Here, in honor of the hundredth anniversary of the General Theory of Relativity, is a very nice visualization:
here to comment or read others’ comments.
Heard only a little of the undercard, but I do have some comments on it. But I’ll add those later.
Re the main debate (I’ll add to this every twenty minutes or so till the debate is over): (Note this is live-blogging, hence not always carefully thought through).
Sometimes you just have to take matters into your own hands.
After posting about the difficulty of finding a modern source for choosing a random city or a random river, I went ahead and created:
I took the data from Maxmind’s free world cities database, but there are odd gaps in it. Although the database lists about 3.3 million cities, the population field is blank for all but about 50,000. (Most notably, that field is blank for all but two of the thousands of cities in the Republic of Korea.) My server offers up a random city from among those 50,000. I’m sure I can probably find a list of Korean cities with populations and manually tack them on to the list at some point. [Edited to add: I’ve just done that.]
Now I want to do something similar for river lengths. Does anyone know where to get the data? (No, pawing through Wikipedia’s hundreds of separate lists, for each part of the world and each letter of the alphabet, is not an option.)
Suppose you want, for some reason, to find the length of a randomly chosen river or the population of a randomly chosen city.
In the old days, we all had things called “reference books”, with long lists of river lengths, city populations, etc. You could open to a random page, close your eyes, put down your finger, and there you’d have it.
But now many of us no longer own reference books. We own smartphones instead. This raises two issues:
1) I’m not sure there are online lists of river lengths or city populations that are as extensive as what you used to find in reference books. Why should there be? Nowadays, if you want to know the population of Des Moines, you just Google for Des Moines; you don’t need a site that lists the populations of thousands or tens of thousands of cities.
2) Even if there were such lists, what would be the modern equivalent of opening to a random page, closing your eyes and pointing? Scrolling for a random amount of time seems less random somehow.
So what do you do?
My friend and former colleague (and our occasional commenter), James Kahn, weighs in on Federal Reserve policy in a thoughtful piece over at Fox Business.
Proponents of the Fed’s ZIRP (zero-interest rate policy) will quickly point out that the low inflation numbers in recent years belie any claim that policy has been too loose. In a sense they are right: Policy has not been as loose as interest rates suggest, because the Fed has been pushing forward on one lever (asset purchases) while pulling back on another (paying interest on bank reserves). With the economy’s mediocre fundamentals (those supply factors mentioned above), banks are happy to hold large reserves of cash, thus blunting the impact of the Fed’s enormous balance sheet increase.
Bernanke’s gloating about the lack of inflation is thus somewhat misplaced. The concern about losing control of inflation (in one direction or the other), has always been (or should have been), on the Fed’s ability to manage the transition back to normalcy, i.e. the unwinding of its balance sheet, the raising of interest rates, and the drawing down of bank reserves. The Fed may be able to manage all this, but so far it is just lots of rhetoric – it brags about the ability to do so while postponing actually doing it.
In other words, thoughtful critics have said all along that there’s an inflation risk associated with the (future) transition back to normal monetary policy. Less thoughtful counter-critics have claimed to refute that observation with the counter-observation that right now, inflation doesn’t seem to be a problem. Like the optimist in free fall, they figure we’re doing alright so far.