Friday, September 28, 2012

Chick flick ticks (off) critic

Erin Brockovich, Norma Rae, Lara Croft...they're not making them like they used to, and some film critics can't get over it;
...the movie [Won't Back Down] taps a rich vein of accumulated public frustration at the continued failure of government to provide decent access to public schools for all American children. 
But, egad!
 For all its strenuous feints at fair play, though, Won't Back Down is something less honorable — a propaganda piece with blame on its mind. Directed with reasonable competence by Daniel Barnz from a speechifying screenplay he co-wrote with Brin Hill, the movie is funded by Walden Media, a company owned by conservative mogul Philip Anschutz, who advocates creationist curricula in schools. Walden also co-produced the controversial pro-charter school documentary Waiting for Superman, so the outfit is not without axes to grind.

That movie's love affair with the charter movement seems to have cooled somewhat in Won't Back Down, which features a lottery scene complete with nail-biting parents vying for a handful of vacancies at the excellent Rosa Parks Charter School. The fact that many charter schools have failed to produce better-educated kids, however, is not where this strenuously populist scenario is headed.
.... it's nuance and reason that fall by the wayside amid the sloganeering rhetoric of Won't Back Down. Like most large institutions with interests to protect, the unions could use some reforms, especially when it comes to shielding bad teachers from scrutiny and discipline.
But if you were to wave a magic wand that replaced unions and bureaucrats with a rainbow coalition of local parents and educators coming together to create the kind of school they want, the result would be chaos, not to mention an end to the tattered remains of our common culture.
"We need to start somewhere," comes a stern, God-like voice in Won't Back Down, waving off all talk about the role of poverty and inequality in under-resourced schools and underachieving pupils. We do indeed. Just not here.
That's some movie review, that breezes over the acting, directing, plot, the quicker to challenge the political implications of the film.

On the job training

Besides, he had some time on his hands;

[Shon] Hopwood is no ordinary law student.
The 37-year-old father of two served 10 years in federal prison for robbing five banks in the late 1990s. While in prison, he became such an adept jailhouse lawyer that two of his petitions were reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"People that knew me before prison — they shake their heads," said Hopwood, now in his second year of law school. "They shake their heads over me writing."
That's another thing about Hopwood: This summer, his memoir, "Law Man," written with co-writer Dennis Burke, was published by Crown Publishing.
"There are so many things about him that are amazing and interesting," said Michele Storms, assistant dean for public-service law at the UW.
"That whole prison lawyer thing? That's no small potatoes," Storms said. "He obviously had an incredible intellectual capacity, but through a series of bad choices — very bad choices — and a lack of motivation, went down the wrong path."
Storms is director of the Gates Public Service Law Program, which has awarded Hopwood a full-ride scholarship — one of five awarded each year to incoming law students who commit to at least five years in a public-service law practice after graduating.
The $33 million program was created in 2005 to honor Bill Gates Sr., the lawyer and UW regent, by his son, Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, and his wife, Melinda.
Some might say it's natural evolution. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thou shalt not covet

Felix Salmon seems to think Joe Stiglitz doesn't get religion;

There was just one question from the audience at the event [at Union Theological Seminary], from a woman who said that she loves the Bible. “It says there’s something deeply unhealthy about the pursuit of wealth,” she said, and she’s absolutely right about that. But you’re not going to find many economists who agree with that, and certainly Stiglitz didn’t. He’s happy to say that the very rich suffer from moral turpitude — but he doesn’t draw the obvious conclusion, which is that the things which make us rich also make us bad.
I’m not religious, and I spend my life in the world of intellectual argument — I’m naturally on the economists’ side of things when it comes to constructing narratives. I also don’t kid myself that there’s any nobility, be it moral or otherwise, in being poor. But I do see the power of religion when it comes to sending messages to the world. And I do see the left straggling far behind the right when it comes to harnessing that power. And, after attending this INET event, I see very little chance that they’re going to catch up.
Then there's the problem of 'Marlene Dietrich's legs' (and Julia Robert's smile, Lena Horne's cheekbones, Tom Brady's arm strength, Dalton Trumbo's way with words....).  Are we all sinners for enjoying those things and rewarding those who possess them?

[Thanks to anonymous e-mail correspondent for the tip]

Can't hit a curve ball?

You might be a victim;
Former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon, who is suffering from early-stage dementia, has told a Chicago television station that while he appreciates what football has done for him, if he could do it over, he would play baseball. 
....Knowing what he now does about the effects of the punishment he received in his 14-year NFL career, McMahon said, he would have chosen a different career.
"That was my first love, was baseball, and had I had a scholarship to play baseball. I probably would have played just baseball," he said. "But football paid for everything, it still does. That Super Bowl XX team is still as popular as it ever was. Until they win again, we're gonna still make money."
McMahon led the Bears to the 1986 Super Bowl victory over New England. He is now among the retired players suing the NFL for concussion-related dementia and brain trauma.
More than 2,400 retired players are plaintiffs, looking for the kind of success smokers had against the tobacco companies. The result then was a landmark, $206 billion settlement shared among 46 states. The ex-players are taking on a multibillion-dollar industry that is the most popular sport in the United States.

