Econ4 on housing

This is the group of progressive economists who are trying to move the conversation away from the economy as an entity and back toward its effect on people.

You can read the statement here:

We are economists who think that the economy should serve people, the planet and the future.

Four million families have lost their homes to foreclosure in the Great Recession. Today another four million or more face the same fate. This devastation was triggered by unscrupulous financiers and exacerbated by government policies that put banker bonuses ahead of homeowner solvency.

Some blame families for foolishly pursuing the American Dream of homeownership. They think government assistance for banks is OK, but homeowners should be left to take “free-market” medicine.

Some claim that the solution for the housing crisis is to extend and pretend, to perpetuate make-believe values on bank balance sheets rather than to modify principal based on real housing prices. These policies may be a dream for bankers, but they’re a nightmare for homeowners.

We oppose treating the nation’s housing as a bundle of assets to be sliced, diced, flipped, and bailed out in pursuit of inflated profits and bonuses.

We call for reality-based, ethically grounded housing policies that restore stability to families and sanity to markets.

We call for mandatory partial reductions of mortgage principal whenever this can keep a family in its home. We call for America’s best run housing non-profits to be paid to provide the counsel required to determine when such modifications will work. We call for civil and, when necessary, criminal sanctions on banks and loan-servicing companies whose employees intentionally obstruct implementation of mandated loan modifications.

We call for amending bankruptcy laws to restore pre-2005 rules that protected families and communities from bank depredations.

We call for immediate return to the rule of law by requiring those who seek to foreclose to demonstrate they have the proper title and rights to do so – with stiff legal penalties if they ignore the law.

In response to recent moves by the top 1% to buy distressed housing and convert it to rental stock as absentee landlords, we call for local, state and national standards to protect families from predatory rental practices.

We extend our support to all who are working in the private, non-profit, and public sectors to promote access to affordable and stable housing as a human right of families and an asset for communities.

The brain

This is fascinating:

The idea of the universe as a ‘giant brain’ has been proposed by scientists – and science fiction writers – for decades.


But now physicists say there may be some evidence that it’s actually true. In a sense.


According to a study published in Nature’s Scientific Reports, the universe may be growing in the same way as a giant brain – with the electrical firing between brain cells ‘mirrored’ by the shape of expanding galaxies.


The results of a computer simulation suggest that “natural growth dynamics” – the way that systems evolve – are the same for different kinds of networks – whether its the internet, the human brain or the universe as a whole.


A co-author of the study, Dmitri Krioukov from the University of California San Diego, said that while such systems appear very different, they have evolved in very similar ways.


The result, they argue, is that the universe really does grow like a brain.

Oh yeah, that makes sense

If you want an education to be mere training to be cogs in the machine, that is:

English teachers are fretting that a set of curriculum guidelines could reduce the teaching of fiction and poetry in the classroom, the Washington Post reports. The Common Core State Standards, which will be implemented by more than 40 states by 2014, require that 50 percent of elementary school reading be nonfiction, climbing to 70 percent by 12th grade. Supporters, the Post says, believe American students have suffered from “a diet of easy reading and lack the ability to digest complex nonfiction, including studies, reports and primary documents,” leaving them unprepared for higher education and the working world.


Schools face problems ranging from overcrowded classrooms to crumbling buildings to malnourished students. But the idea of rigorous common standards in general, if not these specific guidelines, has support from powerful interests including the Department of Education, the U.S. Army and numerous reformists. Some of the suggested ideas would be a notable change from what almost all Americans remember of high school.


The Post writes:

Among the suggested non­fiction pieces for high school juniors and seniors are Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America,” “FedViews,” by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco (2009) and “Executive Order 13423: Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management,” published by the General Services Administration.


The standards “mandate certain critical types of content for all students, including classic myths and stories from around the world, foundational U.S. documents, seminal works of American literature, and … Shakespeare.” That said, English teachers in particular are distressed over a perceived devaluing of literature.

Even though reading literature has been found to increase emotional intelligence, empathy and critical thinking. Hmm, maybe that’s the point!

Life

If you’re looking for a Christmas gift for a music fan (or you want something for yourself), you probably can’t go wrong with Keith Richards’ memoir “Life.” (It’s a couple of years old now, so make sure your giftee doesn’t already have it.)

The book is co-written with rock journalist James Fox, but it reads exactly as what you’d imagine spending months with Keef might be like.

There’s some minor dish (sounds like Keef was much more of a mensch than Mick ever was), but the surprise of this book is how specifically and deeply Richards digs into the music itself. (His descriptions of the early blues aficionados in England are hysterical.) This is a guy who just loves music, and speaks intelligently about it. Not only that, he includes useful tips for guitar players!

It’s a sprawling, exhilarating book and I can’t imagine the rock fan who wouldn’t love it.

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