James Hines, Howell Jackson, Deborah Lucas, Steven Schwarcz, Richard Sylla, and others. You can download the whole thing for free at the link above. Enjoy.

Why Raise Taxes on Poor People?

By James Kwak

My Atlantic column today is on the bizarre fixation that some conservatives have with taxing poor people, pointed out by Bruce Bartlett in his latest column. Here’s one explanation:

The other, even-more-disturbing explanation, is that Republicans see the rich as worthy members of society (the “producers”) and the poor as a drain on society (the “takers”). In this warped moral universe, it isn’t enough that someone with a gross income of $10 million takes home $8.1 million while someone with a gross income of $20,000 takes home $19,000. That’s called “punishing success,” so we should really increase taxes on the poor person so we can “reward success” by letting the rich person take home even more. This is why today’s conservatives have gone beyond the typical libertarian and supply-side arguments for lower taxes on the rich, and the campaign to transfer wealth from the poor to the rich has taken on such self-righteous tones.

Also, in some housekeeping news, I’ve switched to a personal Twitter account, @JamesYKwak. My blog posts should generate tweets in that account; Simon’s should generate tweets in the old account, @baselinescene. I’ll try to aggregate all the stuff I write in various places in my new Twitter stream.

The Baseline Scenario Facebook page should be aggregating both of our Twitter streams, but I had a little difficulty with it on Monday, so who knows. It seems like Facebook changes the way everything works every other Tuesday, so you never know when something will break.

New “Debt for Beginners” Section

By James Kwak

I created a new “Debt for Beginners” page on the White House Burning website. It’s a collection of previous articles, mainly written for a general audience, on deficits, the national debt, government spending, taxes, and the politics thereof. It’s intended as a starting point for people who want to get up to speed on these issues.

Loyal readers are probably familiar with all the material already.

Under Construction Thursday Night

With WordPress.com, you can’t modify your blog in a sandbox and then promote it to production. Things will be unsettled for a couple of hours.

Update: OK, I think I’m done for now. I’m pretty confident the page nav problem is fixed (thanks to a custom menu). I killed the image at the top of the page to save on white space. We may not need the third column, but we will next week. The Twitter feed filters out all tweets that are just robotic notifications of new blog posts, so it is 100% non-redundant with the rest of the blog.

If the fonts are too small (most common problem, I think), read this (bottom section).

Blog Housekeeping

By James Kwak

As you may have noticed, we’ve been making some changes to the site recently. The main thing is that I decided we needed two sidebars in order to make it into the 21st century. I’ve been looking for a good theme that has three columns but doesn’t have dynamic page navigation (those links across the top), because we have pages that shouldn’t really be made so prominent, but I couldn’t find one. So I switched to this theme, which has three columns but also has dynamic page navigation. Now the problem is that the page navigation is buggy: right now it’s showing pages that no longer exist, pages whose titles have changed, etc., and it seems to change mysteriously from time to time. I’m hoping it will settle down in the next few days. I’ve generally been very happing with wordpress.com, but this is totally infuriating.

Blog Archive Updated

By James Kwak

At the suggestion of an anonymous commenter, I decided to use Vienna, an open-source OS X RSS reader, to download monthly feeds and “print” them to PDFs, so the blog archive is now up to date. It wasn’t quite what I was looking for, since I wanted an online solution, but I don’t mind installing new software on my Mac as much as I minded it on a PC.

Blog Archive

By James Kwak

Last month a reader pointed out that many of the links in the blog archive were broken. The problem is that Feedbooks, the service I was using, no longer allows you to transform RSS feeds into PDFs. I fixed the links up through April 2010, but the problem is that I no longer have an elegant way of creating new PDF archives. Basically I need something that will allow me to type in an RSS feed and will generate a PDF from that feed.

For example, this is the feed for May 2010, in forward chronological order. When I type that feed URL into Chrome, I get raw XML. When I type it into Firefox, it gives me truncated versions of each post. When I type it into Safari, it gives me full posts, but in its infinite wisdom, it sorts them in reverse chronological order; the sort by date feature only allows reverse chronological. When I type it into Google Reader, I get full posts in the right order, but I lose the post dates (they are replaced by the current date). Bloglines is like Safari — it insists on reverse chronological. RSS 2 PDF only gives me post titles. FeedShow displays nothing.

If I could get any of these to work in any browser, I could just convert that to a PDF and be done. Any suggestions?

Update: To be clear, saving a web page (or anything) as a PDF is not the problem. It’s trivial on a Mac (and not that hard on a PC, either). The problem is getting the full text of all the posts in the feed, in the proper order, with the proper dates, on one web page.

Comment Unthreading

By James Kwak

I’m sorry to those who liked it, but I decided to turn off threaded comments. There were just too many examples of people “responding” to the first comment with something that, while perhaps related to the original post, was not related to that comment, apparently to get their input up to the top of the comment list. I decided this was a simpler solution than trying to block those people.

Update: Many people use the “@” symbol to show that they are replying to a previous comment. So if you want to reply specifically to a comment by “agreenspan,” for example, put “@agreenspan:” at the beginning of your comment.

Important Matters

By James Kwak

I know you can’t wait to hear my thoughts on the NCAA basketball tournament, but I’ve put them on my personal blog. I used to have a personal blog, and one my friends said he preferred it to The Baseline Scenario, so I started a new one recently for things that don’t have to do with economics, politics, business, the law, or the like. I post to it occasionally — just whenever I have something I want to say that doesn’t feel like a Baseline Scenario post. You can visit it or not, as you choose.