The Existential Anxieties of Engineering

Mostly come from ignoring economic reality, just ask Boeing management;

Boeing's engineering leader Mike Delaney on Wednesday warned that if the company is forced to give local employees higher compensation and benefits than they would earn in other markets, the inevitable outcome will be Boeing will move engineering work — especially high-end tasks developing new airplanes, as well as defense projects — out of the Puget Sound region.
"It won't be fast," said Delaney, addressing The Seattle Times editorial board. "We'll keep hiring people to build 737s. But slowly over time, if you become uncompetitive, you have to deal with the arbitrage and leverage other resources."
He pointed out that about 30 percent of the engineering work for his unit is already done within the company but outside the Puget Sound region.
"We want you to be rewarded," said Delaney, as if addressing his engineers. "But you have to understand there is a market out there."
A market that you can price yourself out of, if you keep trying.  Which the SPEEA--average pay for its engineers being $110,000--seems intent on doing. 

Maintenant ils nous disent

The election (in France) is over, bring on the facts;

PARIS — After a swell of euphoria over President François Hollande's electoral victory in May and a blissful timeout for summer vacation, France is coming to grips with the harsh reality of high unemployment, tax increases and budget cuts imposed by a flat-lining economy and Europe's perilous debt crisis.
The realization that tough times lie ahead was slow in coming, in part because, during the campaign, Hollande decried austerity measures outlined by former President Nicolas Sarkozy and suggested that renewing economic growth was the best recipe for paring down the debt.
....But once installed as president, Hollande settled for a side agreement bundling several previously funded EU growth programs with limited impact on the slumping economies of the union's 27 member nations. Now it is Hollande's finance minister, Pierre Moscovici, who is insisting the treaty must be ratified as is and pledging that austerity policies will bring France's debt level from 4.5 percent to 3 percent during the next year. 
la démocratie est la philosophie politique que les gens savent ce qu'ils veulent et méritent de l'obtenir ... bon et dur 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Homage to Sally Martin

Catalonia will rise again, says Columbia economist Xavier Sal i Martin;
The supposed studies that "precisely" estimate that the Catalan GDP will fall 10, 30, or 60% are all a monumental farce. None of these studies have any credibility, because without knowing how the process will go, if there will be boycotts, and in what conditions we will remain part of Europe, where will the Catalan portion of what we have depositited in the IMF or ECB go, etc, it's impossible to know what will be the costs and benefits. It's true that we have cava and they can boycott it. But they have Rioja and we could return the favor. Threatening us with kicking us out of the Euro or the EU when there is no corresponding law is a completely empty threat. And when Spain says that its partners and friends will kick us out of Europe, they're bluffing. Spain has neither the friends nor the international support that it presumes of. And if you don't believe it, remember when Argentina expropriated Repsol, violating all manner of international laws, and Europe didn't lift a finger to defend Spain, and Rajoy's government was left on its own.
And those who say that we must take on a share of Spain's debt should remember that that debt was signed by the Spanish government and that's who has to repay it. It's definitely true that if we are part of Spain, that we are partly responsible for the Spanish government's debt. But if we are not, then well, we'll see. If they want to send us a bill for 16% of the total, corresponding to Catalonia's relative population, they can call the Catalan Embassy, and if the divorce is friendly, we'll discuss it. We'll talk about the debt, and the proportion of money that the Bank of Spain has deposited in the ECB and the gold that Spain has in the International Monetary Fund, and about AENA and other Spanish public companies, and the Zarzuela racetrack and whatever else we need to talk about. And if it's not friendly, and they talk about boycotts, threats and our expulsion from Europe, then, well, they can take their debt and shove it because the only one responsible for the debt is the Government of Spain.
In short, after the demonstration on September 11, a political and media battle began that will try to make us afraid. They will tell lies and exaggerate. And they will insult us and belittle us. Now, the more virulent the campaign, the less intelligent and more testosterone-filled are the arguments, the more they insult us and denigrate us, the more their desperation will be evident.
We must react to their insults and fear mongering with serenity, generosity, and steadfastness.
Save your Catalunyan money, boys.

If 14 year olds could vote

Mitt Romney might have a landslide victory, unless chocolate, like ketchup, is a vegetable;
In Wisconsin, high school athletes are complaining about not getting enough to eat each day, due to the skimpy new school lunch menu mandated by the United States Department of Agriculture and First Lady Michelle Obama.
....Despite the fact that the new regulations have increased the cost of a lunch 20 to 25 cents per plate, it’s not pleasing students.
Some are throwing away their vegetables while others are adapting to the rules by becoming industrious. In New Bedford, Massachusetts, students have created a black market - for chocolate syrup. The kiddie capitalists are smuggling in bottles of it and selling it by the squeeze, according to
Found a need...filled it.  But, it's the kids at fault, according to the governing class;
Nancy Carvalho, director of food services for New Bedford Public Schools, was quoted as saying that hummus and black bean salads have been tough sells in elementary cafeterias. That means even smaller children are going through the day fighting hunger pains, which can never be considered a good thing.
One government official tried to put the blame on the students."One thing I think we need to keep in mind as kids say they're still hungry is that many children aren't used to eating fruits and vegetables at home, much less at school. So it's a change in what they are eating. If they are still hungry, it's that they are not eating all the food that's being offered," USDA Deputy Undersecretary Janey Thornton was quoted as saying.

Think of all the starving kids in China....

