Thursday, October 31, 2013

Irony! Oh, no, no, we don't get that here

A good lawyer can say anything (with a straight face);
Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor wanted by the U.S. government for leaking thousands of secret files, is sitting down to his keyboard once again at a new job -- this time to do website maintenance in Russia, his lawyer said today.
The attorney, Anatoly Kucherena, told Russia's state-owned RIA Novosti that his fugitive client will start his new gig Friday at one of Russia's largest websites, but reportedly declined to identify the site for "security reasons."

Swede unembraceable Uwe?

He brought out the gypsy in the soup, and the soppa nazis pounced;
A Swedish restaurant has been reported to the police after offering "gypsy soup" on its daily menu, listing that all the ingredients had been stolen.
A woman reported the Malmö restaurant for agitation (hets mot folkgrupp) after she noticed the offending menu on Tuesday.
"This is not acceptable. Veiled racism in Malmö is dangerous," she told the Metro newspaper. 
There might be some other things civilized people don't embrace.

Vacation home in Portugal?

If so, not only do you have to worry about your children being kidnapped, but also your home;
An ancient law concerning waterfront properties, which threatened to transfer their ownership to the Portuguese State unless it could be proven in court that the land had been in private hands for at least 150 years, has been postponed until July 1 2014, allowing more time for the complex legislation to be reviewed and hopefully simplified. 
Law nº54/2005 of November 15, which was due to be implemented on January 1 2014, was causing panic among property owners as they struggled to collect the necessary documentation that proved their waterfront properties had been in private hands since before 1864, or they faced seeing the land fall into public domain.
Don't expect to be standing on golden sands, but
no more sailin', so long sailin', bye bye sailin',...move on out captain 
Might be reality, beyond the mar.

Yanqui come here!

Somehow we don't expect this to attract many turistas;
The Central Bank of Venezuelan (BCV) has issued the Exchange Agreement 23, aimed at regulating the exchange of foreign currency by individuals who are not resident in Venezuela.
Under the agreement, any individual "entering the Venezuelan territory through legal terminals located in airports and seaports can sell as much as USD 10,000 or the equivalent in any other currency annually at the box offices set up in such airports and seaports by exchange operators duly authorized by the BCV, at the exchange rate the latter may set, which will be posted on the institution's website," reads Article 1 of the resolution published in official Gazette 40,283, effective as of the Official Gazette published on Thursday.
Quite a country! Amazing that Chileans preferred Augusto Pinochet to one where the central bank had to 'allow' foreigners to spend their money there.

Then there's el jugo;
Under the agreement, authorized exchange operators may retain 25% of the foreign currencies whereas the rest of the money must be sold to the central bank, pursuant to regulations yet to be defined by BCV.
Tourists will be given bolivars in cash or in pre-paid cards that will be issued by the exchange operator and can be used in ATMs or stores.  
Upon leaving the country, tourists can exchange bolivars to any foreign currency, but only up to 25% of the money they exchanged when they arrived in the country.
We wonder how can compete with that.

You go, boy

With friends like former Treasury Dept. official J. Bradford DeLong, Barack Obama doesn't need Republicans;
I see an economy in which the share of American adults who were employed was 63% in the mid-2000s, fell to 58.5% in 2009, and is still 58.5% today. We would have expected the natural aging of America's population to have carried the share of adults at work from 63% down to 62% over the past seven years or so--not to 58.5%. And we would have expected the collapse of people's retirement savings either in housing or in stocks in 2008 to have led many Americans to postpone retirement. Given the collapse in the value of retirement savings and their impact on desired retirements, I see a healthy American economy today as one that would still have the same adult employment-to-population ratio of 63% as the economy of the mid-2000s.
From that perspective, we are not halfway back to health. We had a gap of 4.5% points between actual employment and full employment at the end of 2009. We have a gap of 4.5% points between actual employment and full employment today. We are flatlining. It is true that in late 2009 there were still real and rational fears that things might become worse very quickly, and that that possibility is no longer on the menu. But in my view our "recovery" has taken the form not of things getting better but of having successfully guarded against the possibility that things would get even worse. And that is a very feeble recovery indeed. And, in Europe, things are getting worse right now.
Most economists would say that there is a silver lining, in that this is not a Great Depression. I have been calling the current episode the "Lesser Depression". I now think that most economists are--and that I was--wrong in claiming this silver lining.
Yet he undoubtedly voted to re-elect Barack Obama (and Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein).

