Wednesday, October 31, 2012

They Won't Dance, just ask them...

To politely hand the ball to the referee after they pass the goal line...and collect $250 for their favorite charity;
...the [Jacksonville] Jaguars are doing something dramatic: They're systematically killing off the NFL dance party.
This task—the football version of the town that outlawed dancing in "Footloose"—is the brainchild of first-year head coach Mike Mularkey. He got players to buy into a reduced-celebration policy by introducing a wrinkle into the scheme. Mularkey decided he'd donate to charity every time they handed the ball over to the referees—from there, they were free to celebrate with teammates.
....Mularkey's $250 donation is matched by the Jaguars' foundation and, as the status of the program has grown, seven local companies have pitched in to raise $28,000 this season for the Ronald McDonald House, according to the team.
Where have you gone Steve Largent.

Rule of Thumb

Want a free ride into Manhattan?  Stand around a bridge if you're in Brooklyn for the next few days;

Three of seven flooded subway tunnels connecting Brooklyn and Queens to Manhattan have been pumped out so far.
Starting Wednesday evening, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced at a separate briefing that only vehicles carrying three or more people will be allowed cross the East River bridges into Manhattan. The high-occupancy vehicle rule will be in force Thursday and Friday to limit congestion.

Have a cold?

We'll tax your sneeze, cause we're the Spanish taxman;

Madrid on Wednesday took a leaf out of Catalonia’s book by imposing a surcharge of one euro on prescriptions for medicines issued by the regional health system as part of an austerity budget for next year in which spending on healthcare has been reduced by seven percent as part of savings totaling 2.7 billion euros.
“We will apply a charge of one euro for issuing prescriptions,” regional premier Ignacio González said at a presentation of the budget in which spending at been capped at 17.048 billion euros. “This is a measure of a dissuasive nature to encourage the efficient use of medicines.”
González said households had some 200 million euros’ worth of drugs in their medicine cabinets at home.
Could give new meaning to dead-weight loss.

At least it'll be safe to go back into the water

Happy Halloween...unless you're unlucky enough to still be Germaine Greer;

Hallowe’en is the time when we celebrate the netherworld, by which is usually meant the world of the dead, the underworld. We like to frighten ourselves and each other by inventing spooky stuff – zombies, ghosts: all unconvincing, which is partly why we do it.
By being pretend-frightened of fictions, we can shrug off real threats. It might be fun to pretend to be frightened by plastic creepy-crawlies; but we should be frightened for real creepy-crawlies.
When the sharks are disappearing from the seas and the ice caps are melting, it is time to be frightened. When today’s witches try to scare you, they mean it. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Ill wind blows down good intentions

Even on, this sceptred isle, this demi-paradise, the happy breed of men can stand a little relief from the presumptions of their 'betters', and get it;

[UK energy minister] John Hayes said that we can “no longer have wind turbines imposed on communities” and added that it “seems extraordinary” they have allowed to spread so much throughout the country.
The energy minister said he had ordered a new analysis of the case for onshore wind power which would form the basis of future government policy, rather than “a bourgeois Left article of faith based on some academic perspective”. The comments sparked speculation that Conservative ministers are planning to drop their support for wind farms — a move which would trigger a major Coalition rift.
Mr Hayes, who was appointed energy minister in last month’s reshuffle, is understood to believe that there should be a moratorium on new onshore wind farms. Almost 4,000 turbines are set to be built across Britain in the coming years.

Smart Set

All work, even when at play, makes John Bullish (almost American);

An extra 460 hours are worked by people who use mobile devices, according to a new study.
The researchers claim that users with email on their phones check for new messages 20 times a day, adding as much as two hours to each individual day.
In a separate study for TripAdvisor, researchers also found that the majority of people check their emails while on holiday, and roughly the same numbers make calls to their workplace.
Pixmania’s study found that the average working day is now up to 12 hours long as users spend nine or 10 hours at work and another two making work phone calls or sending work emails. One in ten admitted to spending up to three hours checking work emails, either on a phone or a computer.
Recessions must concentrate the mind, as the OECD puts most of Europe near the bottom of hours worked annually, and has for some time.

Should Scott Sumner Cry?

Now that he no longer has Minnesota to conquer;
Unfortunately, public discussion about the Fed often centers on the financial transactions that we undertake to achieve our goals. I think that this focus on our actions, as opposed to our goals, is always misleading and is especially so right now. The FOMC has provided a historically unprecedented amount of monetary accommodation. But the U.S. economy is recovering from the largest adverse shock in 80 years—and a historically unprecedented shockshould lead to a historically unprecedented monetary policy response. We should always judge the appropriateness of the Fed’s policies in terms of how the economy is doing relative to the two Main Street goals that Congress has set for the FOMC. Such a comparison does not suggest that monetary policy is currently too easy.
That's the President of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, Narayana Kocherlakota conceding that Sumner (if we may allowed to mix our martial metaphors) Venit, Vidit, Vicit.