After all, he is from Notre Dame

Who else has a better claim to a Hail Mary pass if not Golden Tate.  And among the numerous ironies of last night's Monday Night Football game, won on the final play by Seattle, was that the (mostly justifiably) maligned referees got a call right;

When the players hit the ground in the end zone, the officials determined that both Tate and [Green Bay defender] Jennings had possession of the ball. Under the rule for simultaneous catch, the ball belongs to Tate, the offensive player. The result of the play was a touchdown.
Replay Official Howard Slavin stopped the game for an instant replay review. The aspects of the play that were reviewable included if the ball hit the ground and who had possession of the ball. In the end zone, a ruling of a simultaneous catch is reviewable. That is not the case in the field of play, only in the end zone.
Referee Wayne Elliott determined that no indisputable visual evidence existed to overturn the call on the field, and as a result, the on-field ruling of touchdown stood. The NFL Officiating Department reviewed the video today and supports the decision not to overturn the on-field ruling following the instant replay review.
Missed in all this is that with all the millions of dollars ESPN spends putting this show on, they didn't bother to spend a few dollars for an NFL rule book for the announcers in the booth.  The phrase, 'simultaneous possession' apparently not being in their vocabulary.

Encontrar una necesidad y llenarla

The Spanish are getting in touch with their inner Henry J Kaiser, and accepting that la necesidad es la madre de la innovación;

[Juan José] Güemes [of IE Business School's International Entrepreneur Management Center] says that the underlying message that the business school teaches tomorrow's entrepreneurs is that they must constantly innovate.
"The first thing that we do is ask them to identify what they see as the major problems around them that are still not properly being addressed, or needs that are not being satisfied. The bigger the problem or the need, the bigger the business opportunity," Güemes argues. "And having identified the problem, you build a solution, a value proposition that really adds something, that resolves the problem. That can create a business opportunity, which we then have to evaluate on the basis that we fully understand the market; who it is we are addressing, with names and addresses; who we are really going to sell this to, to make sure that these people have an unsatisfied need, or one that isn't being properly met by the market at that moment; and where you can really make a proposal based on a superior product. If you can do that, you're ready to set up a business."
Which is how jobs are created...even in Europe.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

You're the Top

The ever entertaining Jon Talton of the Seattle Times' Business and Technology section just can't get the hang of economics.  In a column titled, Innovation Requires Creative Leadership, he claims;
...some leading from the top actually will be necessary. We wouldn’t have aerospace and software clusters without Bills (Boeing and Gates) leading from the top. The same is true for Paul Allen’s transformation of South Lake Union into an urban innovation hub and Jeff Bezos’ decision to move there.
All of whom were entrepreneurs following their self-interest, who built successful businesses from the ground up.  They were not 'leading from the top'.

Can anyone imagine the group in the above picture even getting the time of day from 'the top' ?  They would have been far more likely to be turned away by security than get access to the top.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Cry for yourselves, Argentina

But there will be growth in the spring;
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s efforts to stem capital outflows and extend her control over South America’s second-largest economy has brought growth to a standstill.
....“The government’s policies have halted growth because they led to lack of confidence and of investments,” said Walter Molano, head of sovereign research for emerging markets at BCP Securities in Greenwich, Connecticut, an investment bank that focuses on developing nations. “Argentina could have easily continued growing 7 percent or 8 percent for years.”
Since her re-election in October, Fernandez, 59, has banned most purchases of foreign currency, restricted imports and nationalized YPF SA (YPF), the country’s biggest oil producer. While those policies have eroded business confidence and investment, a drought in the U.S. that has pushed up soybean prices may provide some relief for the world’s third-largest producer of the oilseed.
....The Argentine government has defended its record and says growth will rebound.
“The engines of economic growth next year will be a boost in domestic consumption and in investment,” Economy Minister Hernan Lorenzino told lawmakers when he presented the 2013 budget yesterday. “Argentina’s economy continues growing in an international economic context in which some important regions in the world are in recession.”

Friday, September 21, 2012

As Johnny said...

It takes a certain...Personality, to get the job done.  Now the scientists know what the songwriters always did;
When looking for workers to staff its call centers, Xerox Corp...used to pay lots of attention to applicants who had done the job before. Then, a computer program told the printer and outsourcing company that experience doesn't matter.
The software said that what does matter in a good call-center worker—one who won't quit before the company recoups its $5,000 investment in training—is personality. Data show that creative types tend to stick around for the necessary six months. Inquisitive people often don't.
Which may end up in court;
Some companies are screening for such variables as attitudes toward alcohol use or the distance an applicant lives from the job. The process could get companies into legal trouble if it ends up excluding minorities or the disabled. Even if it doesn't, it might come off as unfair, or even creepy.
But, the purpose of a business is to make money, and mitigating unnecessary costs does that;
The goal is to gauge an applicant's emotional stability, work ethic and attitude toward drug and alcohol. Those who score poorly are considered high disability risks. Richfield said its workers' comp claims have fallen 68% since it has used the test, and it now requires managers to use it to eliminate unsuitable applicants. 