Eat your spinach

And then vote to re-elect me? Brad DeLong cites Henry Aaron;
Rather than apologizing for these cancelations, [the administration] should be bragging about them.... Imagine a new law enacted to promote food purity. As it is being debated, you are told ‘if you like what you eat, you can keep on eating it.’ The new law takes effect, and one day you find that the market no longer carries certain foods you have been buying... [which] included elements found to be bad for your health. The pure food act barred their use.
Obamacare is analogous.... It bars certain common practices of insurance companies that most people find unacceptable at best, outrageous at worst... [as] of January 1, 2014.... Currently available insurance plans that include such practices will not be allowed on the market.
Ignoring the truth or falsity of the claim about insurance policies--that people voluntarily purchased--does anyone think that if Barack Obama had made such a statement prior to the vote in the Senate, he'd have had the needed 60 votes for Obamacare.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

All that glitter

And all they got was a lousy $1.3 billion;
Russia’s diamond monopoly Alrosa has completed its IPO on the Moscow Stock Exchange, pricing at the bottom of the range at 35 rubles ($1.1) per share. The company sold 16 percent of its shares for a total of $1.3 billion. 
The future looks bleak, as they admit it's;
 ...a disappointing re-start of the government's privatization drive. Earlier earmarked to sell up to $50 billion worth of state-owned shares, that program has been on hold for much of this year due to the poor performance of Russian equities.
The finance ministry had originally planned to see revenue of $13.5 billion from equity sales in 2013, but trimmed its forecast to just $1.5 billion. 
Shouldn't be too hard to reach that; a few freight cars of vodka?

Get out of jail free card

Collect 30,000 Euros on your way ir:
Lawyers acting for Inés del Río, the ETA assassin who was released from jail last week under a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling governing sentence lengths in Spain, have presented an appeal in the High Court against the judiciary’s decision to deny her 30,000 euros in compensation, as decreed by Strasbourg for her continued incarceration after her original term should have expired in 2008.
Spain’s judiciary had ruled that the compensation award is null and void as the state paid out Del Río’s civil liability, some nine million euros, for her part in the murders of 23 people before her detention in 1989.
The ECHR last week confirmed its previous July 2012 resolution obliging Spain to pay 30,000 euros in moral damages and 1,500 in court costs, ruling that keeping Del Río in prison had breached the European Convention on Human Rights.
And don't release her in the neighborhood of Strassbourg?

Un país after Art Laffer's heart

The socialist candidate proposes having both a corporate tax rate and top personal marginal rate, in Chile, lower than the USA's;
Bachelet’s plan promised to raise corporate tax from 20 percent to 25 percent over a four year period — a point below the increase suggested by third-placed independent candidate and fiscal conservative Franco Parisi. However, in conjunction to the increase in corporate taxes, the plan also outlined a reduction of the maximum rate of personal taxes from 40 percent to 35 percent.
Though she also seems to be promising that if you like your education, you can keep it;
“The problem is that Michelle Bachelet talks about free education, but she does not specify whether she will finance the institutions directly, or if she will give more scholarships and loans,” Fielbaum said. “[The question is] whether what she will do will be useless, or it will really solve the problem by strengthening public education and by putting an end to profit in all institutions — not only the ones that receive public funding.”
While Bachelet’s government program states the aim to “end to profit-making in education,” it does not specify whether the whole educational system will be non-profit, or if financial gains will only be banned for institutions receiving public funding.
“We insist that public financing go exclusively to non-profit educational institutions, which are regulated and financed properly,” says the document.This subtle discrepancy leaves a major question unanswered: will educational institutions that do not received government resources be allowed to profit? 
Which could be a problem, given that over half of Chile's high school students attend private schools, many of them receiving government funding. Well, maybe Chileans don't read American newspapers;
The White House has issued a clarification. When the president said if you like your insurance plan you can keep it, what he meant was you can keep it if he likes it. 

Trade the wife

It's bad enough that Carlos Peguero can't hit a breaking pitch;
SEATTLE -- The wife of Seattle Mariners outfielder Carlos Peguero has been accused of making $180,000 in unauthorized purchases with a debit card belonging to another person in the Mariners organization, federal court documents showed.
Citing an anonymous source familiar with the investigation, The Seattle Times reported Saturday that the unnamed victims described in court documents are star pitcher Felix Hernandez and his wife.
She was just concerned with inequality--Felix Hernandez signed a $135 million contract extension recently, while her husband plays for the minimum, on those rare occasions he's called up from AAA.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

We Are All Hayekians Now

J. Bradford DeLong; when he is good, he is very, very good;
My review of James Scott (1998), Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven: Yale University Press: 0300070160):
[huge leap forward]...Yet even as he makes his central points, Scott appears unable to make contact with his intellectual roots--thus he is unable to draw on pieces of the Austrian argument as it has been developed over the past seventy years. Just as seeing like a state means that you cannot see the local details of what is going on, so seeing like James Scott seems to me that you cannot see your intellectual predecessors.
That the conclusion is so strong where the evidence is so weak may perhaps be, I think, evidence of profound subconscious anxiety: subconscious fear that recognizing that one's book is in the tradition of the Austrian critique of the twentieth century state will commit one to becoming a right-wing inequality-loving Thatcher-worshiping libertarian (even though there are intermediate positions: you can endorse the Austrian critique of central planning without rejecting the mixed economy and the social insurance state).
And when the chips are down, this recognition is something James Scott cannot do. At some level he wishes--no matter what his reason tells him--to take his stand on the side of the barricades with the revolutionaries and their tools to build utopia. He ends the penultimate chapter of his book with what can only be called a political pledge-of-allegiance:
Revolutionaries have had every reason to despise the feudal, poverty-stricken, inegalitarian past that they hoped to banish forever, and sometimes they have also had a reason to suspect that immediate democracy would simply bring back the old order. Postindependence leaders in the nonindustrial world (occasionally revolutionary leaders themselves) could not be faulted for hating their past of colonial domination and economic stagnation, nor could they be faulted for wasting no time or democratic sentimentality on creating a people that they could be proud of (p. 341).
But then comes the chapter's final sentence:
Understanding the history and logic of their commitment to high-modernist goals, however, does not permit us to overlook the enormous damage that their convictions entailed when combined with authoritarian state power (p. 341).
Now, about Obamacare...