Unfortunately, Kocherlakota prefaces that concession with a misleading explanation of how monetary policy is conducted, with a focus on interest rates.  HIs audience would have been better served if he'd instead explained that interest rates are not the price of money, and are a poor way to evaluate central bank policies.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Blast from the past

In 2007, Duke economist Mike Munger looked at human perversity during a natural disaster;

But the police are charged with upholding the law, even the dumb ones (laws, not police). Someone must have made a call, because two Raleigh police cars and an unmarked car pulled up to the Five Points truck after about an hour. The officers talked to the sellers, talked to some buyers, still holding their ice, and confirmed that the price was much higher than the "correct" price of $1.75 (the cost of a bag of ice before the storm). The officers did their duty, and arrested the yahoos.
Apparently the truck was then driven to the police impoundment lot in downtown Raleigh, as evidence. The ice may or may not have melted (accounts vary), but it certainly was not given out to citizens.
And now we are back to where I started: the citizens, the prospective buyers being denied a chance to buy ice...they clapped. Clapped, cheered, and hooted, as the vicious ice sellers were handcuffed and arrested. Some of those buyers had been standing in line for five minutes or more, and had been ready to pay 4 times as much as the maximum price the state would allow. And they clapped as the police, at gunpoint, took that opportunity away from them.
They clapped!

Schneiderman to New York

'Drop dead.'  Because the state's Att'y General doesn't want anyone providing their fellow man with the necessities;
Vendors of essential items such as food, water, gas and batteries are prohibited from price-gouging during the tempest, warned New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. And as public transportation shuts down, the law against emergency-time inflation also applies to taxi drivers, he said.
Violators “will ultimately see a reduction in their profits, [be] faced with penalties, fines and directives to set up reimbursement funds,” Schneiderman said in a statement.
So, don't think about bringing bottled water and flashlight batteries into Gotham, unless you are prepared to do the time, if you do the crime.

Heal thyself

Better living through chemistry, not just a marketing slogan;

...what if we made things from materials that can heal themselves - like a plant or animal heals a wound?
According to experts, the first products with truly self-healing properties may be just around the corner. was a 2001 study by led by Scott White from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, that really helped to kick-start the field.
The group infused a plastic-like polymer with microscopic capsules containing a liquid healing agent. Cracking open the material caused the capsules to rupture, releasing the healing agent. When the agent made contact with a catalyst embedded in the material, a chemical reaction bonded the two faces of the crack together. The polymer recovered some 75% of its original toughness.
Practical applications would be automobile paints that healed when scratched or cracked concrete; 

Small cracks are a routine outcome of concrete hardening. But over time water and chemicals get inside the fractures and corrode the concrete.
The solution developed at TU Delft could improve the service life of the structure - promising considerable cost savings. Harmless calcite-producing bacteria, along with nutrients, are embedded in the concrete mixture. When water activates the dormant spores, the microbes feed on the nutrients to produce limestone, patching up cracks and small holes.

Exported from Detroit

To Italy?  No, not the autos, the auto plants, according to Bloomberg;

Fiat’s problems are bigger than many rivals’ because its troubled home country accounts for half its sales in the region. Its plants in Italy, where car sales are on pace to plunge this year to the lowest level in more than three decades, are running at 50 percent of capacity, far below the 80 percent threshold typically considered profitable.
To counter the severe slump in European sales, [Fiat SpA (F) Chief Executive Officer Sergio] Marchionne is considering building Chrysler models in Italy, including Jeeps, for export to North America. The Italian government is evaluating tax rebates on export goods to help Fiat. Marchionne may announce details of his plan as soon as Oct. 30, the people said.
“This makes sense on multiple levels” as it will boost plant utilization and would cap “Chrysler’s own potential, limiting the likely cost to Fiat shareholders of buying out the Chrysler minorities,” Stuart Pearson, an analyst at Morgan Stanley in London, said in a note to investors today. 
He who campaigns for President on economic fallacy, deserves to die by economic fallacy. 

Back to the Future

Necessity...mother...[re-]invention, maybe every cloud does have a silver lining;

All 10 subway tunnels between Manhattan and Brooklyn were flooded during the storm, as the saltwater surge inundated signals, switches and third rails and covered tracks with sludge, she said.
The entire system wasn't flooded and the authority was already pumping water Tuesday. Workers ultimately will have to walk all the hundreds of miles of track to inspect it, she said, and it wasn't clear how long that would take. Trains had been moved to safety before the storm.
The 108-year-old subway system "has never faced a disaster as devastating as what we experienced last night," Chairman Joseph Lhota said in a statement.
As devoted readers of HSIB know, the NYC subway would not exist but for the entrepreneurial efforts of one August Belmont (also a famous breeder of race horses; The Belmont Stakes).  If they want their subway restored, maybe the private, profit-seeking sector has the answers. 

What are the odds?