Branching Out

By James Kwak

Tomorrow I’ll be writing the February 18 post for the3six5, a collective diary written by 365 different people, mostly creative/artistic/media types (which I am not, in case you hadn’t noticed). The post should be a diary entry for that day — so, not an analysis of the Treasury’s proposal for Fannie and Freddie, for example. But if you have any suggestions feel free to let me know.

Upcoming Appearances

By James Kwak

I know you can see Simon somewhere virtually every week (OK, that’s a big exaggeration, but you know what I mean), but I wanted to let you know about a couple of talks I’ll be giving. I’ll be the featured speaker at the NS Capital Fall Financial Symposium in Stamford, Connecticut, on October 7 (free, but pre-registration required).

On September 15, I’ll be the keynote speaker at the Washington Credit Union League Convention in Seattle, but for that one I believe you need to register for the conference.

See you.

Update: I forgot to add that I’m also talking on a financial reform panel at Yale Law School on September 28 at 6 pm.

A Bit About Me

By James Kwak

As loyal readers know, I spent the summer working and mainly not-blogging. I’m back in school now, but this semester will be busier than previous ones. I’m taking two clinics, and I have to make up for phoning it in last fall when I was writing 13 Bankers. (Simon and I wrote it in four months while I was in school and he was teaching three classes.) Also, I only have one more year of school left in my life, I’m paying more than $45,000 for it, and I’d like to take it seriously.

So the blog is going to be a somewhat lower priority in the past.* I’m hoping to post a few times a week this semester, if I have enough original ideas. I hope you will keep reading; I assume most people get the blog via email or an RSS reader, so frequency shouldn’t be an issue for you.

It’s possible that after school I will go back to more serious blogging; I do think it’s a valuable and potentially powerful medium, and certainly a lot more gratifying than writing academic papers.

Thanks again for reading.

* In my defense, most of the high-volume economics bloggers are either tenured professors (Cowen, Thoma, DeLong, Krugman) or people whose job is to blog (Salmon, Klein). (Yves Smith is an exception; how she finds the time I don’t know.)

Summer “Vacation”

By James Kwak

Tomorrow I am beginning my summer internship (for those who don’t know, I’m a law student between my second and third years). I’m going to be working in death penalty defense.

Sometimes people ask me how I find the time to write this blog. The answer is that being a student at the Yale Law School takes a good deal less time than a real job. (You can, of course, make yourself very busy with clinics, journals, and other activities, but you don’t have to.) But this summer will be like a real job, and I intend to spend the time that I’m not working with my family, which means that I will be cutting way, way back on blogging this summer. I’m guessing that I’ll write about two posts per week, but I would not be too surprised if I don’t even manage that, and there’s a small chance I won’t have time for anything at all.

I expect that I’ll get back to something close to my usual frequency in late August or early September.

Thank you for taking the time to read the blog.

Email Updates

By James Kwak

These were down for the past few days. I think it is related to something I did to create the PDF archive a few days ago. I switched the setting back yesterday so I’m hoping the email updates will be back as of this evening.

Mysterious Facebook Problems

By James Kwak

Sometime this morning all of the links from our Facebook page back to the blog stopped working. According to Facebook, “Facebook users” had identified the page as being “abusive.” I didn’t find out until this evening, when a reader emailed me. (I don’t spend a lot of time on Facebook.) When the problem started, it also applied to all of the older links from Facebook to the blog. The problem did not seem to affect links from the Facebook page to 13bankers.com.

Then, in the last half our, the problem went away, and now all the links work.

I have no idea what happened. For background, this is what usually happens. New posts on this blog go into the RSS feed. That feed gets polled periodically by Twitterfeed, which takes the title of the post and the URL (compressed using bit.ly*), appends “#fb”, and creates a new tweet from our Twitter account. (The 13bankers.com feed gets treated the exact same way.) Then the Selective Tweets application for Facebook monitors our Twitter feed; whenever it sees a tweet that ends with “#fb”, it posts it to the Baseline Scenario fan page in Facebook.**

The fact that the links to 13bankers.com continued to work seems to absolve Twitterfeed, bit.ly, and Selective Tweets. However, I have enough software experience to know that things are not necessarily that simple.

So the possibilities seem to be:

  1. Facebook doesn’t like bit.ly — doubtful.
  2. Facebook doesn’t like anything being promoted by Selective Tweets, as suggested by one commenter — quite possible. This could be a flaky problem, meaning it comes and goes.  (It does seem like the problem appeared briefly on April 23 as well.)
  3. Facebook has some kind of algorithm that says, “if the same site gets posted too many times using something that looks like an automatic process, it’s probably spam.” But this seems doubtful, since we are far from the biggest blog that auto-posts to Facebook.
  4. A bunch of pro-Wall Street activists (are there such people? aren’t they called “lobbyists”?) figured out how to report to Facebook that baselinescenario.com is really a religious cult indoctrination site, and therefore someone at Facebook (or some program) shut off access to the site.

If anyone knows, or has better theories, please comment. If it happens again, someone please email us at baselinescenario at gmail dot com.

(Incidentally, ours is not the first blog this has happened to. This happened to Cake Wrecks, a blog that highlights really, really bad cakes.)

* Actually, I told Twitterfeed to use Snip instead of bit.ly, but for some reason it’s using bit.ly. But it’s been using bit.ly since long before this problem started.

** I don’t use the main Twitter app for Facebook because, at the time I was setting this up, it didn’t allow you to post your tweets onto a fan page, only onto your personal Facebook page.