Where have all the Young Pioneers gone

It takes all kinds to make the Proud Papa world;
My seven-year-old daughter’s new favorite song is, no joke, “Banks of Marble,” sung by Pete Seeger. I swear I had nothing to do with it. She found a Pete Seeger CD one day, which I didn’t even know we had, and put it into our old boombox/CD player when my wife and I were out.
There's a book written specifically as an antidote to that kind of parenting;

Sasha Zaichik has known the laws of the Soviet Young Pioneers since the age of six:
The Young Pioneer is devoted to Comrade Stalin, the Communist Party, and Communism.
A Young Pioneer is a reliable comrade and always acts according to conscience.
A Young Pioneer has a right to criticize shortcomings.
But now that it is finally time to join the Young Pioneers, the day Sasha has awaited for so long, everything seems to go awry. He breaks a classmate's glasses with a snowball. He accidentally damages a bust of Stalin in the school hallway.  And worst of all, his father, the best Communist he knows, was arrested just last night.

Safety in numbers

Angela Merkel, you're just another Frau to the NSA;
The Cryptome website, considered by many to be a forerunner of Wikileaks, claims that the US National Security Agency spied on 46 million phone calls in Italy from 10 December 2012 to 8 January 2013. To put it more precisely, the American security agency acquired metadata on 46 million calls (phone number called, caller and answerer’s identities and duration of call). The figures emerge from a study of the NSA’s Boundless Informant programme, first revealed in June by the Guardian. The UK-based newspaper published a “global heat map” from which America’s electronic spies can quantify the flow of information collected. According to Cryptome, the number of phone calls spied on by the NSA in just one month was 124.8 billion worldwide, including the United States.
Which numbers should make it almost impossible to do anything with the data.

Poor mouthing

The Serbian Prime Minister says, Will work for peanuts;
In his opening address at "Serbia Investment Day" in London, [Ivica] Dačić said that Serbia is a country which views problems as challenges, and one of the greatest ones is economy - its growth and approaching the result which are achieved by strong economies. 
"This is exactly why we are in London today," Dačić said, adding that the solutions are investments and projects which will bring growth to Serbia and money to investors. 
How refreshing to hear a politician asking 'Wall Street' to occupy it. And the water is fine;
"We offer a high level of skills and knowledge of employees, their relatively low salaries compared to the European ones, and we also have agreements on free trade with Russia, Turkey, CEFTA and the EU," Dačić said, and added that: 
"This means that products made in Serbia are highly likely to have a good placement, and it is also important that the country is EU-oriented and that it has low income taxes and a positive microeconomic situation." 
Serbia: Open for business.

Old Izvestia

And there aren't many votes to gather;
Hundreds of Muscovites gathered Tuesday at a day-long ceremony to commemorate victims of the purges ordered by Joseph Stalin, reading from a list the names of people killed in the Russian capital.
The so-called "Returning of the names", an event organised by the rights group Memorial, draws a crowd annually for the emotional paying of respects in central Moscow, where people take turns reading aloud the victims' names in a horrifying non-stop litany that lasts from 10 am. to 10 pm.
"My grandmother was shot in 1937 in Moscow. My grandfather was shot in 1938 in the provinces. I think it's absolutely necessary to participate in such events," said Dina Terletskaya, 28.
...."Unfortunately, there is not a single politician or official who comes to commemorate the victims," said Yan Rachinsky, a historian with the Memorial group. "This topic is considered marginal."

You can see Russia from Chavez's grave

Don't even bother to stand on your tippy toes, just wait for the flyover;
Two Russian Tu-160 supersonic bombers, the largest war planes in the world, landed in Venezuela on Monday, after flying more than 10,000 kilometers in less than 13 hours, a spokesperson from the Russian Ministry of Defense informed.
....Back in 2008, two other Tu-160 bombers were also sent to Venezuela, the main importer of Russian arms in Latin America.
Then, late president Hugo Chávez stated that the visit of the two Russian strategic bombers was "a gesture of fraternity and support, which should give us greater security."
And in other news of greater airport security, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery of the former Soviet Union;
"What do you do for a living? Where are you staying? Do you have relatives there? How much money are you taking with you?" these are some of the questions that passengers are getting used at Simón Bolívar International Airport of Maiquetía. They answer the questions with a smile to the military staff in order not to raise suspicion that leads them straight to a baggage examination.
For foreigners, the militarization existing at the airport continues to be weird. A Spanish citizen who traveled back to his country expressed amazement at the baggage examination he had to go through, as well as the long-lasting queues before actually being checked by the National Guard's Office (GN).
Wonder if they put Sean Penn through that?
Despite the waiting time, users remain silent. They do not complain when servicemen question them in low –but piercing- voice everything they will be doing once they depart from Venezuelan territory. The atmosphere generated by the military presence at the airport makes people feel oppressed.
Which, for forty years, the citizens of Chile have been free from. Along with their prosperity.