The good news is you didn't drown...but, then, you were never in danger of doing so, and now your car is ruined thanks to the Safety Fascists;
Reggie Thomas, a maintenance supervisor at a prison located within striking distance of the overflowing Hudson River, emerged from an overnight shift there, a toothbrush in his front pocket, to find his 2011 Honda with its windows down and a foot of water inside. The windows automatically go down when the car is submerged to free drivers. It left his car with a foot of water inside, and unable to start.
We're sure it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Yo, ho, ho, more guns...less piracy

Not as much fun when the victims are packing heat (isn't that what John Lott keeps saying?), so piracy is declining;

Figures released by the International Maritime Organisation show a dramatic drop in piracy this year. It catalogued just 70 incidents in the first nine months, a 75 per cent fall off from the same period in 2011 and a three year low.
Mr Kelly said that the combination of increased patrolling by navies from the US, Europe and Asia as well as the employment of armed guards on ships was a turning point in the battle against piracy.
"There was a lot of reticence in a lot of places about using these crews but people learned through experience that this was a critically important factor in reducing the number of instances," Mr Kelly said. "Its hard enough to climb up the side of a ship with a Kalashnikov on your back but it's harder when you have some someone shooting down at you."
Four fifths of container ships and tankers now carry armed guards, leaving pirates with fewer targets to go after.
"Pirates break off attack and look for softer targets," he said. "We estimate 80 per cent of ships are using private security. We'd like it to be 100 per cent."

Let them eat shrapnel

The spirit of Joseph Stalin still lives in North Korea, and it's not healthy to be a General;

Kim Chol, vice minister of the army, was taken into custody earlier this year on the orders of Kim Jong-un, who assumed the leadership after the death of his father in December.
On the orders of Kim Jong-un to leave "no trace of him behind, down to his hair," according to South Korean media, Kim Chol was forced to stand on a spot that had been zeroed in for a mortar round and "obliterated."
The execution of Kim Chol is just one example of a purge of members of the North Korean military or party who threatened the fledgling regime of Kim Jong-un.
To whom much is given, much is expected? 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

We should have lots of experts hanging around

What with all the collapsed bridges over the years in the state of Washington (Galloping Gertie over the Tacoma Narrows in 1940, the floating bridges at Hood Canal and Lake Washington, 1979 and 1990 respectively), one would think it a little late in the day to be thinking about their safety only now;

Gov. Chris Gregoire says she wants an independent expert panel to review the safety of pontoons being built for the new floating bridge across Lake Washington.
The governor’s statement came after news reports on construction flaws found in the first pontoons built for the new Highway 520 bridge.
Gregoire told KOMO-TV on Friday that “based on what I saw in your report I want another independent expert panel to review” the pontoons. The governor promised that Washington citizens would be protected.
Gregoire will be leaving the governorship to someone else after November's election, so it will be up to whomever to keep her promise. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Teddy Ballgame...that's where

Bobby Knight draws the line.  Everything else is not worth the opportunity cost;

"John Havlicek and I were just talking one day about all the stuff we had accumulated over the years," Knight said Monday from the Denver airport, referring to his college teammate at Ohio State who went on to a Hall of Fame career with the Boston Celtics. "As we talked we decided the money could be very useful to put our grandchildren through college."
So you can bid on his NCAA Championship rings, Olympics apparel, and maybe even a chair or two he threw, but for a fellow curmudgeon, he has a soft spot;
"I have some things Ted Williams gave me," Knight said of the baseball Hall of Famer. "He was very special to me, so I will never part with those things."

This time IS different

If we take economists Guillermo Calvo, Fabrizio Coricelli, and Pablo Ottonello's word for it;
The evidence reported in [our] paper suggests that a sharp dosage of price inflation for a limited period of time may go a long way to restoring full employment after financial crises, albeit at the cost of lower real wages. One should note, however, that in the average high-inflation EM [emerging market] episode covered by our sample, inflation spiked up at the beginning of those episodes but later subsided, and did not result in permanently higher inflation.
To which, Bentley's Scott Sumner, has the obvious reaction;
So financial crises tend to lead to slow recoveries only when accompanied by tight money.  One more nail in the conventional wisdom about the recent recession.
That conventional wisdom being, that this isn't a recession caused by overly tight monetary policy.  Most notably, seemingly, promoted by Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff.

Five years after the onset of the 2007 subprime financial crisis:
  • GDP per capita in the US remains below its initial level;
  • Unemployment, although down from its peak, is still hovering near 8%.
Rather than the V-shaped recovery that is typical of most postwar recessions, growth has been slow and halting.
Based on our research (Reinhart and Rogoff, 2009), this disappointing performance should not be surprising. We have presented evidence that recessions that are associated with a systemic banking crisis tend to be deep and protracted, and that this pattern is seen in historical and cross-country comparisons. 
Which circularity in reasoning should be obvious (pace Prof. Sumner).

And, even worse news for Housing Cause Denialists (they know who they are, but prominently include Paul Krugman) who have been at pains to deny that without the policy interventions in the housing market, from the early 1990s (the GSE Act of 1992, HUD's Best Practices Initiative of 1994), none of this would have happened.

Reinhart and Rogoff, after all, do call it the subprime financial crisis, and subprime was a tiny sliver of the overall mortgage market before the federal government launched its assault on traditional home lending.  So, the stage should never have been set for the tight monetary policy that Prof. Sumner has been railing against since 2008.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Nobelister than thou

Is April Fool's Day coming late this year?  It appears that Michael Mann, in his lawsuit against people for making fun of his hockey stick, has, er...stretched the truth;
Dr. Mann is a climate scientist whose research has focused on global warming. In 2007, along with Vice President Al Gore and his colleagues of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize....
Will he wear his medal in the courtroom?  Probably not, thinks defendant Mark Steyn;

In 2007, Dr Mann was one of approximately 700 reviewers to review the findings of approximately 600 authors of one working group of the Fourth Assessment Report. However, he was one of a select group of a mere 2,000 people to receive a “commemorative certificate of involvement” — not from the Nobel committee, but from Dr Rajendra Pachauri of the IPCC.
So, in that sense, yes, indeed, he “was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.”
 But, take this Mr. Laureate;
In the same spirit, I see that I’ve just been awarded the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize. Under Ireland’s citizenship law, I’m an Irish national (through my father). Ireland is a member of the European Union. The EU has just been given the Nobel Peace Prize. QED. Come to think of it, my mother’s Belgian, so I’ve been awarded two Nobel Peace Prizes.