Lucky for Polonius that Gertrude didn't have one of these;

The SpeechJammer, a device that disrupts a person's speech by repeating his or her own voice at a delay of a few hundred milliseconds, was named Thursday as a 2012 winner of the Ig Nobel prize - an award sponsored by the Annals of Improbable Research magazine for weird and humorous scientific discoveries.
The echo effect of the device is just annoying enough to get someone to sputter and stop.
Actually, the device created by Kazutaka Kurihara and Koji Tsukada is meant to help public speakers by alerting them if they are speaking too quickly or have taken up more than their allotted time.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

pero la economía es otra materia

She didn't know anything about restoring art, but her lawyers are pretty sharp;

But popularity for the modified masterpiece grew with even budget airline Ryanair offering cheap deals to nearby Zaragoza airport encouraging "pilgrims" to visit the work that was quickly dubbed "Ecce Mono" – Behold the Monkey.
An internet petition to keep the repair job garnered widespread support and seizing an opportunity to swell its coffers, the church began levying a 4 euro (£3) entrance fee on visitors, earning 2,000 euros in the first four days.
Lawyers acting for Mrs Gimenez now insist she should be entitled to a cut of the profits, which she wants to go towards a charity of her choice.

A Pretty Girl is Just a Memery

That probably hasn't registered with the Federal Election Commission as an in-kind contribution;
[Jessica] Alba joins Hollywood actresses Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson by photographing herself with her hand on her heart pledging to vote for Obama.
“That’s why all across the country, people like you and I are proudly writing down our reasons for getting involved, and then taking the pledge — to vote.”
Obama campaign staffers have also begun posting photos of themselves with the pledge.
“Make sure you’re ready to vote this fall,” Alba writes. “Putting your hand over your heart is making a promise. Casting your ballot is keeping it.”

It's a lot easier being Green(land)

Thanks to global warming allowing access to its minerals;

In the past 18 months, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea have made debut visits here, and Greenland’s prime minister, Kuupik Kleist, was welcomed by President José Manuel Barroso of the European Commission in Brussels.
“We are treated so differently than just a few years ago,” said Jens B. Frederiksen, Greenland’s vice premier, in his simple office here. “We are aware that is because we now have something to offer, not because they’ve suddenly discovered that Inuit are nice people.”
Even China wants to cooperate;
Michael Byers, a professor of politics and law at the University of British Columbia, said the Chinese were unlikely to overstep their rights in a region populated by NATO members. “Despite the concerns I have about Chinese foreign policy in other parts of the world, in the Arctic it is behaving responsibly,” he said. “They just want to make money.” 
Adam Smith and Milton Friedman smile.

Henderson's Difficult Idea

Former colleagues at the Reagan Administration Council of Economic Advisers, Paul Krugman and David Henderson have slightly different reactions to Mitt Romney's talk of 47%ers;
This same life-cycle reasoning applies to income. After all, it's income that results in income taxes. Yet, even though I have probably read at least 70% of Krugman's popular writing over the last 12 years--and probably over 80% of what he has written on income and taxes--I can't recall his ever discussing the life cycle of income. I think he talks about high-income people as "the rich," thus not making the distinction between income and wealth. If he had talked about income over the life cycle, he would have noted that the data at a point in time show more inequality than exists over the life cycle.
So here's my challenge: prove me wrong. Provide a link to something in the popular literature in the last 12 years--NY Times, etc.--that has Krugman pointing out that there's a life cycle to income.
Actually, Paul Krugman is usually at pains to deny any such thing, for one recent example;
Multi-year measures of inequality, it turns out, aren’t much lower than single-year measures. How is that possible, when many people change income quintiles? Because they’re usually moving short distances on the income scale. A lot of people move from, say, the top of the second quintile to the bottom of the third quintile or vice versa — but such moves are trivial in terms of their true income position. Big moves, jumping more than one quintile, are much less common; yet it’s those big moves people have in mind when they talk about ,mobility. 

'Not nice' hit

Little girls are made of sugar and spice, and everything nice.  Now Roger Goodell believes that football players should be too, apparently.  In the above video it is clear that wide receiver Golden Tate is blocking a linebacker who is intent on doing harm to his QB, Russell Wilson.

Note too that Tate isn't on the linebacker's 'blind side', he's right in front of him, and that it is the linebacker who provides the  momentum.  Tate is more or less just standing in his path before delivering the block that is part of his job description (what he was undoubtedly taught in Pop Warner League).

We'd love to hear from Condoleeza (Italian for sweetly) Rice on this one.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Linebackers should have to wear skirts

Pace Jack Lambert.  If it wasn't the No Fair League, a defender with a bead on a ball carrier should be aware that it's better to GoldenTate than to receive;
Golden Tate was fined $21,000 by the NFL for his block of Sean Lee, according to and The report was subsequently confirmed by the Seahawks.
....Tate did not confirm he had been fined, but using his Twitter account did re-Tweet several comments from fans disagreeing with the fine. One of those Tweets cited Tate's own words after the game: "If I didn't hit him then he would have hit my quarterback."
But word got out in Dallas, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had stated he expected Tate to be fined for the hit.
"I'm sure they will," Jones said in Dallas' locker room after the game. "We saw the same thing you saw. That's certainly something we know or expect penalties and fines about."