Monday, October 28, 2013

With all these ponies, there must be some....

The Santiago Times recycles an old Ronald Reagan joke, with the expected twist;
Chile continues to maintain the fastest Internet in the region with speeds nearly doubling and tripling those of Brazil, Colombia and Argentina, a recent study shows. Faster Internet connection is a promising sign for Chile, but rural areas in one of Latin America’s strongest growing economies still find themselves with bleak Internet access in comparison to their urban neighbors.
Chile is better at most good things than anywhere else in Latin America, but the leftists aren't deterred in the least. Chile's internet is twice as fast as Brazil's and three times as fast as Colombia and Argentina's? They'll accentuate the negative, thank you;
...but according to José Huerta Estrada, the director of ONG Cívico, a civil rights organization which works with telecommunications and technology, they do not tell the entire story.....“There’s a large part of the country that still doesn’t have access to the bandwidth necessary to use more sophisticated online content,” he said.
Forgetting to say that that is because almost no one lives there.
....According to Estrada, the access problem in less populated regions of the country is not simply an issue of missing the latest Netflix release. Lower level of access, particularly for Chileans living in rural areas, could have political and social consequences since they do not have the same capacity to access information that populated urban centers enjoy.
“It creates an asymmetry in terms of how people become informed about the political and social situation of the country,” he said.
Making it more difficult for them to hear about the good old days when mobs of Allende's thugs roamed the same areas threatening their lives.

Oil rich deadbeats

Brazil gave credit, where it is now overdue;
Accrued liabilities extend, in some cases, to four months, reported news agency DPA based on information provided by the affected Brazilian companies. The situation lashes mainly the food sector, which reported a rise in its sales to Venezuela within the framework of the Brazilian government plan aimed at helping Venezuela face staple shortage.
According to the newspaper, delays in payments are attributed to the economic crisis in Venezuela, which has led Nicolás Maduro's government to implement tougher controls over the sale of US dollars.
Given entrepreneurs' concern, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff sent a mission to Venezuela comprised by Development, Industry, and Foreign Trade Minister Fernando Pimentel and Foreign Affairs Advisor Marco Aurelio García.
"Officially, the mission aimed at ratifying Brazil's willingness to help its economic partner overcome the crisis of food supply, yet delays in payments have been one of the main topics," added DPA.
The 'crisis of food supply' can be overcome immediately. Just abandon socialism.

Been over into el futuro?

It works like this when you try to fool markets;
Fights, punches, and mistreatment are the order of the day in supermarkets across Caracas, in spite of police surveillance
....Since violence erupts when scarce staples arrive in grocery stores, police officers, militiamen, and the People's Guard watch over the supermarkets in order to moderate buyers' behavior. Even though the security forces try to control buyers eager for food, violence stories abound.
This is the result of the same philosophy that is behind Obamacare; private markets can't be trusted to produce and allocate goods and services. The government knows better.

So far, the USA has the shortages (access to government mandated health insurance).

Brussels to Madrid: Trabajo hace libre

Get with the Eurozone ethic, hombres;
Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem believes Spain’s massive unemployment rate requires more action and has called on the Spanish government to adopt these further measures.
....At a breakfast press conference in Madrid on Monday, Dijsselbloem called on Spaniards to work “longer and harder” in reference to the retirement age increase needed for it to maintain the European social model. “One has to adapt to the new economy reality,” he said.
An aging population means employment policy needs to focus on the young, he added. “Unemployment is very high, above all for young people, and more labor reforms are needed because new growth is necessary,” the Dutch finance minister argued.
Now, about those three hour lunches...

Czech; faction counters faction

Possibly the best of all political worlds for the Czech Republic; no one is in charge;
The Czech people used the election as a chance to express their frustration, and to punish the parties of government. The conservative party TOP 09, of the former Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, has announced that it will be going into the opposition. The Civic Democratic Party (ODS), which until [former Prime Minister Petr] Necas' fall was the strongest party in the government, is threatening to plummet into insignificance after scoring less than 8 percent.
Best performance by a dark horse;
The millionaire media mogul Andrej Babis and his protest movement ANO [an acronym for "Action for Alienated Citizens" which also means "yes" in Czech] came from nowhere to become the second most powerful force in parliament with fewer than 19 percent of the vote. Babis, who owns a food and chemicals empire, fought his campaign with the slogan "We're not politicians; we work." Now he will be deciding the political future of the country. 
Which is, ask the Germans in again?