Don't know much about creating art?

Get yourself some elves with the Right Stuff, sit back and rake in the dough, according to Tom Wolfe;

'No Hands art.' ...Wolfe’s term for conceptual art, because so many of the top conceptual artists never touch their own artworks. Their job is to come up with the concept, and thereafter keep their hands clean. Richard Serra, for example, sends a sketch of some steel walls to a foundry. Once the walls have been manufactured, he hires a crew of 'elves’, as Wolfe calls them, to arrange the walls in a pattern.
'Jeff Koons is another one, a big, big name. He got his elves to build a 45ft bunny rabbit with things planted all over it to give it a kind of fur. He briefly married a famous Italian porn star. He had pictures taken by a photographer of them having at it in every possible way. I’m sure he didn’t even put them in the envelope, but the photographs were sent to the elves in Switzerland, who returned them in the form of three-dimensional glass sculptures, like pornographic Lalique, and these have brought tremendous prices.’
Once Wolfe gets talking about the art world, it’s hard to stop him, and pretty soon he’s chuckling over Damien Hirst’s $8 million shark, which is now rotting in a Connecticut mansion. 'Hirst offered to replace it with another one. Hah!’
Then he goes into a long, nostalgic reverie about Andy Warhol, the first artist really to mock the art world. 'I wouldn’t go across the street if they were handing out Warhols myself, but you have to hand it to him. His influence was extraordinary and yet he was making a joke of the very people who took him so seriously. He had very little physical personality, but he managed to appear charismatic to people in that world. I’ve never seen that done before. No Hands art goes straight back to Warhol. He was the first to use elves.’

Juste entre nous les filles

Call her old-fashioned, but appearances matter to her;

Two thirds of the French now disapprove of Miss Trierweiler, who moved into the Elysée Palace with her partner, President Francois Hollande, in May.
Their disaffection for the 47-year old Paris Match journalist has been attributed to her confusing relationship with the Socialist leader and her public feuding with his ex-partner.
In her first interview since leaving the Elysée six months ago, Mrs Bruni-Sarkozy suggested the twice-divorced Miss Trierweiler become the wife of Mr Hollande, who has never married.
"I think it is simpler to be the legitimate wife of the head of state rather than being his partner," she told the new edition of French Elle magazine.
She added: "Maybe I'm wrong and their choice is a modern one. But for my part I felt a real easing of the general worry about me when I married Nicolas."

Risky Bidness?

Deep in the heart of Texas lurks die Autobahn, and you pay to play in the traffic;

On Wednesday, workers removed barricades at entrances and exits on the new 41-mile-long section of the Texas 130 tollway south of Austin, and drivers began doing something they've never done legally in Texas: go 85 mph.
The Legislature, based on a law it passed last year, thought driving that speed — a higher limit than on any other road in America — will be safe, or at least sufficiently safe to justify the time savings and other economic benefits it could bring to drivers and the state. That includes a $100 million payment to the Texas Department of Transportation (tied to the higher speed limit) from the company that built the tollway, will operate it and will pocket the toll revenue for the next 50 years.
Round up the usual killjoys; 
But some traffic-safety experts say that when a speed limit is increased, drivers typically go faster; that when speeds increase there are more accidents; and that more people die in those accidents because of the greater forces involved.
But the cowboys ain't cooperatin';

Since the Legislature last year broadened TxDOT's authority to set 75-mph limits and higher, the Texas Transportation Commission has been increasing limits almost monthly. There are now almost 7,000 miles of Texas roads with a 75-mph limit and 575 miles where it is legal to go 80 mph. That's almost 10 percent of the state highway system.
Carol Rawson, director of TxDOT's traffic-operations division, said data from those two West Texas interstates, as well as two Austin-area tollways that for several months have had 80-mph speed limits, buttress the idea that speeds and fatality rates on Texas 130 will not necessarily skyrocket.
In the three-year period before the 80-mph limit went into effect on I-10 and I-20, that 520 miles of highway saw 103 traffic fatalities, or about 34 deaths per year. In the next six years, there have been 146 deaths, or 24 per year. That's a decrease, on an annual basis, of about 29 percent.
"It says to me the speed didn't impact the numbers," Rawson said. "I think the 85 (on Texas 130) is safe and prudent." 
Podnahs, start yer engines. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Beats Communism

But, then, what doesn't.  Vietnam slowly crawls up the ladder, amidst problems that sound familiar;