Rahmbo didn't blink

According to Jay Greene, the striking Chicago Public School teachers did;

...the city of Chicago abandoned its efforts to institute this latter, phony merit pay.  As the Chicago Teachers Union put it: “The Board agreed to move away from ‘Differentiated Compensation,’ which would have allowed them to pay one set of teachers (based on unknown criteria) one set of pay versus another set of pay for others.”
But the city preserved key provisions that result in at least some amount of true merit pay.  Specifically, the city preserved the ability to continue opening new, non-unionized charter schools at a rapid clip.  It is already the case that almost 50,000 of the 400,000 students in Chicago’s public schools attend charter schools.  As students migrate from traditional to charter schools, enrollment in the unionized sector has plummeted, causing 86 traditional public school closures over the last decade.  Enrollment is so low in many existing traditional public schools that 120 additional schools are eligible for closure next year.  As long as the city can continue to open charter schools and as long as there is demand by students to leave for charters, traditional public schools will continue to be closed in large numbers.
When Chicago closes a traditional public school for low enrollment the teachers are laid off.  The new contract appears to place some limits on this, but the practice has generally been preserved. 

Back to the future

The Tax Policy Center also enters the 20th century (only 50 or 60 years late);
...until now, TPC assumed investors ultimately paid the entire corporate tax in the form of lower returns to capital. Now, TPC concludes that labor also pays through lower wages. As a result, workers, as well as shareholders and other owners of capital, would benefit from any cut in the corporate tax. Similarly, both would take a hit if corporate taxes are hiked.
Got it.  Corporations are people too.

TPC's latest; Feldstein was right

The Tax Policy Center belatedly admits that Martin Feldstein (and Harvey Rosen) were correct;
...we should keep in mind that high-income households pay a lot less tax than they would without tax expenditures.
So much for 'mathematically impossible'.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Upon further review

The replacements' worst call Sunday occurred in the Dallas-at-Seattle contest. As noted by reader Tyler Kenealey of Dallas, early in the fourth quarter, Golden Tate of the Bluish Men Group made a vicious peel-back helmet-to-helmet hit on Boys linebacker Sean Lee. Edge defenders are considered "defenseless" if they cannot see a blocker approaching from their blind side. Zebras threw a flag -- which turned out to be unnecessary roughness on Dallas, for a defender lightly pushing a Seahawk out of bounds. Tate wasn't flagged. "That is completely ridiculous," Fox announcer Kenny Albert said. He was right.
Even tastefully named ESPN columnists can get it wrong.  The challenge flag has been thrown on Tuesday Morning Quarterback for claiming a 'helmet to helmet hit' by Golden Tate on Dallas Cowboy linebacker Sean Lee.  As the above photo shows Tate's helmet is clearly in the opponents chest...and legal.

Further, Tate was able to make the hit because the linebacker was only looking to put his own hit on QB Russell Wilson.  Woe betide the ball carriers when the defenders don't have to worry about looking for blockers.   It would be the Peltzman Effect on the gridiron.

Not that all those pads and helmets aren't already an example of old Sam's dictum.

We're shocked! Shocked!

That politics is being conducted during a Presidential election campaign.  Where ever would Mitt Romney get the idea that Barack Obama needs the electorate to think they are dependent on him;


Take a look at how President Obama's policies help one woman over her lifetime and how Mitt Romney would change her story.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Let's do lunch

Not your father's Dr.'ll be product placement for Obamacare;

Realizing that much of the battle will be in the public relations realm, the [California Health Benefit E]xchange has poured significant resources into a detailed marketing plan — developed not by state health bureaucrats but by the global marketing powerhouse Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, which has an initial $900,000 contract with the exchange. The Ogilvy plan includes ideas for reaching an uninsured population that speaks dozens of languages and is scattered through 11 media markets: advertising on coffee cup sleeves at community colleges to reach adult students, for example, and at professional soccer matches to reach young Hispanic men.
And Hollywood, an industry whose major players have been supportive of President Obama and his agenda, will be tapped. Plans are being discussed to pitch a reality television show about “the trials and tribulations of families living without medical coverage,” according to the Ogilvy plan. The exchange will also seek to have prime-time television shows, like “Modern Family,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and Univision telenovelas, weave the health care law into their plots.“I’d like to see 10 of the major TV shows, or telenovelas, have people talking about ‘that health insurance thing,’ ” said Peter V. Lee, the exchange’s executive director. “There are good story lines here.”
Although the exchange will not start advertising until next year, theCalifornia Endowment, a foundation that has spent $15 million promoting the law, is running newspaper and television ads, including one in which the television personality Dr. Mehmet Oz exhorts viewers to “get educated, get engaged, get enrolled.” That campaign has targeted Hispanics, who make up more than half of the state’s uninsured population.
Well, it worked for Reese's Pieces (speaking of otherworldly phenomena)!

Ask the men who own them

General Motors wants to pick itself up, dust itself off, and start over again;
The Treasury Department is resisting General Motors' push for the government to sell off its stake in the auto maker, The Wall Street Journal reports. Following a $50 billion bailout in 2009, the U.S. taxpayers now own almost 27% of the company. But the newspaper said GM executives are now chafing at that, saying it hurts the company's reputation and its ability to attract top talent due to pay restrictions.
Besides, they need to pull the plug on the disastrous Chevy Volt (the politicians pet vehicle).

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Que lastima!