We're all thumbs

In the search for the holy anti-QWERTY;
According to eReflect, the new two-thumb typing layout allows users to type efficiently and pain-free, as this keyboard puts less strain on the thumbs. The KALQ keyboard layout was designed after thumb movement and button size were tested for, in order to find those parameters that would make the KALQ keyboard layout more efficient that the QWERTY on mobile devices. The two-thumb text entry layout seems to be extremely useful as it shortens thumb movements, making typing efficient and more accurate with less effort. Since the keyboard buttons are essentially halved for each thumb and placed strategically under each thumb, typing time shrinks as there’s no longer any need for longer, time-consuming thumb movement across the screen.
eReflect representatives praised the researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Informatics, explaining how such initiatives are the world’s hope for a more human-centric technology, assisting rather than impeding people’s lives.
The QWERTY Problem: not as Paul Krugman and the Mrs, have it, but more as chronicles of wasted time searching for the better way that just has to be there.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Then there are all those stolen bases

It's the national pastime; sticking your bureaucratic nose into other's business;
The U.S. Department of Labor has launched a second investigation into the San Francisco Giants baseball team improperly paying its employees, a department spokeswoman said Friday.
....In August, the team paid $544,715 in back wages to 74 employees after a previous federal labor investigation.
The employees affected included clubhouse assistants and managers at the major and minor league levels.
Not the pitchers?

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Left: Their heart in San Francisco

850 square feet, two bedrooms, one bath, and only $398,000. With a back yard;

Affordable housing courtesy of the same types of people (Nancy Pelosi is a San Franciscan) who created Obamacare (and its website):
With rising rents and home prices, public transportation prone to go “on strike,” and rising energy costs, the middle class is taking a hit in American cities. But nowhere does that hit hurt more than in San Francisco, at least when it comes to owning a home. In fact, according to its newly released  ”Middle Class Report,” Trulia asserts that San Francisco tops the national list as the #1 Least Affordable Metro for the middle class, beating out even Manhattan. 
Now for the good news, if you're rich enough to live there, the Trick or Treatin' is great.

Let them eat cake...if we can get it from importing

This is what Chile is missing out on, thanks to Augusto Pinochet (who, forty years ago ousted the Chilean version of Chavezmo-Madurosmo);
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro .... criticized Luis Vicente León, director of research firm Datanálisis, for blaming price and exchange controls for the current domestic economic situation.
"Do you want us to lift the (exchange) control and allow the sale of US dollars so you can swallow them, take them with you, and make the country go in bankrupt? Never ever!" Maduro remarked.
The Venezuelan president also stressed the Foreign Exchange Administration Commission would be transformed and guaranteed sovereign control of US dollars in the country. "We will also bring back stability in prices. You will see," Maduro pledged.
But the people can't eat Maduro's promises;
In a report, the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) elaborates on the serious levels of shortage in Caracas at the end of September, particularly 16 food products with a shortage index above 41%.
The items include corn oil, not found in 98.8 out of 100 food stores; whole powder milk, 84.3; sugar, 80.8; pre-cooked corn flour, 73; wheat flour; 64.3, and butter, 58.4.
Pressured by staple shortage, authorities will resort to a massive import plan to bring food from Colombia, Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina. The plan is to put food back on the shelves in the next two months.
Economy Vice-president Rafael Ramírez claimed on Wednesday, "We are preparing an attack: massive food import."
From countries not burdened by Venezuelan economics.

That went well, huh?

The road littered with good intentions, in the Middle East;
On the whole, political conditions in the countries of the Arab Spring revolutions are grim and primarily characterised by internal conflict and poor management of the democratic transformation process.
Economically and socially, the Arab revolutions called for an end to unemployment, higher wages, social justice and controls on the prices of essential goods and services. Again, developments worked counter these demands and expectations. The deterioration in the state of security was reflected in the investment, tourism and financial sectors in Egypt and Tunisia, and in the petroleum sector in Libya. In all these countries, production declined and economic growth rates plunged, as a result of which all are plagued by fiscal crisis (mounting deficits and lack of liquidity), as well as by constant energy and fuel shortages and rising unemployment. In the hope of alleviating the financial straits, Egypt sought to renew talks with the visiting IMF technical team over a prospective $4.8 billion loan in spite of the donor organisation’s stringent conditions. The Tunisia government failed to produce effective solutions for the unemployment crisis or even to reform labour conditions and improve public services. In Syria, most of the infrastructure has been destroyed and it has become absurd to even speak of something called a Syrian economy in a country in which the search for food has become part of people’s day-to-day struggle to survive. In general, all post-revolutionary governments appear to lack a comprehensive economic vision that addresses the sectors most vital to the people.
In sum, after having achieved the momentous change of toppling despotic regimes, the countries of the Arab Spring found themselves in a vicious cycle of political strife, poor government performance and an inability to meet the essential and urgent economic needs of their people. 
Chalk up another legacy of Barack Obama's foreign policy.

