Saturday, April 18, 2015

Children, do you know where your teachers are?

If you're a schoolkid in the state of Washington, and you know your educationist history, sure you do;
According to a news release from the statewide teachers union, 2,600 teachers in eight districts throughout the state have voted to stage one-day walkouts during the final days of the legislative session, scheduled to end April 26. More local unions may decide to join the strikes soon, according to the release from the Washington Education Association.
WEA spokesman Rich Wood said that schools will shut down for the day in those districts where the unions have decided to go on strike.
Inconveniencing how many thousands of children and their parents? Not to mention breaking the law, as it's illegal for public employees to organize strikes in the state. But public employees make campaign contributions and very few school kids do, so ....

Besides, it's something of a tradition now;
In 1990, the WEA announced a one-day strike in which more than 25,000 teachers statewide either skipped work, left early or held rallies to argue for higher salaries and smaller class sizes....
The next year, more than 20,000 teachers statewide went on an extended strike while lawmakers were in session. During the strike, about 13,000 teachers rallied at the Capitol seeking better raises and higher school funding, causing then-governor [Booth] Gardner to send lawmakers home for a seven-week “cooling off” period between legislative sessions.
More recently, teachers unions staged strikes in 1999 to protest salary levels, holding several rallies at the Capitol to ask for a 15 percent pay raise.
Of course, they're only doing it for the children.

Feel like a ballgame on a rainy day

Over at Cato's blog Chip Knappenberger and Patrick Michaels noticed that if there's gonna be a change in the weather, there's gonna be a change in;
Fancy listening to the Beatles' 'Here Comes The Sun' when you are grinding out yet another long, sweaty heatwave? "These assumptions we have about certain weather being good and certain weather being bad, like sun being good — that might change," researcher Karen Aplin of the University of Oxford said at a European Geosciences Union meeting in Vienna.
That's climate science. We guess. She and her research team listened to 15,000 songs from the 1950s to the present day, finding that;
Of the 500 greatest songs of all time, as listed by Rolling Stone magazine in 2011, a whole 7% were weather-related.
The sun being the most referenced, followed by rain.
The seasons and wind or breeze were third and fourth most popular, while "frost" and "blizzard" were at the bottom of the list.
Take heart though, boy will still meet girl in the brave, new climate world;
Love and relationships were unsurprisingly the biggest single category for weather metaphors.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Why can't the USA be more like Liberland

It's a start-up, qualified investors only;
“Liberland needs people who:
-Have respect for other people and respect the opinions of others, regardless of race, ethnicity, orientation or religion
-Have respect for private ownership which is untouchable
- Do not have communist, nazi or other extremist past
- Were not punished for criminal offences"
That's from Liberland's website, where you can apply to become a citizen of the world's newest, and smallest (7 sq km), country. Where taxes are optional.

There is no military, which might prove to be a problem as the location is in a no-man's land between Serbia and Croatia.

Home on the driving range

It never ceases to journalists overlook the obvious economics in a  situation. As does the Tacoma News Tribune's C.R. Roberts here;
[Dawn] Brundage recently returned to her rented home — just a chip shot away from the entrance to Chambers Bay, where the [US Open] tournament will be in June — and found a notice taped to her front door.
The rental agency was demanding that she vacate the property by the end of April.
So that it would be vacant during the golf tournament, and instead of collecting the monthly rent of over $1,900 for May and June;
The owner of the property, Abdulaziz Karim, has listed the house for rent at $38,000 — for the tournament week.
Cue the wailing and gnashing of teeth;
[Ms Brundage] has lived in the house for eight or nine years. She is raising two teen daughters who have grown up in the neighborhood and who attend nearby Charles Wright Academy. Although she has no record of the transaction, she said she signed an online, one-year rental agreement last year.
Too bad she didn't think to save a copy of it. Had she done so, she'd be the one who could collect the $38,000 (while living in a motel) for giving up her domicile for the week.
When she saw the notice, she said, “I was so embarrassed.” She feared neighbors might think she was being evicted for being a bad tenant. She said she is indeed a good tenant and is a dispatcher for the Washington State Patrol.
We suspect that the neighbors are making hay while the sun shines themselves, and are well aware of the economics at play. No need for anyone to be embarrassed, it's merely a change in the supply/demand equilibrium. Temporarily.

After Tiger, Phil, Rory and Jordan go on to the next tournament on the schedule, the owner of the house will want to rent the house to someone. For the market price in a normal market. Why not a proven good tenant--taking Dawn at her word--with a good paying, stable job? The proverbial bird in the hand.

Here's (free of charge--hey, we used to charge for this kind of advice!) Ms Brundage's negotiating position strengths; She has a houseful of furniture that, if she moves out, the owner will need to replace for the use of the week-long tenants. The owner will need to provide some security and maid/maintenance services. She should appeal to the self-interest of the landlord, not to his benevolence.