In Spain it's not no problemo;

...a political system in which institutions are excessively politicized and where nobody feels responsible for their actions because nobody is held accountable. Nobody within the system questions the rent-seeking that conforms the particular interest of Spain's political class. This is the background for the real estate bubble and the failure of most savings banks, as well as other "natural disasters" and "acts of God" that our politicians are so good at creating. And they do so not so much out of ignorance or incompetence but because all these acts generate rent.
The Spanish real estate bubble was, in relative terms, the largest of the three that are at the origin of today's global crisis, the US bubble and the Irish bubble being the other two. There is no doubt that, like the others, it fed on low interest rates and macroeconomic imbalances on a global scale. But unlike the US, in Spain decisions regarding what gets built where are taken at the political level. In Spain, the political class inflated the real estate bubble through direct action, not omission or oversight. City planning is born out of complex, opaque negotiations which, besides creating new buildings, also give rise to party financing and many personal fortunes, both among the owners of rezoned land and those doing the rezoning. As if this power were not enough, by transferring control of the savings banks to regional governments the politicians also had power of decision over who received money to build. This represented a quantum leap in the Spanish political class' capacity for rent-seeking. Five years on, the situation could not be more bleak. The Spanish economy will not grow for many years to come. The savings banks have disappeared, mostly due to bankruptcy.
The other two bubbles ... are a result of the peculiar symbiosis between our political class and Spanish capitalists who live off government favors. 
Government tells banks to whom to lend...what could go wrong.

He may not always drink beer...

At least temporarily, he's being recognized as the most interesting economist in the world.  Which Ryan Avent thinks will be a challenge;

The intellectual building blocks for yesterday's Fed move existed before Mr Sumner began blogging. It is hard to imagine them being assembled into actual policy so quickly without his efforts and their rapid spread through the economics blogosphere.
As the market monetarist community is now pointing out, the Fed's new policy is a step in the right direction, but it is a long way from what they would actually recommend implementing. And they're right. Fairly or not, however, the policy will be judged as a test of market monetarist ideas. Yesterday's market moves suggest that nominal output growth should accelerate in coming quarters. How much acceleration is likely to occur will depend on how much room the Fed is willing to give the economy to run. If the rise in inflation expectations leads the Fed to begin walking back its new language a month from now, the gain will be small.
But the expectation should be that there will be higher nominal growth. And given the broad view that demand-side weakness is the primary constraint on recovery, that nominal growth should be accompanied by faster real growth and faster employment growth. Based on my own observations of the co-movement of inflation expectations and payrolls, I'm expecting nonfarm employment to be growing at more than 200,000 jobs a month by the end of the year, with more possible depending on the Fed's touchiness.
I recognise that if nothing like that occurs, it will represent evidence that I've gotten one or several things wrong. Yesterday's move was exciting no just because it represented an intellectual victory or because it could lead to real economic improvement, but also because it holds out the possibility of new knowledge; one way or another we should learn something important. It was a victory and a test for market monetarism.

If he's right, the Dos Equis will be on Barack Obama.

Ho, Ho, Ho, have a lump of coal

When life deals you a communist dictatorship, the going can get rough;
Trieu Tran's one-man show, "Uncle Ho to Uncle Sam," is a harrowing account of his journey from Vietnam to successful life in the U.S.
Which had its ups and downs, no doubt, but can an artsy theater critic be excused for ignorance of history;
This is a rare opportunity to hear, from the source, how the U.S. miliary adventure impacted the people we were allegedly saving from Communism, and how we treat our disoriented, battered war immigrants once they're among us.
Well, we did save the South from the terrors of Communism (thanks to Richard Nixon and our B-52s)...until we didn't.  In 1972, after almost all American combat forces had been withdrawn from South Vietnam, the North launched a huge invasion (the Easter Offensive) of the South, which the Vietnamese repelled, after initial gains by the Communist forces.

Then the South had the support of America, especially the so-called Christmas bombing of Hanoi--which, according to American POWs there, profoundly changed the attitudes of their guards.

But, by 1975, Nixon had been forced to resign due to Watergate ineptitude, and the 'anti-war' Democrats were firmly in control of congress.  They passed laws prohibiting any more support of our South Vietnamese allies, so new President Gerald Ford had to sit helplessly as a second military invasion from the North overran the South.

A few of the left-wing critics of what the Seattle Times' theater critic called, America's 'military adventure', have been honest enough to admit that they were badly mistaken at the time.  The British journalist William Shawcross for one;
Those of us who opposed the American war in Indochina should be extremely humble in the face of the appalling aftermath: a form of genocide in Cambodia and horrific tyranny in both Vietnam and Laos. Looking back on my own coverage for The Sunday Times...,I think I concentrated too easily on the corruption and incompetence of the South Vietnamese and their American allies, was too ignorant of the inhuman Hanoi regime, and far too willing to believe that a victory by the Communists would provide a better future. But after the Communist victory came the refugees to Thailand and the floods of boat people desperately seeking to escape the Cambodian killing fields and the Vietnamese gulags. Their eloquent testimony should have put paid to all illusions.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Knew him before he was our savior

Scott Sumner, the blogging face of Market Monetarism comes in for a little hero worship (well deserved);

Have you heard of Scott Sumner? Unless you're an economist, an economic blogger, or a student at Bentley University, where Sumner is a professor, you probably haven't. And that's a shame. Because there's an outside chance that he just saved the economy.
Except for the little detail that this isn't a good explanation of Scott's idea;
Sumner is the author of The Money Illusion, an excellent blog that has relentlessly made the case since 2009 for an eccentric policy called "NGDP targeting." This is a complicated sounding plan with a simple idea at its heart. If the equation that solves the economic crisis is "GDP growth + inflation = 5%" then the solution to low GDP growth is inflation that brings us up to 5%. Therefore, the Federal Reserve should announce that it will do everything in its power to raise inflation expectations until we're back to where we want to be.
It's hardly eccentric.  As Scott has said many times, the idea has been around for years. most often credited to Bennett McCallum .  Nor is it that inflation expectations need to be raised--though it might not hurt if they were--if inflation were 5% and GDP growth zero, that would not be a good thing.