Petty on Pink

Saudi Arabia wants its women off-road, especially this Saturday. Woe betide anyone who thinks otherwise;
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia: Saudi officials say the country’s codes against political dissent on the Internet will be applied to anyone offering online support for a planned protest by women challenging the male-only driving rules in the kingdom.
The warning comes ahead of a campaign by Saudi women to get behind the wheel on Saturday in defiance of Saudi traditions. The Internet has been a key tool in organizing the protest and reaching out to media.
Friday’s edition of the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat quotes Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman Turki Al-Faisal as saying cyber-laws could apply to anyone supporting the women driving campaign. Conviction can bring up to five-year prison sentences.
Not cutting off the fingers of the typists? Well, don't expect them to listen to noisy grasshoppers;
The Western approach to human rights in Saudi Arabia is based on Western values such as women’s right to drive, an aversion to our male guardianship laws, freedom of speech and popular participation in the political process. Again, however, demands for such rights show a lack of understanding of the Saudi context.
It has been said numerous times that there is nothing in Islam that would prohibit women from driving. It is, instead, all about a social consensus and there is no such consensus. Why is that an issue for the West?
Because of the guys who like Sharia, and fly our airplanes into our buildings?
Local human rights in Saudi Arabia cannot be understood in isolation from their own inspiration, i.e., Islamic law and local traditions. To adopt a Western version of human rights, this country would have to diverge from its faith and the social contract it upholds.
Saudi Arabia has not attempted to impress a universal concept of human rights on its own society nor has it attempted to impose its own concept of human rights on the rest of the world. It has taken a very simple yet profound tack: “Thou shalt keep thy local human rights to thyself.”
Does that mean we can take your oil without paying for it?

This bitters herb

There's no accounting for some people's taste, but the cocktail hour nods to Don Draper, Italy and the Queen of England (and Her Royal Navy);
...there is now a definite trend towards bitter drinks. People are ordering whisky or gin-based drinks paired with vermouths. And there is growing interest in the US, UK and other European nations in Italian amari.
These complex, herbal, bittersweet drinks, with names like Averna, Ramazzotti, Montenegro and Fernet Branca, are usually consumed as aperitivi or digestivi - drinks thought to either encourage the appetite before dinner or help with digestion afterwards.
The Mad Man won't take a Manhattan, but an Old Fashioned;
[Angostura] bitters is the key ingredient in pink gin, the traditional officers' cocktail in the Royal Navy. It's also the bedrock of famous cocktails, including the Old Fashioned, beloved of Mad Men's Don Draper, and the Manhattan. 
Even Her Majesty (and Her Secret Service) is up on the fashion;
Many James Bond fans attempt to recreate the Vesper Martini from Casino Royale. Bond asks for it to be made with strong gin, vodka and the bitter Kina Lillet. Lillet took out much of the bitter quinine in the 1980s and fans tend to use Cocchi Americano Italian vermouth instead.
And the Queen has followed in her mother's footsteps by drinking gin and Dubonnet - the quinine-bittered French aperitif. Just a few years ago, her choice was seen as unusual.

Vulture watch

The City of Seattle believes in its own eminence, and its ruling its domain. Even to the extent of trying to steal from charity the upcoming bequest of a 103 year old woman;
The more you learn about the city of Seattle’s threat to condemn Myrtle Woldson’s waterfront property, the stranger those plans seem.
The city wants to acquire the 103-year-old Spokane woman’s property at 1101 Western Ave. to offer a place for tourists and others to park during the years of construction of the $2.1 billion tunnel that will replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
Yet Woldson's property already is a short-term parking lot.
The city council just voted 8-0 to take the woman's property, apparently in the belief that if they wait for her to die, the charity she's donating it to will demand its just compensation. Compensation that will be higher, the longer the city waits.

Democrats United on My Bad

Ted Cruz; Method to his madness? Kimberley Strassel writes that the Dems now own Obamacare;
After 16 long days of vowing to Republicans that they would not cave in any way, shape or form on ObamaCare, Democrats spent their first post-shutdown week caving in every way, shape and form. With the GOP's antics now over, the only story now is the unrivaled disaster that is the president's health-care law.
Hundreds of thousands of health-insurance policies canceled. Companies dumping coverage and cutting employees' hours. Premiums skyrocketing. And a website that reprises the experience of a Commodore 64. As recently as May, Democratic consultants were advising members of Congress that their best ObamaCare strategy for 2014 was to "own" the law. [New Hampshire Senator Jeanne] Shaheen has now publicly advised the consultants where they can file that memo.
Along with other Democrats up for re-election next year, including those in Arkansas, Alaska, Montana, Louisiana, and North Carolina.

Not smart, Harry (and Patty). Not very smart.