Vietnam’s economic performance has been marred by large swings in economic and financial conditions. The inability to respond quickly to changing conditions, the pro-growth bias of the State Bank of Vietnam, as well as a 'stop and go' policy style highlighted by the tightening and loosening of countercyclical policies in quick succession partly explain this. Further, the problems facing Vietnam are symptomatic of deeper underlying issues. Inefficient state-owned enterprises and weaknesses in the banking system need to be addressed expeditiously with measures such as strengthening corporate governance, enforcing stricter standards for recognising bad loans, and equitising state banks. Fortunately, total external debt levels are low and most external debt is concessional. However, some risks remain – contingent liabilities from state-owned enterprises and the financial sector are not captured under public and publicly-guaranteed debt statistics and pose some risks to fiscal sustainability.
Despite these challenges, Vietnam remains attractive to investors given its burgeoning middle class and favourable demographics. In the medium-to-long term however, productivity gains must begin to make up for the weaker growth that will come from a dwindling demographic dividend (McKinsey 2012)3. But first, the country must get the basics right, chief among which is maintaining macroeconomic stability. For Vietnam to encourage a stable, sustainable macroeconomic environment, it should implement structural reforms and not prematurely relax fiscal and monetary policy to protect growth at all costs.
Now that the country is no longer a pawn in the Cold War, can't hurt either.

Economists who laugh last...

At the old 'applications barrier to entry' theory, which was one of the main complaints in the anti-trust case of the (late) 20th century, US v. Microsoft.

Remember the glory days of Gary Reback ('all progress will come to a halt'), Paul David (Clio and the Economics of QWERTY) and Brian Arthur ('lock-in by historical accident'), Thomas Penfield Jackson (“the amount it would cost an operating system vendor to create [70,000] applications is prohibitively large.”)?

That was yesterday's news...the worm has turned...the bloom is off the rose...old disappeared almost as fast as a St. Louis Cardinal lead in a playoff series;

As Microsoft prepares to launch Windows 8 at a media event Thursday in New York, getting developers to create apps for the operating system is one of the biggest questions hovering over the company. It's particularly crucial to the success of Windows RT, the Windows 8 version designed to run on ARM-based tablets competing directly with Apple's iPad.
Unlike Windows 8 machines, devices running Windows RT will not be able to run legacy or desktop Windows apps (other than the Office suite that comes with the devices). Rather, customers will have to rely on apps available only through the online Windows Store.
"Without stellar apps, Windows RT is a machine that runs Office and a Web browser," said Wes Miller, an analyst with independent research firm Directions on Microsoft in Kirkland. But "if developers build the apps, that's what drives the platform."
Laugh heartily, Stan and Steve. You earned the right.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Supply is Demand

A lesson in Say's Law (or, another reason why it's good for Americans to be able to buy tires at low prices from China);
Even as the presidential candidates try to outdo each other in promising to get tough on Chinese exports to protect U.S. jobs, experts say the more immediate threat to American workers may actually be the slowing of sales to China, which has bid up the price of much of what the United States sent overseas in recent years.
....Five industries — machinery, computers and electronics, chemicals, transportation equipment, and waste and scrap — accounted for 62 percent of exports to China in August, according to Census Bureau data.
But the impact is felt beyond those categories. That’s because Chinese demand pumped up prices globally for commodities like coal, paper and many kinds of metal.
....Exports of steel and iron scrap — among the top products exported to China from the United States — are down 53 percent this year from the comparable period in 2011, according to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, a trade group.
Prices are down roughly 30 percent as a result, said Joel Denbo, chief executive at Tennessee Valley Recycling in Decatur, Ala. Denbo’s family founded the company 105 years ago, and he’s struggling to avoid layoffs among his work force of 175.
“People are asking me, ‘Boss, what do we do?’” he said. “We don’t want to lose a single man or woman.”
Exports of recycled paper from the United States — which comes back from Asia in the form of cardboard boxes — are also off sharply, putting pressure on local recycling and waste pickup companies, as prices for their products slip.
“China is such a large market for paper, particularly in North America, that you can’t hide from that,” said Joe Fusco, vice president of Casella Waste Systems in Rutland, Vt., which serves rural New England, upstate New York and part of Pennsylvania.
If China can't sell tires to the US market they can't earn dollars with which to buy things.  Neither Barack Obama, nor Mitt Romney seemed to be aware of that simple rule in the now concluded debates.

How many divisions does Rachel Maddow have?

But I think Governor Romney maybe hasn't spent enough time looking at how our military works. You — you mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets — (laughter) — because the nature of our military's changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.
'Ships' don't go underwater.  U Boats do, and in '1916' one sank the Lusitania, eventually resulting in America's entry in WWI.  (They were in use as early as the American Civil War, and Admiral Farragut was famously aware of torpedoes)

Aircraft carriers have been around since the 1920s.  Perhaps someone growing up in Hawaii should be aware of an attack on Pearl Harbor launched from them in 1941.