What Scott does believe is that 5% NGDP growth would usually be composed of about 2% inflation and 3% real growth.  Which is why the target should be 5%.

But, it has been said, any publicity is good publicity.

The Interest Rate Delusion

As Milton Friedman said, monetary theory is like a Japanese garden, at first glance simple, but upon contemplation subtleties emerge.  The Wall Street Journal needs more time spent in contemplation;

How Quantitative Easing Works

Which is wrong.  QE doesn't work through interest rates.  If it 'works' it does it by converting the increase in the Fed's balance sheet into money (loanable funds in the banking system) that can be spent on goods and services.  Something that wasn't allowed to happen in prior episodes of QE largely by the Fed 'sterilizing' the increase by paying banks to hold the excess as reserves at the Fed.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

It's Team Blue, above, that's on strike in Chicago...for the good of the children.  Jay P. Greene isn't impressed;
This is the part where edu-reactionaries will start to stare at their feet at start to mutter stories about how these differences must be all about the differences in motivation between parents. The random assignment studies have consistently demonstrated however that charter school students perform better on charter schools for inner city kids. The whole “motivated parents” question is irrelevant until such time that charter schools don’t have a waiting list in any case, unless of course you are willing to sacrifice the interests of children over those of adults.

Useful as a good bad example

That appears to be the argument in a new book;
Who composed "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," "Don't Fence Me In," "Night and Day," "Begin the Beguine," "My Heart Belongs to Daddy," "White Christmas" and "How Are Things in Glocca Morra"?
According to Ira B. Arnstein, he did, and for more than three decades he persistently sued the likes of Irving Berlin and Cole Porter, their publishers and their rights organizations for plagiarizing his own ditties. In truth, Arnstein contributed less to the Great American Songbook than he did to "copyright law and lore," as Gary A. Rosen explains in his entertaining and instructive book, "Unfair to Genius: The Strange and Litigious Career of Ira B. Arnstein."
Arnstein, Mr. Rosen writes, was "a crank, a noodnik, and a loser." He was briefly committed to a mental hospital and certified a lunatic. Even Arnstein himself once confessed in court: "Reading my testimony, anyone would get an idea that the person testifying is of a disordered mind." Though he never won a case, Mr. Rosen argues that Arnstein's quixotic claims "engaged some of the finest legal minds of his era, forcing them to refine and sharpen their doctrines."
Those minds included noted jurists Jerome Frank and Learned Hand. Frank went so far as to invoke Jonathan Swift and Friedrich Nietzsche in warning against creating a bad precedent "merely because we may think Arnstein is nutty."

Welcome Back, Carter

All that's missing is the double digit interest rates, otherwise it's that 70s show in the mideast;

Chanting "death to America" and "death to Israel," hundreds of protesters angered by an anti-Islam film stormed the U.S. Embassy compound in Yemen's capital and burned the American flag on Thursday, the latest in a series of attacks on American diplomatic missions in the Middle East.
The string of assaults this week, in Yemen, Egypt and the storming of a U.S. consulate in Libya that killed four Americans, point to an increased boldness among Islamists who have become more powerful since last year's wave of revolts toppled authoritarian leaders.
As John Wayne predicted, apologizing for America is a sign of weakness.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Inordinate fear of banking still alive and kicking

The indefatigable Peter Wallison recently spanked the Housing Cause Denialists over their irrational exuberance for stifling bank lending, with a history lesson;
Glass-Steagall was never repealed. It is still applicable to insured banks and forbids them from underwriting or dealing in securities.  ....
The portions of Glass-Steagall that remained in effect after 1999 prohibited insured banks from underwriting or dealing in securities. However, before and after 1999, banks were permitted to trade (that is, buy and sell) bonds and other fixed-income securities for their own account. This is logical, because these instruments are simply a loan in a securitized form, and loans are the stock-in-trade of banks. Just as Exxon Mobil is allowed to trade oil, banks must be allowed to trade the assets that are an essential part of their business. ....
Insured banks got into trouble in the financial crisis by buying and holding MBS [mortgage backed securities] backed by subprime and other low-quality mortgages, not from trading these instruments. When these loans declined in value in 2007, they caused significant losses to the banks that had invested in them. This is the same thing as saying that banks got into trouble by making bad loans, but it has nothing to do with Glass-Steagall or its supposed repeal. ....
The 1999 change in Glass-Steagall allowed insured banks to be affiliated with investment banks, which could indeed take substantial risks in underwriting, dealing, and trading securities of all types. Investment banks—even those affiliated with insured banks—have no access to insured deposits.....
Although investment banks could take more risks than insured banks and had much higher leverage, the investment banks that got into trouble in the crisis—Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, and Merrill Lynch—were not affiliated with any of the insured banks that had major losses, and thus could not have caused these losses.
And those bad loans were virtually required to be made by the federal government, as former Labour Party politician Oonagh McDonald was saying to the Huffingtonistas;
The 'affordable housing ideology' dominated the American housing market for thirteen years and ultimately destroyed it. It was introduced by President Clinton in 1995 as the National Home Ownership Strategy against a background in which a report produced by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston (1992) argued that they had identified systematic discrimination against minorities in bank lending.
Both the results and the methodology were severely criticised at the time, but that did not prevent it from being extremely influential at the time. When Clinton announced the strategy, he stressed the benefits to families and to society as a whole, since extending home ownership would create a more stable and neighbourly society.
However, committed as he was to a balanced budget, he cut spending on public housing, and instead substituted a strategy which would transfer the costs to the private sector and away from the taxpayer. The route chosen was to amend the Community Reinvestment Act so that banks would obtain an 'outstanding' rating if they increased their loans to carefully defined low income groups. This legislation took effect at the same time as that allowing interstate banking for the first time. Banks had to have an 'outstanding' rating before their regulators gave them permission to engage in a merger or acquisition. 