Appreciate the finer things

While you can. Your TV show might get cancelled;
TV star Tori Spelling and her husband Dean McDermott have put off plans for the actor to undergo a vasectomy after realizing they lacked the funds to pay for the pricey procedure.
The former “Beverly Hills, 90210″ actress reveals she and her family have downsized and cut back on their expenses following the cancellation of their latest reality show, “Tori & Dean: Home Sweet Hollywood,” last year, although she insists they are hardly broke.
....The financial cutbacks have prompted McDermott to temporarily postpone a vasectomy, which can cost anywhere from $350 to $4,000, to prevent the couple from any unplanned pregnancies in the future.
Here's a pitch; Cost Benefit Analysis Hollywood.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Round up the usual denialists

Alan Greenspan is back with another book, and the DeLongian denizens are threatened;
Let us help you, Professor. Your acolytes worry that Greenspan might cover some uncomfortable territory;
Jeffrey Davis said...
     So, it was all Fannie and Freddie's fault and the predatory lenders to unworthy borrowers played no part? ....
 Paul Bowman said...
     .... This was "market forces" at work, not the GSE's.
hw said...
     Mortgages financed by Wall Street from 2001 to 2008 were 4½ times more likely to be seriously delinquent than mortgages backed by Fannie and Freddie. 
12 Bloix said...
     What hw said. Blaming the GSE's is a standard right-wing dodge to exonerate Wall Street and place the blame for the crisis on Big Government.
21 jep said...
     The premise of this analysis, that GSEs dominated the subprime market is almost surely misplaced....they may have marginally moved some clearing prices...they were simply not that big a player compared to that market as a whole.
Plenty more of similar sentiment too. But let's see what the professionals themselves thought. Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines, in the Washington Times, December 10, 1999;
Fannie Mae brings private capital, management and efficiency to the task of expanding affordable homeownership in America. At the center of the housing finance system, Fannie Mae is a major force in the expansion of minority homeownership.
Since Fannie Mae doesn’t make home loans ourselves, we back mortgage lenders by buying or securing loans they make in the primary market; the company does not serve minority borrowers directly. Nevertheless, Fannie Mae outperforms the overall market when it comes to financing minority lending, according to data provided to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Federal Reserve data gathered under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. Last year, Fannie Mae financed $46 billion in home loans for more than 450,000 minority families, 77 percent more than the previous year.
By far, Fannie Mae is the largest single source of funds for minority homebuyers in the nation. Notably, Fannie Mae finances more minority homeowners than the federal government does through the FHA.
It ain't braggin' if you can do it. 
...we will devote 50 percent of our business to low- and moderate-income homebuyers.
However, Fannie Mae’s commitment to underserved families goes well beyond the HUD mandate [that HUD Sec'y, and Fannie's boss,  Andrew Cuomo had just announced]. Five years ago, Fannie Mae launched our Trillion Dollar Commitment, a pledge to invest $1 trillion to help 10 million underserved families become homeowners or obtain decent rental housing by 2001.
Bold by HSIB.

We can almost sympathize with the task of Housing Cause Denial--Sisyphus didn't have it so tough.


Cheese, glorious cheese

Psst, want to buy some Stilton?
They make fine cheese in the English village of Stilton. Just don't call it stilton.
British authorities said Wednesday that a local pub can't market its blue-veined cheese as stilton because that name is protected by European Union legislation.
The Bell Inn has been forced to sell its cheese as "Bells Blue" rather than stilton.
The EU rules, based on British government guidelines, say the name can only apply to cheese from the English counties of Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, where it has long been made.
Stilton lies outside that area, but became renowned for selling the sharp-tasting cheese in the 18th century. It gave its name to the product, but historians are divided about whether it was traditionally made there.
How many divisions does the EU have?

Educate the gringos first

American created The Santiago Times trips over itself trying to badmouth Chile's education system, but admits that;
Chile’s education system is the best in Latin America according to the OECD’s PISA 2009 tests
Not only is it the best in Latin America, by several measures, since Augusto Pinochet, it's made the most progress in improving educational outcomes, by introducing competition. Only about 45% of Chilean students attend public high schools. Free to choose (thanks to Chile's education law that pays schools for the number of students who attend of their own free will).

If you're a dedicated left-winger, that is Baaaaaad;
Judith Rodríguez, a city councillor in Cerro Navia municipality, said that the government’s policy of subsidizing private schools does not give students in her neighborhood educational freedom — in fact, it gives them just the opposite.
“The economic instability in this community is atrocious,” Rodríguez, who is also the leader of the Cerro Navia Teacher’s Guild, told The Santiago Times. “That means that, necessarily, children have to receive an education in public schools so [their families] can pay the bills. Therefore, as authorities, we are called to strengthen public education, not make it disappear.”
The municipal government is closing some underperforming public schools, and will pay for the bus fare for their former students to go to better public schools. That's what is being called making public education disappear.

After we educate the American journalists--Clayton Wickham studies psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. He has written for The Santiago Times and The Daily Texan about a variety of topics, including politics, education, psychology and economics. He is also a Joynes Creative Writing Fellow at UT Austin.--maybe we should start on the Chilean adults who are quoted in the paper.

