The great mathematician and mystic John Dee was born on this day in 1527. The poet John Clare was born in 1793. On the one hand, he was a typical Romantic idiot. On the other, he really was a pretty good poet. One of the pioneers of ethnography, Stewart Culin was born in 1858. He was very interested in the games that different cultures play and how they connect different peoples. Fascinating stuff! Co-founder of the London School of Economics, Sidney Webb was born in 1859. Contrary to what you are probably thinking, Webb was a socialist and a historian of trade unionism. Actor Bob Crane was born in 1928. My big question about him is why anyone would want to make Auto Focus. Oh, you say that Paul Schrader made it? Well, that explains it! And finally, Jack Kemp was born in 1935. Again, I don’t usually do politicians. But in this case, I wanted to see if Kemp rethought his embrace of supply-side economics at the end of his life. Apparently not. He did, however, embrace a kind of neoconservative hysteria after 9/11, which doesn’t exactly help. But as much as I hate to admit it, he seems to have been a truly great football player. The fact that I hate football doesn’t take away from that fact. (But really: football is an extremely boring game.)
Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard is 78 today. Yes, he’s that Danish cartoonist. (Why else would I be mentioning a Danish cartoonist?) To be honest, I’m not sure what the controversy is. It seems the Muslims have always felt that non-Muslims were not part of the whole “rules and regulations” part of their religion. That was something I always liked about them. Next we have three decent actors turning 71, 72, and 73: Harrison Ford, Robert Forster, and Patrick Stewart. Sterwart’s performance as Macbeth is really great:
Comedian Cheech Marin is 67. It really bugs me that I can’t seem to get hold of old Cheech & Chong albums. I don’t much like the movies, but I remember the albums very fondly. And writer and director Cameron Crowe is 56.
The day, however, belongs to economist Dean Baker who is 55 today. I know: I’ve already written about him time and time again. This is because I have learned more about economics from him than from anyone else. Probably the guy I’ve learned the second most from is Ha-Joon Chang, and I just learned that Chang is also part of Baker’s Center for Economic and Policy Research. Previously, I’ve recommended reading Baker’s blog, Beat the Press. But you should really get the whole CEPR RSS feed. You’ll learn a lot, and not just about economics.
What many of you may not know is that Dean Baker is a very funny guy. You can see that at his blog where the sarcasm comes fast and furious. But it is even more apparent in his public speaking. He has that wonderful confident, cocky attitude of one who knows what’s going on but doesn’t sweat the fact that most of the world is crazy. Here’s a great example of him openly mocking Rick Santelli:
Happy Birthday Dean Baker!
Note in that video that not only is Santelli wrong, but so is the host. When she asked what Barney Frank thought of the housing bubble, she was implying the old conservative canard that the economic collapse was the result of the Democrats forcing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to give out loans to poor people. Also the exploding deficit she’s so concerned about is suddenly not happening. I don’t know where she stands on these matters today. But I’m sure that Santelli is still doing his Howard Beale impression about the coming doom if we don’t do whatever it is the power elite want today.