Over our inordinate fear of Islamism?

It was the 1970s all over again, unfortunately for American diplomats in Libya;

The attacks on US diplomatic compounds in Cairo and Benghazi that left the US ambassador dead are a reminder of two intractable problems.
The first is the difficulty facing two key Arab states which have overthrown their security apparatus – perhaps more will follow – as they try to re-establish security without the brutality on which they have depended in the past.
The second is a more profound culture clash, between Muslims who believe that their faith must be respected, even in non-Muslim countries, and the absolute western belief in free speech.
Irving Kristol is rolling over in his grave; Barack Obama and his State Dept have been mugged by reality.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

So's your old boss

Berkeley economist and former Deputy Asst. Treasury Sec'y Brad DeLong thinks it noteworthy that Paul Ryan is allowed, under Wisconsin law, to run both for re-election to congress and for VP as Mitt Romney's running mate;
....This is doubt, fear, and panic overwhelming rationality…
A precedent set by Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1960, when he had Texas law changed to allow him to run simultaneously for re-election to the Senate and for Vice-President alongside John F. Kennedy.

Which law was taken advantage of by Senator Lloyd Bentsen in 1988 who was on the Texas ballot for both his Senate seat and as Michael Dukakis's running mate.

Which would seem to be something the Prof. would know, since later when Bentsen served as Bill Clinton's first Treasury Sec'y in 1993, DeLong was right there with him.

Update; Prof. DeLong revises and extends his remarks;
[AFAIK, he did not spend any money on ads for his congressional race. That is the interesting thing here...]

But only a Gold Glove first baseman can unmake a tree

The rich are different than you and me, they have time to quarrel over views of the Space Needle;

The owners of the pine, Bruce and Linda Baker, see the natural beauty of a rare tree that stands sentinel over the family's backyard patio.
Olerud, a former Seattle Mariner, one-time American League batting champ and three-time Gold Glove winner, has been asking the Bakers for more than two years if he can pay to have the tree cut down.
For two-plus years, the Bakers have refused.
Now the Oleruds want the Clyde Hill Board of Adjustment to order their neighbors to cut down the tree, saying it unreasonably obstructs the view from their $4 million property facing Lake Washington, Seattle and the Olympic Mountains.
The tree, with a 2-foot-thick trunk, was there long before the Oleruds built their home.
Maybe they should call in the theologicians; 

Olerud doesn't think much of the Chinese pine, shorter and fuller than the towering Douglas firs nearby. Baker has agreed to remove a Colorado spruce behind the pine.
"You guys saw the trees," Olerud said at the board hearing. "They're not attractive trees. I would say they're the kind of tree that only an arborist would love. ...
"I'm just making the point that if you're willing to cut down your own trees to maintain your view and yet you aren't willing to offer that to your neighbor, how is that being a good neighbor?
"The Bible says, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.' That's Jesus' commandment."
To which Baker replied, "I truly believe you're trying to be a good neighbor. That's what's so puzzling about this, that you think it's being a good neighbor to cut down a tree that's important to me that's over 50 years old, and just leave a hole there."
Olerud said he would be willing to buy a replacement tree that wouldn't block his view.

Can Rahmbo Read

Or, maybe more importantly, can the striking school teachers in Chicago read their hometown newspaper's editorials that there are other ways  to do things;

Here in Illinois, as we said, a voucher bill to free 30,000 Chicago public school students has been bottled up in the Legislature for more than two years.
Those are two years during which 30,000 students have been relegated to often low-performing schools.
Two years those kids can't get back.
Two years during which many of their parents desperately sought an alternative only to find ... that Illinois lawmakers beholden to their political allies and campaign donors in organized labor refuse to provide one.
For how many more years will Illinois legislators cheat these students — and tens of thousands like them who now are warehoused in other dead-end schools?
For how many more years will Illinois voters keep re-electing lawmakers who willfully deny these children a fair opportunity to reach for more successful lives?
How many more studies, how many more triumphs for voucher students elsewhere, until Illinois lawmakers are convinced — or shamed — into giving these kids a chance at a decent education?
Something to think about as teachers prepare to walk off the job.