Occurred to us too

Ignacio Ramonet, the director of monthly newspaper "Le Monde Diplomatic" in Spanish, finds absurd to say there is no freedom of press in Venezuela. He compared late President Hugo Chávez and President Nicolás Maduro with late Chilean President Salvador Allende. With their socialist ideas, the three of them have faced "a local and powerful oligarchy that always questions their legitimacy," he claimed
Are socialist ideas responsible for all the murders;
A total of 380 dead bodies have been taken to the morgue in Caracas so far this month, sources said.
One of the victims was a young man, Jimmy Hernán Méndez (24), shot dead near his home while talking to some friends. The event took place on Tuesday in a slum located in Caracas.
Relatives of the victim informed police do not patrol the area, thus giving criminals more freedom to attack.
As many as 16 bodies per day are taken to the morgue in Caracas on average, sources of the Scientific, Criminal and Forensic Investigation Agency (Cicpc) said off the record.
Maybe some of the police watching out for inventory control should be diverted to patrolling the slums?

Bottom feeder

Cal Berkeley brings up the rear in the Pac 12 revenue sports' graduation rates;
 Pac-12 football GSR [%]scores:
Stanford: 93, UCLA: 82, Washington: 74, Utah: 73, Oregon: 72, Colorado: 70, Arizona State: 67, Oregon State: 66, Arizona: 60, Washington State: 57, USC: 53, Cal: 44
Pac-12 men’s basketball GSR scores:
Stanford: 83, Utah: 83, Washington State: 80, Washington: 80, Oregon: 77, Arizona State: 75, Colorado: 67, Arizona: 64, Oregon State: 62, UCLA: 60, USC: 55, Cal: 38
This being an elite institution of higher learnin', athletic director Sandy Barbour had this to say; 
“At Cal, we expect excellence in both academics and athletics. Having an all-time high of nine teams [the swimmers and gymnasts] above 90 percent is a testament to the dedication of our student-athletes, coaches and academic support staff. All of us are here to provide our student-athletes with what they need to reach their potential, whether that is in the classroom or in the field of play.”
“Although we still have a lot of work to do and have put systems in place that we believe will raise the success rate for under-performing teams, we are proud of what we have accomplished over the past year. Higher scores will take time to appear in the GSR data due to the lag time in reporting, and we are already seeing improved results.”
“The rates we have seen with the majority of our programs shows what can be accomplished across the board. We have an obligation to deliver what our student-athletes need to excel, learn and grow in all facets of their experience at Cal, and we won’t be satisfied until we reach a 100 percent goal with all of our sports.”
Can't forget to get that 'student-athlete' in wherever possible.

Except for price discrimination, that is

Not a purple dinosaur, but still large enough to target;
NEW YORK (AP) — A civil rights group said Thursday it was seeking a meeting with the CEO of Barneys New York in the wake of racial profiling claims by two shoppers at the high-end department store.
The Brooklyn chapter of the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network said the group also plans to picket Barneys if the alleged pattern of racial profiling does not stop, its president, Kirsten John Foy, said in a statement.
Two black shoppers this week accused Barneys of detaining them after they made expensive purchases at the store in Manhattan. One of them has filed a discrimination lawsuit against Barneys, the city and its police department.
"Barneys New York has zero tolerance for any form of discrimination and we stand by our long history in support of all human rights," the luxury retailer said in a statement.
The detentions weren't done by the store, but by the NYC police outside the store. Barney's happily sold their merchandise to both people, since they had the color of money.

Running Juke

Nismo Nissan needs no enemies, with friends at Car and Driver and a face only a mother or a storm trooper  could love;
Nissan’s Juke is strange. The compact crossover has strange styling, it’s a strange size, and it uses a strange—among its competitive set—turbocharged engine and torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system. In fact, it is so strange, that we sort of like it. Automotive uniqueness is getting harder and harder to come by in today’s segmented, conformist industry. So imagine our surprise when Nissan released a mini video series in Japan that plays up, you guessed it, the Juke’s strangeness; utilizing some of Hollywood’s best-known conformists, Star Wars’ Storm Troopers.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Problem is...

the Democrats want the money;
Strike bans raise new problems, labor experts warn
After several paragraphs of double talk, the article notes;
The Service Employees International Union, which represents some of the BART workers who went out on strike, contributed $2.6 million to state Senate and Assembly candidates in the 2010-12 election cycle....
Almost all of the money went to Democrats.
The Amalgamated Transit Union, the other major BART union, gave $311,570 to state Assembly and Senate candidates over the same period. Again, most beneficiaries were Democrats.
During the 2010 gubernatorial race, union-backed independent expenditure groups pumped $30 million into independent efforts backing Jerry Brown's gubernatorial campaign....
SEIU was the second-largest contributor to last year's campaign for Proposition 30, the measure Brown put on the ballot to raise taxes and dig the state out of its fiscal hole. Union members dropped $11.4 million in support of the measure.
As one of the prominent experts finally conceded; "The only people who are upset with the existing system is the public. And they're not organized." 
Hard to see how a ban on public employees striking would make that worse.