Want cold hard steel?  The Taliban don't;
A soldier who led a four-man bayonet charge through a hail of Taliban gunfire has been awarded the Military Cross.
That was just last month.  Barack Obama may well have to quit his day job soon, but it won't be to become a military historian.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Tough room

The quakes didn't run on time, so the seismologists are guilty;

Among those convicted Monday were some of Italy's best known and most internationally respected seismologists and geological experts, including Enzo Boschi, former head of the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology.
"I am dejected, desperate," Boschi said. "I thought I would have been acquitted. I still don't understand what I was convicted of."
The trial began in September 2011 in this Apennine town, whose devastated historic center is still largely deserted.
The defendants were accused of giving "inexact, incomplete and contradictory information" about whether small tremors felt by L'Aquila residents in the weeks and months before the April 6, 2009, quake should have been grounds for a warning.
The 6.3-magnitude temblor killed 308 people in and around the medieval town and forced survivors to live in tent camps for months.
Many much smaller tremors had rattled the area in the previous months, causing frightened people to wonder if they should evacuate.
"I consider myself innocent before God and men," said another convicted defendant, Bernardo De Bernardinis, a former official of the national Civil Protection Agency.
Prosecutors had sought convictions and four-year sentences during the trial. They argued that the L'Aquila disaster was tantamount to "monumental negligence," and cited the devastation wrought in 2005 when levees failed to protect New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.
What about the Italian economists who thought leaving the Lira for the Euro was such a great idea? 

More Education for David Stockman

From his former colleague Alan Reynolds; people who create glass investment houses shouldn't throw stones;

Anyone who believed Stockman’s gloomy 1986 book about how “Reaganomics failed,” or Greider’s book about how Stockmanomics failed, might easily have missed the 1985–1999 bull run. So did Stockman, apparently. After an uninspiring post-political tour as director of dubious mergers and acquisitions at the defunct Salomon Brothers investment bank (which took him on tour among money managers as a political showpiece), Stockman then failed as a wheeler-dealer with Blackstone. 
Stockman “became known internally for hyping bad deals and arguing against investments championed by others,” Dan Primack reported in Fortune magazine. 
....Is Stockman saying the Fed was too easy for the entire 1985–1999 span, when Bain was outperforming all rivals? Why didn’t easy money help the others, or Stockman? Is he suggesting the boom in tech stocks had nothing to do with the birth of the Internet and smartphone industries in 1996?
....Fortunately, Newsweek promises to stop publishing by the end of the year. Unfortunately, that turns out to be too late to avoid this extra entry to their recent record as a forum for sensational, opinionated, partisan nonsense. Both Newsweek and David Stockman could have accepted their embarrassing failures with far more humility, dignity, and grace.

Just a Fluke

Sandra...and her fifteen minutes of fame appear to be up;
In a clear sign that the War on Women has been won, Sandra Fluke played to a crowd of 10 on Saturday in a "get out the vote" effort in the battleground state of Nevada. 
Nor did she wow Ohio;
On October 4 in Lorain County, Ohio, Fluke spoke to "25 to 30" people at Democratic campaign headquarters. 
Nor Iowa;
On October 1, Fluke, Tate Donovan, and local politicians stopped at the Old Cap in Davenport, IA, speaking to a crowd of "a couple dozen supporters." 

Taboos Rn't Her

The fearless Ann Coulter again mans up.  This time it's another hidden in plain sight outrage of the political left; alleged racism that's more psychological projection--on the part of liberals--than fact.  The country's been Mugged, and she's pressing charges.

The Civil Rights movement had a lot more Republicans to thank than Democrats.  In fact, it was Democrats who largely caused the problem in the first place.  The slave South was Democrat (Lincoln was a Republican, we shouldn't have to remind anyone).  Jim Crow laws--which, post Civil War, continued slavery under other means--were enacted and enforced overwhelmingly by Democrats.

Legally enforced, segregated public transit, drinking fountains and lunch counters; thank Democrats.  Ku Klux Klan members on the Supreme Court (Hugo
Black) and in the Senate (Robert Byrd); Democrats.  Georgia's Lester Maddox, Arkansas's Orval Faubus and J. Wm. Fulbright, George Wallace; all virulent segregationists and all Democrats (Bill Clinton awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to his mentor Fulbright).

13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments which ended slavery and gave former slaves equal protection under the law; thank Republicans. Virtually every civil rights statute from the late 19th century through the mid-60s would not have passed into law but for Republican votes.

It wasn't until Lyndon Baines Johnson, cynically exploited blacks by signing the the 1964 Civil Rights Act (passed with more Republican than Democrat support), because he could read the changed public mood of lessened tolerance for white racists, that the Democrats suddenly became the party of civil rights.

Coulter points out that the belief that LBJ said he was signing over the South to Republicans by signing the Act, was entirely the invention of Johnson hatchet man Bill Moyers.  That former Air Force One steward, Robert MacMillan said, in his memoir, that he overheard Johnson boasting to two governors, that he'd, 'have the niggers voting Democratic for two hundred years', by his action.

Give LBJ his due; he was an astute politician and could count votes.

The other main theme of Mugged is that liberals (including some Republicans, such as NYC Mayor John Lindsey) then used civil rights as cover for (essentially) socialism.  An excuse to expand their own favored industry; government, at taxpayer expense.  However the real costs of that were paid by the ostensible beneficiaries; Black Americans, whose illegitimacy and crime rates sky-rocketed as the incentives introduced by pandering politicians had their entirely predictable results.

