Video of Simon Johnson at Connecticut Journal of International Law Financing Sovereignty Symposium

Someone came to this blog searching for the video from our symposium. Since I try and provide full service to my readers the link is here. You will have to skip towards the end to find Simon Johnson’s speech. If you missed the event and have a lot of free time you might also want to watch the full thing.

The Student Loan Rate Fight

Recently the Obama campaign and Democrats have been pushing the issue of student loan rates front and center. The issue is that if Congress does not act then the low interest on student loans will double to 6.8%. This is the same rate currently paid by graduate and law students like me. The difference in the interest rate is a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of student loans many people have, and it is also important to note that in the last budget deal that subsidized loans for graduate students were eliminated. Meanwhile the tuition rates at colleges keep going up. Here in Connecticut UConn President Susan Herbst pledged to raise tuition 5% to 6% a year.

In the video above Obama seemed clear that as long as schools raised tuition their federal aid would go down. Yet it is not clear that anything has come of this pledge. In spite of all the rhetoric it seems that higher education exists in a bubble. The demand for seats at most schools remains strong, so there is little incentive for them to lower tuition. Unless the federal government takes the lead in fighting the rising cost of tuition, schools will continue to raise their prices and students will pay for them with easy credit. It’s sad to say that there is little boldness in this student loan rate fight. We need our leaders to do more to rein in the cost of higher education before the bubble pops.

Securing Your Computer

One of the things that most people seem to neglect besides backing up is computer security. Real security can be difficult to achieve, but there are some basic things you can do to make it better. If you are using a Mac computer like I do you can enable the full disk encryption known as FileVault 2. It takes a while to encrypt the drive but then it will be protected if someone steals your laptop. If you have a mobile device like an iPhone or iPad you should enable encryption and passwords on those as well. Instead of a basic passcode you should choose one that is eight numbers or some kind of phrase. The most important thing is to make sure you remember it.

Then for all your website logins you should use a password manager. I recommend and use 1Password. Beyond that both eBay/PayPal and Google offer additional layers of protection. PayPal offers a security key token that generates a random number that you have to enter when you login to your eBay and PayPal accounts. Google offers two-factor authentication using text messaging on your cell phone.

Finally you should keep your computer updated. Mac OS X and Windows both offer automatic updates; you should run them weekly. You should also use a modern browser like Google Chrome. By spending an hour to take these basic steps you can make sure that your data is secure and if your laptop or mobile device are stolen that your identity won’t be stolen as well.

White House Correspondents' Dinner a.k.a #nerdprom

Last night I switched on the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in the middle of President Obama’s speech. Watching it last night I was less impressed with Obama’s performance than with Jimmy Kimmel. However I did not realize how much I had missed, and also how much setup there was at the beginning. Without the context to build on the jokes the speech was just not as funny as when I watched it in its entirety this morning. The hot microphone setup at the beginning was hilarious. Definitely better than Kimmel’s performance, so I embedded the video above.

Sovereign Debt & White House Burning

Yesterday my law journal had our symposium on the sovereign debt crises. I live tweeted the event using my iPad using hashtag #cjil. I had never live tweeted an event before but it was actually a great way to be more aware of what was being said and to have a series of short notes about it after the fact. The one difficult part is realizing that the information is being synthesized for an audience that isn’t there, so one has to be aware of how much context to provide.

I think the most surprising thing I learned was how France and Germany view China as economically superior to the United States. The panelists pointed out that this was statistically not yet true but that in spite of this the Chinese are held in higher esteem. It made me wonder whether this was a result of the wars under the Bush years or maybe the French and Germans really enjoy their iPads as well and see they are made in China. I also wonder how much of it is also based on the fact that Europe is more accepting of state economic control whereas Americans view that kind of regulation with suspicion.

I think the highlight of the symposium was Simon Johnson’s keynote address. Johnson eloquently laid out the problem facing our country, and noted that the majority of Americans do not understand our national budget. He pointed out that many people on Social Security or Medicare do not believe they participate in a government social program and they think that a large percentage of the American budget goes to foreign aid. Johnson suggests that a single-payer healthcare system is an inevitability if America is to compete with the rest of the world because the current cost of healthcare keeps rising and functions as a private tax that is destroying American business. Also of note was the fact that Johnson endorsed ending the Bush tax cuts completely. He had no problem calling out Newt Gingrich and Alan Greenspan as a cause of the problem. These fiscal conservatives had no problem engaging in deficit spending to fund tax cuts and it is unsustainable.

Ultimately Johnson seems to be a pragmatist. He cemented himself into that increasingly lonely place on the American political spectrum that we call the center. The national debt is a mounting problem but it is not insurmountable, yet. A little bit of what Governor Malloy would call shared sacrifice could go a long way to creating a sustainable budget for the future. Otherwise we too may end up like Greece. After the last debate on the debt ceiling I thought I was a bit tired of the debate on national debt. Simon Johnson brought fresh perspective to the issue and also provided some rays of hope on a hopeless issue. The question is whether there will be politicians bold enough to tackle this problem, because if they are not then it is my generation that will be dealing with the consequences.

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