She is a known entity to the landlord, and won't require a background check, nor an advertisement or a showing of the property for her to resume living in her (as she calls it) house. She has something any landlord wants, the ability to buy what the owners of rental housing have to sell.

We have all the conditions for a win-win (more than most of the golfers can say). All she has to do is negotiate a mutually satisfactory agreement.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Why can't the USA be more like Iceland

That seems to be the desire of the U of Iceland's Thorvaldur Gylfason;
None of the four defects of the US constitution alleged by [Sanford] Levinson (2006) are to be found in the new constitution for Iceland that 2/3 of the voters embraced in a national referendum held by the Icelandic parliament in 2012.
Not that that matters, really;
Even so, the parliament has thus far failed to ratify the new constitution in a blatant attempt to thwart the will of the people, risking Iceland’s standing among democratic nations ...
The world bates its breath. But this is a blatant non-sequitur;
...and reaffirming the importance of Levinson’s point about Congress and the US constitution.
Which is, that Congress doesn't have enough power--it can't easily change the Constitution. Odd, that belief, since Thorvaldur admits, in this article that; The US constitution has proved the most durable written constitution the world has known.... Which would be something to think long and hard about before throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
How likely can it be that a small group of wealthy males, most of them lawyers and several of them slave holders, could have composed a constitution nearly 230 years ago that answers the aspirations of modern society?
We'd say that the proof of the pudding is in the eating, guy.
Can this be part of the reason for the deep distrust that permeates US society at present and for the weakened status of the US in the eyes of its own people as well as on the world stage?
No, we'd say that the people have a healthy distrust of political methods of decision making. That, as one of those wealthy males put it back in the 18th century, Men aren't angels and angels don't rule men. Which is why this criticism is ... bunk;
The first flaw is the blatant violation of ‘one person, one vote’, a core principle of modern democracy as well as a basic human right laid out in modern human rights covenants that prohibit discrimination among individuals in any shape or form.
Which prevents the passions of a temporary mob from easily becoming the law of the land. By design, those wealthy white males didn't want to make it easy for man to exploit man through politics. Considering the situation today in the birthplace of democracy--Greece--they were wise to have done so.

Look around. How is the modern 'one person, one vote' core principal working out in Africa or South America?  In Spain, Catalonia wants to secede. In the UK recently, so did Scotland try. How many governments has Italy had since the end of WWII? (Too many to bother counting, probably about 70)

It's always a good idea for an economist (Gylfason) to ask himself, 'Compared to what?', before recommending a policy change.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Bernanke? ... Bernanke?

Gentleman Ben takes a day off (again) from thinking about the most effective criticism of the Fed's response to the 2008 financial crisis, with this stratagem;
The second possible direction of change for the monetary policy framework would be to keep the targets-based approach that I favor, but to change the target. Suggestions that have been made include raising the inflation target, targeting the price level, or targeting some function of nominal GDP.
So, finally, the most authoritative scholar/policy expert on monetary policy--in a blogpost titled Monetary Policy for the Future--is going to get around to answering the Market Monetarists? No, that was just a feint;
Some of these approaches have the advantage of helping deal with the zero-lower-bound problem, at least in principle. My colleagues at the Fed and I spent a good deal of time during the period after the financial crisis considering these and other alternatives, and I think I am familiar with the relevant theoretical arguments.
 Although we did not adopt one of these alternatives, I will say that I don't see anything magical about targeting two percent inflation.
No one said it was magical.
My advocacy of inflation targets as an academic and Fed governor was based much more on the transparency and communication advantages of the approach and not as much on the specific choice of target.
How hard would would it be to communicate, 'The Fed will seek to have NGDP grow at a 5% annual rate.'? And, wouldn't that be even more transparent, since it doesn't require deflating with a price index?
Continued research on alternative intermediate targets for monetary policy would certainly be worthwhile.
Why is that, Ben?

...but he's OUR 'biyang de'

Paraphrasing Ninotchka, there may be tens of millions fewer Chinese, but the remaining are better Chinese;
Bi Fujian, 56, is known for hosting a CCTV talent competition show and co-hosting the network's New Year Gala since 2012. In a viral video that appeared online on April 6, Bi, who was attending a private dinner, referred to Mao as "biyang de" which translates roughly to "son of a bitch" and performed a parody of a song from a "model opera" from the Cultural Revolution.
And you're not fit to carry his chopsticks, pal;
On April 6, the nationalistic People's Daily-run tabloid Global Times urged public figures to be discreet and to behave in an article on Bi's "inappropriate video." Two days later, the website of the Communist Youth League mouthpiece China Youth Daily blasted Bi, saying that "Without Mao, there would be no Communist Party. Then would Bi Fujian still be wining and dining, picking up his chopsticks to eat his meat and setting them down to call someone a son of a bitch?"
That would depend on how lucky he and his family had been during the Great Leap Forward and/or Cultural Revolution wouldn't it? For those unfamiliar with those episodes, HSIB recommends Jung Chang's Wild Swans.