All the usual suspects are rounded up; Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Maxine Waters...and...Race-Hustler-in-Chief Barack Obama.  Coulter paraphrases Obama (on why she read his 'autobiography'), about why he read Conrad's Heart of Darkness, as; help me understand just what it is that makes black people so afraid.  Their demons.  The way ideas get twisted around. It helps me understand how people learn to hate.
A paraphrase that merely swaps 'black' for his 'white'. That's in chapter 15, Obama, Race Demagogue.  She also quotes from him what she says (with much justification) has been the basis for his entire political career; of those tricks I had learned. People were satisfied so long as you were courteous and smiled and made no sudden moves.  They were more than satisfied, they were relieved--such a pleasant surprise to find a well-mannered young black man who didn't seem angry all the time.
Well, it worked well enough to defeat Hillary in the Democrat's primary.

Ponzi is, as Ponzi does

Or maybe Paul Krugman's mama once said, but he's forgotten;
Take the common claim on the right that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme because the system has few real assets. It’s true that Social Security is mainly a system in which each generation pays for the previous generation’s retirement, in the expectation that it will receive the same treatment from the next generation. But like monetary circulation, this process can go on forever; there’s nothing unsustainable about it (yes, demography, but that’s about the levels of taxes and benefits, not the fundamental nature of the scheme). So there’s nothing Ponziesque at all.
Except that he once thought it was;
"Social Security ... does not look like a redistributionist scheme. In practice it has turned out to be strongly redistributionist, but only because of its Ponzi game aspect, in which each generation takes more out than it put in.  
 "Well, the Ponzi game will soon be over, thanks to changing demographics, so that the typical recipient henceforth will get only about as much as he or she put in (and today's young may well get less than they put in)."    -- Paul Krugman, in the Boston Review, December/January, 1996-7. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pot, Kettle, Black Award II

Again, to Berkeley's J. Bradford DeLong for;

If China were to decide to spend less of its earnings from exports to the U.S. buying our debt and more buying our goods, interest rates would not go up--remember, the Federal Reserve is pegging short-term safe nominal interest rates at zero--but production and employment would.
Paging Rob Portman to the white courtesy phone, please.
The fact that Republican High Politicians do not get briefings teaching them basic income-expenditure macroeconomics is one of many, many, many reasons not to vote Republican. And it is a reason to ask senior Republican economists--I'm looking at you, Glenn Hubbard, Greg Mankiw, John Taylor, Marty Feldstein, Eddie Lazear--what the f*&$ they think they are doing.
So, if the economy were to pick up steam (whether due to Chinese buying more American products or not) the abnormally low interest rates prevailing in America today would not rise?

We are tempted to ask, WTf*&$ are they teaching at Berkeley these days?

Tebow, or not Tebow

That is one of the silliest questions ever likely to come before a court;

Dropping to a knee like Tim Tebow might cost you now.
The New York Jets backup quarterback is trademarking "Tebowing," a move in which he goes down on one knee and holds a clenched fist against his forehead while praying during games.
....The devout Christian says his representatives filed on his behalf not for financial gain, but "to just control how it's used, make sure it's used in the right way."

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Pot, Kettle, Black Award winner

To Berkeley economist and former Clinton Administration Treasury official J. Bradford DeLong for;'s not just that economic advisors give their political masters the free gift of endorsements in return for vague promises of future high federal office. Politicians also do craft their messages and their policies to win validation from economists. 
Far be it from HSIB to argue with an expert.

Time, time, time

Isn't on your side, no, it isn't, say four European economists (Berman,de Sousa, Martin, and Mayer, if there's a financial crisis (Reihnart and Rogoff, call your offices);
In our research we find that the fall in international trade caused by financial crises is magnified by the time needed to ship goods between the origin and the destination country.
....even in normal times there is an opportunity cost to time that can be measured broadly by the cost of capital.
  • During a financial crisis, time to ship widens exposure to financial mishap in the importing firm and thus raises the chance of non-payment.
Long delays are never good but they can be especially bad when the financial health of the buyer is up in the air.
  • Crucially, time to ship does not in this case simply represent an extra cost – it increases the elasticity of exports to the expected cost of default. 
Time to ship therefore magnifies the negative effect of financial crises on trade. 
Not that this has much, if anything to do with the spat in the econosphere among Reinhart, Rogoff, Krugman, Taylor, Bordo et al over the expected recovery times from recessions, but some remarks from commenter Mark Sadowski at The Money Illusion are too well put to not deserve some mention;
Well, R&R’s definition of financial crisis mostly deals with things that aren’t relevant to the US Great Recession. They identify five kinds of financial crisis: 1) external sovereign default, 2) domestic sovereign default, 3) exchange rate crisis, 4) inflation crisis and 5) banking crisis. Thus their definition of financial crisis is primarily focused on issues involving public debt (exchange rate crisis and inflation crises can be a form of sovereign default), and the most serious crises nearly always involve current account reversals. The US Great Recession may have boosted public debt levels, but even R&R classify it only as a banking crisis, and if anything the global financial crisis has led to an inflow of foreign capital seeking safety. Furthermore, only a small fraction of the cases examined by R&R are banking crises involving high income countries under high capital mobility. Thus it’s not clear to me how relevant most of R&R’s research is to the US Great Recession.
...if you restrict yourself to US financial crises, even limiting yourself to R&R’s list, the current recovery is weak even correcting for trend (I’ve looked at this in terms of both NGDP and RGDP). And if you include the 1974 and 1982 recession, which is not as an outrageous idea as I initially thought, it looks even worse. More importantly, I’m not even sure what the direction of causality from recession to financial crises is, provided one can even agree on an appropriate definition of “financial crisis” with respect to the US.
I’ve always felt that what has made the current recession so bad are the poor monetary, fiscal and regulatory policies that led to it, and the poor policy responses to it. In my opinion the evocation of R&R’s “This Time is Different” has almost always been simply an excuse to do nothing.  

Friday, October 19, 2012

Like the Cuban economy?

The evil that this man did lived alongside him;

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and his state of health is so precarious that he has trouble feeding, speaking and recognizing people, said a Venezuelan physician who assured El Nuevo Herald that he has access to firsthand sources and information.
“He suffered an embolic stroke and recognizes absolutely no one,” said José Marquina, a respected doctor who in the past has claimed to have direct information about the illness affecting President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela.
“The people with a condition of this nature have difficulty eating and, of course, they end up with total deficit in their neurologic capacities.”
Who will the beautiful people visit now?

Read more here:

Turn out the lights, the Occupy party is over

According to Alan Reynolds of Cato;

Citing Piketty and Saez, for example, Stiglitz concludes (2012: 7) that, “the rich are getting richer . . . the poor are becoming poorer and more numerous, and . . . the incomes of the middle class are stagnating or falling.”  On the contrary, this paper shows that (1) the rich were becoming much poorer in 2008-2010, that (2) the poor became less numerous whenever the top 1 percent’s share increased, and that (3) real after-tax median household incomes rose by 48.8 percent from 1980 to 2009 (CBO).  Such a wide gap between perception and reality, even among prominent economists, requires more careful reexamination of many alleged facts.
 Which would explain how ordinary people have so much stuff these days--flat screen TVs, computers and handheld devices, automobiles that go 100,000 miles without needing their spark plugs changed, larger houses with more bathrooms....

Though this be madness...

There may be a method actor in it, according to a Swedish study;

The results confirmed those of their previous study: certain mental illness – bipolar disorder – is more prevalent in the entire group of people with artistic or scientific professions, such as dancers, researchers, photographers and authors. Authors specifically also were more common among most of the other psychiatric diseases (including schizophrenia, depression, anxiety syndrome and substance abuse) and were almost 50 per cent more likely to commit suicide than the general population.
The researchers also observed that creative professions were more common in the relatives of patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anorexia nervosa and, to some extent, autism. According to Simon Kyaga, consultant in psychiatry and doctoral student at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, the results give cause to reconsider approaches to mental illness.
Possibly a good thing that Barack Obama wasn't able to write his own books.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Don't know why, there's no sun up in the sky

Maybe the world's politicians can't make up their minds what economic policies work, say two IMF economists (Kose and Terrones);

Empirical evidence suggests that uncertainty tends to be detrimental to economic growth. The growth rate of output is negatively correlated with macroeconomic uncertainty. Our empirical analysis indicates that one standard deviation increase in uncertainty is associated with a decline in output growth of between 0.4 and 1.25 percentage points depending on the measure of macroeconomic uncertainty.... Policy-induced uncertainty is also negatively associated with growth. ...policy uncertainty has increased to record levels since the Great Recession. Specifically, the increase in policy uncertainty between 2006 and 2011 was about five standard deviations.
This sharp increase in policy uncertainty may have stymied growth in advanced economies by 2 and a half percentage points during this period ....The degree of economic uncertainty also appears to be related to the depth of recessions and strength of recoveries. In particular, recessions accompanied by high uncertainty are often deeper than other recessions ....
Similarly, recoveries coinciding with periods of elevated uncertainty are weaker than other recoveries. The unusually high levels of uncertainty the global economy experienced since the 2007-2009 financial crisis and the associated episodes of deep recessions and weak recoveries play an important role in explaining these findings.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

We'll call it the Candy Clock

Lincoln and Douglas got by without a moderator, but that was before the chess clock was invented;
A "chess clock" is actually two connected timepieces, constructed so that only one clock may run at a time. An analog clock has two large buttons on its upper surface; when one of these buttons is pressed, theother clock starts running. So, to begin a game of chess, the player of the Black pieces (right) presses his clock's button to start the White player's clock.
Each debater could be given 45 minutes of talk time, to be used at his or her discretion.  If someone interrupted  while his opponent was speaking, the speaker could hit the button and put the interrupter 'on the clock', so rudeness would not decrease a polite debater's time.

When a debater's time expired he would be required to leave the floor, and his opponent would continue to make his case until his time expired.

No more egotistical journalists injecting themselves into the proceedings.  The best ideas are usually the simplest.

Detective Stories

A mystery: how Barack Obama knew that Candy Crowley had a transcript of his Rose Garden remarks from September 12th. (He gave it to her?)

And, has Barack Obama read Goodfellas too many times, and thinks that blowing up a business by looting it (the way Henry Hill and friends operated) is SOP for a Harvard Business School graduate?

Why did both candidates seem to think Americans need to be protected from those cheatin' Chinese who want to send useful products to us for our enjoyment?

Why Mitt Romney doesn't point out that maybe the reason this recovery has been so anemic is that the fellow leading us worries more about spreading the wealth around (as he told Joe the Plumber on the street corner in 2008) than growing the wealth?